I have a lot of my friends ask how my husband and I manage to not eat out as often anymore. Especially because we live in the city, eating out, whether that be fast food, takeout, or going to a restaurant, is such a convenience. I totally get that. Making every meal at home takes a lot of time, preparation, and energy; I totally understand why people pick up food for a lot of their meals.
My husband and I used to be those people. We didn’t like to stay in and cook because it took too much time and we wouldn’t really like what we would fix when we stayed in. We were addicted to the convenience of eating out and, of course, the taste of it. We had our “usuals” at our favorite restaurants, and we always wanted them. We’d go through spells of “Doesn’t this restaurant sound so good right now?“ And then, even if we had plenty of food at home, we’d go out to eat simply because we had cravings.
But now if we do decide to go out to eat, we can never decide where we want to go because none of it sounds as good. We’ve gotten so used to our own cooking, we actually like to stay in and make our own meals now.
So how did we get here?
Well, a financial hardship. We HAD to start eating every meal at home because we were pregnant and we weren’t making enough money to eat out and prepare for our baby. I had to sit down and figure out what our cheapest meals were, what my picky husband would actually eat every week, and how much we could save to put towards baby necessities. Even though there were only two of us to feed, we could feed ourselves much, much cheaper at home than by eating out, even with fast food.
I would never wish a financial hardship on my worst enemy, especially when children are involved. I was so scared we wouldn’t be able to provide for our baby. It was damn good motivation to eat at home–and because of it, we’ve discovered how many benefits there are to eating at home. And I want to share them with everyone. I want everyone to understand the value of eating in, making your own food, and putting the money saved in other places, like a savings account. Our bodies feel so much better than they did when we ate out all the time AND our bank accounts look so much better too.
So here are 5 tips I have that helped us stop eating out routinely:
- MEAL PLAN. I cannot stress this one enough. I sit down with our family calendar and figure out what we will be having for dinner two-three weeks in advanced. If we have a lot going on during the week, we will have simple and quick dinners. Not so busy nights is when we make the meals that take a little longer. Once you make a plan, you will no longer have those dreadful, back and forth conversations of “What do you want?” “I don’t know what do you want?” until it’s 8 o’clock and “too late to cook.” I’ve been there. I completely understand how frustrating it is and it’s 100% why we meal plan. When Dylan asks me what is for dinner, I know exactly what we’re having. It gives our dinner time structure–we no longer waste time with “I don’t care, you pick.“
- Find the right recipes. This was very important for me because I have the pickiest husband to ever exist (I’m not kidding … I’d break down how picky he is, but it’s probably it’s own post at this point). But, I had to find the right recipes that he would enjoy eating at home and eating often. Of course we have those meals that are pretty basic dinners, but we also have meals that he gets really excited about. Sometimes he even lets out a big Yesssss! when I tell him what we’re having, which is exactly what he would’ve done when we finally decided on his going out to eat at his favorite restaurant. Now, he gets excited about the meals we make together. Find the right recipes–the ones that will make your family excited to eat– and stick with what works.
- Try new recipes. Of course, find the right recipes, but also try new ones. The same menu over and over again gets boring. We try to aim for three new recipes a month. That way, if it’s a total bust, we don’t waste too much money. This is where a lot of my friends go wrong with meal planning: they try too many new recipes that they don’t like and then they feel like they wasted money on the meal. Don’t go overboard with trying new things (if you’ve never made lasagna don’t make it your first week meal planning). Save the new recipes for when you need a change of pace. You’ll be more inspired and excited to make it, anyways.
- Recreate your favorite restaurant’s dishes. When Dylan and I first started eating at home, this especially came in handy. If I was craving something from a restaurant (like fried pickles… yum!), Dylan would look up a recipe and we’d make them at home for much, much cheaper. Same for him: he loves a BBQ chicken wrap from Red Robin, so we make a similar one at home for dinner. This will help you fight those cravings while not messing up your meal plan. Plus, they’ll give you great new recipe ideas!
- Remember why you started. This is important because there will be times when one person wants to go out and can easily convince the other they should. This is usually me and Dylan is the one to say “We don’t need to.” “We can’t afford to.” Whatever your motivation is to eat at home, write it down and remember it in moment when one of you feels the urge to order takeout. Dylan and I spent the first two years of our relationship eating out too much … breaking the habit is hard but it’s important to remember why and where you started.
These are a few of the things that we have done to break our habit of eating out. Now eating out is a treat for us; something we do for an occasional date night, when visiting family, or special events. I love that eating out is special again. It was, at one point in our relationship, a normal thing. But now eating at home is our normal and eating out is a treat. We save money, we spend more time together cooking ourselves, and we eat more healthily with our meals at home. It’s an all around win-win, and I hope this post has helped any families who struggle with eating out, taking out, or picking up fast food too often.
What’s worked for your family? I’d love to hear about it! Thank you for reading. XOXO.