How can you avoid take out budget killers? Let’s face it, cooking a meal after a long day can be the last straw. It’s far easier to just go online and order take out. Making an except to your personal goal of eating frugally and healthily can derail that goal, not because you’ve broken your personal rule, but because it sets up a precedent.
Forgiving yourself for one take out meal makes it easy for the next time. I’m guilty of this. It sets up a new pattern that becomes a convenience trap. There are many restaurants with carry out near me. Before I knew it, that convenience began to unravel my goal of frugal living and of course eating healthily.
Cost of Take Out Budget Killers
When we’re talking about take out budget killers, even the simplest take out can be expensive.
- Drive-through for a couple of burger meals can cost $10 – $18 and typically this isn’t the healthiest of meals.
- I can do better for my family. For example, 16 oz of organic ground beef can cost between $5.50 and $6.50.
- You don’t know what they are putting in your food when you eat out, especially fast food.
- However, you can control all ingredients when you cook from home.
- Even the best, organic ingredients will allow you to create a frugal meal at home.
Ways to Avoid Take Out Budget Killers
18 Beef Patties $18
If organic isn’t your priority, then consider you can purchase 18 frozen Angus beef patties for $18 at Sam’s Club. That means you can get nine hamburger patties for two burger meals. The additional cost of buns, lettuce, tomato and condiments is nominal. A large bag of frozen French fries (8 lbs) costs around $8.
Creating Built-In Convenience
As you can see, having these items on-hand means you have built-in convenience. The time it takes to grill the burgers and fry up the French fries is less than it would take to jump in the car and dash to the closest burger take out.
The cost factor means you get far more bang for your buck with the benefit of knowing exactly what has gone into making your meal. Your choice of oil for frying the French fries, the source for the buns and if you use organic lettuce, tomatoes and onions, then you’re even farther ahead of the budget goal and of course health.
Other Foods for Freezing Meals
I grill year-round. It’s just an easy fast way to prepare meals with nearly zero cleanup. It doesn’t take much effort to throw a chicken breast or hamburger on the grill. Baked potatoes in the microwave and a salad complete a meal that takes only a few minutes. It’s certainly a shorter time frame than jumping into my car and barreling through town to pickup a takeout.
Vacuum Seal and Freeze
Having enough protein choices in the freezer is an important component to quick meal preparation. I like to purchase in bulk and then divide into enough pieces for a meal. I vacuum seal these, label with date and place in a plastic basket in the freezer. The rule is first in first out.
I have packets of chicken breasts, pork chops, handmade hamburger patties, steaks and salmon. I grab a packet from the freezer in the morning to place in the refrigerator. That evening, all I do is remove and cook. I’ve written in the past about spending one day a month cooking and freezing baked foods for even easier frozen meals.
Another great way to save on your food budget and have ready to eat meals is to buy pizzas when they’re on sale. This is one take out that pays. For example, Dominos has $5.99 pizza carryout. Depending on the size of your family, this can make a great savings choice.
Buy Specials to Avoid Take Out Budget Killers
We typically buy 2-3 pizza specials and then vacuum seal enough pieces for a meal and freeze. When it’s time to reheat, we add a salad or some chips for a great pizza night with a movie. It’s a simple and fun way to save money. It’s also extremely convenient.
Key for Budget Meals
Convenience is the key to maintaining frugal budget meals. When planning your shopping list and menus, think in terms of convenience. It may take a little more planning upfront, but ultimately the burden of meals will be lifted and you’ll see a positive savings in your food budget.