Have you ever stopped to calculate how much your family spends on meals and snacks prepared outside the home? Whether it’s a submarine sandwich at the mall or a three-course dinner at a fancy restaurant, eating out is a costly activity. Even the coffee and bagel you buy on the way to work every morning can amount to a huge expense over the course of a year. If you want to trim your food budget, this is the place to start.
Here are some tips for reducing the amount of money you spend on eating out:
Make an Effort to not Eat Out
Nowadays, many families eat out simply because they are too busy to prepare a meal or nobody feels like cooking. Eating out becomes a habit that is hard to break. It may be worth the effort, though. A typical family of four could save literally thousands of dollars a year by making and eating most of their meals at home.
The trick is to prepare food ahead of time. You have to allocate space in your daily or weekly schedule specifically for this activity. Perhaps you can spend a few hours on the weekend cooking and freezing meals and main dishes for the coming week. In less time than it takes to drive to a restaurant, you can microwave one of the freezer meals, toss a salad, and have a delicious supper on the table. Remember, home-cooked meals don’t need to be fancy in order to please the palate and satisfy the tummy.
Take Your Lunch to Work
Buying lunch at work instead of bringing your lunch from home can be a huge waste of money. For example, let’s say that buying lunch costs you $6 a day. That works out to about $1500 a year. If you brought food and beverages from home instead, it might cost you about $2 a day, or $500 annually. In other words, you could save $1000 a year simply by packing a lunch. What could you do with that extra cash? The money you’re currently spending on lunch could go towards something you and your family would really enjoy.
Bring Your Own Food When You Go Out
You can also cut costs when you’re out having fun with the family. Entertainment venues such as the zoo, an amusement park or a water slide, or even the local recreation center always have food and drinks for sale. But these places often charge astronomical prices because they have a captive audience. Instead of spending all that cash on refreshments, plan ahead. Pack some food and cold drinks in a small cooler. You might not be able to bring your own food past the gates of the park itself. But you can usually leave and come back during the same day. When the family gets hungry, just head for the car and enjoy a picnic outside before returning to the park.
The cost of food is one thing that can never be eliminated from the family budget. But it’s easy to lower this cost simply by spending less on food that has been prepared away from home. When you try these tips, you may be surprised at how much cash you can save. You don’t have to stop eating out entirely, if that is something you and your family enjoy doing. Just make it a treat for special occasions, instead of something you take for granted.