We’ve all been there. Wiped from a long day at work, all we want is our favorite take out delivered to our door, a seat on the couch and our favorite show queued up. On the weekend, we satisfy our hunger by exploring new restaurants with friends, ordering liberally from the food and drink menus because, well, it’s the weekend, treat yo self, and all that. Our refrigerator becomes a barren wasteland, save for a few takeout containers, while our stove becomes a resting place for dirty dishes. For so many, eating out is no longer an occasional treat; it’s an expensive habit that we just can’t kick. By cutting this expense, we can save thousands of dollars a year. Start with these strategies.
Commit to reasonable goals
It’s tempting to vow to never eat out again. But most likely, within a few days you’ll be back on the phone with the pizza joint that knows your order by heart. Or you’ll forget to pack your lunch and find yourself standing in line at Chipotle – again.
Instead of going cold turkey, commit to eating out two fewer meals per week for just one month. Say you cut two $15 take out meals per week; that’s $120 for the month. Say you pack your lunch instead of eating out twice a week. At $8 a lunch meal, that month you’d have $64 to put toward groceries.
Do this for a month and then commit to cutting an additional meal out the next month, and another meal the month after that. Watch your savings add up.
Create a meal plan
If you want to drop two restaurant meals per week, you need to replace those meals with a home cooked meal that’s so tasty and easy to whip up that you’re not left pining for take out. The best way to ensure a desirable replacement meal is to create a plan. Look up recipes and get your prep work done on the weekend.
Not sure what to make? Learn to cook your favorite take out meals at home. Addicted to taco Tuesday take out? Find a simple taco recipe and make enough to last a few days. Craving pizza yet again? Pick up some pre-made dough, pizza sauce, cheese and toppings and enjoy an at-home a pizza party. Bring your leftovers to work for lunch.
Don’t cave to social pressure
Oftentimes we find ourselves eating out because we want to spend quality time with our friends and loved ones. But pre fixe meals and overpriced cocktails aren’t a prerequisite for good times.
Cut the cost of your social life without sacrificing fun by inviting friends over for a potluck. Impress them by mixing your own drinks. You may find that dinner parties are more enjoyable than eating out because you won’t have to deal with interruptions or pressure to rush. You can linger and let the fun times unspool for hours.
Have a few easy meals on hand
Let’s be honest. We all need cheat days. On days you can’t bring yourself to chopping vegetables or watching something simmer, the freezer is your friend. Here you can store no-prep meals like pizza, dumplings and other frozen dinners that you can pop in the microwave.
Today the freezer aisle is full of healthy frozen food options, including organic whole foods that are high in protein and fiber and low in calories and artificial ingredients. And if you crave variety, you can find cuisines from all corners of the world, such as Thai, Italian, Indian, Japanese, and Mexican food, among others.
Keep your financial goals in mind.
It’s important to remember why you are committing to eating out less. Obviously, you want to save money, but it’s helpful to articulate specifically where this saved money will go.
Will it go toward a vacation? Bikes for the kids? Paying off student debt faster?
Put a picture representing your financial goal on the refrigerator, so every time you start cooking you are reminded of the reward you are working toward. After all, memories from a vacation will last far longer than memories of a pizza delivery.
The materials on this blog are provided for informational purposes only and do not reflect the opinions of ChimpChange LLC or Central Bank of Kansas City, Member FDIC. Several of these blog posts may contain links to content on third party websites which are provided for your convenience, please note that linked sites may have a privacy and security policy different from our own, and we cannot attest to the accuracy of information. ChimpChange LLC and Central Bank of Kansas City do not guarantee nor expressly endorse any particular product, service or third party content.