Eating out EATS away at our pockets. And more often than not, eating out consists of unhealthy foods. But why do we do it? Because it’s easier and less time consuming! But, with the proper planning and a little effort, you can make eating at home a lot easier!
You can save hundreds of dollars every month if you apply these steps and begin eating at home! We can all use that extra money in our bank account! What would you do with an extra $150 a month? If you’re part of a family group, you can save a lot more than that! And, if you’re looking for more ways to save, check out my blog post on 16 ways to save money this month.
These 10 steps are part of a ritual I do every week to make sure I’m within budget. If you find a store near you that offers pick-up or delivery, it’ll make your life a whole lot easier!
1. Plan Out Your Week
This is one of my favorite parts of eating at home. It’s almost like you’re the boss of a restaurant and you get to decide what’s gonna be served for the week! It makes eating at home easier because you’ll have a plan and “planning” is the next best thing to “doing”. Start fresh in your journal or if you’re like me and keep everything in a binder, (5.5×8.5 inch binder) start there.
It’s important for you to have the entrees, sides and other recipes at hand when you’re planning out your week. These will give you the needed ingredients for each recipe so you aren’t overspending on items that could go bad! Do your best to buy only what you need unless you know you or your household will eat the rest of what you purchase.
When you have enough recipes to fit your week, begin writing down what meals will be allocated to which days. Usually recipes are made for a family of four and if this fits you – awesome! For someone living alone it would be a meal good for three days or four days. For couples or two-person households this would be a two-day meal. So, plan accordingly!
*Tip: I usually reserve the “best” recipes for later in the week (Thursday-Friday). An example is pizza, pasta or some other delicious recipe! This is kind of my “you did it!” after a usually long week.
Summary : Have fun planning out your meals for the week! By planning, you’re setting yourself up for success. You won’t be wondering mid-week what’s left in the fridge because you’ll have planned accordingly for a great week!
2. Choosing the Right Recipes/Food
When you’re grocery shopping or ordering the food online, order food you’ll actually eat. This may seem kind of like a “duh” to you but it’s something that a lot of people struggle doing. It’s something I had trouble with and it resulted in food waste.
Why You Should
When you’re gearing up for an awesome week, you might add in food that you feel you “should want” to eat. This takes form in ordering multiple vegetables and fruits that you might not even like. But, due to pressure of what others feel you should eat or the pressure within you, you might end up ordering a lot more than you can handle at the moment. This only results in you feeling bad for not wanting to eat the food when it’s home. And – you’ll feel even worse when it’s gone bad and you have to throw it away.
This is why I recommend you order food that you’ll actually enjoy eating. Have about 90% of what you truly want to eat. This can be a little on the unhealthy side but it’s better than eating out and spending a lot of money! The other 10% – choose healthier foods that you want to incorporate into your diet. This can be your favorite fruits and veggies!
What Happens if You Don’t?
Depending on the individual, this can form a bad relationship with food that’s good for you! When I was first starting to plan out my weekly meals, I would only order healthy food! I would be so ecstatic to start off clean and quit junk cold-turkey.
I would eat a bite of a vegetable here and there. Then, I would be miserable! The food cravings would start to appear and instead of having a snack I desired – I would just flat out go buy a ton of junk food and binge. This is a cycle that caused me to have a bad relationship with food that I actually enjoy today. It would hurt to throw away produce that went bad. This would make me feel disappointed in myself. I’m so hard on myself and this would lead to me mean-talking. No one won. Surely not me!
This is why I encourage everyone to order 90% what they will enjoy and 10% of healthy food that they’ll actually eat. The 90% of course shouldn’t be ALL unhealthy foods but should be food you’re used to cooking with. Bit by bit you can begin to increase the percentage of health-based foods. I’m now at a 50-50! You can do it too!
Summary: Order food you will actually eat so you can reduce food and money waste! Start on a 90% “what you want to eat” and a 10% “healthy foods”. Slowly increase the “healthy foods” percentage at your own pace so you can achieve better health!
3. Make Grocery Shopping Easier
After a long day from work or on your weekend – the last thing you want to do is grocery shop! You’re tired, I’m tired and everyone’s tired! Have you thought about ordering food online? It’s easy and saves a ton of time. Depending on where you are, you might even be able to get free delivery with Amazon! I recommend you check out your local grocery store to see if they have delivery or pick-up.
Ordering the food online is simple and if you have your list of food and/or recipes next to you, you’ll know exactly what you have to order. If you’re a “write it down in a list” kind of person, I recommend using a mini 5.5×8.5 binder to keep all your recipes/grocery lists together.
*Tip: Check to see if they have any specials or if you can sign up as a member to that specific store. Often times, if you order a certain dollar amount of food – you can get the service fee for free!
Summary: Order your food online for a quick delivery or pick up. This will save you about an hour or more at the grocery store if you’re shopping for your entire household.
4. Prepare the Food
So you’ve gotten your food and now you’re at home with what seems like mountains of food that needs to get put away. When I was faced with this, I would just put everything that needed to go in the pantry away and shove all the produce in the fridge. The result? This would lead me to not eating the produce and it going to waste quickly! I made the mistake of not cutting up my fruits and veggies or prepping them for my recipes.
Why Should You Prep Your Food?
If you’re looking to start eating at home, the mere thought of actually cooking after work or on a Sunday may seem annoying. Imagine prepping the vegetables?! Cooking is the easy part, it’s the food prep and cleanup that’s the real hassle. This is why you should prep your food before you begin to cook for the week. Even if you’re cooking different meals throughout the week, you should have a day you dedicate to grocery shopping and food prep.
There’s a difference between food prep and meal prep!
When you get your load of groceries for the next week or two, you will not likely cook your chicken and veggie recipe for next week! You’ll store the chicken in the freezer/fridge and the veggies will stay in the fridge until you need to cut them. This may work for you and that’s great! But, if you’re like me, if you have to meal prep, it’s best when the veggies have already been cut in advance and my meat portioned for my recipes.
How to Food Prep:
- Lay out everything and separate the produce from other packaged items. Put away any pantry items that don’t need to be prepped (ie: pasta, bread, cereal, etc.). Also, put away your fridge items like milk and butter.
- Start with a wooden cutting board used for your fruits and veggies. Then, take out your Snapware glass containers or other food containers you may have and set them near your workspace.
- Wash your fruits and veggies beforehand. Start with your fruits and begin cutting them to your liking. By pre-cutting them, you’re more likely to reach for them after work or for lunch instead of getting a snack from the pantry!
- Your vegetables may require special attention according to your recipes. Do you have to dice, mince or roughly chop? I use my KitchenAid food processor to handle my vegetables! It has different blades that can be used for different methods of veggie prep. If you don’t have a food processor, some good quality knives will do the trick too.
- Once you’re done prepping your food, put it away in your containers and store.
- For meats – if you purchased in bulk, it’s best to separate them according to your recipes or how much you’ll be cooking at a time. Use a food scale to get the proper ounces/lbs needed for your recipe. Freeze any meat you won’t cook within the next couple of days and put the rest in the fridge.
Summary: Prep your food before beginning meal prep. This saves you from having to do this on a different day versus doing the grocery shopping and food prep as soon as possible on the same day. Prepping your fruits and veggies is a great way for you to actually eat them throughout the week!
5. Meal Prepping!
My favorite part – making the food! Now that you’re done prepping and have a clear workspace, you can begin making food for the next couple of days! Make sure you’ve written down in your binder the schedule for the week. It would be ideal to start meal prepping on your Sundays or your last day off before work. Then, you’d have to cook again about mid-week for your next batch. Some people may meal prep for the entire week so find what works best for you! With the fruits and veggies already prepped, you’re prepared for a successful week of eating at home!
I recommend putting food away in snapware glass containers because of the durability of the glass. They’re dishwasher safe and you don’t have to worry about the containers being in the microwave! These are my favorite food storage containers and have had them for years!
Summary: Create a schedule for when you’ll be cooking throughout the week. This ensures you’ve planned your days out so you aren’t running out of home-cooked meals to eat!
6. Clean Up!
Ugh! I know, trust me. But someone’s gotta do it!
I’ve found that prepping my food before meal prepping later during the week has helped reduce my clean up. For example, when you’ve cut up your fruits and veggies all in one go – you don’t have to take out the knife and cutting board to do this multiple times throughout the week! And – if you prepped your meats and cut them according to your liking or recipe, you also won’t have to use a cutting board for that either!
But, even with food prepping, dishes will get dirty! This is where one of the best things ever invented comes into play – the dishwasher (btw – I use Cascade Platinum Plus. I rave about this as often as I can because it has been a game changer!). As you’re cooking and no longer need the measuring cups or bowls – put everything into your empty dishwasher. This has made cooking easier because when I need to “leave the chicken to simmer for 10 minutes”, I take this time to see how much I can clean up!
Summary: Clean up is significantly reduced when you prep your food beforehand. This usually means prepping fruits and veggies. However, meats can also be prepped according to your liking or recipe, ex: cut chicken into one-inch bits. Also, as you’re cooking – clean up as you go! Make sure to have an empty dishwasher before cooking 😊
7. Leave Wiggle Room on Weekends!
One tip that has helped me from falling off the wagon is leaving my weekends flexible. We’re social creatures and we all like to go out for a quick bite to eat during the weekends. This is why I recommend leaving some wiggle room for meals on weekends. Don’t be too strict on yourself when it comes to your days off (unless you want to be! – more power to you!). Even just going out once a week for a budget-friendly meal won’t deter all your hard work up to that point!
Summary: You can relax a little on the weekend and enjoy a bite out with friends or loved ones. Make sure to leave some wiggle room in your schedule during your days off!
8. Making Extras at Home – Coffee & Smoothies!
Are you a coffee or tea drinker? You can save a good amount of money by taking your coffee at home! A run to the shop will get you a small for about $3. Multiply this by how many times you go in a week? A month? That’s a lot of money! Consider investing in a simple Keurig machine and some K-cups to reduce your spending on drinks.
If you’re into smoothies – invest in a blender and buy your favorite liquid base with some frozen fruit. Blend it and you’ve got a quality smoothie at home for less than half the price from the store! Ex: I love me some almond milk and frozen berries – yummy!
9. Document Your Meals
This is a fun way to showcase your meals to your friends and family! I use my letter board to show the recipe name and take a fancy picture of my food next to it! If you’re into photography or documenting – taking pictures of homemade meals can be a fun way to decorate your meal-time!
There will be weeks where you may eat out once or twice…or a couple times. It’s okay! Don’t make yourself feel bad about this. Not only will that stop you from picking yourself up, it’ll hinder your progress. Enjoy the days you do eat out! One of the mistakes I would constantly make is to talk down on myself when I would slip and eat out. This was counterproductive because it would only make me want to eat out again to swallow the disappointment with myself. Take it one week at a time and even if you eat at home once this week – you’re still saving money! Progress is important and it’s even more crucial for you to pat yourself on the back.
I would love to hear any feedback on ways you’ve made eating at home easier – let me know in the comments below! Happy cooking and happy saving!