Every week, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.
This is one of those ideas that pretty much everyone knows: when you eat at home instead of eating out, you’re going to save money. However, it can be easier said than done — especially when you have busy schedules.
Here are some suggestions to make it easier to eat at home instead of falling back onto restaurant meals:
1. Calculate the Savings
Take a little time to review your budget and see how much you’ve spent on eating out over the last few months. Often, just reviewing these numbers will be enough to encourage you to consider cutting back — because the savings could help you pay down your debt more quickly or to put extra toward your current savings goals.
Crystal from Serving Joyfully wrote a post on how they made the decision to stop eating out. Here’s what she says:
My husband and I live on a meager budget and are trying to get out of debt. We can’t afford all the meals out (we were spending our entire “spending money” budget, plus “borrowing” from other areas to fund it!)
So this year for Lent, we did something drastic — we stopped eating out.
While there are ways to save money when eating out, a meal out for a family of four will typically cost at least $10 for fast food, and $30 for most sit down restaurants. If you are like us, or like the typical American family, just cutting one meal out per week can save you $520-$1560 per year!
2. Plan Ahead
Taking a little time on the weekends or at the beginning of the week to plan a menu can make a major difference in your success in eating at home more. Because when you have a plan, it’s a whole lot easier to actually work the plan.
When you have a plan and you have the groceries to carry out that plan, it’s a lot harder to justify ordering pizza at the last minute. I’m pretty sure most of us agree with this in theory, but we have to have more than good intentions if we want to follow through.
So find a set time every week to plan your menu and buy the groceries for it. Put it on your calendar and commit to sticking with it. Find an accountability partner or sign up for a menu plan service like eMeals, if need be.
And then plan ahead at the beginning of the day for what you’re going to make for dinner that evening. Set out the meat to thaw, do any early prep work you can do, dump the ingredients in the crockpot… think about what’s for dinner at breakfast time and you’ll be glad you did when it’s 5 p.m.
3. Keep it Simple
One of the biggest pitfalls to being successful with eating at home is often planning meals that are too time and labor intensive. If you typically don’t have a lot of time and energy at the end of the day, don’t set yourself up for failure by choosing recipes that require a lot of effort.
I’m all about keeping it simple, as you can tell from our weekly menu plans. Why? Because I know that many evenings I’m pretty tired by the time dinner prep time rolls around. So the simpler I can make dinner prep, the better. If I have more time and energy, I can always make an additional recipe.
4. Use Your Freezer
I don’t know about you, but there are some days at our home when life whizzes by so quickly and all of a sudden, it’s 5 p.m. and dinner isn’t even a figment of my imagination. Before I started regularly cooking ahead and freezing meals, I’d be tempted to call my husband and ask him to bring something home for dinner.
Freezer cooking has solved the 5 p.m. “What’s-For-Dinner” panic. If I forget to pull something out earlier in the day, I’ll just pick a meal from my freezer stash that defrosts quickly — such as meatballs. I pair this with some frozen veggies, rice, and maybe a fruit salad. No one even has to know I forgot about dinner until 30 minutes before it was supposed to happen!
I’ve found that doing mini half-hour or one-hour freezer cooking sessions works really well for this season of our life. And while I might not be making 20 or 30 meals at a time, by consistently cooking ahead once or twice a week, we always have some meals in the freezer for those busy days when I don’t have time or energy for cooking.
Instead of having to make meatloaf three times in six weeks, I just triple the recipe and make meatloaf once and stick the extra two dinners’ worth of meatloaf in the freezer. If I’m going to be making one meatloaf, I might as well double or triple the recipe saving me the effort and mess later on in the month. After all, it really doesn’t take but a few more minutes to make two extra batches of meatloaf — and the clean up time is pretty much the same!
Freezer Cooking Links to Check Out:
- Start Where You Are and Learn As You Go
- How to Plan a Freezer Cooking Day (and find more ideas here)
- How to Cook for Your Freezer When You Don’t Like Casseroles
- Can You Have a Freezer Cooking Day if You Don’t Have a Lot of Freezer Space?
- How to Store Your Freezer Meals
5. Use Your Crockpot
It’s hard to say whether I love my crockpot or my bread machine more. Both of them are invaluable tools in my kitchen that I use again and again and again.
I love that I can stick the ingredients in the crock pot and then basically forget about it! Plus, there’s something so wonderful about smelling dinner simmering in the crockpot all day long!
One great way to use your crock pot to make dinner preparations easy-peasy is to whip up some Crockpot Freezer Cooking meals:
- Crockpot Freezer Cooking: 40 Meals in 4 Hours
- Crockpot Freezer Cooking from Loving My Nest
- Crockpot Freezer Cooking: 20 Meals in 2 Hours
- One Afternoon of Chopping = 14 Crockpot Freezer Meals
- Printable Crockpot Freezer Meals Weekly Menu
6. Give Yourself Grace
One of the most important things I want to stress, though, is that you need to give yourself grace. If you have the wiggle room in your budget to eat out and it’s something that your family enjoys, I encourage you to budget it in. It can be a fun change of pace and it can be a nice break for mom, too.
Plus, when you budget it in, there is no guilt with enjoying eating out. Maybe that means you budget to go out to eat twice a week, once every other week, every six months, or not at all. Figure out what works for you and your family and then do it!
Carmen from Life Blessons shares ways to save on eating out:
Eat out for lunch instead of dinner. Eating out for lunch can cost considerably less than when you eat out later in the evening. Plus, you’re usually not quite as hungry, so you eat less. That right there will cut down on your spending!
Instead of going out for entire meals, go out for treats. One thing we’ve done to trim our spending is to go out for things like ice-cream or coffee, rather than full-fledged meals. Sure, you can have coffee or ice-cream at home, but when it scratches the eating-out itch at a fraction of the price, it can be well worth the splurge!
Read Carmen’s full post on how to spend less money eating out.