I went through a phase earlier in my life of going out a lot, and eating out even more. It was delicious. Probably some of my fondest and funnest memories. Food is good, and comfort food that is full of fat and salt and sugar and everything bad (when combined together) is the type of food that we eat when we go out and about.
And it’s also extremely expensive. If it’s extra inexpensive, like “Holy moly that Chinese place sells a bucket of wings for $3” then it’s probably extremely bad for your heart and stomach and body and mind.
So how do you stop eating out? How can you completely eliminate this expense? How can you reduce this expense? How can you save more, by eating out less? Or by not eating out at all.?
Just stop. Just give yourself 30 days to eliminate going out all together. If you buy prepared food daily, or go out every few days, or weekly, just set a goal of 30 days of not going out. You must know your goal, before you can go after it, so set it. Set it at 30 days, or 60 days or maybe even 100. Maybe give yourself until Valentine’s Day or your birthday before buying out food, or eating out again.
Plan and prepare. There’s just no way you can avoid eating out and buying fast or prepared food, if you don’t plan correctly. If you are out at an event, or you are outside your home all day, bring a lunch. Most of us have a big lunch box or cooler that we store in a far away place like the garage. Get it out, clean it, dust it off, and pack it with your goodies. This might be breakfast and lunch, or all three meals. Get it done.
Get your family on board. If your kids are used to going through Dunkin’ Donuts or the drive through each day or every Saturday, let them in on your goal or the family goal. Let them pick out their breakfast and snacks and lunch before you head out for the day or events and get them excited for this adventure. If your husband or wife, or significant other refuses to jump on board with you and your eating out ban, go about it alone. It’s no big deal if everyone doesn’t understand this goal, or doesn’t want to partake. Don’t stress over this, but go hard alone. They can eat out, they can drive through, they can go to a restaurant, but you sit back and eat your home made lunch.
I have a friend of a friend who packed her lunch for work, all her life. She would give her husband, who liked to buy lunch each day, a budget for each week, that he spent on his food out. They were able to retire early, and continue to travel the world. Was saving $20 a day or more throughout a 20-30 year career be the sole reason for such a financial stable present? Absolutely. Money saved ads up quickly, and this habit makes other saving habits possible.
What if you get stuck? And you didn’t plan for a fork in the road? Well, you can do a couple things. 1 – You can certainly skip a meal. None of us have died by not eating on time. It’s actually quite healthy for you. 2 – But you can also find a grocery store, and buy what you need. If you want to push the limits a bit, go and buy a prepared salad, or a sandwich, but at least you won’t be paying the extra extra cost of a restaurant meal. Or maybe go into the produce section and grab a couple of whole fruit. Whatever you want, get yourself, but don’t overbuy, and just buy for that meal.
Stock your fridge. Even though I’m a HUGE fan of eating through your kitchen, and cabinets and pantry, I also believe in making sure you have EVERYTHING you need and available, if you are starting off with this goal. A lot of times, we want variety. And if you are one of these people, you need to go to the grocery store and market to make sure you have all the variety you need, to stay strong in this goal. Your kids may at times want burger and fries, or other fast food goodies. If you don’t have these items available, then you are more likely to go through a drive through. Will we be spending more at the grocery store? Yes. If you were eating out several times a week, and you are now eating at home, you may need to increase your grocery store budget. But, you will certainly be saving money immediately by not spending your cash on the meal, on the restaurant, on the prep, and on the tip and tax. Instead, by buying at your grocery store (even if it’s more initially) you will be saving a ton in the long run.
Have convenience foods ready. I love love love my shakes. They are perfect, and quick and fast and ready. My kiddos have them for breakfast. They are meal replacement shakes and I buy them each month. This makes it super easy to have a healthy breakfast ready for them, every single day, because they take no time. Sometimes we get caught coming home later from practice, and I use them in the same way. Instead of stopping by a Wendy’s for a lil piece of heaven aka a Jr Bacon Burger, I know that I can quickly blend a healthy meal for them before bed. You may want to prep a few meals on a Sunday (or any day of the week) so that you can have quick meals ready. Maybe you want to wrap up a few sandwiches or any type of grub, and freeze them. Food prep now is everything, and the amount of resources out on the Internet to make it fast easy fun and healthy is endless. Get it done, and prep and confirm convenient yet healthy fast meals for you and family.
Indulge. Eating out often brings feelings of luxury, and indulgence and glamour. So set up the same environment for yourself at home. We usually eat VERY QUICKLY prepared meals. You won’t ever see the dinners or lunches or breakfast I make take more than a few minutes. But sometimes, especially when we want to be fancy (usually on Friday nights), I go ALL OUT! I get fresh potatoes, and maybe some steaks, and I prep some amazing potato fries, or a something else that takes longer (like home made pizza or Indian food), and we really enjoy this time. We might even light some candles, and SIT DOWN (crazy right, eating sitting down), and really make it a BIG night.
What’s your environment like? When we lived in NJ, we lived very close to the grocery store, and to at least 5 different pizza restaurants, and a lot of fast food. It would literally take a total of 15 minutes round trip (if not 10) to order food, go get it, and be back home. That’s freaken FAST. But here in Florida we live 6 miles from the closest grocery store. That seams fast, but it’s not. It’s like 10 minutes each way. And I can’t even tell you the closest restaurant, because I have not been to a close restaurant. I have gone out on a girls night one night, which was too much fun, but also very far away. I recognize, and you should too, that your environment certainly contributes to your eating out, or how often you do it. It’s okay to accept this, and put a lil blame and shade that way, but you can change it and control it anyway. 1000% self responsibility is everything.
Perfection isn’t the goal. It’s progress we are after. We were at a wrestling tournament a few weekends ago, and it was a gazillion hours long. I packed a whole book bag of snacks for my kids, and a big lunch bag of food and wraps and shakes and bars. I didn’t want to spend money at that attractive and amazing -smelling-of-nacho-cheese-concession stand. But my three year old daughter doesn’t understand this effort just yet, so regardless of the amount of teddy grahams I had for her, or beautiful cut up strawberries, she still wanted Skittles, and then Cheese Doodles (the orange mouths, the orange fingers are the worst, but they seem to love them the best). So she got them. Then I purchased my son an Snickers ice-cream, and got myself a diet soda (daaaaa worst). Even after planning, even after trying my best, it still turned into buying “food” day. And this is okay because it’s not our usual jam. But if I went into that gym without my home food, it would have been worst.
How much money will you save by eating at home? The numbers will very but the number will always be positive!
Cheers Savers & Home Eaters!