One of the biggest expenditures I’ve seen wreak havoc on my budget time and time again is the huge expense of dining out. Going out to restaurants, ordering fast food or stopping in for takeout really takes a giant bite out of any reasonable budget. Eating out can be a real treat when you’re on a budget, but it’s also a desperate last resort when you’re exhausted, hungry and busy….it’s just so easy to reach for a credit card when you’re famished!
The biggest secret to save money on food is to simply prepare for it. Just like expensive Christmas gifts, new tires for your car, or taxes- hunger is something we know is coming yet when it comes to buying it and preparing for it, it sometimes catches us off guard! The trick to staying on budget is to get your food spending under control.
Plan for your “why.” Honestly, sometimes sticking to a budget sucks- so, what’s your “why?” Why are you trying to cut costs? Are you paying down debt? How much could dining in save you each month? Do a quick budget analysis with a tool like Mint.com to see where your money is going and then imagine how great it will feel to put that $100-200+ a month towards a vacation or to pay down your debt.
Set a time & a meal plan. Meal plans do not have to be intense- but you should at least have a basic framework for what you’ll eat, and yes, it’s okay to plan to eat leftovers- you don’t need a fancypants entree each night. Even if your dinner for Tuesday is something simple like a crockpot meal or scrambled eggs and toast (been there!), you will both avoid being starving and avoid wasting groceries you already paid for by planning ahead.
Make space & make time. In my cozy apartment, my kitchen table often becomes a workstation. In my busy life, my dinner time also becomes work time- which seems easier to justify ordering something quick and easy when food is an afterthought. Set aside time in your day and clear off that table to actually sit down and enjoy your meal. It will make saving money on dining a bit more special than a lame reheated leftover consumed on the couch. Additionally, set aside prep time each night and have a snack before you leave work so you’re not famished on the commute home and tempted to cut corners with takeout.
Track Yourself. As you explore new recipes, keep notes on what worked and what didn’t. Anytime you eat out, keep track of that as well (unless you use an app like Mint and only pay with a credit or debit card). When life is busy, you’ll often forget what meals you made that sucked or rocked and you’ll easily sweep any slipups to the drive-thru under the rug- unaware of any progress or milestones you’ve hit.
Prepare Your Pantry. There will be nights you come home exhausted, or you run late for work and don’t pack a lunch. In those instances, keep some non-perishable foods on hand that are still healthy but work in a pinch. One of my favorite choices is canned soups, you can find an array of healthy choices and you can pair them with a quick salad or throw some bread in a tupperware for dipping at work during your lunch break.
One of my favorite to stock up on are Progresso™ Light soups- so I was really excited to partner with them this year! I usually find a great deal on the soups at Target and end up with about 10-20 cans at a time since they make for really great last minute lunches or a warm up dinner on a cold winter night when you need to thaw out from the train ride home!
This post was sponsored by Progresso™ through their partnership POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Progresso™, all opinions are my own.
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