Beat the High Cost of Eating Out
Is the high cost of eating out causing your wallet to scream in agony? You are not alone. It is estimated that families and singles eat out an average of four meals per week. This is a 23% increase from just a few years ago. If you want to change this trend in your life, help is as close as your corner grocery store. Buying groceries regularly can help you beat the high cost of eating out. If you cannot cook or don’t want to cook there is still help for you.
To change the trend, you need to start out with a plan. Following this step-by-step process will get you away from restaurants and have you sitting at your own dining table.
Supplies you will need:
- 12 pieces of paper
- Plastic sleeves for the meal plans
- Small three ring binder
- Pen or pencil
- Make a list of ten meals you know how to prepare. Write the name of one meal on each card or piece of paper. Include ideas for possible side dishes as well. For those who cannot cook at all, consider listing 10 prepared take home meals from the grocery such as frozen lasagna, stir fry meals, chicken potpies or sandwich meals. Buying prepared meals is still cheaper than eating out.
- Write down the recipe or tape it onto the paper if you have taken it from a magazine or off the Internet.
- List all ingredients needed for that recipe on the back of the paper.
- Develop an emergency meal plan, for those evenings where you may forget to thaw anything. Take two more pieces of paper and write down your emergency meals. If you cannot think of any, you might try tuna casserole as one and meatless spaghetti as the other. These are meals you can usually put together from items you will have in your pantry for these occasions.
- Prepare a grocery list. Select seven meals you would like to prepare for the next week and compile a complete grocery list. Add to that grocery list any items you need for breakfast and for packing lunches to take to work or school. Use the same process above to develop ideas for these meals if needed.
- Go to the grocery store. Using your list, purchase all items needed to cook your seven meals plus those needed to prepare breakfasts and lunches. The first few weeks this will seem like quite a bit of food. However, your plan is to eat all meals at home and for that you will need food. For the first couple of weeks, plan on making at least one additional trip to the grocery store to pick up items you may have forgotten. After that, you will want to go to the store only once per week. Remember, additional trips often result in impulse buys, so avoid this temptation by shopping less often.
- Each night before bedtime, select one of the seven meals and take the meat out of your freezer and refrigerate. That way, you will be ready at mealtime to cook. If you have a busy schedule consider using a crock-pot meal a couple of nights per week. If you are planning to use a prepared meal, then make certain of the cooking instructions so that you can estimate the time it will take the next day.
You will be surprised how easy it is to prepare meals at home once you have done this small amount of planning. You and your family will find you are eating better and healthier just by making these adjustments. The total cost of food at home should be much less than you were spending for eating out.
Finally, don’t get burnt out on just a few menu ideas. Expand your menu plans by reading cookbooks, magazines and asking friends for their favorite recipes. If you truly cannot cook, consider classes at your local community college. The classes will pay for themselves in no time, with the ongoing money you will save by cooking at home.
Content provided with permission from Money Management International, a non-profit community service organization that provides confidential financial guidance, free consumer credit counseling services, educational resources, and debt management assistance.
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This content was last modified on: 04/29/2011