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My husband and I were reviewing our budget last week, and guess what? We overspent on eating out. AGAIN. Unfortunately, it’s our biggest budget downfall. Can you relate?
It happens so easily! I have to pick up the kids from Taekwondo and then we have a school conference in an hour. We better run through the drive-through! Are you struggling with food costs? It seems harmless enough until you realize that food spending is what’s stopping you from doing the really good things with your money.
Maybe you want to pay off debt, save for retirement, pay for education, or give to charity. You can’t if you’re EATING all of your extra money!
What can you do about it? Here are some ways I’ve found to spend less on eating out:
10 Easy Ways to Spend Less on Eating Out
1. Have Tasty Food on Hand
It’s a lot easier to avoid eating out when you already have delicious food at home. Make sure you actually LIKE the things you buy at the grocery store.
2. Cook Double
When you make a dinner, make double (or more) of what you’d usually use so that you can eat the leftovers another day.
If you won’t need it the same week, freeze it for a quick meal on a future busy night.
3. Keep Easy Food Around
Find some frozen, canned, or quick-prep foods that you can keep around as your backup plan.
When you’re too busy or tired to cook, you can fall back on your easy meals instead of eating out.
4. Make Breakfast for Dinner
Our fallback on hectic nights is breakfast foods. Who says you can’t have eggs or oatmeal for dinner?
Breakfast foods are generally very quick and easy to prepare. They’re also inexpensive!
5. Plan Ahead for Travel
Have a long drive ahead? Buy some snacks at the grocery store to avoid the convenience store prices.
Heading to the park for the day? Pack a lunch! Having easily packable items on hand helps to avoid eating out.
Even if you spend a bit more at the grocery store and pre-packaged foods, it will be less expensive than eating out.
6. Meal Plan
If you have a plan, you’re much less likely to be unprepared for dinner. A meal plan doesn’t have to be complicated.
It can just be quick list of meals that you can make that week with the food you have on hand.
7. Lower Your Standards
I don’t mean you should eat in an unhealthful way! I’m just saying that dinner doesn’t have to always be fancy.
There’s no rule that you can’t eat a healthy bowl of soup or a plate full of fruits, vegetables, and hummus.
8. Use a slow cooker or Instant Pot
If you have some yummy chili or stew simmering in your crock pot at home, you’re pretty unlikely to want to go out to eat.
9. Use a Budget
If you have a budget for eating out, you can keep an eye on your spending and know when to stop. It’s hard to control the spending if you don’t track it!
10. Have Financial Goals
What do financial goals have to do with eating out? Eating out is easy and enjoyable, so it’s understandable that many people struggle with doing too much of it.
The way to fight it is to know what you’re working towards. Is going out to eat more important to you than your retirement? Or college savings? Or down payment on a house?
Having a budget can help you see these trade-offs more clearly.
For our family, going back to basics with our food has helped. I’ve been remembering to plan ahead for busy weeks and for travel.
I think a key for me is being realistic about what I can manage for dinners. Having a few more quick convenience foods around has helped us avoid the drive-through on crazy nights.
How has your family been able to reduce spending on eating out? Comment below with your ideas!