Eating out is a weakness of mine. While I love to cook meals at home, some nights nothing sounds sweeter than going to a restaurant, getting hot food delivered to the table, and not having to do ANY of the prep work or clean up.
It wasn’t just eating out, either. Some evenings if I simply didn’t feel like cooking, I would get my husband to pick up take-out on his way home from work. (No prep, no dishes, no fuss. Yes please!)
But, eating out was one of the first things that had to go when I quit my job to become a stay at home wife. Spending hundreds of dollars each month on eating out wasn’t an option anymore, so we had to find a way to quit our eating out habit.
Whether you’re trying to overcome your eating out habit with hopes of eating healthier or trimming your budget, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that it’s not always easy to do.
Nope. It’s really not.
How to stop eating out when the restaurants are tempting
Even now, after my husband and I have brought our eating out bill from a couple hundred dollars a month down to less than $150/month, I still get tempted to ask him to pick up take-out on his way home from work some days.
Some days I just don’t want to cook. And those used to be the days when I would cave to temptation and we would either go out for dinner or order in.
Over the years, since we have had to stop eating out so much – not just because we wanted to, but because we had to – I’ve picked up some tips along the way that have helped us stop eating out so often.
If you’re in the same boat and are trying to slow down on eating out, here are a few clever tricks you can do to help you learn how to stop eating out (and how to enjoy eating in).
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How to stop eating out so often
1. Meal plan
Maybe you’ve tried meal planning in the past and it simply didn’t work for you. I get it, meal planning isn’t for everyone. Or so you may think.
But really, meal planning can be for everyone – and I truly believe it’s the BEST method for getting you out of the fast food line.
So what do you do if you’ve tried meal planning in the past and it didn’t work for you? You try a new method.
If I would have given up after my first attempt at meal planning, I’d still be the girl who was spending over $1,000/month on groceries for two people. (Plus more money spent on eating out.)
It was that bad. I was carefree when it came to spending money on groceries, and I was no better when it came to eating out.
I tried meal planning, but shockingly, I hated it – and I gave up after less than a month.
But thankfully my story doesn’t stop there. A couple months after my failed attempt, I tried meal planning again, except this time I was going to do it differently.
This time I researched and accepted help (I don’t always love accepting help from people) with my meal planning. And, that was the time that it worked.
If you’ve tried meal planning before and it hasn’t worked for you, or if you’ve never tried it and are looking for a simple way to meal plan, this is the meal planning method I use and recommend to everyone. It’s extremely beginner friendly and will help you plan SIMPLE meals so you can stay away from that fast food lineup.
2. Make simple meals
As I mentioned above, stick to making simple meals when you’re starting out. Cooking meals at home isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but sometimes it’s just something that has to be done – especially when you’re trying to stick to a budget.
Don’t go crazy and make a bunch of fancy meals (not only will you be creating more work for yourself than necessary, but you’ll also be spending a lot more money on groceries than you need to be), instead make meals that are simple and QUICK.
One of the biggest reasons people eat out so often is because they don’t have enough time to make dinner at home (and they don’t want to do dishes, and it’s just a whole lot more convenient sometimes…). Create a list with a handful of fast meals that you can make on busy nights.
This meal planning bundle includes a variety of 15-minute dinners, which are my FAVORITE since when I use those recipes it ends up being faster to make dinner at home than loading up in the car and grabbing food from a restaurant.
3. Set a goal
Set a goal for yourself when you’re first learning how to stop eating out. Set a goal for a certain amount of time that you want to go without eating out ONCE.
Don’t set a crazy goal like one year (though it IS doable and WOULD save you a lot of money), but set an easily attainable goal like one month to get started.
Tell yourself, and your whole family, that together none of you will eat out for an entire month (this includes buying coffee out, too).
At the end of the month, the amount of money you have saved will help you see how much money you’ve been throwing away on fast foods and restaurants over your life – and it will be great encouragement to keep on going.
4. Keep meals interesting
Instead of always making meals like stir fry and spaghetti, add some variety to your meals to get everyone excited for eating at home.
While simple meals are great, it’s a good idea to mix it up sometimes.
Try making things like homemade pizzas (have each person in the family build their own pizza), theme dinners, breakfast for supper, cut food into fun shapes with cookie cutters, and more. Doing this will get the whole family involved in the dinner planning process.
You could also have fun dessert nights every once in a while, and serve special drinks with dinner sometimes.
5. Use a crock pot
If you don’t have a crock pot, you need one now. (And you can get one here.)
Our crock pot is one of the main reasons why we’ve been able to cut eating out regularly out of our lifestyle. Using my crockpot helps me to be able to make a fresh, homemade dinner even on the days when I’m busy.
Even on the days when I’m out of the house ALL day – right from 7 am until 6 pm – we can still come home to a good, homemade dinner that is ready to eat.
(Because, let’s face it, these are the days when, if I didn’t have my crockpot, we would definitely end up eating out.)
If I know I’m going to be out all day, I’ll throw one of my freezer meals into the crock pot before I leave in the morning, and we get to come home to a ready-made dinner. There’s nothing much more satisfying than that!
This is the crock pot I recommend (it’s programmable and comes complete with a temperature probe).
6. Make freezer meals
Freezer meals are essentially meals that you make ahead, then store in your freezer until you need them. (They pair perfectly with a crock pot.)
You can find hundreds of freezer meal recipes online, or you can sign up for this freezer cooking course to learn how to efficiently freezer cook (and how to make 10 freezer meals in less than an hour).
7. Make your favorite restaurant meals at home
If my husband and I go out and find a specific dish extra tasty, I’ll make note of what the dish is called, and when we get home I search for it online. Usually, you will be able to find a copycat recipe or a recipe that is very similar to the restaurant dish.
This way when a specific craving hits you, you don’t have to go to the restaurant to satisfy it – you can make it at home.
One of my favorite dishes is the Baked Chipotle Bacon Penne that you can get from Boston Pizza, so I decided to see if I could find anything like it online. As it turns out, I was able to find the exact recipe for it online and I have made it several times at home.
When you do this you don’t have to go to the restaurant anymore to get your favorite dishes, you can have them at home instead (make it a treat and eat it while watching a movie – and it will really be better than going to the restaurant).
8. Brings snacks when you’re going to be out all day
If you know you are going to be out of the house over breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or you’re just going to be out for several hours, bring snacks and drinks along with you so you aren’t tempted to stop in at the drive-thru of your favorite fast-food restaurant.
When you get hungry and you’re driving past a restaurant, it can become really hard to convince yourself you don’t need to stop there to get a burger.
We’ve all been there… thinking with our stomachs.
When you go prepared, you can grab a snack and start munching on it to tide you over until you get home.
9. Eat out sometimes
If you go completely cold turkey on eating out, if you do cave to the cravings eventually it will make things a whole lot worse (we’re talking ordering everything on the menu, here).
Unless you have to completely cut eating out out of your life due to finances or other reasons, if you can afford to treat yourself every once in a while (we’re talking, twice a month), do treat yourself.
But remember to set yourself a clear limit, so that you’re not tempted to eat out several times a month.
What are your favorite tips on how to stop eating out so often? I’d love to hear from you! Were you someone who used to eat out a lot? I’d love to hear how you curbed the craving and gave up the habit.
If you’re just starting to try to quit eating out so much, remember to cut yourself some slack – it’s okay to want to eat out still – but be strict with yourself – don’t give in to the temptations!
I know it can be SUPER tempting to stop at your favorite burger joint on your way home from work, but it’s time to break that habit.
You got this!
Follow these 9 steps to learn how to stop eating out so much and start saving money!