Take-out. It’s one of those things that we’ve struggled with, since having kids. Before the kids were born, I remember leisurely making dinner when Jamie arrived home from work, together, with a bottle of wine and a mutual love of creating something delicious for dinner.
Then, came the kids. The newfound busy-ness in our lives that put making dinner on the back burner, so to speak, led us into habits that included take-out four to five nights a week. Spending money on groceries, and taking-out most dinners was just one of those things that we factored into the budget.
But when you think about it – four to five nights of take-out means a lot of money every month that we could be spending on travel experience with the kids, investing, on tangible things, experiences, on good food, on new food experiences.
How to Stop Wasting Your Money on Take-Out
Add it up. Determine how much you’re spending on take out every month. Chances are, if you’ve never added it up, or you don’t really stick to the ‘budget’ every month you’re going to be surprised. The first time we added it up a couple of years ago, we were shocked. Adding it up, wakes you up.
Find the Balance. For me, I struggled with the fact of making food at-home, from scratch. I mean, what’s the point of cooking at home if it wasn’t going to be wholesome, healthful and full of great ingredients? Instead, when I realized these meals often took more time than I cared to spend cooking dinner (especially after making breakfast and lunches), I made a decision. Balance is key – and sometimes that means premade dinners, like the mac and cheese from Spud.ca, combined with veggies and something ‘homemade’. If you’re struggling with eating at home, you’re going to have to start to make it easier on yourself.
Identify Your Weak Points. Around here, it’s dinners on the week’s when we’ve got five or six things to go to, and breakfast on the weekend. We still do brunch, but the whole ‘grabbing breakfast sandwiches’ has stopped (with the help of the next tip).
Make it easy. On Sunday, we will grill chicken for the week to make easy salads, something that we’ll usually just buy. We cook bacon for the salads, and it doubles as a way to make those breakfast sandwiches easily assembled in three minutes, with the quick cooking of an egg to pair with the English muffin. Pasta and rice in the fridge make the ‘base’ for things like mac and cheese, much, much easier.
Our favourite convenience meals to have in the freezer come from Costco, from the prepared section or from Spud.ca, like the family sized mac and cheese. Having a couple of these meals in the freezer that I can throw together in 15 minutes is quicker than one of us running out to grab dinner on the go.
Don’t Deny All Dinner Out. It’s not feasible to say that we’re never going to have to take-out. We’re two working parents, who are busy. We’ve got full schedules and neither of us have an intense passion for being in the kitchen to cook dinner. I’m more of a breakfast, baking person and Jamie’s got no inclination to do more than grill, so it’s not feasible to say that we’re never going to eat out.
Instead of denying, we set a budget, stick to it and can either splurge on a meal on Saturday night (our usual habit, now) or dine out a couple of times during the week at lower-key places, with the kids. On the weeks that we go over, it comes out of the ‘misc. weekly expenses’ and reduces the amount of ‘extras’ that we’re buying that week.
Make it Count. The money you’re saving on take out, even after the first month, can help to keep you on track. Keeping a visual count, or putting the money that you would usually spend on take-out or dinners out, helped to keep us on track – and put more money in the budget for those experiences, weekend trips and travel.
It’s been a gradual process, but we’ve greatly reduced the amount of times we’re grabbing take out (unless we’re having a really bad week) to brunch on the weekend, and one take-out or dinner out during the week.