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In the last 60 days, my family has eaten out one time. The one time was a celebration for eating out ZERO TIMES in January. (Ok, because I'm an honest person - almost too honest sometimes - I have to admit...my husband brought Jimmy Johns to have lunch with my kids at school. Totally did not communicate with me about this, so I'm not counting it. :P) We also made it through February cooking at home every. single. night.
In 2019, we spent a documented $2,445.50 on food that wasn't groceries. I say "documented" because I'm sure we spent cash as well, but did not log that in You Need A Budget. What a waste of money! To cut back, I initiated the No Eating Out Month...with a tracker and reward to get everyone on board. Amazingly, there was no complaining from the kids because of the Pizza Ranch celebration to look forward to. So we continued in February with the same results, and will go for March as well!
Trust me when I say this: If you can get through the first two weeks, you can get through a whole month...and another month! You just have to overcome some obstacles, and we're going to figure out right this second what YOUR obstacle is. Problem: You have no idea what to cook for supper tonight. Solution: You have to, have to, have to MEAL PLAN. I know it seems like a ton of work, but let me help you! Start with one week. List 5 meals you can make and plan for 2 nights of leftovers. Use these resources to help you: Meal Categories + Weekly Meal Plan Problem: You are craving french fries, chicken strips, pizza, etc. Solution: Plan one meal this week that is similar to a meal you would eat out. While it won't taste exactly the same, there are so many copycat recipes on Pinterest, and the freezer section has your fries, chicken strips, etc. We've had Chinese three times during these 60 days and I bought it for $10 in the freezer section - it fed all 6 of us! Problem: You don't want to cook every night. "Mama needs a break." was a comment on my post saying my no dining out rule was too strict. Solution: Yes. Mama DOES need a break. That's why we have 1-2 leftover nights, where everyone picks what they want and all I have to do is reheat. BONUS: Kids can reheat on their own if you teach them how! I also keep convenience foods on hand. My freezer always has something like popcorn chicken, stir fry, fish sticks, frozen vegetables, or frozen pizzas to name a few. Problem: It's too tempting. I drive by XYZ on the way home and I can't stop thinking about it. Solution: If you can drive a different route, do that. If not, you need a bigger WHY. Why do you need to stop eating out? For us, it was the money. Write down every time you WANT TO eat out but you don't. Estimate a price. Add it up as you go. You will clearly see how much money you are saving. With all that cash you saved, you could put it in savings, throw it towards debt, do something fun with your family, buy something you've had your eye on. Dining out is a waste of money! You eat the food and it's gone. You have nothing to show for it! Look, I'm not saying don't ever dine out. Because yes, the experiences you can have going out to eat with your family are priceless. However, if you're just going through the drive through or eating out a ton...those experiences aren't that special. I can bet you that one special event reward at the end of your No Eating Out Month will be a more memorable experience. For a list of easy meals, head to this blog post. For your March No Eating Out tracker, download here.