If you asked 100 people that struggle to balance their monthly budgets where they spend too much money I would guess the number one answer they would give would be eating out. Too often there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to plan meals, go grocery shopping, prepare the food and then clean up afterwards.
A recent study titled “The Truth About Dining Out” conducted by OnePoll Marketing Research provided some interesting facts about American’s habits when it comes to eating out. According to the study, men are far more likely to eat out regularly than women. In fact 10% of men report eating out at least once a day compared to only 2% of women. Men also spend more on eating out, averaging $82 per week compared to just $69 for women.
However, the statistic that stood out to me most is which socio-economic group spends the most eating out. Surprisingly, it was not the super-wealthy, but instead the lower middle class. They spend an average of $117 per person per week or approximately 15% of their annual income.
As someone who loves to cook I can’t imagine spending that portion of my hard earned income on food that I can make at home better, cheaper and healthier. But, since I know not everyone shares my passions in the kitchen I thought I would provide a few quick suggestions that can hopefully make that call to uber-eats a little less of a temptation.
First, use technology to make planning and shopping easier. Part of what is so time-consuming when it comes to planning out meals is deciding what you’re going to cook, and then obtaining all the items at the grocery store. Retailers feel your pain and have come up with a variety of services to make this whole process easier. Hy-Vee, for example, allows you to browse through lots of recipes on their website. Then with a single click of a button you can add all of the ingredients required to cook that meal right to your online cart. Once done, you can have them available for pickup at their drive-through window or for a small fee they will deliver the order personally to your door.
E-meals is a similar subscription based service that, in additional to providing meal planning ideas, gives you the ability to import your shopping list directly to Amazon or Walmart for quick and sometimes free delivery all through a single phone app.
Another tip to making dining at home easier is to prepare your meals in advance. If you’re like me, often after a long day at the office the last thing you want to do is spend an hour in a hot kitchen making things from scratch. However, with a little bit of forethought you can prep a week’s worth of food in a single setting on Sunday afternoons and then simply pop things in the oven, microwave, or crock-pot throughout the rest of the week. In fact, I have friends that will prepare multiple weeks’ worth of food in a single setting and then freeze individual portions for future use.
I know what many of you are thinking. “It’s not the cooking it’s the cleanup.” I have a few tips for that as well. Foil is your friend. Cooking things in foil bags and pans or lining existing cookware in heavy duty foil sheets is a great way to reduce or even eliminate cleanup. Consider using disposable plates as well. Yes, these things do create a little bit of extra waste, but nowhere near as much as ordering takeout.
I know the suggestions I’ve made are still more work that eating out, but it’s worth it. Outside of just the health and cost benefits, there is just something special about eating food with loved ones that you yourself have made.