Food expenses are essential and must be accounted for in budgets when making financial plans, decisions, or goals.
While you may need to eat to survive, you definitely don’t need to eat out every day. In fact, eating out every day will make it more difficult for you to survive.
Enough with the apéritif; it’s time for the main course. Keep reading to learn how to stop eating out—and start saving money.
The True Cost of Eating Out
What most people tend not to realize is that food served at restaurants is very overpriced. Obviously, there are convenience and social factors to eating out (for both professional and personal reasons), but the juice isn’t worth the squeeze financially nine times out of ten.
Solely considering dish prices, it isn’t unusual to see a restaurant markup the price to double the value of the raw ingredients. Once you receive that completed dish, you are ultimately the final arbiter on whether it tastes good. However, with that price tag burning a hole in your pocket and under the assumption you know what you like best, eating out all the time isn’t sensible.
Even grabbing food-to-go, delivery, and fast food can be expensive. Fast food has an even higher price markup than traditional, modern, or luxury restaurants—so you might not even be saving during your cheat day.
10 Tips to Stop Eating Out
Are you ready to stop eating out? Here are ten tips to help you cut back on expensive dining habits:
1. Budget Your Food Expenses
While telling you to budget your food expenses might seem obvious, it should be the first thing you prioritize if you truly want to save money.
Begin by taking into account your family size and how much they need each day. Whether you run a low-income household or not, healthy food should be at the core of your diet.
Commit to following your meal plan closely, yet build in just a touch of wiggle room. Shop at bulk stores and make good use of your freezer. Additionally, avoid restaurants and don’t carry cash so you resist the urge to get a quick bite outside the budget.
2. Pick the Right Ingredients
While you might initially be drawn to items with sales tags or in the discounted aisle, focus on quality and nutritional value when picking out ingredients.
Packs of chicken, fresh vegetables, bread, rice, and fruit are all affordable options you can experiment with and plan meals using.
Eating healthy also saves you money in the long term. As you eat nutritious food in conjunction with exercise, you’ll lose weight, feel better, and work harder.
3. Make the Kitchen Your Playground
It may seem daunting at first, but you’ll need to learn how to cook food you actually enjoy to survive and thrive while rarely eating out.
First, figure out the types of foods you want to make. Don’t go overboard with your selections by punching above your weight; just keep it simple.
As you start cooking, you’ll gain more skills and confidence. With more technical ability and cooking know-how, you’ll create tasty and nutritious dishes from minimal ingredients.
4. Look for Affordable Recipes Online
One of the best ways to save money on unnecessary food expenses is to go online for recipes.
Many food bloggers and creators specialize in creating how-tos for healthy-yet-affordable meals. These creators even mark the prices of their ingredients throughout the video as they introduce them while cooking.
Additionally, many creators make meals keeping family and group size into account.
5. Limit the Amount of Times You Eat Out Gradually
No one is born a good chef. While you start the transition into life as an amateur home chef, you won’t instantly make perfect dishes.
It’s hard to quit anything cold turkey, so start by limiting the number of times you eat week-by-week. From there, cut out other bad eating habits like constant snacking or daily trips to the cafe.
By limiting how often you eat out, you’ll be able to save for more pertinent expenses.
6. Quit Takeout
Is takeout eating out? Most people would say “no,” but the burning hole in your wallet says “yes.”
It is hard to resist the urge to place an order with Uber Eats for some Texas-style barbecue or a few pizzas for Sunday football, but it’s worth it to save money.
By quitting takeout, you’ll be able to handle your monthly expenses and save up money for vacation and retirement.
Heck, you can even now buy a new wallet to replace your old one that had the hole…
7. Become the King or Queen of Meal Prep
If you really want to save money and stop eating out, learn how to prepare meals in bulk.
Buy ingredients wholesale or at a discount, and double up on recipes. Once you are finished cooking, save a few nights worth for your refrigerator and put the rest in the freezer.
At the start of each week, take out a family-sized portion of a few different meals, and you’ll be shocked at how much less you’ll have to cook throughout the week.
You can now use the time you’d spend cooking to earn more money or tackle other money leaks.
8. Plan for Contingencies
You never know when your home might lose power, your schedule becomes unexpectedly busy, or when you or a loved one might get sick. With that in mind, always have some food prepared in advance.
While everyone wants to eat fresh food, canned foods last much longer and contain about the same nutritional value. Additionally, if you lose power, use a grill or outdoor heater if you have one to cook meals.
Don’t make excuses to eat out during emergency food situations, even if half your family will be away at work, school, or a friend’s house during dinner time. Prepping your fridge with pre-made meals will give you better, cheaper, and more convenient options at home.
9. Invest in Cookware
How handy is an air fryer? How about a pressure cooker?
If you want to cook in bulk, don’t skimp on cookware. Pots and pans should be bought to last, so you don’t have to spend more money purchasing replacements—or falling off the money saving wagon and eating out incessantly.
Additionally, pressure cookers, air fryers, and toaster ovens allow you to cook hands-free so you can spend your time doing other things.
10. Divvy Up Cooking Duties
Cooking is a great bonding activity that requires much less time with a sous chef. Especially if the sous chef is your spouse or child! If you choose to cook with your children, teach them early on how to cook in bulk, so they can prepare for when you are away.
Set up a weekly calendar in your kitchen detailing the responsibilities of different family members, whether that be cooking, taking out frozen meals, or running to the store to pick up items.
As you would with budgeting, systemizing your home’s food production will save you time and money in the long run.
Is it Cheaper for a Single Person to Eat Out?
In almost every scenario, it truly is cheaper for a single person to cook rather than eat out.
Meal prep is an especially valuable skill if you live alone and can easily be a weekend activity. If you are looking to save, plan out your meals ahead of time and gather groceries whenever it suits your busy schedule.
Another perk of not eating out as a single person and cooking at home is that you have complete control over what you eat! A common struggle with group meal prep is a one-size-fits-all reality, where if you are the only vegetarian in your family, you’re out of luck.
If you get to cook the food you like rather than bulk food that you dislike, you’ll save money because you’ll finish your plate and not leave anything in the trash. And doing so greatly aids your fitness goals as well!
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