7 Ways to Stop Eating Out

by Jamie Simmerman · 23 comments

One of the best ways to tighten your budget is to cut back on the amount of money you spend on take-out and restaurant food. Besides, not only is eating at home cheaper, it’s most often healthier, too. Here are nine ideas to help you avoid the fast food temptation.

1. Grab and eat foods rule. One of the reasons we love fast food is because it’s fast. In just a few minutes, we’re chowing on hot, tasty foods that satisfy our need for immediate gratification. Healthy foods to keep on hand are trail mix, fresh fruits and veggies (precut for easier consumption), granola bars (yes, you can make your own at home), pudding or Jello, pretzels, cottage cheese, salads, and sweet treats like miniature candy bars or Hershey’s kisses. Packaging foods in baggies makes it easy to take snacks with you when you leave the house, too.

2. Money saved is money earned. Start a special savings fund for something you’ve always wanted, like that new fishing boat motor, an iPad, or an exotic vacation. Every time you’re tempted to eat out, take the money you would have spent on take out food and add it to your dream fund. The knowledge of saving for something worthwhile is often enough of a motivator to keep you from turning into that McDonald’s after work.

3. Make cooking at home enjoyable. Turn up your favorite music, involve the whole family, or splurge on a nice set of spices. Whatever it takes to make cooking enjoyable for you is an investment worth investing in. Trying out new recipes, creating your own dishes, and filing your home with the smells of home cooked food can all be great starting points for fostering a love of cooking. If it’s enjoyable, cooking at home can be healthy and relaxing, making it an ideal hobby.

4. Planning ahead helps you avoid temptation. Menu planning and preparing foods in advance can really help out when you’re feeling unmotivated to cook, and tempted to eat out. You can make your own Hot Pockets and freeze them for later, or keep a prepared menu every week to take the pain out of deciding what’s for supper.

5. Learn to make your favorite fast foods at home. If you simply can’t live without that Big Mac, or get a weekly hankering for KFC chicken, you can learn to recreate your favorite fast food recipes at home.

6. Make meals a social occasion. Another way to take the pain out of eating at home is to create a meal rotation plan with your neighbors and friends. You rotate meeting at everybody’s own homes one day a week to showcase everyone’s cooking skills and to enjoy some fun times. Quite often, the company makes even the most mundane meals exciting.

7. Spruce up your kitchen and dining area. If you take time to make your kitchen and dining area attractive and appealing, you will be extra motivated to spend time in those areas of your home. If your kitchen features brightly colored dishes and your favorite framed prints, you’ll be more likely to be drawn to your own kitchen rather than a dingy fast food restaurant.

What motivates you to eat at home? Do you have any stories about how saving money by skipping the fast food has enriched your life? Share your experiences with other MoneyNing readers!

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Chuck E Cheese says:

    Thank you for sharing these amazing tips I was looking for the same information. Great tips you have shared.

  • Claire Masters says:

    I really like your tip about recreating my favorite restaurant food at home. I’m trying to be more frugal so I’ve decided to not eat out as much. I think it would be helpful for me to look up recipes online so I can still eat good food at home.

  • Jacob Sandys says:

    Eating out can be a huge issue but another thing I found is finding people who share a similar view with you on not needing to go out to eat and instead staying inside and cooking. It is so much more cheaper.

  • Geoff says:

    “If you simply can’t live without that Big Mac, or get a weekly hankering for KFC chicken, you can learn to recreate your favorite fast food recipes at home.”
    My fave fast foods are Indian, Chinese, and Pizzas. Yes, buying in the right ingredients I can successfully recreate the first two after a fashion, but when it comes to Pizzas I will have to stick with Dominoes deliveries.

  • Jules says:

    What I find most helpful is a meal planning system, on a white board that has a permanent-marker grid with the days of the week on it. I know which days I’ll be fantastically busy, and which days I won’t, so I can plan in leftovers or something simple (eggs and toast) on those days, while putting together more elaborate meals (stew) on days when I do have the time and energy to spare. It also helps me keep track of when my boyfriend is working (he works irregular shifts) so I’ll always have lunch-things handy for him.

    I think cooking only becomes enjoyable when you start doing it enough to know what food should taste like when it’s done. There is definitely a learning curve involved in cooking, but having cookbooks that do a good job of explaining the basics (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is still my go-to for things like how to boil broccoli) helps a lot.

  • Mike says:

    When my wife is feeling lazy to cook, it’s fastfood automatically. She has her file of menus for fastfood delivery.. 😛

  • Marbella says:

    We almost always eat at home, my son is a well known chef and my girlfriend loves to cook also. I live in southern Spain with the Mediterranean Sea in front of me, lots of fish directly from fishermen to very cheap price. Vegetables and fruits directly from farmers, can it be more economical?

  • Josh @ Live Well Simply says:

    We have a date night once a week where we’ll spend about $25 mainly to give my wife a break from cooking (she’s an amazing cook) and also to take in the ambiance of the restaurant and just talk together away from the distractions of home. It is worth every penny as an investment in our life-long marriage. Other than that, we don’t eat out, and definitely skip any fast food. That stuff is death on a plate 🙂

  • Jean says:

    I used to eat out a lot during my 9 to 5 days as my hunger would usually get the better of me and I couldn’t resist pigging out on a burger or something on the way home. Now of course, that’s reduced a lot as I work from home mostly and only eat out on long trips or when out of town. There is nothing like a good home cooked meal though.


  • Frugal Joe says:

    I find myself eating out way to much these days. The food is never that good and it is a real money drain. If I eat in a more expensive restaurant I will almost always feel cheated seldom do you get your moneys worth. Most anyone can cook a much better Steak at home that what you can buy in a restaurant. I agree eat at home.

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More says:

    I agree that planning ahead and having something you can grab quickly are huge in avoiding eating out. Those are the two reason why I normally end up at a restaurant.

  • bmv818 says:

    Dinner out isn’t as much of a concern for me as lunch during the work week. To combat that death by a thousand cuts, I have a paltry pantry near my desk – components for a PB&J, dried fruit, nuts, etc.

    Just don’t clean out your pantry in one sitting.

  • Sean @ One Smart Dollar says:

    Great tips. I like the idea about recreating fast food. That’s a great way to add a healthier spin onto it.

    • Kiwikid says:

      Recreating Junk food doesn’t make it any healthier, just, usually, cheaper.

      • Sara says:

        You are annoying. No one asked you to respond to every post with your opinion.

        • Paul says:

          Nobody didn’t ask either… its a free world, except with certain people in the USA. People like Sara usually.

          And, if you look… you’ll see I haven’t replied to every post. Don’t like my comments? Fine. Don’t read them.

  • From Shopping to Saving says:

    AWESOME POST. I agree with every single item on this list – especially recreating fast food at home (which turns out to be SUPER healthy and easy), planning ahead, and prepare healthy snacks all the time.

    I like to keep trail mix and fruit with me all the time. You have no idea how many times I’ve been stressed and grabbed a whole bowl of fruit and ate it within minutes. Imagine if it was junk food or a bag of chips. Not saying that I don’t eat junk food once in awhile though!

    Another idea that coincides with #7 is make the kitchen a place that is comfortable for you. I liked to turn the TV towards the kitchen so that I could feel like I was entertained. I didn’t feel rushed or pissed off when I was in the kitchen. That or play music. I love cooking to music!

    I’ll be adding this post in my weekly faves. Such great tips!

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka says:

    Ugh. I hate cooking. Nothing really motivates me to eat at home, except I get too busy to leave the house so I just end up eating something quick at home. i’d almost always rather eat out.

    • Kiwikid says:

      I’d question “why” you hate cooking? Is it because you were never taught as a child to cook? Did your mum, or other person, criticise you if you made a mistake or it didn’t come out right? Was/were your parent/s typical of so many people in the States that fill their refrigerators full of Junk pre-prepared food like substances? I say that because a lot of what passes for food is total cr*p! I’m thinking Jello, Ice Cream, frozen dough rolls etc. There is a comparison on the web somewhere of typical families from different cultures on what they spend on “food” and how much. Ironically it is the poorer nations that actually have the better diet. I saw a US family that had something like 20 or 30 boxes of pizza on the table, boxes and boxes of carbonated drinks, plus goodness knows what else. Obviously the mother could not cook and everything was heat and eat. The obesity in the family was not surprising given that everything appeared to be heat and eat.

  • Mac Hildebrand says:

    Fast food kills my budget, but it also kills good time with friends and family because I’m not taking the time to interact over a good meal. #6 was a great tip for finances and daily living.

    I always pay attention to lists and advice like this since fast food is such a constant wallet drain. I’ve never heard #2 being used in relation to eating out though. Great motivational tool for finances and to stay healthy.

    • Kiwikid says:

      Fast food kills. Period. Might take some time but it ultimately kills, through cardiac problems, diabetes etc.

      Slow food rules, especially fresh food.

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