So glad I came across your website!
My boyfriend and I make plenty of money for the two of us, but somehow we always feel like we’re scrambling for money two days before our paychecks. Our main problem is that we like to eat out all of the time. I recently bought Lemon Wallet, an app for spending, and discovered that we spent almost 1/3 of all of my earnings towards eating out!! We were both looking at one another thinking “how could this be?!”
I would like us to start implementing some better habits sooner than later..any suggestions? I love your blog and thanks so much for being so helpful and honest!
I know exactly what you mean! It is so easy to get into the habit of eating out, and then realize later just how much money you have spent. To combat the habit, try some of these ideas that we use at The Peaceful Mom house.
Make a Weekly Menu Plan
The one thing that helps me to stay out of restaurants is making a weekly menu plan. Even if you only write down your dinner plans and make sure that you have the ingredients on hand, you will increase your chances of actually cooking dinner. 🙂 If you would like some help with how to make a meal plan, check out my How To Make A Menu Plan post here.
You can also sign up for my favorite meal planning service eMeals*. For around $7 a month for a 3 month subscription, you get weekly menus including recipes and a grocery list. My readers can get a 10% discount by using promo code PEACEFUL. Click here to see a sample menu.
You can also cook some meals ahead of time on the weekends, so that you just have to heat them up during the week. Make a large salad, a pot of soup or chili and bake or grill some chicken and you have several easy meals for the next couple of days. You can also freeze some of the food to use at a later time.
Check out my 8 Meals in 1 Hour Chicken Plan here to give you more ideas.
Stock Stand-By Options
Stock your pantry and/or fridge with some quick options for those nights you just don’t want to cook. Some of our favorites are grilled cheese sandwiches with canned or frozen soup, chicken quesadillas and Easy Chicken Stir-Fry (click links for recipes).
Make Eating Out Special
Try to change your mindset to think of eating out as a special occasion, rather than the way you eat on a regular basis. You will feel more in control when you make a conscious choice to go out to eat and budget the money, rather than going out to eat because there is “nothing to eat” or you feel tired. You will probably find that you better enjoy your experience as well.
How do you stay out of restaurants? Leave a comment with your best tips.
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I keep two tubs of lunch “add-ons” in my kitchen. One in my pantry and another in my fridge. Every Sunday I portion out snacks like carrots, celery sticks, grapes, cheese sticks (fridge), crackers, nuts, and popcorn (pantry) into ziplock bags that way they are easy to grab and add to any type of lunch Imake for my family (sandwiches, salads, leftovers). We hardly eat out for lunch anymore and we have saved a TON of $$!
Really great idea Jacklyn! Thanks for taking the time to share it. 🙂
Have breakfast for dinner when you want to mix it up but not go out!!
We regularly have breakfast for dinner. Use cash and plan ahead.
The mindset of eating out as a special treat helps the most. Learning to cook is a really great skill we can all get better at and teach our kids so that the default of eating in tastes delicious!
I solved the problem of people stealing my lunch at work. I purchased a Walmart insulated lunch bag $12.00 then as I pack my lunch I also pack a homemade ice pack made up of a Ziploc sandwich bag with frozen popcorn kernels which keeps things cold in the bag. I therefore can keep my lunch at my desk under my watchful eye versus in the break room refrigerator.
I like it! I have never heard of using frozen popcorn kernels as a cold pack–brilliant!
I too save money by bringing lunch to work. I have found that it helps to pack for two or three days. Then you avoid forgetting lunch at home and can have choices of what to eat. The free vitamin water recipe e book posted in this blog is also a great way to avoid spending too much on beverages.
I like your idea Sara! Packing for more than one day gives you options (as long as no one else in the office eats your food, right?). 🙂
I have also seen people in my office keep dry goods or
boxed soups in a drawer (Campbells makes those great ones now) @their desk just in case they forget lunch they have options.
On days where you may feel tired and not wanting to cook, and if you don’t have anything on hand that’s precooked or easy to make, grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (they are usually $5 or so), and pop in a bag of steam in bag broccoli in the microwave. You are still spending less than dining out, even if the chicken itself is a splurge. ($5 is a lot better than a $30 plus tip restaurant check!!)
Really good idea Maria, thanks!
Designate only a certain amount of cash that you will use for eating out each week. Take it out of the bank and once the cash is gone no more eating out for the rest of the week. My husband and I get creative this way by using coupons, sharing meals, going to happy hours, etc. so that we can maximize the amount that we can eat out.
Cash is a great idea Mandy. Thanks!
The best choice I ever made was to bring my lunch to work and eat outside whenever possible. Doing that one thing saved me money, ensured that I ate something much healthier than what was available where I worked, and got me away from my computer. I allowed myself the option to eat out with friends once a week (usually Fridays). Prior to that, I began making really good coffee at home and bringing it with me. The investment in a good maker, good coffee, and a great no-leak cup ended up saving me money and lots of calories in the end! In addition to the money you save not eating out all of the time, homemade food will help you feel much better health-wise!
Good for you Kim! I love that you eat outside. It’s a great way to recharge yourself so that you can be more productive when you return to the office, and I am sure that saving all that money makes you happy too.
We try to only go out for monthly date nights. But we also have a rule that if we have a gift card or a really amazing coupon that we can bend the rules a little 😉
I love gift cards! 🙂
Pair your Gift Card W/A Coupon.
Around the Holidays many restaurants will give out incentives for buying gift cards, they throw in a free $10 for every $50 or a deal close to that.
If you buy them and save them to use throughout the year you’ll have the bonus card to spend along with the Gift Card and if you pair that with a coupon your money will go a lot further.
Meal plan. Make a grocery shopping list. Find easy recipes that you like and are quick to make. Have a few ready made frozen meals in stock-I have chicken fingers, premade frozen soup, already cooked chicken and ground beef. Dinner is as simple as pulling it out, heating it up and adding veggies or taco-ish stuff to round it out. And for the really busy days (Sundays after church) I have a rotating crockpot menu so dinner is ready to go when we get home-soup, chili, taco meat, beef roast, etc.
All really great ideas Lisa, and especially the crock pot menu. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to comment.