Whenever we found ourselves in leaner financial times, one of the easiest ways to reduce our spending was to avoid eating out. Ordering take-out may be the easy solution to a full day that leaves me little time to cook, but food that you have to pay someone else to cook certainly eats your budget unnecessarily.
Whether it’s the double bacon cheeseburger at your local fast food place or a perfect medium rare ribeye at a 5-star steak house, you can find ways to steer clear of the most tempting restaurant specials to save yourself some bucks. Here are 5 practical tips that have helped us.
Before You Go Out, Eat
Kind of obvious, right? If your grumbling stomach is not a distraction as you run some errands, then you will be able to drive right past the drive-through line without even a second glance. Your wallet and your body will thank you for it.
Brown Bag It
If the time that you go out happens to be in between meals, you can bring a bagged lunch to eat later. When I go out with the kids, I try to think ahead and see if our outing will run into the next meal time. If so, I pack a few sandwiches, bring some water, and we’re good to go. The times that I have failed to do this, we would certainly end up at McDonald’s or some equally not-so-healthy fast food joint.
Bring a Few Snacks
Maybe you’re in a rush, and you just don’t have time to eat or pack a lunch before heading out the door. Some on-the-go snacks will keep those tummies quiet until you return home. If you keep your pantry or fridge well-stocked with pre-packed snacks, this will take no thought or preparation before you go out. Check out this post for some ideas on making your own snack bin.
Break Open the Cookbooks
Are your cookbooks collecting dust on the shelf? Is your Pinterest account overloaded with recipes that have yet to materialize in your kitchen? One of the best ways to avoid unnecessary restaurant runs is by taking some time for regular menu planning. Schedule some family favorites to cook during the week, and maybe try one new dish a week to keep things from getting boring. Sometimes, we get tempted to go out because we’re tired of the same dishes. You can also look up copycat recipes of some of your restaurant favorites, and you may find that your version tastes way better.
I’m totally not opposed to eating out, especially when my husband and I can go for a date night. So, if we are able, we plan for it in our budget. You can decide what amount you can set aside for this on a monthly basis. If it’s too hard to keep track and you don’t want to go over budget, an envelope system may be helpful. Put the pre-determined amount in an envelope marked “Eating Out”. Use that money wisely. Once that money is gone, you better have a plan B.
What else have you done to reduce restaurant spending?
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