In a perfect world, I'd eat takeout for every single meal. The options are endless, and the food is made by professionals, so it's obviously 100 percent more appealing than anything I could make myself. And yet, cooking at home saves money. Like, a ton of money.
This is my daily internal debate. Do I want the deliciousness and convenience of takeout? Or can I muster the strength to prepare my own meal? Takeout wins (more often than I'd like to admit), but this sort of lifestyle is anything but maintainable. That's because — as my fellow restaurant addicts are well aware — takeout costs add up fast. All those $6 breakfast burritos, $8 salad bowls, and $11 burgers don't seem too pricey in the moment. And yet that's $25 right there. Do this every day, and you'll be spending a shocking $175 a week.
Now compare that to what you'd pay for a few burrito fillings, salad greens, and some staple ingredients. You can have yourself a well-stocked kitchen, and seemingly endless (and healthy) meals for what, $40 a week? It may take some extra effort, but there's no denying that preparing more meals at home will save you some serious cash. Even I can agree that sounds totally worth it.
1. Restock Your Life With A Detailed Shopping List
If you've been ordering takeout for a hot minute, then I bet your kitchen is pretty empty. So start by making a grocery shopping list, and restocking those cupboards. Consider the staples (flour, spices, oils), and then adding in special ingredients depending on what you plan to eat that week. "Having a well-planned grocery list gets you in and out of the store quickly," said Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on WebMD. Which is good to keep in mind if the thought of shopping overwhelms you.
2. Buy Exactly What You Need
In the same way you go overboard with the takeout, it's also easy to go a bit wild in the grocery store. Because food. So it's important to start your new, money-saving ways by sticking to that well-thought-out grocery shopping list, and avoiding the middle of the store. Shop the perimeter (meat, veggie, dairy aisles), according to Corrie Pikul on HuffingtonPost.com, and you'll be less likely to fill your cart with pricey snacks, and other junk.
3. Hit Up The Farmer's Market
If you feel like you're dropping too much dough at the traditional grocery store, then consider hitting up a farmer's market for some super cheap veggies. "Food in season is usually priced to sell," Zelman said. "During the summer months, corn on the cob can cost as little as 10 cents an ear; at other times of the year, it may cost 10 times as much." You'll be amazed how much you can buy for mere dollars.
4. Cook A Lot On Sunday Night
If cooking during the week isn't an option (and it probably isn't, if you've been all about that takeout), then think about making a bunch of food on Sunday. For this to work, you have to think along the lines of lasagnas, soups, and casseroles — you know, larger dishes that will stay fresh for days. You can even freeze the extras for some magical, microwavable food that you made all by yourself.
5. Give A Slow Cooker A Try
Slow cookers require minimal effort, but still somehow make amazing food. So if you always get takeout because "you don't have the time" or "you suck at cooking," then this may be your best option. Simply throw in some meat or veggies in the morning, and let it simmer on a low heat setting all day. By the time you get home, you'll have instant food waiting for you. And what could be better than that?
6. Be All About Those Leftovers
If you do cook during the week, cook with leftovers in mind. And be ready to store them properly. This doesn't mean tossing them in the fridge with a paper towel over top, because you'll never eat leftovers that look or smelly gross the next day. Check out this handy guide for storing foods properly, and making them last that much longer.
7. Don't Make Too Much
By all means, make extra for food for leftovers. But don't go overboard if you won't eat the extras, since nothing is sadder (or a bigger waste of money) than rotten refrigerator food. Of course it depends on your appetite, but meat should take up one-quarter of your plate, veggies one half, and a whole grain that last quarter, according to EatingWell.com. That should be just the right amount for a healthy meal, without anything going to waste.
8. Stock Up On Frozen Foods
Your freezer is going to be your best friend when it comes to saving food, and thus saving money. That soup you made on Sunday can last up to three months, and frozen fruits up to a year, according to Sarah Humphreys on Real Simple. Having these things on hand will totally save you from splurging on pricey takeout on nights you can't be bothered to cook.
9. Have Snacks On The Ready
If you get home from work feeling tired and hangry, then it's only going to be a matter of minutes before you're on the phone with the pizza delivery guy. So keep some snacks on the ready to tide you over until less pricey food can be prepared. Think chopped up veggies and hummus, mixed fruits, and granola bars. Snack on those while you make a real dinner, and your wallet will thank you.
10. Bring Your Own Lunch
Everyday around noon, I find myself perking up at the thought of popping out to get lunch. I can easily drop $10 on a sandwich, or salad, which of course adds up to fifty bucks a week. (Yikes!) This is why I will sing the praises of bringing your own lunch to work, even if you only do it a few days a week.
11. Be Excited About Cooking
Like I said, one of the huge draws of takeout food is the excitement, the flavors, and the deliciousness of it all. So if you equate your own home cooking with blandness, or bowls of cereal, then it may be time to step up your game. Look at cooking as an exciting prospect, a new hobby, or something to get better at. Before long, you'll be whipping up restaurant-quality foods, all on your own.
By all means, enjoy restaurants, and grab some takeout once in a while. But treat it as more of a special occasion type thing, instead of your daily go-to. Once you switch up your habits, and start cooking at home, you'll realize how much money is being saved in the process. And that, my takeout friend, makes it totally worth it.
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