We are over halfway through with the Eat at Home challenge, how’s it going? 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 to 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. 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! Check out One Dish Dinners for easy recipes that don’t use a lot of dishes and come together quickly!
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 if your speciality, 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?
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk