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How to Prevent Eating Out or Getting Carry Out Food
Food is typically the biggest expense for people after their rent or mortgage. Eating out or getting carry out is often a big part of that expense. Sometimes it seems unavoidable but planning ahead will help you limit the amount you spend on eating out and help you save money on your food budget.
When I talk about planning, I am not only talking about meal planning. Planning when you go out to do errands and things will play a big part in whether you stop for something to eat or not. Instead of heading out an hour before lunch, eat an early lunch and then do your errands. You will be full from lunch and won't feel the urge to stop for something to eat. Another thing you should do when running errands for a long time is to pack snacks and water bottles. You might even prefer a soda or juice box for the kids but bringing it from home will be much cheaper than buying it while you are out. Packing a cooler takes little time or effort, yet the savings are huge.
Meal planning will help you avoid eating out. If you know what you are having for dinner after work then you won't be tempted to pick up a pizza on the way home. Also meal planning will help you on the crazy nights. Even as a stay at home mom, sometimes I find it hard to cook a meal during the dinner hour and sometimes it is because we aren't even home. Planning for leftovers or a crock-pot meal on those days helps us save a bunch of money by preventing a drive-thru dinner.
Another thing that has saved me over the past week has been what I call my "go to" meals. These are meals that I can make with items I always have on hand. These meals require little time in the kitchen and I can typically have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. For me these meals include the following - baked potatoes (microwave) and corn muffins, vegetable quesadillas, spaghetti, pancakes and bacon, scrambled eggs and toast, turkey sausages and noodles, and frozen pizza. All of these meals are easily supplemented with carrot sticks or frozen peas heated quickly in the microwave.
Some of my "go to" meals are pretty cheap. Some of them require some convenience foods that I don't purchase on a regular basis. For instance, I usually make pizza from scratch for around $4. I like to have frozen pizzas on hand though for crazy nights or nights when I don't feel like cooking and just want to order pizza. I can buy two frozen pizzas for around $8. This is a $12-15 savings over ordering pizza and it is ready before delivery could even get here. Turkey sausages are around $4 and when you add a pasta roni side dish and vegetable, the entire cost of the meal is $6 or so, more than I like to spend, but still much cheaper than going out to eat. I can cook up the sausages from frozen and have them on the table in less than 20 minutes.
Having a plan in your head of fast meal ideas that your family loves will save you lots of money in the long run. Planning your schedule (as best you can) to prevent eating out will also save you lots of money. Combine the two and you shouldn't have to eat out or get carry out often at all. Then you can get it when you really want to and it won't be a big deal. Trust me, your budget and your health will thank you for planning ahead.