Money Matters

Nine Ways To Slash Spending on Takeout

While working families are more inclined to reach for their smartphones over the frying pan during the back-to-school rush, there are ways to keep dinner simple and inexpensive without depending on restaurants. Consider these 9 tips for quick and affordable meals from consumer expert Andrea Woroch:

1. Track your takeout spending.

To reduce your spending on takeout, you first have to know how much it’s actually costing you each month. Track how much money you dish out each month by using a service like Mint, which links all your accounts in one place and categorizes your spending. This will help you quickly pinpoint the dollars going toward dining out so you can create a better budgeting plan.

2. Order groceries online.

If the task of grocery shopping is holding you back from cooking your own meals, consider ordering all your food online. Services like Amazon Fresh and FreshDirect may not be the cheapest way to buy groceries, but they offer a convenient service that will ultimately help you reduce your takeout dependence and save money in the long run. Many grocery stores including Safeway offer delivery services, too, so do your research and compare rates.

3. Download free meal plans.

Creating a meal plan is a great way to save money on dinner, but in itself requires quite a bit of time! While services like eMeals make the task of meal planning and creating grocery lists easier, they can be costly. Instead, turn to Pinterest or the Internet for meal plans. You can find them at LifeAsMom or 100DaysofRealFood.

4. Buy ready-made.

Purchasing ready-made meals may seem pretty similar to takeout, but typically you get more bang for your buck in the form of leftovers. Most grocery stores offer ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken for around $6, offering a quick and healthy main course for your family. Any leftovers can be made into sandwiches or thrown into salads and pastas for extra protein. For added convenience and nutrients, grab a bag of frozen veggies – these side dishes are flash-frozen at peak ripeness and nutrient levels, which means they’re both healthful and convenient!

5. Stock the freezer.

When you or your family are hungry and there’s nothing in the refrigerator to eat, ordering out seems like a fast and simple solution after a long day. Avoid these situations by stocking your freezer with meat and fish, stir-fry veggies, pizza and other ready-to-cook foods to make meals in a snap. This way, you have a back-up plan that doesn’t include pricey takeout meals.

6. Schedule a prep day.

Prepare food for the week on Sunday (or whatever day you have some spare time) and make quick meals that your family can pop in the microwave before and after work or school. Do all the chopping, dicing and mincing of the ingredients you’ll need throughout the week for faster cooking.

7. Get a slow cooker.