How to eat out less

I read this week that most households earning $75K a year eat out too much to save any money.

It kind of makes sense–many jobs are salaried rather than hourly, which means they may very well work more than 40 hours a week and not have time to do everything that needs to be done around the house, especially if both people work.

The key is to get the convenience back at a lower cost.

In warm weather, when you fire up the grill, cook several meals’ worth instead of just one. You can fire up the grill on Saturday and Sunday and cook enough to eat all week. It takes me 30 minutes to cook one meal on the grill, and perhaps 40 to cook five.

In cold weather, do the same with a slow cooker. Freeze what you won’t use right away so you can use it later, and quickly you’ll have a nice rotation going.

Some people take this to an extreme and cook a month’s worth of meals in a single weekend day. There are numerous books on the subject. It saves time and money because it allows you to buy the raw ingredients in bulk and reduce waste. The food goes into the freezer, and nightly preparation becomes taking a meal out of the freezer in the morning to thaw and reheating it that night, taking less time than a trip to the drive-through.

Taking lunch to work helps cut down on these costs a great deal as well. I quickly learned at my first job that I was spending between $25 and $35 a week on lunches out. Packing lunches can cut it down to $15, or even less if you’re careful. Saving $10 a week may not seem like much, but that’s $500 over the course of a year. Cut back to going out to lunch once a week or once a month, pocket the savings, and at the end of a year you really do have something to show for it.

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