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I think you can probably agree that when working toward living a frugal lifestyle, you can save a tremendous amount of money by not eating out. Although we can agree about this in theory, it can be something that is really hard to put into practice when the days get long, countless things go wrong, and we have a bunch of hungry troops who are whining and crying. We all know that when these thing happen, it can be really hard to not just throw dinner out the window by eating out.
Since we don’t need to spend much time proving the case that not eating out is the frugal choice, we are going to take the time to address some ways that we can still serve our family dinner when life seems to blow up in our face.
If you are wondering about how to be frugal, saving money while not eating is essential. Here are five things you can do to increase the likelihood that you will not be eating out tonight.
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I have written about the many advantages of meal planning in posts like Why I Heart Menu Planning, This One Thing Saved My Sanity, and 10 Reasons Why You Want a Meal Plan. Within these posts, I take on the many reasons why meal planning is advantageous including that creating a simple meal plan decreases your chances of eating out.
Life gets in the way of things at times, but when you have a plan, these little, or big, hiccups in your day don’t have to completely derail you.
If meal planning overwhelms you, I even have help for you there, too, as I took my meal planning process, which starts with doing a quick inventory of what you already have on hand to work with, and then broke it down step by step in Menu Planning 101 Part One and Menu Planning 101 Part Two. Those two posts take the overwhelming feeling that can often accompany meal planning and gets rid of it altogether.
The truth is if you are wondering more about how to be frugal, not eating out is key. A meal plan is one of the solutions you need to accomplish this.
Keep a well organized family calendar
When you have a well organized and complete calendar, you can see the potential snags that will occur within your week. These kinds of snags and tricky parts that collide during the dinner prep time or the dinner hour can send us running for the nearest pizza place. About $30 later, we can then feed our family in most cases.
Snags can occur in a variety of forms. They can be activities keeping us away from home to make dinner or to serve dinner, they can also be several family members who will not be home to eat dinner during the regular dinner hour, and they can also be a day that is just overly busy.
Keeping a well organized calendar allows you to find solutions to these snags ahead of time, ideally on the weekend when you are planning for the week ahead. Most times, there are solutions that are not too hard to find, but if we are trying to problem solve in the midst of these snags and snafus, oftentimes we are looking for the easy way out, which means eating out.
Do some meal prep on the weekend
Weekends are so nice for relaxing and slowing down, but weekends are also a time to set ourselves up for success in the week that follows. In How to Set Yourself Up For a Really Great Week, I take you through many of the things I do on the weekend to accomplish a more successful week. Meal prep is a huge part.
If you are wondering what meal prep could consist of, I’ve got you covered on that as well. In 8 Meal Prep Tips That Will Save You Loads of Time, I lay out several fairly simple things you can do that will make preparing a meal so much easier.
Having a meal plan only makes your meal prep more efficient since when you know you will need chopped onion for three meals during the upcoming week, you can chop everything you need for those three meals on the weekend. Will you need browned group beef for both chili and tacos during the upcoming week? Because you saw this overlap on your meal plan for the week, you can brown everything you need on the weekend.
Meal prep can also include things like cutting fresh vegetables for snacks, pulling meat out of the freezer for dinner a day or two ahead of time, and even making entire meals on the weekend when your schedule is less demanding.
If you are looking to be more frugal, meal prep is huge.
Make dinner in the morning every day
If you have never done this before, you just might be amazed at how seamless this can make the latter half of your day go. Not only is the morning often a great time to multi task because we are often taking care of a variety of little things, life hasn’t had much of a chance to get in the way yet during the morning. The hiccups that come usually come later in the day, or they give us a huge backup later in the day.
Perhaps the most powerful thing about making your meal in the morning is that you are not trying to make a meal during the witching hour. You may not know the witching hour by that name, but I am guessing you are quite familiar with younger kids who are just grumpy by the time 4:30 rolls around, older kids who come home from school frustrated and “hangry” (both hungry and angry), and yourself with a very waning reserve of patience and desire to do anything but just survive until bedtime. Making your meal in the morning, or at least a good portion of your meal, takes dinner prep out of the equation during the witching hour.
As I talked about in day one in this series, How to Be Frugal in the Kitchen, I talked about how I am often making a hearty breakfast in the morning. When I am already in the kitchen making oatmeal or homemade waffles, I can also be preparing things I need for the evening meal at the same time. Then, I can continue making the rest of the meal at another time before we even get to the lunch hour.
Not having to make dinner during the typical dinner making hour is a huge, huge life saver not only when it comes to avoiding eating out, but also when it comes to maintaining my sanity!
Meal swap with friends
This is such an amazing resource that so many don’t know about. Creating a meal swap group with other moms can not only be practical, but fun, too. In Have You Discovered the Beauty of a Meal Swap I break down the nuts and bolts of how this works so you will find the details there. For our purposes here, I will say that a meal swap is when you have a handful or more of participants who prepare the same dish for the number of people in the group. Then, each person swaps those dishes with everyone else, which gives you meal variety without having to make every meal yourself since you only made your one meal to swap several times.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry, just go read Have Your Discovered the Beauty of a Meal Swap. Then, you will see how a meal swap is a very beautiful thing that can help you avoid eating out.
If you are looking to stretch your family dollar, eating meals you prepare at home, rather than eating out, can make a huge difference!
Looking for another way to stock your freezer? Do you have an hour? Then you can have 10 meals in your freezer at the end of that hour with this program. Special dietary needs? No problem. Those are covered too.
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