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Eating in is the new eating out

By on July 13, 2015

Many families are dining out a few times a week and it’s not primarily for social or entertainment reasons. It can often be the family budget buster, so a common piece of money-saving advice is to simply cut back. In most cases, that is easier said than done. The convenience becomes habitual, but a simple look at your waistline or your bank statement can be a real eye opener and catalyst for change.

Today readers offer their tips for eating out less:

Create boundaries. I read “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser and that helped us stop eating fast food. I am also trying to “use our LOAF.” We try to buy things that are Local, Organic, Animal-friendly or Fair trade. That usually helps to keep the frequency down. –Britbunny via forums

Fix it and forget it. If I don’t have anything started or in mind by dinner time, it is easy for me to call my husband and tell him to bring something home or to go out to eat. My Crockpot saves me almost every time! I make a variety of meals in it such as lasagna, soup, chili, meat loaf, chicken and dumplings , etc. “Fix it and Forget it!” books by Phyllis Pellman Good are the best. I also use my bread machine to make pizza dough. I set it up in the morning and set the time for when my husband gets home. –Cheryl, North Carolina

Menu plan. Make a menu for the week, month or however it is you shop and stick to it! You can look it over the night before and get everything out for the next day, so you’re well organized in advance and not scrambling at the dinner hour. In your menu plan, include some meals that are quick to toss together for those days you are sick, tired, or rushed. –Michelle, Texas

Try new alternatives. I have been concentrating more on keeping bills down when we’re out. For example, no appetizers or desserts and ordering water to drink. I also eat breakfast or lunch out more often than dinners because it’s less costly. I have been trying to learn to cook the things I crave too. I love Chinese, so I have been trying to learn how to cook Beef & Broccoli, so that it comes out close to the Chinese restaurant . I’m less tempted to go there. –Sara, Massachusetts

Plan leftovers. I work and I used to eat out for lunch a lot. I pack my lunch while I’m putting away dinner leftovers. I always run late in the morning and this way I can just grab it and go. I’ve done this the past couple weeks and haven’t eaten lunch out yet! –Jasmine via forums

Analyze the problem. I stepped back from it and asked myself “Why” I was eating out. The answers were revealing. I looked at all the reasons I had and came up with a list of frugal alternatives. For lack of time, I use menu planning, my Crockpot and bulk cooking. When I’m bored, I cook ethnic or recruit family members and have someone else take turns cooking with me. If it’s for entertainment, then I go on a picnic or hold a potluck instead. –Jean via forums

Prepare snacks. We started preparing our fruits and veggies as soon as I get back from the Farmer’s Market. I find if they’re already prepared for snacking, I’m less hungry or in a hurry to come up with dinner. –Jen via forums

Add it up. The best deterrent for me is the money I’d be spending versus saving. I calculate how much a meal/snack costs when dining out times the number of times I’d spend it in a week. I total it up and see how much money I could be saving instead. One less meal out per month over the course of a year can be your ticket to funding your freedom account AKA emergency fund. Stop eating your retirement. –Shorty, Canada

Break the routine. Pick up a new cookbook and start making meal time fun instead of a chore. I also invested in new kitchen tools. I’m having a lot of fun using new spices, ingredients, trying new recipes and tools. I don’t dread cooking anymore. I consider it a wise investment. –Tina via forums


photo by merfam



  1. Beckey

    8/1/2007 at 11:21 pm

    Ahh,food my favorite subject!
    My husband and I have grandma’s old pressure cooker, so once a week we make a ‘pot’ of something. We sometimes freeze some so we can have it later in the month. Chili is a big staple in our house there are so many things you can do with one pot of chili like…chili eggs, breakfast burritos,taco salad,chili dogs and my favorite grilled cheese and a bowl of chili. It freezes great in a ziploc baggie(if you get all of the air out). Cooking at home has become one of our favorite things, our 2 yr old washes the veggies ,our 4 year old cuts the veggies(with a butter knife). Even if you don’t have children I remember back in my 20’s we would have cooking party’s and 3 or 4 of us would cook a dish and split them up. Different dinners for the week. Lots of fun!! Be careful on trying to cook Chinese at home depends on what you want , egg rolls are expensive to make , sometimes it is cheaper just to buy a lunch special.

  2. Genevieve

    8/3/2007 at 2:09 am

    Our eating out is usually limited to the occasional ice-cream cone from MacDonalds which holds us over until we can get home and fix something. I do love to eat out, but I always regret it when I see the check!

  3. Vicky

    8/12/2007 at 2:26 am

    We have started eating healthy so do a lot of salads,fresh fruit, grilling and crock pot cooking.

  4. MorganLighter

    8/12/2007 at 2:06 pm

    Sara – All good tips, but what else can you expect from a Michigander? We live in a resort town and the price of a breakfast, lunch or dinner is outrageous. Yes, we have a McDonald’s, however, we don’t do fast food. We rarely go out to eat (maybe 2-3 times a month) as both my wife and I are excellent cooks and enjoy fixing our own food. It’s better, less expensive, and we make enough for left-overs. We will still do the same when we move back to Michigan, the land of nice people and reasonable prices.

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