Eating out is fun – and can certainly be tasty – but if you’re doing it more than once or twice per week, it’s most likely having a negative impact on your health and your bank account. Something needs to change!
6 Tips for Eating Out Less
Eating out less is simply a matter of discipline and planning. If you’re willing to do it and you take the time to create a plan, you can eat out less, save money, and be healthier.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Set a Budget
If the goal is to save money, you need to start by setting a budget. Sit down at the start of each month and give yourself a weekly grocery allowance. (You can also give yourself an “eating out” allowance, but it should be significantly lower.)
2. Plan Out Your Meals
The next step is to plan out your meals for the week. Grab a notebook or a spreadsheet and literally plan out every meal, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day of the week. When planning out your meals, take leftovers into account. You can usually stretch the previous night’s dinner into the following day’s lunch.
3. Grocery Shop Online
Here’s a little trick that will change the game for you: Shop for groceries online and do delivery or pickup. When you shop online, you aren’t as prone to making emotional purchase decisions that are driven by your stomach. You also get the benefit of easily adding and subtracting things from your cart, seeing the subtotal as you go, and verifying nutritional information on the fly.
(Pro Tip: When you shop online with a store like Walmart, you often come out ahead. If you order something they don’t have in stock, they’ll give you a “substitution.” These substitutions are often better than what you ordered – but they still charge you the same price. For example, if you order a six-pack of pudding that happens to be out of stock, they might give you a 12-pack for the same price.)
4. Learn How to Cook
Cooking is not popping a frozen pizza in the oven or boiling a box of macaroni on the stove. Learn how to actually cook and your desire to eat out will go way down.
When it comes to cooking, cook what you love. If you’re a big pizza fan, buy an outdoor pizza oven and learn how to make your own dough and toppings. If breakfast foods are your thing, find recipes for breakfast casseroles and cook away!
5. Prep Meals in Advance
The key to staying disciplined is to prepare meals in advance. (A lot of people prefer to do this on Sunday afternoons while they’re watching a movie or listening to a podcast.)
By preparing your meals in advance and putting them in individual containers, you make it easy to just grab a meal and go. This prevents you from eating out for the sake of convenience.
6. Keep the Right Foods on Hand
Avoid putting yourself in a position where you have to rifle through the pantry or refrigerator looking for something to eat. If you aren’t careful, this can lead to pulling up your phone and ordering an expensive, overpriced meal from Uber Eats.
By always having good food on hand, you don’t have to deal with the temptation of ordering out. Stay stocked up – especially on the weekends.
How Much Can You Save?
The potential cost savings for eating out less are incredible. To prove this point, let’s run a little exercise with some round numbers. For example, let’s say this is the average cost of each meal you eat out:
- Breakfast: $6
- Lunch: $10
- Dinner: $18
If you eat breakfast out five times per week, lunch five times per week, and dinner three times per week, that’s a total of $134 per week. If you run those numbers out, we’re talking about $536 per month and nearly $7,000 per year. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $30,000 or $100,000 per year – that’s a lot of money spent on food!
But here’s the thing – cooking your own meals and eating in costs just a fraction of what it does to eat out. You can usually prepare a good breakfast for $1 or less, a good lunch for $3 or less, and a good dinner for $7 or less. That’s a cost savings of at least $93 per week (or $372 per month).
If you’re currently in debt, behind on retirement, or have no savings, simply choosing to eat at home more often could allow you to dramatically improve your financial situation to the tune of $372 per month (or more). There are no excuses – take control of your life!