Eating out has been a constant struggle in my home. At one point we were eating out 4-5 times per week because we just didn’t feel like cooking. You can imagine what that did to our bank accounts. I had to find ways to learn how to stop eating out so much and I’m sharing some of my tips with you.
We’ve slowed down a lot on eating out and when we do eat out it’s a lot more purposeful instead of just picking a random place and ordering delivery. We now eat out with the intention of curing a specific craving or planning it as a reward or celebration of some kind.
We know just how easy it is to fall into the eat out trap and how difficult it can be to get out of it. This means we have lots of tips on how to break the eat out cycle and get back to saving money and enjoying your time in the kitchen.
Reasons Why We Eat Out
There are plenty of reasons why we choose to eat out instead of cooking at home. Some of them are easier to overcome while others not so much. Let’s go over those reasons so we can pinpoint exactly where your eat out weaknesses are and figure out how to stop eating out.
Don’t Want to Mess Up/Clean the Kitchen
This one was a big one for me in pin pointing my eat out excuse so I could learn how to stop eating out. Either I spent the day cleaning the house and now that’s it’s perfect I just don’t want to mess it up. Or I just don’t want to have to clean up after I cook.
Having a clean kitchen feels nice and you just know after messing it all up again all you are going to want to do is sit back and relax for the rest of the night. If you do that then you’ll have a mess to clean in the morning or it’s going to sit in the kitchen until you get home from work the next day.
Nobody wants to come home to a messy kitchen they have to clean in order to cook but you deserve a break every now and then too.
Days like this means you need easy foods to cook. You know a rice or pasta pack you can cook in the microwave, add a can of tuna and a can of peas and you haven’t dirtied a single pot. Throw your microwave dish in the dishwasher and no dirty dishes.
It’s also helpful to have an “I cook, you clean” rule in the house. This splits up the chores of cooking and cleaning so that you can start the “relax the night away” portion of your evening faster.
Don’t Feel Like Cooking
It’s 90 degrees outside and you are already hot. The last thing you want to do is get into the kitchen over that hot stove or oven and cook a meal. Or maybe you had a crappy night of sleep and just can’t pry your exhausted self from the sofa.
Good news, easy cold dish dinners are perfect for when you need to eat but you are not going to cook nights. Think a pre-made salad bag, sandwich foods, or even a couple of TV dinners. It’s easy enough, doesn’t take a lot of time, and keeps you nourishing your body while saving you a few bucks over delivery and learning how to stop eating out.
You woke up late, spent all day at work, took the kids to extra-curriculars, have that PTA meeting, and you have to finish a report before tomorrow morning’s meeting? Oh yea you are busy and you just don’t even have 30 minutes to whip up a meal.
Leftovers are the real winner here. Oh and if your husband doesn’t like leftovers, tell him to make himself a sandwich. Leftovers are a lifesaver for busy people who are learning how to stop eating out.
If you have a busy schedule, easy foods and leftovers on hand in the fridge are the best way to keep eating at home with minimal mess to clean up afterwards saving you time and money.
Suck At Meal Planning
This is me. Every week I say, I’m going to make a meal plan, then every night I completely fail at following through with that meal plan. I ended up using ingredients for another dish because I wanted something else instead. Or maybe I just lost my meal plan list.
Freezer cooking or using an app like eMeals saves me loads of time and energy in meal planning. The app allows me to plan my meals, shop for the ingredients, and it’s all easily accessible on my phone. If you are learning how to stop eating out this app will absolutely help in the process.
With freezer cooking I do most of the prep work and even some of the cooking ahead of time then simply freeze the meal. Pull out the meal the day before you plan to heat it up or cook it and you have quick and easy dinner options for the week ahead.
Reasons To Eat In
There are three main reasons to eat in when learning how to stop eating out. While I’ve seen loads of different reasons why you should cook at home, not all of those apply to everyone. Sometimes, having family time around a dinner table doesn’t exactly fit parenting styles or the family style.
Don’t get me wrong, family time is absolutely important but it doesn’t need to be over a meal. If that works for you and your family, great, but not every family is about that life.
Save Loads Of Money
The biggest reason to learn how to stop eating out and eat home cooked meals is to save money. You’re going to get a lot more food for a lot less money if you eat at home. With the internet at your fingertips I am positive you can find recipes for all your favorite take out meals too.
I have a family of 3 and our grocery budget is about $400-$600 a month depending on what we are eating. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home. I know there are people out there that eat on micro budgets to prove you can, but I lived that life because I had to for years. So I splurge on my groceries now that I can.
At one point we spent $500 eating out for the month on top of a $300 grocery bill. I rarely hit the $600 mark in grocery shopping and that’s only if I’m stocking up on my canned and boxed goods while they are on sale.
Even saving an additional $200 a month by choosing to eat at home instead of out can mean making a monthly car payment, gifts for holidays, or just getting that little extra money together for closing costs on a house.
Use Up All The Foods You Have
The second reason to learn how to stop eating out is you can actually have less food waste. If you see you have peppers about to go bad, make fajitas or stuffed peppers for dinner that night. If you have 5 cans of peas in your house, make a couple of casseroles to use them up.
Food waste is one of the biggest household costs that most families have. Besides the cost of food it takes energy to bring the food home, store it in the fridge, and even costs money to throw it in the trash when it ends up going to complete waste filling up our landfills.
Choosing to take what you have in your home and using it instead of ordering out reduces the waste you put out into the world.
My husband will eat sandwiches three meals a day, everyday, if I let him. I, on the other hand, need variety in my food. I like to have hot and spicy one day, sweet and savory the next. This is why I leftovers were key in learning how to stop eating out.
Not only does it allow me to have quick and easy lunches for the week and being able to switch it up. It also stops food waste. If we have fajitas and I have leftovers I can use the fajitas in a salad the next day. A leftover casserole from a couple days ago is still yummy heated up.
Plus it’s loads faster to heat up some leftovers than it is to order food and wait for delivery. This means you eat when you are hungry, instead of getting cranky because you are starving by the time the food arrives.
How To Stop Eating Out
We’ve already covered a couple of the ways on how to stop eating out when we went through our reasons why we choose to eat out. I want to cover some of those again as well as a few new ideas to get you back on track for eating home cooked meals.
Be Purposeful When You Eat Out
What I mean by this is in learning how to stop eating out, set a specific reason for eating out. Be it a celebration, a reward, or just setting a single day where you can order out, give eating out a purpose.
For us we typically do birthdays and the 15th of every month. The 15th because that’s when I get paid which is kinda like a celebration. We know that on the 15th of the month we can sit down and figure out what we want to eat and that’s it.
It also means that on the 1st of the month I’m saying, ok I have 15 days of meals to plan, cook, freeze, or work with till we can eat out. It gives us something to look forward to.
Use A Meal Planning App
There are a couple of different meal planning apps out there but by far eMeals is my favorite. Mainly because they put the list together to make shopping easy, or you can even order your groceries through the app through Walmart Pickup.
eMeals makes meal planning and prep a lot easier because it’s all handled right on your phone. You can get 2 weeks FREE with this link to try it out and see which meal plans interest you the most.
My favorite part of eMeals is that I can mix and match the menus to fit what my family likes. It’s a great way to get meals on the table instead of at your door.
Try Freezer Cooking
My next favorite type of meal planning is freezer cooking. I’ve tried freezer cooking apps and programs but to be honest they only make enough for that meal. Being the leftover fan that I am, I actually started figuring out how to make my own freezer meals so I can have those leftovers I want.
It’s pretty easy. A lot of dishes are simply putting chicken and ingredients in a bag to lay flat and freeze. Some of them require a bit of cooking beforehand and putting them into pans to get ready to freeze.
Either way I spend 2 hours cooking 10 freezer meals and we eat for almost 2 weeks on those meals and leftovers. Because you are preparing 10 meals at once you are saving yourself 10-20 minutes of daily prep time. Then you just pop the meals in the oven, slow cooker, crock pot, or stove top for a quick meal in no time.
Keep Easy Meals Available
The best thing I did to help us learn how to stop eating out was having easy meals available for those days we just didn’t feel like cooking. This could be frozen pizza, appetizer foods, rice and pasta bags, hot dogs, burger patties, leftovers, etc. Keeping easy meals available helps you with the don’t want to clean, don’t feel like cooking, and the too busy excuses for eating out.
Cooking an extra large meal one day can give you an easy heat and eat meal two days later when you just don’t feel like cooking. For instance, I made soup last night, tonight we will have leftover soup along with a half a sandwich for dinner since I don’t feel like cooking tonight.
Likewise, frozen burger patties with a dash of garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and salt are delicious with some cheese and cook up in about 6 minutes. Having either frozen pizza, or having pizza ingredients and a quick pizza dough makes for a pretty easy dinner the whole family will enjoy.
Listen to Music While You Cook
Turning on your favorite playlist is a great way to motivate you to cook. Turn those tunes on and dance and sing while you cook. You’ll be tricking your brain into associating that cooking is fun for you so you won’t dread it as much the next time.
Clean As You Cook
If wanting to avoid the clean up is your biggest eat out excuse, I recommend cleaning while you cook. Throw or compost your scraps right away, load the dishwasher while you are waiting for the food to cook, wash up mixing bowls or other pans as you are done with them.
First, because the food is fresh it will likely come off easier. Second, all that’s left to clean after you cook are the few dishes, utensils, and that last pan. Finally, this will keep you from leaving it all out overnight and possibly through the next day while you’re at work, meaning you have a clean kitchen to come home to.
Split The Cooking
For those of you with the too busy excuse but have a spouse or teenagers in the house the answer to how to stop eating out is split the cooking. Your spouse is capable of cooking for the family and should be pitching in to feed the entire family. Having your teenager cook will help to set them up for adulthood.
Can you imagine your teenager in their first apartment cooking for themselves for the week instead of constantly going through the drive thru? While I’m positive they will still be coming over to eat your home cooking, you’re giving them the tools to survive and save money when they are on their own.
Split the cooking in your house to make it more manageable for everyone while teaching valuable lessons to your kids for their future.
Cook At Home Challenge
If you’ve been struggling with learning how to stop eating out and to cook at home, you may need some motivation. You can try a cook at home challenge. My recommendation is to start off slow with a 10 or 15 day challenge of eating at home. Then allow yourself to order food.
Challenge yourself 30 days after a couple of months of ordering food out just twice a month. Make it more interesting by challenging yourself to try different recipes of your favorite take out foods. You’ll probably be surprised by how much better your home cooked burgers are compared to your favorite take out.
For my top 10 easy meals to make at home that helped us learn how to stop eating out, check this post out here.
What’s your biggest order take out excuse? Let me know in the comments below. Follow us on Pinterest for more like this and pin it to your favorite meal planning boards.