Is the thought of providing dinner again for your family making you cringe? Maybe you don’t mind making meals for the family once or twice a week, BUT you just can’t handle the bill every time you go out to eat or pick up some quick meals.
The cost is going to kill your finances long before your mental abilities to provide meals for your family.
We all know that eating out costs us more. But yet we continue to make the choice that clears out the bank account the quickest.
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Let’s take a look at a recent scenario my husband and I experienced for a date night.
OUR $77 TERRIBLE TASTING DINNER
My husband and I called to make reservations at LongHorn Steakhouse. We live in a small town so it’s about a half hour drive. When we get there, it is PACKED. Reservations mean little, we still need to wait 45 minutes. More people are piling in the doors and being told an hour and a half to 2-hour wait.
For food. Granted, it’s New Year’s Eve.
We both have never been to LongHorn before. I’m getting excited thinking it is probably really good because so many people are here.
I ordered a sirloin steak, a half lobster tail, shrimp, and rice, with a side of fries and salad.
My husband gets a T-bone steak 16 oz. with a sweet potato side and salad.
We each get two beers.
Our total. $77 plus a tip.
NOT WORTH THE COST
I have to say the quality of the food was poor. It did NOT taste fresh. I had cocktail shrimp. That’s the hardest thing when you are used to cooking your own meals with fresh ingredients, you can taste when food is freezer food.
My meal at LongHorn tasted like a frozen dinner from our local grocery store. With a price tag that was insane. Did you know that most chain restaurants are not any healthier than fast food joints?!
Of course, you can cut out alcoholic beverages to reduce your cost. If we go out to eat we always order water. But we had a gift card which means we are splurging.
The place was packed. I couldn’t help but think about how many people go and grab food for dinner. Every night. For some, the thought never crosses their mind of quality. How could it when you are just grabbing food to eat because you’re hungry after work.
DON’T CHOOSE CHEAPER RESTAURANTS
Let’s say you choose a cheaper alternative to eating out. McDonald’s, Wendy’s etc. You spend $30 for a family of four. You go there 5 times a week. You just spent $150 on food that may be cheaper but is loaded in things that are not so good for you.
Or you could have bought an entire week’s worth of food for your family. That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, friends.
But you can make a delicious meal for less than half the price at home.
This year I challenge you to cut out one meal that you pay someone for once a week. Then gradually increase it so you are not going out to eat at all in one week.
Make it special. Save up your money for a delicious fresh ingredient dinner at a restaurant if you must eat out.
Sharpen those survival skills and cook for you or for a loved one. Bring on the romance. Bring on the independence and bring on your health.
For quick cheap dinner ideas check out my Menu Plan Monday Posts Here.
MEAL PLANNING APP SERVICE
You can literally plan your entire week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in ten minutes with this app. $6 a month is only adding an extra $1.50 a week to your total. If you are spending $150 a week on groceries you can spend $151.50 and have a week’s worth of meals.
You can also type in all the items you have on hand and they will come up with meals using what you have FIRST! Plus you can connect your shopping lists to Instacart for even EASIER meal planning.
LET THE KIDS DO THE WORK
Every Sunday my oldest and I sit down and plan out meals out are the most fun. They also involve fewer meltdowns and such from repeating myself to say, eat ALL OF YOUR DINNER. We could go on a tangent here about kids eating all of their dinners.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes with getting the kids to eat everything and have learned, give them the portion you want them to eat. Don’t give the same size. This is mostly for the younger kids. Our five year old will get smaller portions and it’s because she knows I want everyone to eat their entire meal. She feels good when she can eat it all and so do I.
It doesn’t do either of us any good if I give her a huge serving and have her eat what she can and see the rest tossed in the garbage.
But back to the main point- when your kid’s meal plan they are excited about what to eat. You can even take it a step further and have them prepare a few meals too. Every night they make dinner you know at least ONE of the kiddos is going to eat the meal they planned.
I shared a post on a new Organic Stoneground Pizza kit at BJs- this is a perfect option for parents who are busy and want to have the kids make a meal. My five and seven-year-olds can make this pizza alone. It’s beautiful. You can see our review here and/or watch the video below.
LET THE KIDS EAT CEREAL
Did you know if you go out to the store and buy cereal and have the kids eat that all week, you just meal plan? Yep, it doesn’t have to involve gourmet meals. My first goal in meal planning is to save money. My second goal in meal planning is to serve food that tastes great.
For many of us, we are tempted when we are hangry. We find ourselves ordering a pizza or loading the kids up in the van and heading to the nearest fast-food joint.
If you cringe at cereal, keep a careful watch on sugar content, we love bananas in ours. Add any other berries or go for fruit and yogurt. Anything quick and easy.
This is one some will think I’m crazy, but as the kids grow I’m all for an easy morning before school.
YOU MUST HAVE A PLAN
When you have a plan it’s easier to stick to it. Be easy on yourself. If you are brand new to meal planning give yourself some cheats.
Buy some premade breakfast items, like Frozen waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches etc. Or go the cereal route because with coupons and sale prices you should NEVER be paying more than a$1 a box. I mean it.
For lunch, you have more freedom for some healthier grab and go options.
Let dinner be your creative chef inspired time.
Or maybe you work late and dinner is too busy, then make breakfast your bakery.
Pick which one, breakfast, lunch or dinner, you want to devote time and make meals for your family. It has to work with your schedule.
For quick cheap dinner ideas check out my Menu Plan Monday Posts Here.
COOK ONCE EAT TWICE
Don’t let that slow cooker collect any more dust this week. Pull it out. Cook a chicken in it. Get two more meals out of that bad girl. Shredded chicken can be used for a bunch of things.
Our kids love it with barbeque sauce. Don’t overthink it, especially if you have young kids. The more basic the better.
This will make meal planning fun. You have a chance to spark your creative side and you are doing less work.
Planning to use your crockpot on nights the family has different activities is a life saver. This way no matter what time you arrive at home, everyone can head to the pot and serve themselves a homecooked meal.
Who doesn’t want that?
My favorite recipe book for this is Cook Once, Eat Twice.
HANG YOUR MEAL MENU UP
When it comes to meal planning, you have to keep it where EVERYONE can see it. I’m sure you have that one person in your family that will hold you accountable. While it may be a pain at the moment, it is a pain worth having when it comes to meal planning to save money.
We use a weekly dry erase board that I got a Goodwill for a $1. You can use any piece of paper. Don’t stall the idea of meal planning by getting hung up on a cute meal menu that you need to hang up in your kitchen. The shopping process could take away the follow through of the important part- which is the actual menu.
Let’s put it into perspective here.
Check out these studies done in the last several years on the cost of eating out and the high percentage of Americans that do!
If you spent this twice a week, you are spending $154 a week for TWO Meals. You can get a 12 pack of beer, steaks, and potatoes are more for that price for TWO people.
Now, imagine if you have a family. The kids are not drinking beer but they are drinking pop or tea, say they are priced around $2.50. You spend $74 still. For one meal.
One glass of White Wine at LongHorn Steakhouse $7
You can get a bottle of Wine for $7.
This year step back and ask yourself “Could I do this for less?!” We need to eat. But do I need to eat out once a day?! Three times a week?! A few times a day?!
I am excited to announce I finally have put together a little Meal Planning Guidebook for you. Tips to get you started in meal planning and your very own shopping list and menu!
You have to plan and you have to want to. Use the form below to grab yours.
If you want to increase the money coming in without getting a second job- take a look at meal planning and grocery shopping. This is an area you can cut back and control. The extra cash in your pocket each week may just feel like you got a part-time job!