Eating out is a common way to overspend. The tip can cost more than an entire meal cooked at home. It's easy to rely on grabbing takeout or dining at a restaurant as a quick solution. Homemade meals aren't always cheaper. You need to do some work and be a smart shopper. But even if you spend a bit more money, cooking at home is a surefire way to control ingredients, so it can be healthier. What makes you eat out more often? What is your strategy to overcome that obstacle?
Here are a few common challenges and how to combat them.
OBSTACLE: If you're single, it can be a challenge to motivate yourself to cook. It seems like many recipes serve an army. Frustration can cause you to eat out or make unhealthy choices.
SOLUTION: Most recipes can be made, portioned and frozen into individual servings. Slow cookers work great for make-ahead meals. You can repackage your meat and poultry when you bring it home from the store. Some recipes can be scaled down. For some recipes, you'll need to use a conversion calculator. Rice and pasta are a better buy than a bag of white potatoes for a single person. But you can still buy a single baked or sweet potato. Planning your meals is the key. Go to your local library and borrow cookbooks that are written for single people, or visit recipe websites such as www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/cooking-for-2-recipes/, which lists many recipes designed to serve two people, or www.food.com, which scales recipes up or down for you. You can invite a friend to eat with you or cook two meals together and swap.
OBSTACLE: Dirty dishes or a messy kitchen can make you not want to cook. It's too frustrating when you don't have any space to work on, and it can seem more trouble than it's worth because every task takes more effort.
SOLUTION: Ask for help. You can cook and have your partner or kids clean. Or make it a point to take time to declutter and organize your kitchen so you aren't overwhelmed, and other people can help. Gather some boxes and make decisions about what you want to keep, toss, store, sell and donate.
OBSTACLE: When you're too busy, sick or tired, you just want to relax and get some rest. Or maybe you don't even know what to make.
SOLUTION: Create a menu plan. Have quick and easy emergency meals planned, such as breakfast for dinner, frozen ravioli, soup and sandwiches, or keep some tortillas in your refrigerator to make easy sandwich wraps, quesadillas or fajitas in a flash. You don't have to cook meals on a schedule, but create a list of meals your family enjoys. This will save you from struggling to decide what to cook, and you'll have a written reminder that tells you not only what to buy, but what to defrost, too. Write down all your favorite takeout foods, and try to replicate some of them at home. Hamburger patties, meatballs and pizza dough can easily be shaped and frozen ahead. Vegetables can be chopped, and ground beef, pork roasts and chicken can be cooked ahead of time and frozen, too. On days that you aren't as busy, cook enough for a second meal. For example, bake two lasagnas or chickens or make a big batch of sauce, stew, soup or chili. Visit www.frugalvillage.com/forums/food-challenges/ to participate in fun food challenges such as not eating out, meal planning, try new recipes and pantry/freezer planning.
Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village ( www.frugalvillage.com ), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail email@example.com .
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Top Lifestyle Headlines
Baloo is a male Boxer mix who is about 3 years old. He was found at Animal Services with a bulging eye which had to be removed. However, having only one eye does not hinder him at all! He is active and playful.