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Eating out is expensive – there is no doubt about it. If you are serious about saving money, my tips for how to stop eating out are the perfect place to start.
I used to spend too much money eating out. Looking back, it is actually embarrassing – if not a little painful – to see how much money I wasted on restaurant meals. Weekday lunches were my big offender, but not the only problem.
Why You Need to Learn How To Stop Eating Out
There are several really good reasons why you should learn how to stop eating out and cook at home, but we are going to focus on one: The price of restaurant food is exorbitant.
There is a severely extravagant upcharge for having someone else cook your food and serve it to you.
It’s not only sit-down meals that are pricey. A fast-food combo meal can be ridiculously high-priced and getting food delivered to your door costs a pretty penny.
Spending too much money eating out is one of the biggest hurdles to saving.
If you need – or want – to start saving your money, then reducing the amount you spend on food is essential.
Making a break away from take away and restaurant meals can literally save you hundreds of dollars each month.
The First Step to Stop Eating Out: Figure Out Your Why
Everyone knows that eating out costs more than eating food prepared at home. So why do you do it? In order to break the habit of eating out, you need to first identify your triggers.
Before you dive into my tips for how to stop going out to eat, ask yourself a few hard questions…and be totally honest about your answers. You will never learn how to stop eating out all the time – or save money on eating out – unless you are completely truthful.
Question Why You Eat Out and Get Take Away
I’ve rounded up a few questions for you to contemplate. Hopefully, by answering these questions, you will better understand why you eat out, which in turn will help you to adjust your habits.
Do you know how to cook? Do you know how to cook food that you actually like? Is your kitchen adequately equipped?
Are you too busy to cook? To hungry to cook? Too tired at the end of the day?
Do you like the convenience of take away and delivery? Do you feel overwhelmed or unorganized?
Are you bored with the food that you buy from the store? Do you like the unique foods you can get at restaurants?
Once you figure out why, you can better learn how to stop eating out and save money.
25 Tips for How To Stop Eating Out So Much
With my tips for how to stop spending money on eating out, you can get a jump start on your savings!
#1 Plan Your Meals
Planning out your meals for the week is the number one way to start saving money on food. With a solid day-by-day, 3-meals-a-day weekly meal plan, you won’t be left in a lurch wondering what to eat…and you will be way less tempted to eat out.
Write it down. Seriously, write it down. Then make your grocery list based on your meal plan…and only buy those things from the store.
#2 Prep Your Meals
One of the best ways to learn how to stop eating fast food or ordering take away is to already have food prepared at home.
When the meals on your weekly meal plan are already prepped and ready to eat, it is a lot more difficult to justify going out to a restaurant.
Furthermore, when you do food prep in advance, it is more time-efficient than preparing each meal individually.
All you need to do is set aside a few hours one day to prep the food you will eat for the week. A weekend day is usually best. Get the whole family involved to make it fun (and fast!).
#3 Try a Mix-and-Match Meal Prep
Another way to prep your weekly food is with the Mix-and-Match method. Rather than prepping each individual meal for the week, you cook, chop, slice and dice – and store the individual ingredients separately. Then from your preparations, choose a protein, veggie and grain for each meal throughout the week. Use sauces and spices to jazz up each meal.
For example, bake 3 chicken breasts and 2 pork chops. Then, roast potatoes, carrots and onions and cook a batch of rice – and store all of those separately. Next, wash, dry and cut lettuce, asparagus and green beans and store those in individual containers.
When you make dinner during the week, you have options. You can have Asian chicken with asparagus and rice or BBQ pork, green beans and potatoes.
While it does take some thought to create your meal, using the Mix-and-Match approach is a lot less rigid than a strict meal plan. It allows you the flexibility to compose your meal based on what sounds good at the moment.
#4 Double Your Recipe
A simple way to create multiple meals is to make two meals at once. If you have already prepared food sitting in the fridge, you don’t need to spend money to go out to eat.
Whenever you cook a meal, simply double the recipe and make enough for two complete meals. Eat one home cooked meal right away and save the other for later that week.
Voila! Your frugal dinner is already made and ready for a later date!
#5 Prep Make-Ahead Freezer Meals
Make-ahead freezer meals are a fantastic meal prep approach! When your freezer is filled with delicious, homemade ready-to-eat meals, you will always have a meal ready to go (and no reason to order take away!).
Soups, stews and casseroles are classic make-ahead meals to put in the freezer, but the list is endless!
#6 Prepare Lunches for the Week
Being unprepared for workweek lunches can be a costly mistake – but it is one that is so easy to circumvent! In fact, it was my first step in learning how to stop eating out at restaurants. The incredible amount of savings I realized persuaded me to eat out less and make more meals at home.
The key to prepping weekday lunches is to be organized and efficient. Workday mornings are already stressful enough without worrying about what to have for lunch.
It is easiest to make a week’s worth of lunches in advance, but at the very least, make sure your meal is ready the night before. Put your frugal lunches in ready-to-eat containers so that all you need to do in the morning is grab and go.
By the way, this works for quick-and-easy cheap breakfasts, too!
#7 Have a Plan for Your Dinner Plan
Having a meal plan is an excellent way to stop eating take out, but only if you execute it.
When you make your meal plan, be sure that you also set up any reminders you might need in order to put that plan into action. You don’t want to get into the kitchen ready to eat only to realize that your planned dinner is a freezer meal that is still frozen solid and needs at least an hour to cook.
I personally like to make notes in my meal plan to keep on top of what needs to be done. You can also implement an evening routine that will ensure you stay on task.
#8 Cook Simple, Easy Meals
When I first committed to cooking at home instead of eating out, one thing I struggled with was the complexity of the food I was making. I would pick recipes that came with a long list of obscure ingredients and had complicated instructions.
Not only was I was making it too difficult on myself and spending too much on groceries, I was getting discouraged. I finally throttled back and came up with a rotation of simple, easy meals that I loved to eat.
My favorite meals usually have about 5 ingredients or less – and most take only about 10 minutes to prep.
Keeping it simple will help keep you sane – especially as you learn how to stop eating a lot of take away meals.
#9 Always Keep Favorites on Hand
I will admit it: Sometimes my meal plan goes awry. Maybe I forgot to buy an essential ingredient or perhaps I’m just not in the mood for what I had planned to make. It happens – and that is why I always have a few favorite staples waiting in the wings.
Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with some of your favorite items that you can quickly whip up into a meal. It will save you a lot more money than reaching for your phone to call in a food order.
I always have eggs in the fridge – because an easy fried egg sandwich is one of my favorite frugal meals. Pinto beans and tortillas are always in my pantry so that I can resort to a quick and tasty bean burrito when all else fails.
#10 Have a Backup Plan
Having an emergency meal – like spaghetti sauce and pasta or a frozen pizza – is a good idea just in case the wheels fall off. In fact, I even recommend squeezing in a backup meal for a rock-bottom $50-per-week grocery list.
While these meals might not be your favorite things to eat, they will work in a pinch, are easy to prepare and have a long shelf life. Most of all, they just might do the trick in keeping you from ordering out, which will help to keep your budget in check.
#11 Create Copycat Meals
One of the best ways to learn how to stop eating take out is to recreate your favorite restaurant meals at home. Rather than calling in your order for take away, you can make Fake Away at home!
The internet is an excellent resource for copycat recipes, giving you step-by-step directions for cooking your favorite take away foods. Just search for the restaurant and specific dish you want to create – it’s likely a recipe blogger has figured out how to cook it at home.
What I love about cooking copycat meals is that I can tweak them to make them taste even better than they do in the restaurant. As a bonus, what you cook at home is likely healthier for you and it is way cheaper than getting take away!
#12 Invest in Good Kitchenware
One of the reasons people struggle with ordering too much take away is that they don’t have the right tools in their kitchen. Believe me, having good kitchenware can be the difference between wanting to cook and wanting to order out!
I’m not suggesting that you go on a shopping spree to outfit your kitchen; I think having a minimalist kitchen is ideal. The key is to invest in quality items that you will actually use several times a week.
Buy a casserole dish with a fitted lid for better storage of your make-ahead meals. Invest in a food processor that can save you the time of chopping and slicing. Purchase a garlic press to eliminate some stress and make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable.
The better your kitchen is equipped with tools and cookware that you actually like, the more likely you will be to use them!
#13 Get an All-in-One Instant Pot
Want to how to stop eating out so much? Get an Instant Pot! Seriously, an Instant Pot pressure cooker is a heaven-sent kitchen appliance. The little miracle maker is a multifunctional beast – and an antidote to ordering out.
It can pressure cook your meat, slow cook your stew and produce perfectly cooked rice.
You can start it in the morning to have meals ready when you get home from work. At the end of a long day, you can toss in your freezer prepped meal and have dinner on the table in 30 minutes flat.
Trust me, with the help of an Instant Pot, you will be able to break away from take away!
#14 Learn the Basics
One of the reasons many people spend too much money eating out is that they never learned how to cook. If that’s the case, spend time learning the basics.
When I first lived on my own, my kitchen knowledge was certainly lacking. I could cook chicken, but I didn’t know how to hard boil an egg or cook rice in a pan. I pestered my older sister with ultra-basic cooking questions – and it helped me save a ton of money.
If there is something – even as basic as hard boiling eggs – that you don’t know how to do, it’s okay. We all have to start somewhere! Ask a friend or relative for advice, use my frugal cooking tips or simply consult the world wide web!
There are basic instructions and YouTube videos for every food-related question imaginable on the internet. You can find recipes for peanut butter sandwiches and there are even how-to videos for boiling water. The internet is your friend if you are a novice cook.
#15 Buy Ready-to-Eat from the Grocery
Although I don’t typically recommend buying frozen dinners or pre-made meals from the grocery store as a way to buy groceries on a budget (it’s cheaper to buy the ingredients and assemble them on your own), they are cheaper than getting takeaway!
If you are really struggling with how to save money by not eating out and can’t seem to get a handle on your kitchen game, then buying ready-to-eat meals at the grocery store could still save you a bundle.
#16 Consider the Costs
A gut-wrenching reality check of your dollars spent can quickly prompt you to stop eating out all the time. Do the math; actually calculate how much money you spend a day, a week and one month in restaurant food.
Seeing is believing. Once you see how much you are spending on takeaway, it might make your stomach turn. Once you track your spending on takeaway food and calculate the numbers, ask yourself a few questions.
How much food could you buy if you made the meals at home instead of spending it on takeaway? If you save it – instead of spending it on food – what could you buy? Could you become debt-free? How could you invest that money? Could it help you to get ahead?
#17 Keep A Budget
If you want to stop spending money on eating out, then start budgeting your food expenses.
A budget is a fantastic tool that helps you spend your money more wisely. In your budget, you get to dictate how much money gets spent on what – and that includes what gets spent at restaurants and what goes into your savings account.
Don’t already have a budget? It’s alright! Keeping a budget is not as daunting a task as many people make it out to be. Use my tips for Making a Monthly Budget – and then snag a free printable budget to get started now!
#18 Get Everyone Involved
Families often struggle with eating out too much. Busy schedules, picky eaters and pure exhaustion are the top contributing factors.
However, when you get everyone involved in the menu planning and kitchen prepping, not only can you reduce the number of times you eat out a week, but you can also have a lot of fun!
Sometimes it helps to start with setting a goal for your family finances. Once everyone is on board with the overall plan, getting everyone to help in the kitchen might be a little bit easier.
#19 Bring a Friend on Board
While cooking at home for a family can be trying, cooking for one can be downright boring. If the thought of cooking for just yourself is why you eat out so much, then consider bringing a friend on board to cook with you!
Ditch the restaurant reservations and invite a friend to be your cooking partner at home. Not only will it be fun, but you can both contribute to the prep work, making it much easier to make the meal. Plus, if you make it a routine event, you can share favorite foods and recipes.
#20 Avoid Getting Hungry
Hunger is the devil on your shoulder telling you to forget about cooking at home and go out to eat instead. And, it’s fierce.
#21 Consider Your Time
Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that getting food to go is faster than cooking for ourselves, but that isn’t always true.
Takeaway can be nearly as time consuming as cooking at home – especially if you have to go pick it up. Don’t trick yourself into thinking it is a time saver if it isn’t.
#22 Remove the Temptation
Like in all cases when you are trying to save money, when you are learning how to stop eating out to save money you should remove any and all temptations for take away.
Delete your delivery apps. Remove your credit card from your account. Unsubscribe from restaurant emails. Take a new route from work so that you don’t pass by the most convenient drive-thru on your way home.
#23 Allow Yourself a Treat
One way to stop eating out at restaurants is to allow yourself to have it…but within your set limits. Easing out of eating out all the time might have a longer-lasting effect than completely cutting the cord.
If you are getting takeaway or delivery 6 nights a week, cutting it off completely might be too much to take at first. Instead, in the first month, commit to cutting the number of times you eat out in half – and stick to it.
Once you start to feel more confident in your own kitchen, cut back to getting takeout just one day a week…then just once a month. Use my tips for How To Eat Out on a Budget for money-saving tips on the special occasions that you do decide to dine out.
As you make progress, reward yourself to help encourage the changed habit.
#24 Do a Health Check
One way to stop eating out and cook more at home is to take a good hard look at the nutritional facts.
In most cases, restaurant food is not good for you…as in absolutely unhealthy. They add too much salt, too much sugar and too much fat. It’s those same ingredients – salt, sugar and fat – that you get addicted to fast food and restaurant meals.
At your favorite restaurant, ask for a menu with the nutritional values (restaurants with more than 20 locations are required to provide this information on request) or take a look at some of the unhealthiest meals you can eat in America.
Considering your health when making decisions about eating out can help you break the cycle of dining out so much.
#25 Review Your Dining Experiences
How many times have you finished your restaurant meal only to be disappointed by the food or the service? If it isn’t enjoyable, then why pay a premium for a below average experience?
It seems that going out to eat has become so routine that we accept mediocracy.
So now, ask yourself: Is it worth it to spend your hard-earned dollars on a mediocre food experience?
Commit and Challenge Yourself
It can be a real challenge to stop eating out – so you have to commit to the cause! If you need some extra motivation to see just how far you can stretch your dollars on food made at home, then join my $5 Food Challenge!
We Want To Know: What are your best tips for how to stop eating out and save money? Tell us in the comments!
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