Step Four on the Path to Saving Money: Eat & Cook at Home

I’m all about eating out – pizza & wings with friends, dinner at the ballpark or arena, a nice meal where I’m required to wear a shirt that doesn’t have a band logo for the most recent world tour. Occasionally, I’ll even “get crazy” by paying attention to healthier eating habits by opting for veggies instead of French fries. Of course, by ordering veggies, I realize I conjure the clouds of Armageddon. There are valid & enjoyable reasons to eating out and about: saving time, little effort, enjoyable cuisine adventures & new food experiences, great conversation with friends & family. However, it’s also an easy way to spend unnecessary funds. The next component from “Saving Money…The Hard Way Made Easy” focuses on cooking & eating at home. By choosing to cook & eat most of your meals at home, you will perpetuate your money saving momentum.

It’s easy to put off regular grocery shopping & view dinner out as “only $10 or $20.” But, if you think about it a little more, $20 can buy you a variety of food items, and a NUMBER of meals, at the grocery store. And, $20 is just one meal out with tip. Granted, time and effort commitments increase – grocery store time, food prep time, and (yuck!) clean-up time. But the bottom line is it’s such a drastic difference in spending, you’ll be proud of yourself for dusting off one of those old cookbooks & finding a good recipe to try. Odds are once you adjust to the habit of cooking at home, you’ll also choose to eat healthier, as well, since you will pay attention to what ingredients you are using when you cook.

Oh, and don’t fall victim to one of Temptation’s biggest spells: buying lunch out at work! This one sneaks up on you. We think nothing of what is called a “bargain” lunch, or value meal at $5. It appears to be a reasonable amount to spend on lunch every day. But think about it: multiply it by four or five. Now, you’re talking $20 or $25 per week. Now, multiply that by four. $80 – $100 a month for lunch! Again, this speaks to your little voice – the “I want” voice. We know it’s much easier to give in to Temptation, to rationalize that you don’t have the time in the morning to whip up a sandwich, piece of fruit, & snack to put in a brown bag. I know – you’ll be on the run all day, won’t be in your office, or won’t have the “luxury” of taking a lunch break. I feel for you, as grabbing lunch on the run is easier, and suits our instant gratification gene better than the brown bag sitting in the community refrigerator. But taking your lunch, and avoiding the $5 spend every day keeps that money in your pocket.

Make the time to do weekly grocery shopping for your lunches & dinners. It’s easier than you think, and will save you a lot of money. This isn’t about being the “no fun police,” busting in on your nights out. We all need to get out to enjoy a meal in celebration or socialization. This isn’t about the occasional, or even weekly, night out. This is about the daily offenders. You’ll find the dent in your wallet or purse to be a little less significant if you pay attention to how many times you eat out. Even if you reduce your dinners out, or take your lunch to work twice a week, you’ll notice a difference in money spent. Choosing to shop for your meals at the grocery store instead of eating out is yet another way to make saving money easy.