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Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Avoid Restaurants Like a Kid Avoids Naps

When you decide to cut back on your spending and start winning with money, one of the best things to cut back on is going to restaurants. If you aren't on a budget, I dare you to look at your checking account (or, God forbid, your credit card) and tabulate how much you are spending at restaurants. I bet it's more than you would have thought. 

Let's look at the reasons we go out to eat:

1. Date night. We always go out to eat on Friday so I can have a break from cooking.
2. I am so tired that I can not handle cooking right now.
3. We are running around town/taking the kids to cheer leading and it is getting late, and if I have to cook something when we get home, it will be after the children's bedtime when we eat it.
4. The kitchen is too messy for cooking in and the pots are not clean.
5. I didn't have time to pack a lunch.
6. Restaurant food tastes better.
7. There's no food in the house to cook.

I didn't know I could think of so many reasons to eat out!

Let's look at each of those reasons and see how we can kick them in the face:

1. Date night is super. I think it's great to go out to eat once a week. If you're on a really tight budget, or you want to get really far ahead, you can consider cutting back to just once or twice a month. And if you do that, eating out will be much more special. Much more enjoyable. Just because of its rarity.

2. Sometimes you will be too tired to cook. So keep something in your freezer that is so easy to cook the six year old could do it. This recipe is good for that.

3. If you find yourself going to restaurants because you are busy running errands, then plan ahead to be home for meal times. If this is a new idea for you, it might take some time to put it into practice, but after a while, you will be home like clockwork, just like Harvey was home in time watch his soap opera. If you find yourself running around because your kids are involved in too many activities, maybe it's time to cut back on those activities. Or, if you know that you'll be out late on Tuesday, cook twice as much on Monday and have leftovers.

4. I know it's harder for working moms to keep their kitchens in functional order. You might find it helpful to have a few small people in your house that you can teach to wash dishes. That is, I'm told, why my parents had me. I don't actually have any real ideas about this one other than to make it a habit to clean up right after dinner. Since I don't have a job, I'm guilty of waiting until the next day to wash the pans most of the time.

5. If you are eating out during your lunch break at work, try cooking extra food each night so you have leftovers to bring to work. When you are cleaning up after dinner, go ahead and put leftovers into individual serving size bowls so they are ready to go into your lunchbox in the morning. If you are worried that you, or more likely, your husband, will eat the extra food just because there is extra, go ahead and pack it into the fridge. Tell yourself it's off limits. (For some reason, I assume that everyone who reads the blog is a woman).

6. If restaurant food tastes better because you aren't a very good cook, take heart! Everyone can learn how to cook. Just follow the recipe. And practice, practice, practice. After a while, you won't need a recipe for everything and you will even be making up your own.

7. If you don't have any food in the house to cook, you need to start sitting down to plan your meals for the week. Make a list that looks something like this: (My list only includes dinner because breakfast is usually cereal or bagels, and lunch is leftovers or sandwiches). 

Sunday: spaghetti
Monday: stir fry
Tuesday: tacos
Wednesday: eggs
Thursday: hummus
Friday: eat out
Saturday: pizza

Then check against your pantry to see what you need to buy and make a list. This wasn't a very detailed list because I know in my head each ingredient that goes with each of those meals. Rest assured that each and every lunch and dinner contained a fruit or a vegetable.

If you don't find these suggestion helpful to keep you out of restaurants, maybe you should obtain a two or three year old that is too wild and embarrassing to take out.

A friend of mine is blogging about her weight loss journey, and she has a great blog about saving money by eating healthier.

Does anyone want to share how much you are spending on restaurants each month?

Our budget is $80, but for some reason, we seem to have spent $183.46. Oh well. We'll do better next month.

P.S. When you do eat out, try splitting a meal. Restaurant portions are usually much bigger than what you need.

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