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The problem? Food. It is the bane of my existence in this house. Everyone wants to eat ALL. THE. TIME! It never ends. The solution? Find ways to save money eating at home.
What’s the Cost?
If you’re anything like me, you want to see it to believe it. I am doing the work so you don’t have to.
I am going to use a generic meal as an example first. If I am being honest, most of the time, when I want to grab something quick, its because I didn’t plan dinner on time. If I run to Chic-fil-A, our family of 5 will likely get something like this:
2 kids 6 pack chicken nugget meals $5.09
2-8 pack meals for my teen and myself $8.46 each
1 spicy chicken sandwich meal $7.43
That total for that last-minute dinner out at a fast-food restaurant for my family of 5 is $29.44. Now, I realize that this amount, based on fast-food restaurants, can go up or down a little. It will certainly go up if you eat at a sit-down place that you need to add a tip to your bill.
Now, when I cook at home, I try to stay away from processed food so I am going to show you the cost of the quick easy, toss it in the oven fix vs the unprocessed, homemade version. These costs are approximate.
Chicken nuggets: 1 package chicken breast $5.61
Potatoes for fries: 1.35 (It is 2.69 for a 5 lb bag and will only need half.)
2 liter any drink: $1.05
I know what you’re going to say…
I know, I know. This takes time to prep. But I can tell you, if you read the rest of this, you will see that even the time to put it all together costs less than spending $30 (or more) every time you go out to eat. This is, after all, just an example. But it is a healthier and cheaper example. And the best part of all, you can likely make these meals for less AND have leftovers.
I set this example first because I wanted you, the reader, to be in the right frame of mind to receive the rest of the details. Because the beauty of this is in the details. I am also aware that we can relate on more than one level regarding this. Around here, once one meal is done and cleaned up, they’re ready for the next! It’s neverending. I am constantly tempted to go grab a quick and easy bite out. It means no cooking, no clean-up, and best of all, everyone can pick exactly what they want. But there are some pretty significant downsides to this from my perspective. I work from home, my husband works at any number of jobs, my kids are in countless activities that cost big bags of money. Eating out causes me to hemorrhage money. Finding ways to save money by eating at home is like a bandage for my injury.
Start with Food Planning and Prep
Food prep is the best first step. I have learned the convenience of Instacart recently. Now, I fought this one hard for a while. I wanted to look and see what was in front of me. I didn’t think these “shoppers” were capable of picking the best produce. But let me tell you, I have had an ALMOST perfect experience with them picking my products. They text me while they are shopping and send me pictures. And on the very, very few occasions that I didn’t get something I wanted, their customer service has been top-notch.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. For instance, I just go on Pinterest and pick out some meals. I’m not one to reinvent the wheel. For me to want to do something like this, it has to be simple and doable. I write out a plan, make a grocery list, and print recipes. Sometimes I make freezer meals for my Instant Pot or Crock-Pot. These are the size and type I use for my size family. You can check out Pinterest for any number of a million ideas, boards, pins, and pages full of plans all laid out for you.
Make it fun
Including everyone in the planning will help keep everyone on board. If they all get to have some input on what meals they want and even help with the cooking, then they can take a little ownership. Hand everyone a piece of the grocery list to make shopping faster. Give everyone a small task during cooking and clean up.
Many hands make light work.
If you like this, take a look at How to Stop the Constant Need for Kids’ Snacking.