How many times has someone told you that you need to stop eating out because it is too expensive? Are they right? Which option is better for your budget?
Actually, the answer is that it depends on you and your choices. If you earn gift certificates through a reward program or buy restaurant.com gift certificates during a sale, eating out can be quite cheap. If you hit the trendy hot spots and have a four course meal and a few drinks, you could eat a week’s worth of meals at home instead.
Don’t Let Eating Out Take a Big Bite Out of Your Budget
Eating out can be extremely expensive, especially if you order a four course sit down dinner. If you eat out without regard for your budget, you will be spending quite a lot more than if you eat in. However, if you make a few smart choices, you may end up spending as little as you do for dinner in. Take a hard look at the menu. Appetizers are tempting, but they usually cost almost as much as the main course. If you decide you must have an appetizer, consider eating it as your main course. Split the main course with someone else. Buying a second salad for the person splitting the meal is usually much cheaper than buying a second meal. Order off the children’s menu. Often restaurants will allow adults to order a child’s meal, which is cheaper than adult meals and is actually closer to the correct portion size. Say no to coffee and other beverages. Water is almost always free while beverages can cost two dollars or more.
Eating In When You Don’t Have Time to Prepare Meals
If you enjoy delicious meals and the relaxed atmosphere of your home, but don’t have time to plan menus, shop for ingredients, assemble the dish and prepare your meal, you’ve probably been eating out because you thought it was the only other option. However, there are a few terrific options that help you make affordable, easy meals at home.
The first thing you should consider is bulk cooking. Get together with a few friends and have each person prepare a different meal in large quantities. Divide each dish up so each friend takes home a portion large enough to serve his or her family. You can prepare several weeks worth of meals this way. When it is time to make dinner each night, you can simply pull the meal out of the freezer and pop it in the oven. The best thing about bulk cooking is that you can buy and use family size portions of meat, which has a lower per pound price than the smaller packs you usually buy.
If the thought of planning, coordinating and shopping for a bulk cooking session is too much for you, why not gather your friends together at Let’s Dish, a place that does all of the hard work for you? Buying the 12 meal plan keeps the price per serving in the reasonable range and I can personally say that the food is delicious.
One night a month, you walk in the door, pick up your order sheet, put on an apron and start a marathon prep session. Everything for each meal you’ve chosen is at its station and most of the dishes take minutes to mix and package. Take them home, pop them in the freezer and you’re stocked with a nice selection of dinners that take only minutes of prep work. (Just be sure you check the directions for the dish you want to make in the morning. The other day, I thought I was thawing a dish that needed a half hour or so of cooking time and it actually needed three hours in the slow cooker!)