I know for some people it can be hard to break the habit of eating out, especially if cooking is not your passion or speciality. If you are struggling financially, or working towards a financial goal eating at home is a great way to save money.
How do you start a habit of eating at home? When we were working to get out of debt I did a few things that made eating at home easier for our family.
Simple Ways to Eat at Home
It doesn’t hurt that taking a large family out to dinner is kind of a pain, but it was the take out and fast food that was breaking the budget in our house. Here are some of my tips for making eating at home easier.
Create a menu plan.
If you don’t have a plan it is really difficult to eat at home. Without a plan you probably don’t have the groceries available to make meals or once dinner time rolls around you might not know what to make. A menu plan is great because it tells you what to do! If you are new to menu planning read my 5 Simple Ways to Menu Plan article for tips on how to get started.
Have a few fast food meals available.
Last week our house was torn apart due to painting the living room, dining room and entry. There were a few nights that getting dinner on the table was a real challenge. We managed to eat at home thanks to frozen pizzas, pasta, and sandwiches.
While my family doesn’t want to eat those meals every night, having them available on those crazy evenings kept us from ordering pizza (more expensive) or grabbing take out.
Stock your pantry with staples.
Similar to fast food meals, but a little healthier I always keep a few staples on hand for those crazy evenings. Some of my staples are tuna, spaghetti sauce, pasta, flour, rice, and beans.
In my fridge I always have cheese and tortillas. I usually have least one frozen vegetable in my freezer as well as a bag of frozen chicken from a whole chicken. With these few ingredients I can throw together pizza, chicken and rice casserole, bean burritos, or tuna casserole.
These meals can be made in about 30-40 minutes and are much less expensive than going through the drive-thru.
Find copycat recipes of your favorite meals.
If you find yourself wanting to eat out because you love the recipes try making a copycat version. Lynn has some copycat recipes for Panera soups, Kari has a recipe for Outback’s Alice Springs chicken, there’s even an entire website dedicated to copycat recipes!
Use paper plates.
If dirty dishes are tempting you to go out use paper plates. While I don’t recommend using them for every meal, if it will help you reach your financial goals by eating at home then use them!
If you aren’t a master chef, don’t start your menu planning with a Julia Child’s cookbook. If eating at home is a new thing for your family try to find meals that are simple.
If you plan an elaborate menu with exotic ingredients and you only know how to cook macaroni and cheese from the box you might be in trouble. Biting off more than you can chew will probably lead to failure and you want to set yourself up for success. If grilled cheese is your specialty, put it on the menu!
Keep your eye on the prize!
When you are tempted to go out think of the long term cost. Will going out mean it will take an extra week or month to pay that last credit card payment?
Will going out mean you are one step farther away from replacing something in your home? If you have to chose between going out and a long term financial goal pick the goal! While eating out might be fun and convenient it will be more fun when you aren’t sacrificing something else to do it.
What is your best tip for eating at home?
Kelli Cessna says
We took the challenge and so far have not eaten a meal out. We did eat a funnel cake and an orange shake up at the County Fair last week, but when we got home I found a recipe for the funnel cake and will make them at home periodically! 🙂
Thanks for this challenge…it has helped us save money and I feel good about it! May just keep at it even after the challenge is up!
I think a good way to get started is to choose a couple fairly simple, forgiving recipes that you would like to be able to make, and then master them. Better are dishes that have many variations, such as fried rice, pasta casserole, quesadillas, or whatever-is-in-the-fridge-soup.
My husband was fast food junkie when I met him. I was slowly getting him to change his ways but he still splurged several times a week during his lunch break. Plus, his family is big into going out to eat together. So, I created a recipe book with just the recipes that we like to eat….hubby is a bit more of a picky eater than myself, that really helped. But, the biggest change happened when we moved two states away from his family and 45 miles from the nearest town. Hubby had to change and is doing really well!!! Plus, he has slimmed down a pant size already 🙂 I do appreciate your blog and meal ideas!!!
Having staples on hand for our favorite easy meals is what saves me most of the time. I have a basic grocery list that I use to stock up at Aldi when we get the paycheck. It works well for us! 🙂
Planning, planning, planning. I keep a calender in the kitchen and whenever I’m in the mood for a certain meal, I add it to the next open day as my dinner idea. I try to have 2-3 weeks of dinner ideas planned in advance at all times.
Also, I remind myself that I’m usually dissapointed with restaurant food anyways and usually prefer my own cooking, even if it’s something plain or ordinary. I also don’t like the idea of spending half of my weekly grocery budget on one meal.
A good tip for cooking at home is to make sure you have all the ingredients for all of your favorite meals..pantry nicely stocked and all the tools you need…nothing is as frustrating as being in the mood for something and not having all the ingredients or the tools at your disposal…
Gina DeBruler says
I am always tempted to “eat out” while we are at the ball park during soccer and baseball season. But I have learned that a PB & J sandwich and a glass of milk is a very filling meal on an evening when we aren’t going to be home until late. It may not be a hot meal with two veggies, a meat and a starch, but it does cover all the major foor groups!
I think I must be old-fashioned or something. I keep reading more posts about how to save and eat at home. We seriously never eat out. 1 or 2 times a year if we have a gift card. With 8 people in our family and a grocery budget of $300 a month, we cannot afford to eat out. We eat at home all three meal plus two snacks, 7 days a week. When my kids do get a chance to catch pizza with a friend or a grandparent takes them out for a treat, they treasure it, but always comment that there is too much grease on the pizza or they don’t feel the best after they eat. I think because we don’t eat out our bodies are used to the down home cooking of home. I am frugal and try to be as healthy as possible, and while we may not have the latest processed food or cardboard pizza in the freezer…there is sure to be muffins, fruits, veggies and healthy snacks. My goal is to try to add more fresh ground grains (but unfortunatly the grain mill we bought at the Amish store does not grind soft white wheat well at all :o( ) and we cannot afford a different one yet….on the list. I sometimes wish there was more advice for those who feel like they are doing everything with their grocery budget. Since that is what gets adjusted when money is tight (especially with the holidays approaching!) Best of luck to everyone, eating at home is so much better for everyone and a prep day really helps. Even if it is cutting cheese into cubes, prepping carrots and veggies for easy grab and eat. Baking big batches of cookies and muffins, large pots of soup and freeze some. blessings to all alizabeth
I don’t think you’re old fashioned, not everyone eats out. But some people have gotten into a habit of eating out and want to figure out ways and techniques to eat at home more often. They want to change, but don’t have the tools to do it.
As for cutting your grocery budget, I think it would be hard to cut the budget when you only spend $300 a month. When you break it down that is only $10 per person a week, I think it would be hard to reduce it much more.