Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt!

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Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt! Save Money On Your Food Bill!

Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt!

Eating out is among the of the top causes of personal debt. Most of us hunt for the best interest rates on our mortgages and we complain about the terrible price of gas the whole time we are pumping it.

Interestingly enough though, I have yet to hear one person groan about the awful prices they had to pay for lunch today or tell how they were “duped” into having to pay such high prices at their favorite restaurant. I mean really, the government should step in and make all restaurants take steak off of their menus so I won’t be tempted to order it. Then there are those fast food places. They shouldn’t be allowed to build so close to the road and make it so convenient for me to drive in there each day. They have a lot of nerve expecting me to be a responsible adult who knows what I can or can’t afford and should or shouldn’t do.

Tut, tut. I had better behave or I will have to fire myself. HA! HA! But I do feel so much better for getting that off of my chest.

Anyway where was I? Oh, yes — saving money and eating out. I know most of the excuses we use to justify eating out when it doesn’t really fit in the budget: “I don’t have time”, “I’m too busy”, “I don’t know how to cook“, and last but not least, “it’s so much easier to eat out”.

I totally understand. I, too, don’t have time to do things. I don’t have time to take care of my yard, so I will hire a crew of gardeners to do it. I too don’t have time to clean my house so I will have a housekeeper come in every day and do it for me. I don’t know how to cook so I need a chef (the best French one, of course) and it is so much easier to hit my garage sales if I am chauffeur driven.

Obviously my examples are tongue in cheek but, as ridiculous as that all sounds, that really is what a lot of us are doing. In the same way that I can’t afford a gardener, housekeeper or chauffeur and I would be pretty foolish to go hire them, many of us can’t afford to go out to eat but do it anyway. I don’t think most people really realize how much they spend eating out each month and would be shocked to find that they could probably hire a housekeeper or a gardener for that same amount.

Take one week and write down how much you spend eating out. That includes all those coffees, soft drinks, things from the vending machines and snacks you buy throughout the day. Be sure to write down the amount of anything that goes into you and your family’s mouths for an average week. I’m afraid you may be unpleasantly surprised. Multiply it by 4 to get a monthly estimate and I think you would be just plain shocked.

I’m beginning to wonder if another reason we eat out so much is that it has just become a habit. Like many bad habits, we get so comfortable with them that we don’t want to change them. Even when we know that a habit is destructive to us (physically, financially and even emotionally), we still do it.

Some of us look down our noses at other people with “bad habits” like drug addicts and alcoholics and can’t understand why they don’t just kick their habits. “Don’t they see what they are doing to their families????”

What is the difference between other people’s destructive habits and our repeatedly going out to eat and charging it? We know the food isn’t as good for our families, we know we don’t have the money to pay for it, and we know on bill paying day we will be so stressed that we will take it out on everyone around us. We so proudly display our bumper stickers that say “Say no to drugs.” but how many of us could proudly display a bumper sticker that says “Say no to debt, I’m debt free”.

(Please do not e-mail me about drug addicts and alcoholics. If you do, you are missing the point of the article and are only making it more clear to me that you are probably one of the people not willing to own up to or face the real issue –your debt.)

I know those words may sound harsh to some, but if you have seen and dealt with as many families as I have, whose homes have been or are being destroyed because of financial irresponsibility, you would understand why I can’t always sugar coat things. We sink into a fog of apathy, hopelessness and discouragement and just give up trying. I really want you to understand you can fix your finances, but it will take a little bit of work and effort on your part. Don’t just throw up your hands and give up.

There is a story in the Bible (John 5) that tells about a man who couldn’t walk. He had laid by a healing pool for 38 years. If he could dip in the pool when the water stirred, he would be healed. Jesus asks him what he is doing there and he says “Well, I just don’t have anyone who will carry me and put me in the pool” (Poor little old me.) Jesus then asks him, “Do you really want to get healed?” This might seem to us a strange question but, as I once heard a woman speaker point out, if he really wanted to get healed wouldn’t he have tried some way to inch his way over to that pool even if he could only make it a half an inch a day no matter how hard it was?

Maybe Jesus asked this question because He too thought here is a man, like so many do these days, making excuses, being a victim and waiting for someone else to fix his problem for him. What did Jesus tell him to do? GET UP! (stand on your own two feet), TAKE UP YOUR BED (start being responsible for your own things), and WALK (become active in solving your own problems which may mean physical labor, or doing without some things).

You need to be like the lame man and GET UP, TAKE UP YOUR BED and WALK. If you know you are going out to eat too much then stop saying you’re a victim of these hard economic times. Be responsible for the “bed” (or the debts that you have now) and actively start doing something about it today. It isn’t as hard as you think. I can take every excuse for eating out that I mentioned above and prove that they’re not really valid.

“I don’t have time.” For the amount of time it takes you to drive to some place, wait for them to take your order and then wait for them to prepare your order, I can give you 10 menus or more that would take less time for you to prepare at home.

“I’m too busy.” If you are too busy to take time to feed your family, something that is a necessity of life, then you are too busy. I have very rarely heard anyone say that they are too busy to get their hair done, go shopping, go to sports activities, talk on the phone or spend time on the computer. You really can find the time.

If I sound like I don’t have patience with that excuse, it’s because I don’t. I was a single mom with 2 teens, working 60 -70 hours a week, doing all my own yard work, home repairs, and on and on and guess what? Except when I was ill, I always found time to make breakfast and dinner.

“I don’t know how to cook.” So learn. Start simple. Even my 9 year old grandson can boil himself a hot dog. You don’t have to produce a gourmet meal to make your family happy and in most cases they would prefer you didn’t. There are simple enough instructions on the back of a package of spaghetti noodles that, once again, even a child can read and follow. Warm up a jar of sauce and dinner is served. You now have two main dishes that take less than 10 minutes to prepare.

I understand that man can’t live on hot dogs alone (although I think kids can), but don’t worry — after a week or two of simple dishes, you can move on to more complicated things like frozen French fries and frying hamburgers 😉 Plus if you really get stuck, I just happen to know of this really good cookbook called Dining on A Dime that can help you. 😉

“It’s so much easier.” I guess that depends on your definition of easy. To me, going to a restaurant, sitting and listening to loud music for 30 minutes with fussy, hungry, complaining kids is not my idea of fun. Going to a drive-thru is, at times, not much better. Lately it seems as if the line of cars wraps around the whole building at every fast food joint that I drive by. I was amazed to see every restaurant’s parking lot jam packed two days after Christmas. (Must be that all those people who couldn’t afford Christmas had gotten a windfall.) Sorry, once again I digress.

You may say “The restaurant where I go isn’t that bad.” but my point is that everything has it’s drawbacks, whether you stay at home to eat or go out to eat. It’s just a matter of what you make up your mind to put up with. Do you want the pain of cooking or the pain of not knowing how to pay your bills.

If you are in debt, it would be wise to start putting up with a few of the drawbacks that come with eating at home. Besides, if you are really serious about saving money, there are ways to make cooking at home much easier.

  1. You can use convenience foods. There is nothing wrong with buying things like French bread, canned biscuits or bagged salad. Line the pans you use with foil, or use disposable pans. It’s cheaper in the long run to use these than going out to eat.
  2. Clean up as you cook.This is very important because I notice a lot of people make a bigger mess than necessary when they cook.
    • Instead of messing up the whole stove by repeatedly laying a sticky spoon on it, use a spoon holder or cup. It is a simple thing that makes clean up so much easier.
    • Keep some hot soapy water in the sink while you are cooking and wash things as you finish with them.
    • Don’t set that carton of milk down on the counter after you pour it. While it’s still in your hand, put it back in the fridge.
    • Keep the number of utensils you use to a minimum. You don’t need to put a lid on a pot every time you cook something.
  3. Don’t always think gourmet. Most families are so excited to get a homemade meal that they don’t care what you serve them. Besides, almost any meal can be made to look “gourmet”. Fruit sliced and arranged nicely on a plate, muffins keeping warm and nestled in a napkin inside a basket or mashed potatoes piled high with a chunk of golden butter melting down the sides all have eye appeal. All right — I made myself hungry! Maybe it’s time to quit for lunch.
  4. Clean up is one of the main reasons people hate to eat at home,but if you clean as you go like I mentioned earlier and everyone pitches in to help clean up after dinner, it should only take about 15 minutes to get it all put away.* It would take longer than that to drive to a fast food place and return home.

    *See our article, “Dirty Dishes Cause Debt.”

  5. Pull out those crockpots. It takes about 5 minutes to throw in a roast, potatoes and carrots. It takes the same amount of time to throw in the ingredients for chili, stew or vegetable soup.
  6. If you are dragging the kids to an after school game:Instead of going to a fast food drive in, throw some hot dogs in a thermos and cover with boiling water. They will be cooked and ready to eat by the time you get there. How long does it really take to grab a few pieces of fruit, a bag of cleaned veggies and some chips to go with them? Maybe 2 minutes? How hard is that to cook?

    You could also have sloppy joes simmering in a crockpot and pour those into the thermos for an on the run meal. To make it even easier, heat it up from a jar and then pour it in the thermos.

I don’t know who set the standard that cooking a meal in 30 minutes is fast. If I took that long to cook a meal every night I would never get anything done. There are tons of meals out there that require 15 minutes or less prep time.

If you don’t know where to start, then drag out your Dining On A Dime cookbook or check out the Groceries On A Dime e-books. We share lots of ideas there to get you started. Sometimes we like to make things more complicated than they really are because that gives us a good excuse not to do them. Where there is a will there is a way.

Do you really want to get out of debt? Then GET UP, STOP CHARGING, and GET COOKING!


Lower Your Food Bill With Food You Family Will Love!

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  1. Dawn says

    This doesn’t surprise me, and is my next largest argument with my SO. He wants to eat out after work since he has to commute but I would rather him buy and eat a healthy portioned frozen meal from a grocery than fast food (He can microwave at his work before he leaves). Not only is it cheaper, it is portion and calorie controlled. Of course I would love for him to be able to eat at home, but the drive is more than an hour. Either that or he needs to keep none perishable food stuffs in his van to snack on til he gets home.

    I don’t know that I can get through to him about it. I have offered to fill his big cooler with dried healthy snacks, fiber bars, etc. along with drinks so he doesn’t have to buy them on the road where they are more expensive.

    Thanks for the article, maybe I will forward it to him and let his eyes be opened to how much we are wasting by not thinking ahead and packing extra before he goes to work.

  2. Heather says

    Excellent article. I needed to hear this. I am one who makes the excuses about eating out all the time, and I know it’s horrible for my health, my finances, and my family. I will own up to what I’ve been doing, and hopefully get myself out of the financial/health mess I’m in right now. Thank you for publishing this article.

  3. Alicia Webster says

    I agree completely. It is embarrassing that we will scrimp and save, cut coupons and pinch pennies on our grocery bill (and we do a good job at keeping costs down), and then we turn around and order a $25 pizza or fried chicken meal for dinner. It doesn’t make sense. Especially since that $25 would go so much further at the grocery store.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree more. I have done this and thought how “stupid” I just worked hard to save money on groceries and then I run through Wendy’s and basically trashed my savings.

  4. Kathy says

    I am great about not buying unnecessary junk at the grocery store but catch me at a weak moment and I will go out to eat in a heartbeat! I have had to learn to buy some “fast food” at the grocery store and then use that when I am tempted to have the family eat out. Even buying convenience food at the grocery store is cheaper than eating out and the nutritional value of the food in not much different. I buy a case of 16″ pizza crusts at Sam’s for little over $1 a piece. I keep homemade pizza sauce either canned or frozen, frozen sausage and a bag of mozzarell cheese and maybe mushrooms for quick healthy pizzas. The kids can put them together themselves and it’s definitely cheaper than ordering pizza.

  5. Ann Maines says

    Your website is awesome. God bless you both for everything. I have found that by not taking any kind of money (checkbook, debit card, cash, etc) with me to work, I have saved an incredible amount by taking my lunch, a snack for break and drinking ice water. I used to give in and stop on the way home from work and pick up something (I’m tired, etc). Now, it doesn’t matter if I am tired. It took discipline, but I learned to plan ahead and be sensible and honest about my finances (or lack of). Thanks for the wonderful articles.

  6. Irene says

    Thank you for the article and encouragement. The points you made about excuses for eating out are so true (and I know I’ve used some of them!). Used to have no problem with paying $6 for a fast food meal, but now won’t order anything more than $3 and skip the soda and order water instead. Eating at home more and dinners out are once a month instead of every weekend. I also keep a pack of Chewy bars and some other non-perishable snacks in my car for those times when I’m running errands and getting hungry.

  7. says

    I grew up in the restaurant business many years ago and know how overly-processed the food is and how it is prepared. We as adults need to set a good example for our children and show them that healthy home-cooked food is the best way to live for the long haul. Eating out should be a real “treat” and done infrequently. Kids learn from their parents so why are we so surprised to see one generation after another getting fatter and fatter?

    Obesity in this country is mainly caused from eating too much and restaurants serve way too much! Our healthcare costs in this country are out of sight often due to the bad eating habits of our citizens. My husband and I have stopped eating out altogether except when we travel and we don’t miss it at all.

  8. Mary AZ says

    Great advise. If even one person is helped you have done an excellent job of telling the truth. Telling it like it is, not sugar coated.

  9. Joseph Mele says

    I enjoy your newsletter very much. I like the way you intertwine bible stories with your message. I run into so many “Christians” who say, Jesus will provide, Jesus will provide. Jesus will provide when a person stops whining, uses the brain they were blessed with and gets to work.
    Thanks for all the hard work that goes into creating such a useful website.

  10. Mary says

    Since it is only my husband and me I find that ‘eating out’ for some types of food is actually less expensive. By the time I purchase all the necessary ingredients for Mexican food especially I have spent much more than we spend grabbing a couple of entrees at our favorite place. Yes, SOME of the ingredients could be used in other dishes and that is a consideration BUT we live in a small travel trailer and storage space is also a major consideration. Our refrigerator space is very small and freezer space is almost none.
    I home can and dehydrate as much as possible to save space in the refrigerator and freezer. Things like chunks of roast beef, chunks of chicken, etc are canned so that they do not take up space in the refrigerator but are readily available for meals.
    We would eat very poorly if not for the crock pot especially when we are working at campgrounds etc. Our hours vary and it is so easy and efficient to put something into the crockpot and have it available whenever we get off and area able to eat.
    Eating out constantly would quickly use up our soc sec income so it is VERY limited. With children I can readily understand how eating out would put a major drain on your finances. Especially considering that many children would leave a lot uneaten.

  11. Trish says

    Hi Tawra,

    I have a BA with a family finance emphasis, you hit things right on, the one thing I saw when doing my internship and counseling families was that they wanted their debt reduced or to have the ability to pay their monthly bills but…were not willing to do what it takes to do that. They wanted it to be easy and quick but…the debt they got into took time and changing spending habits. We all need to do as this quote states “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily” – Mike Murdock (I hope that is credited correctly) Or the other one I like is that “To have something different than what you have, you have to do something different that you have ever done”. (don’t have that quote with me to give you who said it). I love it when someone, like yourself, actually puts the responsibility on people with the habits that are detrimental to their families or their welfare.


  12. Paet says

    What a great read! Brought back memories of those “special meals” at restaurants when I was a kid! To go downtown and eat at a real restaurant or even a Kresgee’s (sp?) was a real treat! Also to get a turkey dinner at a time other then Thanksgiving was a treat.

    We just have too many things available at all seasons of the year. Nothing is “special” anymore! It’s really a pity.

    I have been guilty of too much eating out and seeing the waste and feeling the boredom of another meal out! You just go out, order the meal, stuff the food in your face and then pay the bill and leave. It was nothing more then an act of boredom!

    I have used menu plans and will again get back to doing it. It did save money and especially time. Also you could easily figure out what to do with what was left of the roast in the next few days. Sadly, I’ve gotten away from that and have had to throw out half a roast and a wonderful piece of pork loin simply because I faliled to put them in the freezer and they sat in the fridge until I was afraid to use them – talk about wasted money and a massive quilt complex for me! I will get back to making the weekly menu AND get the crock pot out and use it!

    I might also mention that we need to begin to make things “special” again – put some time and thought into that meal, make cookies and etc. for the kids and your SO vs. buying them. Even bake bread! There were some very good things about the 40’s and 50’s that we need to bring back. The main one is that the house wife or house husband needs to take pride in what they do. They make life possible and better for everyone in the house. A clean house, a home cooked meal, clean clothes and etc. are all acts of “love” that seem to have been forgotten in this maddening world of ours. Maybe it is time to slow down a bit and live simpler lives.

    Again, thanks for the wonderful article!

    • says

      Paet, it is funny you should mention this. I have been trying to cut out wheat from my diet to see if it would help me but it didn’t make a difference so as I was at the grocery store I broke down and bought me a glazed dough nut. I hadn’t had one in months. I took the thing home. Made me a cup of coffee, put my feet up and took a big bite of my dough nut. Boy was that good. I savored every single bite slowly chewing then sipping some coffee. I thought I was eating manna from heaven it tasted so good.

      As I did that I realized part of our problem is we have so much and get what ever we want when we want it so often that nothing is a real treat for us. I spent 15 mins. enjoying that silly dough nut but many of us gulp 2-3 down (or something similar) a day without even realizing we ate them. How much joy and pleasure we are doing ourselves out of because we don’t control ourselves in so many areas so that nothing is a treat any more. I feel especially sorry for our children who are being robbed of so much pleasure.

    • Cat says

      I was thinking the same thing. I remembered when eating out was a special treat.
      I agree with your post…I think that is why there is such a big revival on learning to can, make homemade bread, etc…though we have plenty now and can do anything thing we want, when we want and can get anything instantly…it’s not always really good for us. In my household we decided to put the breaks on and become more self-sufficient. We are also trying to make new traditions and try to focus more on family. Your post also brought back fond memories of Kresge’s. They had THE best strawberry pie in the world.
      As always Jill, this is a great article. I used to love eating out instead of cooking. I used every excuse and then some and yes, it was mostly because I didn’t want to clean anything. hee hee.

  13. Karen S. says

    I agree totally with you!!! Cooking at home is so much better for the budget and our health!!!! You can have the children get involved by setting the table or depending on their age, even planning and cooking dinner one night a week. I did this with my daughter from a young age. We began with her setting the table and helping to clear it after dinner and then when she got older she would plan one dinner a week and with my help she would make that dinner, She was very proud of her accomplishment too!!! She is now grown and out on her own, but I can rest assured that she does know how to cook!

  14. Larabelle says

    Thank-you for telling it like it is!!!
    I eat at home the majority of the time and only very occasionally eat out and although I have at least six cookbooks I still find that yours is the best!!!
    My sister is constantly eating out yet when she lost her job she was relied on several family members to pay her bills because she had no emergency fund. I wish she would wise up as well as all those people who complain about their debt as they are driving thru a drive thru or headed to a restaurant.

  15. Mary says

    Love it! I am so amazed at the packed parking lots of ALL the restaurants in town ALL the time! Also loved your comment about the government, don’t worry they will soon think of it themselves and try to pass a law! I hate to cook, but I hate even more to go out and spend my husband’s hard earned money on food that doesn’t necessarily taste good, is definately not healthy for us, and is prepared in questionable surroundings with questionable ingredients. You go girl.

  16. Linda says

    I would like to say how very true it is that many of us do not realize just how much we spend eating out. Since the beginning of the year, we have been tracking every reciept for all purchases in a notebook under a category. We add them up at the end of each month. We were surprised to see even though we eat out less than once a week on average, we were spending at least a couple of hundred dollars for our family of four to eat out each month! Keep all the receipts in a shoe box till you record them and see for yourself what you are really spending. It puts it into perspective when you have to face the numbers on the page.

  17. Sara says

    We don’t have a problem about eating our way IN to debt or OUT of debt! We rarely and I mean rarely go out to eat. My thinking is, most restaurants don’t have anything on the menu that we can’t cook at home and even have it taste better than what the restaurant cooks so why bother to spend the money? We cook very simply but eat very well and we always wonder why so many people eat out for almost every meal of the day! Don’t understand that one!

  18. Millie says

    If remember correctly the man who wanted to be healed had to be the first person to touch the water and there was always someone who touched the water before him. The water only moved at certain times and only the first person to touch the water got healed.

    • says

      I think you are correct but after all those years I think I would have scooted myself to the edge and kept trying to be the first. The point is, he didn’t even try!

  19. IRo says

    Very Well Said!!!!! My husband and I had gotten into the “habit” of going out to eat much more frequently now that the kids are not home much. I could see that this was becoming a debt issue and told him, as much fun as it is, it has to stop. I am partly to blame as I was forgetting to take something out or would be too busy on weekends to cook when we would get hungry. Planning my weekly meals has helped tremendously and now its a treat to go out, not an every weekend thing, and we pay cash instead of using a credit card.

  20. Joen says

    Loved this message.. hope lots take your advise.. we eat out very little .But when I worked it was hard to take a lunch everyday..don’t want to think how much I spent eating out then.. It is a treat when we do now.. thanks for all the info..

  21. says

    We eat out rarely but with our life style it is so tempting to do so.
    We leave in the morning go out boating and only eat crackers and cheese or finger bun sandwiches during the day. We get home about 9pm exhausted. It is easy to stop for subs or pizza but we found we didn’t really like them but would stop just to save me making something and eating at 10 or later.
    I now keep a box of egg rolls, chinese appetizers, fish sticks and french fries in the freezer. We get home and while we shower the oven is pre-heating. Put pans into the oven and go relax while dinner is cooking. So within about 1/2 an hour of getting home we can sit and have dinner. Going for take out we wait 15 min. take it home let it get cold while we shower and it loses its appeal if not piping hot.
    So while I spend $40. once a month on fast meals I save lots more by not paying $25 for subs or $30 for a large pizza.
    But I still get to relax before and during the meal.

  22. Carol Cripps says

    Your remark about how your grandson can boil a hotdog made me smile. At his age, to earn a badge in a church girls’ group, I had to serve my mother breakfast in bed. The eggs were hard, the toast burnt, and the coffee full of grounds. She ate it anyway – what love! A year later, I was able to cook meals for the whole famly. If a ten year old can cook meat, mashed potatoes (Real ones, not instant) and vegetables, any adult ought to be able to do it with little trouble. BTW, that family was Mum, Dad, and the five of us kids. Later, my elder sister moved home with her baby son. I just peeled an extra potato, and served homemade muffins for dessert.

  23. Kathleen says

    I had to laugh – at myself. A few weeks ago I had to take my husband to a meeting place and would be coming home for a few hours, being by myself, so I decided to “treat” myself to a “dinner out”. I swung into a local fast food place (first time in MONTHS) only to find, to my horror, that the line was indeed quite lengthy, and now I was “locked in” due to cars pulling in behind me. To shorten a long story, 25 minutes later I finally got my food, and I was very hot, very sweaty (sorry, ladies), and really pretty aggravated at myself. Did the food taste good enough for the heat/sweat/delay? NO, it did not. I would have been better off to spend the same $ on cold cuts at the local grocer!!!! Boy, did I learn a lesson there.

    Now I am blessed in that my husband would much rather have my homemade pizza than take-out, and the fried chicken places never get my business ’cause we don’t eat fried chicken any more…..but there are times I just want to eat and not have to clean up. I am definitely learning that cleaning up a bit definitely pays in the long run!

    • CJ says

      Love this! We did that a few times too, and the kids complained they were still hungry after eating their “fast meal”!

      We have since learned that even if we go to the grocery store and buy their convenience food when we’re in the hurry, do the bit of heating that’s required we can still have a decent meal for less money that those drive-thru places… PLUS we usually still have leftovers for 1 or 2 lunches the next day!

      Our favourite: A rotisserie deli chicken (leftovers become sandwiches), a bag of those 5-minute quick-cooking shoestring fries, a bag of salad and a tomato, cuke, etc that can be tossed in (leftover salad with chicken on top for someone). If we’re really hungry, I’ll toss in a bag of mini-carrots and snap peas too. We would have some rolls too if we could eat wheat.

      Fast-food costs our family at least $30.00 at 20 min or more of our time driving and waiting in line. The above-mentioned meal can be purchased for about 1/2 that amount and be ready in about 10 min once I have the stuff on hand.

      • Chris says

        Rotisserie chicken are a life saver I agree, I just wish they did not have so much sodium the one at wall mart have 260 mg of sodium

  24. Elizabeth says

    Great article! We only eat out for special occasions. Just a quick question/request: I would love it if you could put together a list of meals that could be prepared in 15-20 minutes. I cook dinner for us every night and spend roughly an hour (as well as cooking breakfast and lunch for our family of 7 and packing a lunch for my husband). I spend a lot of time cooking and would like to cut it down but I’m not sure what to cook that would take less time. Thanks for your time!
    Elizabeth Gregg

    • says

      Elizabeth, if you go to the home page of the web site and type in 30 minute meals in the search box you will come up with a whole bunch of menus ideas we have on there. Tawra is wanting us to do a quick and easy menus book soon but until then this should help you. We also are having a sale on our grocery saving e book next week, I think, which is really good because it teaches how to not only make your own menus up but so many other ways to get in and out of the grocery store and kitchen fast and with less work.

      If you can’t find what you need with your 30 minute meals just holler and I will try to help.

  25. says

    Eating out was a major obstacle on our path to getting our finances under control. We used to “treat” ourselves by eating out. How ridiculous that sounds now, treating ourselves to more debt!

    The one major thing that has helped us go from eating out 1-2 a week to eating out only 1-2 a month is planning our menus. I bought a wipe on/wipe off monthly calendar at Wally World and have it hanging in our kitchen. I can not stress how much this has helped us!!!

    Also, I love my crockpot, literally, LOVE IT!! It’s like a magic pot. Yes, I know, I am the one that put the food in there in the morning but still, it’s like magic when the meal is ready at supper time! lol

    Thanks for your wonderful insights and advice!

  26. Becky says

    THANK YOU!!!!!! I have been following you for a year now. Between you and Hillbilly Housewife. I have cut my grocery bill (for a famiy of 6) from $800-$900 to $300-$400 a month.

    • says

      Good job Becky! That is almost $5,000 a year just on groceries alone. People think we are crazy when we say it can be done but you are the perfect example it can. I’m curious though, how does it make you feel to have your groceries so under control. Do you feel like you have really suffered or is it better?

  27. Amanda M says

    Well said!
    My husband and I when we started out family made the decision to cook more homecooked meals. We’ve gotten pretty good at it, and can easily get a healthy meal for 5 on the table in less than 30 minutes (including many interuptions!)
    Dinner has always been an open invitation with friends and family so we quite often have last minute guests at our table, which is easily accomidated for. We made an 8 week meal plan, and a master grocery list of all the ingredients needed for all the dishes.
    Doing this made groceries easier too since all we have to do is do a quick inventory of what’s in the pantry and see what produce/dairy is needed for the week. (The master grocery list also acts as a price book so if something is on sale, we know if its worth stocking up.)
    This passed Easter, our extended family wanted to go out to a restaurant for brunch. Instead, my husband and I invited everyone over, and we cooked. For less than the cost of what just my husband & my meals would have been, we made a beautiful brunch for 12, and had left overs.
    Best part: I spent 30 minutes in the kitchen to make all that food. Simple things like a little bit or garnish, folded cloth napkins, fresh bread and a simple salad gave the meal a gourmet feel.
    It was hard to give up our fast food diet, but now when we do treat ourselves to it, we pay for it, and not just financially. The ‘gut rot’, sugar crashes, and sluggishness that sets in afterwards, just doesn’t make it seem worth it at all.

  28. Cheryl says

    I can justify- a lunch date with a friend, planned so that felt o.k- then visiting a sick relative..DEAD tired as my busy season just ended BUT whne I add it up- OUCH!!!!!
    I am re-committing to a certain dollar amount in a envelope a week and when that is gone- no excuses!!!!!!!!!!
    THANKS for the kick in the butt!!!!

  29. Benny Souza says

    Congratulations on your always wise and practical advice! You are people that really make a difference in this world! Hope your site gets known more and more internationally.

  30. Heather says

    You had some good points. I especially liked the idea to just take some hotdogs in the thermos for the kids. Dinners (or lunches) do not have to be fancy all the time.

    I think for myself, I tend to get the pizzas or grab take-out when I am tired. If I have worked late, I really don’t want to do anything else, and my husband works weird hours as well. I know that’s when I should use the slow cooker, and I often do, but not always. Some days getting a take-out pizza is a big help.

    • Chris says

      Yeah, just check the sodium on the hot dogs some of those hotdogs are very high in salt with very little nutritional value , and smoked meat and lunch meat have nitrates in them which are not good for you, and it’s been said smoked meats can contain amounts of tar from the smoke . If you are going to spend money on food it shouldn’t be be crappy quality foods like hot dogs. I know it is quick and easy and may not be and all the time thing but really there are plenty of other quick and easy that are healthy.

      • says

        One thing I always say is that if you worry too much about every little bite you put in your mouth and stress if this has too much of that or too little of this that you are causing more damage to your health by all the stress and worry and not being able to relax and eat a simple hot dog once in awhile. Not only are people stressing themselves out but causing their families a lot of stress. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat healthy but we need to do all things in moderation or it will back fire on us. If a person is always worrying about something all that good food you ate this morning is almost canceled out by all the worry, fear and negative thinking done that morning.

  31. Sheri says

    You are preaching to the choir here! We ate out just last night. It had been a long while since we did that, but it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg. I brought dinner from home to my son’s house so we could have a date while we watched our granddaughter. We could talk about anything we wanted without eaves droppers. Ruby isn’t going to repeat a word of it! She’s not two yet.

    No line, no waiter, no tip… It was great! The windows were open and the breeze blew through the house. I think we will repeat this. Meanwhile, my son took his wife out to eat.

    I carry emergency rations in the car or bring the lunch box depending on what our plans are. If I ever consider going to fast food, I chicken out really quick!

    I had a teenager trying to sell me a 2-fer card for fast foods and when I told her we don’t go out to eat, she didn’t believe me! But we don’t! It costs too much! Like someone else said, the food costs way more than what I can do at home. Going out to breakfast? One fried egg costs more than the whole carton of eggs! Why should I pay for that? I don’t get it!

    I’ll be good now… I have a baby blanket to make for the soon coming grandbaby…

    Thank you for your plain talking!

  32. says

    Thank you for sharing of yourself as you share your points and ideas. I have been reading your newsletters for YEARS and enjoy it every single time. Not many resources are written in such a friendly, frank way that I each time I see it, I am eager to read.

    Today’s post was “spot on” for me. Thank you for reminding me, yet again, that I don’t have to be so frugal at home (avoid buying convenience foods) that I end up going out instead.

    Keep up the good work. Love you ladies.

  33. wanda says

    About time someone speaks out.And a lot of the people who don’t have time don’t work!!I volunteer at a clothing/food bank and most won’t take food that has to be peeled as it is to much work.And one if my pet peeves is so many people have no money for food,but are constantly talking on a cell phone,which i feel is not a necessary item.Now i feel better. Thank you

  34. says

    There was a sort of funny but very sad email that went around for a while a year ago.
    Obama’s wife was serving at a soup kitchen.
    One lady was taking a picture of her serving with a cell phone camera that was supposed to have cost $700.
    Why was she at a soup kitchen if she could afford a cell phone for that price?
    I think the caption was “welfare sure ain’t what it used to be.”
    I do know that some people need help at times but there are always the ones who milk the system for all it’s worth.

  35. says

    Excellent post! Thanks for your frankness (you are welcome to digress at anytime :0)) Eating out and Wal-Mart are like two of the most evil culprits of my spent (but don’t know where it went) money. Thanks for all the great advice!

  36. Kristi says

    Great article — and great website in general! I just discovered Living on a Dime and am having a wonderful time going through all of the articles. This one in particular I love — I have a baaaaad habit of going out for lunch, but have been working on breaking it. I am saving SO much money! I love the “on the run” dinner ideas. They are wonderful. It’s so great to know that it can be done! 😀 Thank you for your real live, pull-no-punches perspective. Now, if only I can tear myself away from Living on a Dime, I can go start peeling potatoes for dinner… 😉 hehehe

    • says

      Loved your comment Kristi – especially the last part about tearing yourself away. Too funny. Keep up the good work. It’s sounds like you are doing a good job changing little by little!

  37. TeresaTx says

    I am a recently divorced mom. I had to learn to not go out to lunch. I often did 2-3 times a week. My office has a refrigerator and freezer, so I buy frozen entrees when they are on sale (4 for $5), put my initials on them, and put them in the freezer. I also keep peanut butter, tuna and crackers in a drawer for the days don’t have leftovers from home or forgot to grab my lunch. Even at $1.25 a meal, it is much better than $7.50 or 8.00 I was spending 2-3 times a week. Thats a savings of $650-1053 a year. That’s a month’s rent!!!

  38. Tena says

    I enjoy getting your emails, I have really enjoyed this article. I’m guilty of picking up dinner once in a while. I am a rural mail carrier, and alot of times get in late off the rt. get home help feed the cattle, come in start dinner, try to clean part of the house. There are days I don’t care, I know I shouldn’t be that way! Now that the kids are grown and gone I have done it more. Ouch on the ck book! I am trying really hard to figure out how to do a budget. Haven’t figured out how to figure in farm exp. too! Anyway, I have your Dining On A Dime and bought my daughter and my daughter in law one also. I just haven’t had time to set and read through it yet! I got some of you ebooks also.

  39. Mea says

    There is sooooooooooo much more love in every bite of a homecooked meal. There is a certain satisfaction of performing such a loving act for your family. Eating out should be for a special event or celebration. Not the other way around. So many commercials nowadays show just the opposite with a message of: “Make it a special night, bring your family together around the table. Bring your family together for dinner.” And so on. Wait a minute!!!! Shouldn’t it be that way EVERY night????!!!??? Every thing is backwards nowadays. How sad. And you are soooo right. It does not have to be gourmet or fancy. Just go cook already.

  40. candice says

    I just got this newsletter in my inbox today and am so thankful for the information. I honestly have been so encouraged to change these bad habits because I have this information and support available and I think about it constantly. Now when my husband and I leave the house around a mealtime, go out for the day or could end up in a situation far from home for an extended period of time, I pack his lunch bag with some water, a flavored beverage of sorts, some healthy snacks or a homemade treat (that I store in the freezer) and a cold pack. We then have an alternative to buying more food and insentive to plan ahead and eat what we brought. Its great, its working well, we don’t go hungry, we don’t need to stop at gas stations for snacks or a beverage… Its like a miracle.

  41. says

    Thank you SO much for the article on eating out. While reading it, I thought FINALLY someone who “gets it” that it isn’t necessarily the big things that cause debt. It truly is those “little foxes” that spoil our vines. Having lived quite a few years abundantly on less, I was beginning to wonder if anyone out there had a grip on reality. Thank You for your wise words; I pray they are a blessing to someone.

  42. Janie says

    I love this article. Fast food became a “little fox” for my family. We added up about 300.00 we were spending on JUNK. I would rather my kids eat a simple hamburger made by me than pay the $ and lose their health. Even when you are tired after work, the kids can help and fix a quick meal and they can also help clean up! They have a lot more energy than we do!

  43. says

    Did you have an article last year about growing a plant in a planter made of an upside down hanging bottle? If so could you send me a copy. I think it was in one of your newsletters, but I may be mistaken. Your newsletter is really great. It is a home economics class extroidenare! Keep up the good work. The young women especially need all this information these days & it revitalizes & refresges some of us older ladies Sincerely, Meredith

  44. Ann John says

    Thank you, thank you. I pass this along to many of my friends. The only thing you left out was what we pay for water each day. Yikes! If only I would have thought of it first. :)

    • says

      Ann I know what you mean about the water thing. One of my pet peeves. I didn’t mention it here because I have done whole articles on just that alone and touch on it often in other places. I wrote a big section on it in our Grocery Shopping on a Budget e course. Many people don’t realize that about 1/3 of the average person’s grocery bill is for drinks or items for drinks. You throw in bottled water and it can go up even more.

  45. says

    Fantastic article!

    Several months ago I read the following advice somewhere: “Buy “good” food at the grocery store because it’s ALWAYS cheaper than eating out.” Oviously you still have to stay within a budget but here is an example that really hit home with me.

    Sunday after church I didn’t feel like cooking and was soooo tempted to drive thru somewhere for our favorite roast beef sandwiches. I needed a few groceries and while at the grocery store remembered that advice. I went to the deli and bought our favorite rare roast beef sandwich meat, which usually is not on the list because of the cost. I also bought a loaf of “fancy” bread (that was on sale) cheese (also on sale) and a bag of fresh spinach (ALSO on sale). The total for these items was about $18.

    The cost of a fast food meal would have been about $15–less than the groceries–but today we’ll have our third meal with the groceries I bought!

    Obviously you can’t always buy the gourmet groceries! But the majority of the time the “good” groceries will still cost less than fast food AND be healthier! And if you use coupons and/or wait for things to go on sale, your costs will be even lower.

  46. mary says

    I had a teen-aged student (male) who complained about his stomach hurting. I asked what he had had for breakfast since I thought that might be the cause of the pain. He replied that he hadn’t eaten breakfast since he couldn’t cook. I told him how to cook oatmeal and gave him a few suggestions for other things. Several weeks later he proudly told me that he was cooking breakfast for himself and his younger sister every day. Such a small thing to make a difference for two people!

  47. Pam says

    As a recently divorced mother of 3, I am completely budget run. Unfortunately, I seem to view “going out” as a non-budget item. Uggh. Sometimes I will take the kids out for dinner because they’ve had a rough day with their father. Sometimes, it’s because I just do not feel like cooking (yes, I know, sheer laziness). During the work week, I can very easily bring my own lunch, but as crazy as it sounds– I feel bad when my coworker (who is a batcheor and rarely buys groceries and eats out all the time (but it financially stable)) has to go out to eat alone! Maybe I will start bringing in lunch for him, too! :)

    Thanks for the reminder that my misplaced guilt is digging my debt-hole a bit deeper!

    • Jan C says

      My coworker and I used to spend lunchtime going over to our cafeteria and having lunch and talking. We decided, after many stomach aches, and other problems, that we would start cooking at home for 2 and sharing lunch. We not only had much better food but save tons of money. Sadly, she retired last year and they didn’t replace her.

  48. Anne Haddad says

    Amen to every word you said! You are so right! Keep up the good work. Where are you moving by the way, since you’re getting out of Kansas. I wish you and your family well. Will you continue the web site? Sure hope so. I purchased “Dining on a Dime Cookbook” and am really grateful to you for all your hard work. Thank you, Anne

    • says

      Anne, Tawra and her family is moving to Colorado and for the moment I am staying here in Kansas. I hope to move there eventually too. All of our family is there except for my son (Tawra’s brother) and his family but if he can find a job there they will be headed there too.

      Nothing will change at all on the web site. If we hadn’t said anything no one would ever know the difference. We can run the web site the same way from any where. Even with us living in the same town Tawra and I do most of the web site stuff on the phone with each other which we will still do.

      I laugh because when they moved to kansas and I was still in Idaho by myself I averaged 300 plus calls a month between the grown kids and grandkids. It was a good thing we had free calling. The grandkids are dying for me to get a web phone this move. Hummm??? Not too sure about that one. But it might be fun. I will get to visit them often anyway. So don’t worry we will still be here and doing all of the same thing except we are trying to get a couple more books written which we hope all will like.

  49. Carol Miller says

    Interesting about the man at the pool. I wonder how many do sit at their “pool” of infirmities/can’t do it & then, when someone offers to help–in the info you gave or showing them how to do or whatever other means, “I don’t have the time” or “thanks, but not now.” God has given us time-24/7-to do what is needed. When we say there is not time to do–we are telling God He messed up–He should have created more time for us.(ha). Appreciate the info you give–God bless on your move. Stay in there w/God & continue to bring us more creative ideas. Thankyou.

  50. says

    Dear Dining on a Dime,

    Everyone has a bad day or two, but (and please do not take offense as none is intended, just an honest inquiry) it sounds from the tone of your most recent newsletter that you may be experiencing a touch of burn-out. I see my husband going through burn-out at work and suggested that he take a few days off, and he is doing much better and regaining his perspective. It is difficult, day in and day out, to help people with the same type of troubles, but your patience and persistence in doing so for years has made a lovely website that we refer to frequently, thank you for all you do!

    I seem to recall your having an ebook on dealing with chronic illness in home responsibilities? I would like to find that one and get it, as I could use some suggestions in our family’s current situation for help with physical troubles are very prevalent (which is always the same time the budget is more crunched than usual with medical bills, isn’t it? – Just when you need more energy and strength to do more at home, it’s when you have the least sometimes.)

    Also, speaking for myself alone, it takes me at least 30 minutes to get a roast in the oven — I cannot peel and chop taters and carrots and celery fast enough and brown the roast enough to do a meal in 5 minutes. It’s just not that fast. I think it may perhaps be more realistic for some people to suggest that the time is necessary but worthwhile for your family, because even with cleaning up while I go and chopping vegetables the day or night beforehand, everything just takes longer right now. Thank you for all you do, and your many great articles and insights,


  51. says

    On my last email, I sincerely hope the last paragraph did not come across wrongly — I am sure it must take you five minutes to get a roast in the slow cooker, I am only suggesting that for others (myself included) it is not that fast, and I would rather expect and plan for the time it will take me personally to do a task than to expect it to take only 5 minutes and find myself in the kitchen for 1/2 hour even though I am using the tips for a better and faster cooking experience. You are an amazing gal, and you probably do take 5 minutes only! Thanks, C.J.

  52. Teresa says

    I love your articles and look forward to them all the time. Sometimes I even save them in a special folder to go back and remind me. (I am not good with archives 😉 ) So I have to admit that when I read the articles it reminds me of my preacher preaching to me and stepping on my toes. Can I get an Amen!!! Yes I’ve been caught red handed here and in the cookie jar– I am totally convicted. I realize I truly need to implement the advice from you all along with my pastor. Thank you once again for a wonderful read!

  53. Jim says

    I love these words of wisdom because they are truly nuggets of truth. As an older single man, who has always cooked for the family, and now finds himself alone and still cooking like I had teens in the house, I need help. I find I keep saying that I will eat the left overs, and then wind up throwing much of it in the trash. The practical tips of eating at home are good, but what about us that need help with eating for one or two. I have found that my budget has gone down some but still remains higher than I would like. Would you consider addressing these issues. As for eating out, I just don’t do it unless forced to by work (I travel a lot) or social engagements. Keep up the great advice. BTW, I now make my own pizza dough thanks to Living on a Dime.

    • says

      Jim I get asked this question often. I have even written an big section in our e book Grocery Saving on a budget e course to cover this whole subject. I mention many tips and ideas on how singles can save.

      One thing I think you have already figured out what part of what you need to do and that is to cut back on the amounts. I make up 2 potatoes to mash instead of the 6 I use to cook. One for dinner that evening and the other I use for potato pancakes the next day.

      Most of the basic tips I use for families can be applied to singles – drink tap water instead of bottled water, save on buy drinks, don’t go to the grocery store hungry, make a menu or list for the store etc.

      Don’t buy in bulk or large items. For example let’s say a 30 oz jar of mayo is $3.00 and a 10 oz jar of mayo is $1.10. The better buy per oz. would be the 30 oz jar. But if I can only use 1/3 of the jar before it spoils I am throwing the other $2 I spent on the jar away. I would have better off to spend the extra $.10 on a small jar then to waste the $1.90 or $2.00 by buying the big jar. Hope that makes sense.

      There are many little tricks you can learn. For example I buy a loaf of bread, keep out 1/2 and the other 1/2 I put in the freezer. Then I have a 1/2 of loaf for sandwiches and the other half in the freezer I use to pull out a slice when I want toast, French toast or Texas toast.

  54. Brenda says

    I am as guilty as anyone with eating out and rather than quit cold turkey with eating out, we have made a set of rules to help us step-down from eating out so much. Rule #1: Absolutely no using charge cards/debit cards when we eat out; cash only. #2: We get an allowance of $20 for 2 weeks for quick mornings or quick lunches. And last but not least #3: We put a set amount of cash in a cookie jar once a month for eating out and when it is gone, it is gone. I find that my kids love to help me in the kitchen, especially since it is grilling season. We start the meat and/or veggies marinating before school & work and it helps to not have to decide what’s for supper after putting in a long day at the office. If the boys have sports practice after school, I keep a supply of turkey or ham, their favorite cheese, bread or wraps in my office fridge and make them sandwiches or wraps for snacks to eat on their way to practice. It sure helps to not have to hit the fast food restaurant or the gas station quick counter. Thanks for all of your great tips & reminders!

    • says

      Good ideas Brenda. I always try to tell people to take baby steps and don’t do anything cold turkey because in a lot of cases you are setting yourself up for failure so I love the ideas on how to start slowly.

  55. Bea says

    Jill, I hope the new books you are writing will be in real book form. I love real books. Ebooks are okay, but not the same. I reread and reread the books I have of yours that are real books in the evening while relaxing and I look forward to that many times. I love all your books. I have 4 of them and was reading the Penny Pinching Mama last night and I ended up making chocolate chip cookies and only used 1/4 of the amount of choc chips, like you mentioned in that book, and they came out great. Saves calories and choc chips for future baking. After all who made up the rule that a person has to use a whole bag of choc chips for one batch of cookies? The manufacturers get rich that way. HA HA

    • says

      Yes, Bea we are working on getting new covers and re-typesetting right now. We hope to be releasing a new print book once a month of our e-books toward the end of the summer…I hope. :-)

  56. karen says

    I have always loved to cook and have been cooking since I was about 8 years old, but when I went back to work full time, we slipped into going out not for dinner, but lunch every day. My family does not eat fast food but perhaps 3 times a year, so these lunch dates were upwards of $25 every day! I read your advie to stop eating out and stopped, cold turkey (no pun intended!) we now have taken the money that we would have spent on food and invested it in a gym where we go 3X a week and of course even though the gym is an expense, it is so much less than the daily cost of going out to eat and we are so much better off for it. I do not enjoy going out to eat dinner as I so love to cook, so that is not a problem, but what I have done to save even more at the table and spend more time with my family of 2 teens and husband is to get a clam/oyster/crabbing/mussel license and dig our dinner just about every weekend. We all have a wonderful time, we are eating fabulous fresh seafood and it is almost free considering that a license for the season is $17 and only my husband and I need one in order to get enough food for all of us. It is our new Easter tradition, now we “hunt” in the sand for clams instead of eggs and it is just as much fun and very tasty! Fishing is also an option, but we need a boat and with all of the money that we have saved from not going out to eat, we are planning on buying one in July, cash of course! Thanks for your advice and keep up the good work.

  57. rose says

    ya know what i just noticed ? .. in the movie “beethovan” (the first one) .. they do not eat out in that movie (not sure of the others) … the wife fixes the meals and when they have guests, she makes the vegi plate ..
    most of the movies that i have seen and can recall .. all of them have a restaurant scene in it ..
    also.. just wanted to share .. if anyone loves the mcd’s tea (iced tea) .. i have (thru lots of trial and error) .. the tea that comes to the closest in that taste .. its louisianne tea .. it is really good .. (tetley is 2nd) …
    i normally drink lipton and i love my tea … on mother’s day my daughter took me to this little fish house (very inexpensive and the food is delish!) .. and the iced tea they served tasted just like the iced tea from mcd’s (i tried to buy the tea bags but they wont sell them to anyone and its specially made for mcd’s) ..
    i asked our server and she said they made the iced tea with louisianne tea …
    i did manage to get some lipton cold brew for my hubby … and normally he is fine with anything i give him .. any kind of tea he will drink and not sure if had an upset tummy or if they use different types of tea blends so u can make the cold brew .. or it was bc of the leukemia he has and the meds .. or whatever ..
    but he didnt like it … and then when i gave him a pot of the louisianne the first thing he said was “did mcd’s finally let u buy their tea bags?” .. hehehee .. and his tummy doesnt seem to bother him with this blend .. normally he can only handle one pot of the others but with this one he is fine ..
    i take one tea bag and brew for the coffee pot (12 cup pot) and then tell him to water it down for each glass … so its like half tea and half water in the glass (he cant handle ice cubes,, why? not sure but his dr said it was a side effect of the leukemia.. not sure if this is really true but it is with hubby) ..
    just wanted to share 😀

  58. Izzi says

    Hi Tawra! Just a quick hello from Sydney Austalia. I love getting your newsletters into my inbox at work. They ‘keep me on track’ for the week ahead and keep me focused on my financial goals of getting out of debt! You are a blessing to us here in Oz!
    Bless you so much
    Sydney Australia

    • says

      Thanks Izzi. As I have said before we love hearing from our readers who are outside of the US. I have read so many “bookies” that have their setting in Australia that I feel like I live there so love hearing from you guys. Have a super day – night???? there. :) :)

  59. CELINA says

    hi from canada

    and very pertinent i think for me at this time..

    likely some of the best advice i’ve heard in these economic times….we nickel and dime ourselves into debt…and usually its a mcDEBT!

    • says

      Hi Celina. I love your phrase “mcDEBT”. May have to use it in the future if you don’t mind and boy if that isn’t a true statement.

  60. Michele Toney says

    Thank you for these great reminders! They help me out of the cooking slumps I get into sometimes. Your simple suggestions definately make daily cooking easier. I especially appreciate your personal experiences, and never do you sound sanctimonious! Love your spot!

  61. Lisa says

    I AGREE!!!! Last week I didn’t get around to fixing my own lunch for work which I usually do on the weeknights. Most times I just put leftovers in a plastic container in which I heat up in the microwave at work the next day. Well this particular night we didn’t have any leftovers and we didn’t have bread or even sandwich materials. Instead of being inventive I could have easily put together a quick soup or even pancakes or oatmeal for lunch but I didn’t. Instead I went to the grocery store next to my job for lunch and spent $9.00 on a pre-made sandwich and a soda!!! $9.00!!!! For that SAME price I could have gotten a couple of packs of luncheon meat and several bottles of soda not to mention a couple of whole loaves of bread! AH live and learn!!! Next time I will bring the oatmeal to work!!!!!

  62. Amanda says

    I just found your website and I dont sugar coat anything either. I just wanted to say this post really opend my eyes to ALOT of things I could and should be doing differently. Thanks!!!

  63. Teri says

    My sweet man is such a great cook that we rarely go out to eat. the hard part is slowing us down so that the leftovers are eaten before the next feast… He sometimes has a vision of a new meal before we have cleared the last out of the fridge…. Tonight, we ate mostly leftovers and when we were done, he sadly said that he would do the dishes in the morning. However, I got the dishes done in about 7 minutes, and tomorrow the counters will beckon for another great meal.
    I have found that we cannot purchase a meal at a restaurant that comes close to what we can do at home, and the quality at home is under my control – fresh, local, no additives, seasonal…. with the $ savings, we can easily have friends over 2-3 times a week and still be ahead. Besides, if you have your own garden, in the summer the Veggie production is so wild that if you don’t eat home daily you will be buried in veggies! When I have taken the 4 of us (two kids ages 10 and 12 and two adults) out for dinner we are lucky to pay less than $50. $50!!!! for food that has about $10 or less in grocery costs. Honestly, there is no justification, and adding 12% tax and 20% tip on top of that, it means that I worked for a whole day to pay for one meal. no thank you, ma’am!

  64. Jackie says

    I just found your website (and I love it)! Do you have any suggestions on saving money while doing your own cooking? We very rarely eat out, but my food expenses are almost equal to our mortgage (I have 6 children, including 4 teens). Thank you for all your do.

    • says

      Jackie just keep checking out the web site. We have 100’s of articles of every kind of different tips and ideas for almost any family or situation. Things like cutting your bill in half before you even go to the store by watching your portion control and controlling the food you waste and I don’t mean just leftovers either. Things like giving a child a sandwich and then they only eat 1/2 and the rest gets thrown out. About 50% of the average family’s food it tossed out. We have articles about saving juice, pop etc. for treats instead of using in place of water to quench everyone’s thirst.

      Like I said that is just one of 100’s. We also have a Grocery Shopping on a Budget e course which is packed full. I like it the best of all the books for having tons of info and different info on saving when buying groceries. It and like with most of our books we find most people get back the money they paid for it by using even one or two tips from it.
      But like I said just keep looking at the different articles.

  65. Anne says

    A quick tip for those days when ball practice is eating up all your time. Heat canned chili and put it into indidual packs of fritos, throw some grated cheese on top and give the kids a spoon. Quick easy and no cleanup, just throw the bag away. Also good with doritos and leftover taco meat!

  66. says

    Wow, that was a long post today…but really, really GOOD and very necessary :) :) My dad and I used to eat a lot of processed food, and eat out, too. Although for us, what got us to stop doing that was our health. We went from eating out at fast food 2 times a week, to making all meals at home…and we’ve saved a lot of money and we’ve lost weight 😉 :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California,Heather :) :) :)

  67. Amy Z. says

    Our food bill has drastically increased simply because we had to go gluten free. (One of our children has been diagnosed with celiac disease and I have since been diagnosed as highly gluten intolerant). Eating out is not usually an option. I try to purchase some gluten free products via Amazon’s subscribe and ship program which discounts some items. I also try to use a co-op nearby (my membership allows for a 5% discount). However, it’s still incredibly stressful on the budget.

    • CJ Squared says

      We have 4/5 people in our house that’s gluten-free for the same reasons, including my daughter with Autism who also is dairy and soy intolerant.

      The biggest thing for keeping/controlling costs for gluten-free is changing how you eat. Gluten-free bread is expensive. So stop eating bread, or at least drastically reduce it. Eat more fruit, veggies, rice, different GF grains, meats, eggs, etc. We still do some breads, cakes, etc, but they are treats not staples.

      Also, know which popular brands are generally gluten-free and will label allergens. Kraft in Canada will ALWAYS label gluten and gluten cross-contamination. I can buy their stuff fairly confidently. I spent a fortune on gluten-free worchestershire sauce (an indulgence), until I discovered that a US version of a popular brand is gluten free (the Canadian version isn’t). I hit up people I know that are traveling to the US to bring me back a bottle or two. My local grocery store will happily provide a list of gluten-free in-house products like sausage on demand, or wil make to order for no extra charge. You just have to ask.

      We buy organic meat and eggs directly from the farm, get a garden share in the summer plus our our garden, can and dry our food when we can. We are also gluten-free. We spend less money than most families in our area on food.

  68. Melinda T says

    Yikes! This post couldn’t have come at a better time! We’re trying to save and eating out is killing us. It doesn’t seem too bad…but for a month I held on to the receipts and boy, did it add up! We’re still not where we want to be, but its better than before!

  69. Maggie says

    Last Friday night I worked late and was so tired when I left the office, I considered just picking up burgers at a fast food restaurant but we just don’t like them that much. So, went home and said, dinner is scrambled eggs, bacon and toast with apple slices. Hubby likes this meal and it cost me nothing more since all the ingredients were at home. It only took about 15 min to make (microwaved the bacon while the eggs were cooking) and only a few minutes to clean up after dinner. I loved this post but really, it’s a matter of talking oneself into driving past the fast food places and making the effort when you get home.
    I, too, only take out enough cash on paydays for my Farmers’ Market stop on Saturdays, gas for the car and a little money for me. For 2 weeks, I spend about $15 and sometimes this is used to pick up an extra carton of milk or a loaf of bread on the way home from work. I bring my lunch and breakfast every day to work and like that I can buy a whole package of English muffins for the price of one muffin at our deli here in the building. I think only having cash to spend works well for me. Not tempted to spend more than I can afford.

  70. Maggie says

    One more note. The $15 I mentioned in my last post is only my personal cash. Gas costs me about $50 for two weeks and the Farmers’ Market is about $30-$40 for 2 Saturdays. This reduces the cost of the items I buy at the grocery store and I like purchasing local items and keeping our local farms still going. Sometimes their costs are a little more but you cannot deny the freshness.

  71. Cindy says

    Agree wholeheartedly with everything in your great article! I’ve always figured you either spend time or you spend money, and if you haven’t got the money, or don’t want to waste it, then you spend the time (doing whatever.)
    My husband works 55 hrs. a week (physical work at age 59) and even though we could afford it, he takes his lunch every day except Friday. For many years, he has even had the exact same lunch every day! We go out for a meal on the weekend, but almost always leave feeling that it wasn’t worth the money. Nice to have an outing, though. When I was a kid it was a real treat to eat in a restaurant since it was so rare. I remember asking my mom if we could eat at McDonald’s and she would (almost always) say we’d eat at 718 Hickory Street (our home.) My siblings and I still joke about how our road trip meals were a loaf of bread and pkg. of baloney along the way. We weren’t thrilled but once you eat and aren’t hungry, who cares?

  72. Erika says

    To Amy Z, there is an incredible book available called
    ” Gluten-Free On A Shoestring” by Nicole Hunn that covers making gluten free products at home.The recipes are straightforward and simple. The book is from 2011 so it is current. Ordered it from the library first to try it out and it is so worth it. Except for a couple of ingredient they use everyday stuff.Baked goods,pasta,desserts,mains etc. Lots of good ideas to bring gluten free products back into line with a normal budget! Good luck with it.

  73. Paula says

    My family only goes out to eat once a year. That is all we can afford. It makes it a special event. I think once people make a certain meal a few times, it will get easier and easier. I try to have something a little more special on Fridays (I call them Friday Fun Meals) like pizza, tacos, fahitas, etc. My family loves it and we don’t miss going to restaurants at all. Not being in debt is much more fun than going out to eat!!!

    • Food Psychology 101 says

      I’d rather go two whole calendar years without eating out than eat out only once a year: if you eat out once a year but your one restaurant meal of the year is on a day when a lot of people are going out to eat, it makes it a LOT less special. Besides, no list of arguments against eating out would be complete without Grover (guess who!).

  74. Deborah W. says

    I have had to be frugal for quite some time and know how to stretch the old dollar that is having a hard time because everything has gone up that is the standard expenses like electricity and then should I say the 8.25% tax on everything too and then how about $4.00 per gallon gas for my car! Oh boy! My dollar has really had a hard time stretching these days like it used to even a year ago. So when I read about stopping going out to eat (which we do once a month anyway) I thought of the reasons that I do go. Here they are: 1.Someone else is cooking than me 2.I have to eat anyway so I guess I could say food is something not so evil as buying a product in the store would be. 3.They can cook what I am craving better than my Husband on the BBQ can. And the one that really is not mentioned above in your comments is 4.It is the only thing that I can do on my budget that fits into a “mini-vacation” type feel since I cant afford to have one a vacation. So budget wise, of course we can’t afford it – with the prices going up I will be lucky to afford dog food here shortly – but my gosh I sure enjoy having someone else serve me and pamper me to fill my mental sanity cup, even if it costs me in the long run financially. So thank you for letting me process the reason that I will still probably eat out once a month and continue to drink water and not order a desert because the benefits out weigh for me at the moment.

  75. Pat says

    I just wanted to say most of our meals are made at home and it has saved us a huge amount. One thing I do with a friend. When we go to town to do a grocery shopping, pay bills, doctors visits, eye spcalist and any thing else that we can fit in that day, often one of us will have fasting blood sugars to be taken and we will be ready to eat when done. We have a 34 kilometer round trip so plan our trips to town.
    We go to a nice resturant, order their soup and sandwich special and an extra cup of soup and a plate. we split the sandwich and each have a cup of soup. We take our time and enjoy our coffee and lunch out.
    We don’t do this every time we go to town, but when we do it is a real treat. Other times we get our groceries, and find a nice picnic spot. Make a sandwich from what we just bought, and a piece of fruit. Most of the time we just go to town and home, but these other times are the ones we remember and enjoy. Then we come home and cook for the other half’s. But it’s like we had a mini vacation.

  76. Christy says

    Oh my! Were you preaching to me or what? You have taken away every excuse. Now it is up to me to quit using them!

  77. says

    Wowww… Thanks for the kick in the pants! I needed it today, I just got home from picking up take-out food and it was cold.. so a lot of it did not even get eaten at all, just moved around a little, and dumped in the trash!!Sometimes we need a little tough love from Jill!!

  78. Deborah W. says

    I love mini-vacations (or make believe ones) – it is when you make something extra out of something that you would just “do.” They have saved my sanity many a time when I was so strapped that I could just feel my wallet and know how many coins were in there, LOL. During those times I would cook a meal and put a blanket on the floor and we would have a picnic. Let the imagination roll!!

  79. Maggie says

    Pat, really love the picnic idea. Shop first, then picnic and visit with your friend. I know that after blood work, especially after fasting for 12 or more hours, you really need to eat something soon. So the picnic idea is great. We used to take our kids to the park after school (when I was off or on a 1/2 day break) and meet my husband there when he got home from work – PB & J sandwiches, apples, and cookies with juice or iced tea. Everytime I think of that, it brings back happy memories. Nothing fancy, just good food and fun. And no cold fastfood that no one would eat.

  80. Deb Vaughn says

    We don’t eat out alot, but a few weeks ago we were an hour from home and in a hurry to get to an event and stopped at a local steakhouse. An hour later we were handed a $75 bill for only 3 people. I about passed out. I could have purchased an entire week’s groceries for $75!!! That was the kick in the butt I needed.

    Since then I have dug out my pressure canner and am preparing all kinds of canned meats that can be ready to go in minutes. My husband loves them because he travels a lot and it is nice to pop a jar of homemade something vs a trip to McD’s. I’m excited about the collection growing in my cabinet. I make a double meal, we eat part of it and I can the other half (you could freeze as well).

    We’ve got to take control of our lives and our health!!!

  81. says

    This has been a painful reality for my household. We eat out a lot, and I am a stay at home mom! But it was easy to make excuses or just say I “wanted to get out of the house” and not have to cook.

    Thank you for the tough love attitude!! We all need a good dose of it from time to time, and this was definitely my time!

  82. Deb Vaughn says

    Hey Amie! Us stay at home mom’s get tired too! It is easy to fall into fast food. That is why I’m trying to use my crockpot more and freeze or can (as I mentioned in my other post) more meals. It’s just as easy to make a double or triple batch of something and have it in the freezer ready to go. Less cleanup that way too! A couple times a month I crank up the stereo and cook all day long, fixing multiple meals. It’s kind of fun when you get to rolling with it. If you do that along with several nghts a week of fixing double meals of things that freeze well, soon you’ll have a grocery store to choos from in your freezer. Let’s here it for all us wives and mothers and women in general!!!!

  83. says

    You are a doll! You hit the nail right on the head with this one!! I am going to print it and give it to my grandchildren. Thanks SO much for the great advice. Seems as if you are usually speaking directly to me. I wonder if others feel the same.

  84. Gayla T says

    I care for some of my grandchildren while their parents work. My daughter was forever stopping and buying breakfast for herself and the three kids because she wanted it and didn’t feel right not buying for them too. It had become such a habit and no matter how many times I told her that I could feed them cheaper it continued until I began saving what they didn’t eat and sending it home with them at night. I wrapped it back up and kept it in the fridge so it was edible. Once she saw with her own eyes how much they were wasting it stopped. I sent it urging her to reheat it for the next morning but she soon saw I was not exagerating. A breakfast sandwich with 2 bites out of it or a burrito with one bite off an end really was a huge waste when they were so much happier with a bowl of cereal or me making a burrito and serving each youngster a half. We used to make an outing out of stopping for a happy meal and going to the park to play. I soon figured out that they were so excited to play they were wasting the meal. Now I make their fav p butter and j sandwiches that don’t have to be eaten hot to be edible. They play a few minutes and then are starving for their sandwiches from home. I have these kids twelve hours four days a week so I am feeding them the same meals most of you are. Fast food is the biggest waste and the least food value of any way of eating for kids and adults. I have found myself enjoying the outing but not the food so many times lately that my girl friends and I are planning dessert out. We eat at home and then meet for a great dessert and coffee or tea. We enjoy one another’s company and spend five bucks instead of twenty. Living on our retirement income has made us way more aware of what we are spending eating out. Another thing I have done is join a grocery co-op. These are going all over the country but the one I joined here in Kansas is available all over the midwest and I know they are available other places. The one I belong to is called Prairie Land Food and you can check their website to see what I am talking about at and it’s a wonderful way to shop. It is not anything that is dependant on income. That is never asked for and of course never given. I have yet to receive anything that I don’t feel is top quality. All I can say is try it once and see if you are not amazed at the amount of food you can get for much less than the grocery store. I buy one of everything but two of the fresh produce. Some items you cook from scratch but there are always some things like pizza that are name brand at a greatly reduced price. All the ordering is done online which is super easy and pick up is so organized it takes me less than 5 minuetes. The food differs each month so if it is something I know we like but may not be on next months menu I buy more for the freezer. I encourage you to check it out. It’s a win win deal as far as I have been able to see. This month we even got a loaf of Sarah Lee bread that was a surprise add on. We have a new cmmercial bakery company in town that makes name brands so I’m thinking it came from there but no one seemed to know. Mana from heaven, one man said. LOL

  85. Michael says

    THIS should be FRONT PAGE news! forget what Lady Gaga is doing, or whatever hollywood or otherwise celebrity disaster is happening! THIS is what matters! I had the feeling that we were going out to often, and tonight it hit me after spending $28 for the 2 of us (kids asleep) for takeout!, I thought it was time to add ONLY our monthly eating out expenses – I was shocked! $875! for one month. I quickly ran to my wife to share with her, and she agreed – NO More eating out!! The timing of this article was impeccable!! Thank you. I can’t wait to start saving this money – which we desperately need.. Funny how something as simple as a tax return, can make you live under the delision that you are suddenly rich. I see that now. Lesson learned! Hopefully, this will help others! God Bless!

    • says

      I love it Michael when our readers have these ah ha moments. I think you will be very surprised at what happens in your life now because after you start putting this one thing of not going out to eat into practice and see what a difference it makes you will start noticing so many other areas where you may be spending too much too and want to change things there.

      One thing I have talked about before is so many people aren’t sitting down with pen and paper and really honestly looking at where they are spending their money and don’t realize the total amount they are spending. For example many go to the store, check out with their credit card and walk to the car without even looking at or noticing what they have just spent. If I use cash and I have to dig $250 dollars out of my wallet to pay it can make me pause and think about “What did I just buy?” more so then signing my name when pay with a credit card. I’m just saying look around your world and pick out different things to see how much you are paying a month for these “little” pleasures and things.

  86. Karin says

    Since nixing the eating out due to the tight budget, I think it has been hardest on my daughter. Convenience to-go food is basically how we lived for so long since we were rushing here and there. Now when we leave to run errands or go into the city, I pack an insulated bag with treats and we take sport bottles or insulated cups with drinks so we do not have to stop at a quick trip. Although, you know its summer when their 32 oz drinks are $.69. Keep sending suggestions!! I can not decide if I love the suggestions more than I like saving money 😀

  87. Ruth Hill says

    my problem is trying to cook for a diabetic who has high blood pressure. He cannot eat processed meats (loves hotdogs!) or starches, sweets, etc.

    • Cindy says

      Ruth – There are many low carb recipes online. I have recently begun making low carb bread using almond meal instead of flour. It’s not exactly the same as “bread” but under the circumstances, I’m thrilled to have something that doesn’t affect my blood sugar.

  88. Kim M says

    I feel like you were talking right at me! I’ve picked up a second job recently, so on the nights when I only have about 25 minutes between getting home from job 1 and leaving for job 2, its so much easier to just grab something to eat fast and get moving. Of course, that also defeats the purpose of the 2nd job, since we’re essentially spending that check on eating out.
    We’re also incredibly guilty of doing late-day shopping then by the time we get home we’re too tired to make anything, so we’ll stop for Chinese and easily drop an additional $35-45!! I just wish our at-home chinese tasted as good as the restaurants. :-)

    • Faracchi says

      It’s easy to make it taste like that :) It’s all about the ingredients you pick. Some Asian specialty stores sell the stuff that the restaurants use. You should check some of them out and look up the ingredients to see how they are used. Some of my family originates from Korea, and so I had a bit of background knowledge on some things, but I also had to learn a lot. Now my stuff taste pretty much like my favorite Asian Restaurants!

  89. DeeEdrah says

    I have four grown children who remember me bringing an insulated pyrex pan full of hot dogs and buns to the little league games. It was fun for them and we could afford that so we did it. Glad to read I am not the only one who has resorted to this!

  90. maggie says

    i cook 2 meals a day 7 days a week… that is ton of money saved … but since i live in greece i’m in big dept right now…

  91. Jan C says

    ahhh back to the good old days for me. Eating out didn’t happen, there wasn’t any “fast” food on every corner, and restaurants were for very special occasions. All sat down at night for supper around a table and ate ONE meal, the same food for everyone. You liked it because that was all you got. If you didn’t eat it, you were hungry. I think a lot of families don’t want to cook a meal at night, because they can’t/won’t just cook one meal. You have to have steak for Dad, chicken for Junior, salad for Mom, just veggies for Sis. If I had to make 6 meals each and every night (there were 6 of us), I wouldn’t want to cook either. They need to get back to one meal eat it and like it. and it starts when they are babies.

  92. Faracchi says

    Excellent article. My husband and I are very very poor right now. We’re a young couple, but truly and honestly we had to do something. We were eating out so much it figured up to more than 300 dollars a month spent on fast food! How sad is that? Also, our daughter was also eating that junk. Not only is it really bad for you, but it was at least 20 dollars a visit to any fast food restaurant for us all to eat.

    We are on assistance while we get our finances in order and find ways to bring in more income and as we trim extra fat, but we use our assistance to get meals that make sense. None of that junk that has a ton of craziness in it. Eating at home with store bought ingredients is better for you than fast food, but even there you will find sneaky food that break the bank and cause just as much weight gain. We don’t eat out anymore, period, and it is estimated that once our income stabilizes and we buy our own food again, we will spend less than 300 a month on food for our family. Thank you for the article!

  93. laura says

    I usually end up going out to eat when I just have to get out of the house and interact with another human being. I don’t have a car, and fast food is one of the only places within walking distance that I can go. I don’t have anyone nearby that I know, and sometimes I just feel so isolated that I almost don’t care about spending money. At this point, the counter lady knows my name, and I just want to cry when I think about giving that up.

    • says

      Laura, You don’t have to completely give that up, if you need to see people, you can order a water, or a small drink (many places allow free refills while you are there, and possibly a small item to munch on rather than a full meal. You will save by eating at home, but can periodically make trips out for your Sanity.

  94. Alice says

    Oh, I loved this article. At times you got somewhat aggressive and that is what it takes to get some people to open their eyes and off their behinds. My hubby and I are workaholics and we came from the “old” school; if you don’t work, you don’t eat. For a while we had gotten into the habit of eating out because of convenience. This year I put a stop to it. The last time we ate out was December 31, 2013. We don’t have to many debts but I am determine to be debt free this year. I will put the money we spent eating out on bills. I’m turning into an extreme cheapskate. LOL

  95. Dee says

    My husband and I have fought about going out to eat for years. I would tell him “We spent over $300 this month on junk food eating out” and it fell on deaf ears-he likes the atmosphere and the food so he blamed the debt on my buying healthy food that only I like-I am not the greatest cook but I’m not terrible either. He is addicted to greasy, fried food, and it’s frustrating because I want to eat healthy, there are a lot of heart issues and diabetes in my family. He would take the kids to McD’s before school, then he’d eat lunch out, then he’d come home and half the time we’d go out to eat at a place like Applebee’s or Olive Garden. Finally, he broke when (after we filed bankruptcy and had to live on ONLY what we had-no credit) he got upset at how we never had money at the end of the week (I let 3 checks bounce one week and it was $90 in fees-tough love, but it was the only way my point was going to get across). This was my chance. I went 4 months back, made a budget and printed out where every dime had gone. Our problem was eating out, and that is the ONLY problem. We do not spend money foolishly in any other way. Two of the 4 months, we spent nearly $800 eating out. The other 2 months were $400 and $500. He could no longer deny that eating out was a HUGE cause of our debt. It’s been one week and we have spent about $40 on fast food/gas station food/etc. I am still not happy with that, but I do know it would be terribly difficult for us to go cold turkey, so I will just be happy that it’s not $200! We will eventually get to where we only buy the occasional soda or snack, and the VERY occasional meal instead of making our lives revolve around eating out.

  96. Janice Whitaker says

    Your email that came this morning on eating out was spot on. My husband and I have been out of debt since we got married 23 years ago. If we can’t pay cash, we don’t buy it. It is that simple. I may not like it at times, but now that we are retired, I’m very thankful for this. I signed up for your tips because as retirees I need all the tips I can get for living on less. I love it and a HUGE thank you for this.

  97. Mary Jane says

    As always, excellent article and excellent comments. As for the biblical story of the man at the pool, the really important point made is that Jesus asked the man “Do you want to be healed?” Ah, yes. How badly do we want something? My own experience as a young Mom was that I most wanted to eat out when I was exhausted and or needed a mini-vacation. Long story short, we very seldom ate out, as finances were tight, but the need for a mini vacation was real. Consider having a rule that says someone else cleans up, other than the person who cooks. For some households this may be impossible, or unlikely, so consider using paper plates, etc. for days when the physical and emotional exhaustion is real. Some people are in a trance-like state eating out because what they really are, is lonely, not hungry. As this site points out, the remedy is a little pre-planning. If you usually eat out on the weekend, plan a little get together with friends or family at your house with just coffee, and muffins., or make up a pot of coffee and said muffins, and go and visit them! I still know what exhaustion is in our current lifestyle. During late summer and early fall, there is a big push on for 3 to 4 weeks, to get in the firewood for the winter months. (No firewood, no heat for our long northern Canadian winters). I usually make up a snack of a thermos of coffee and a sandwich to go in the truck, along with a cold drink. I plan the day before, and have a meal in the crock pot for supper. My husband gets home around 4 p.m., and we immediately load up the truck and the saws, trailer, etc., and head some distance up our local logging road to cut and load the day’s firewood. By 7 p.m., we are headed down with the firewood, and a boatload of fatigue. We throw off the firewood into the yard,(it will be stacked by myself the next day, while hubby is at work) and walk in dusty, dirty and hungry to a kitchen where dinner is ready. We repeat this cycle, until we have our annual 8 to 10 cord of wood for the year. There are two of us, and those meals on the logging road, are the most delicious and memorable. My point is, your circumstances are particular to every family, but a little planning, and experimenting goes a long way. It does take me more than a half hour per night to make a meal, but I often am able to make two meal’s worth and freeze the second one, to use for a night, when no one feels like cooking.

  98. Rachel says

    Fantastic article! My family very rarely eats out, although I would LOVE for my eldest son to read this. BUT I’ve told it to him before and he’s in the position where he can afford it (to a point… give it time though!) so he continues to eat out when he wants to. I always offer to save dinner for him and lately he’s been accepting the offer, so hopefully he will get out of his fast food habit before it’s too late!

  99. Sara S. says

    Love your website and the great advice! We live about 45min. from town. I keep water bottles, juice boxes, crackers, and a few snacks in my car for those times when I don’t pack lunches. I usually pack lunches, but sometimes we get caught off guard.
    I just wanted to add a tip. In a pinch, instead of hitting the drive-thru, we run into the grocery store and grab lunchmeat at the deli, string cheese, bag of chips, and a six-pack of soda for about $12. Everybody gets full and there are usually leftovers for another lunch.

    • says

      Great tip Sara. We would do this on trips. Instead of pulling into a fast foods place we usually could find a place to buy a loaf of bread, package of bologna and a bag of chips and that was lunch or supper. For an added treat we stop at a gas station, put our money in a pop machine and get to pull a pop out of those old huge pop chests where the pop would dangle in ice water. After driving all day in Aug. with no air conditioner feeling that cold icy water on your hand was heaven. Ok so I am dating myself but it is still a sweet memory and to this day I think of it every time I have a bologna sandwich.

  100. Mary in Texas says

    When my daughter and son-in-law were dating, he lived in a town 30 miles away. One day he had a very early meeting in her town so spent the night in her guest room. The next morning when she packed her lunch she also packed one for him. She said he gave her a “funny look” when she handed it to him, but he thanked her and took it. He later told her that he had always eaten out when at that kind of meeting and was afraid he would be embarrassed it he had a “homemade” lunch. However, he discovered that about half of the men and women at the meeting had also brought lunches from home. He found a new group to eat with and saved money. Afterward he began making lunches for himself (until they married and they made their lunches together). He was shocked to see how much money he saved in just the first month.

  101. Lisa says

    i like this article, but do you know how to save money on ‘whole foods’? i have to eat certain foods – whole foods, low sodium, heart healthy, etc. – no processed foods due to a medical problem. processed foods cause medical problems, even though they are cheaper.

    • says

      Number one tip is don’t use eating whole or special foods as an excuse not to save. Food is food and even though some of it is higher priced all the principles we talk about on the site still apply – watch for clearance (they have clearances at whole food stores too), watch your portion sizes (so often people think if they are eating organic foods or are vegetarians they can eat all they want and there are no calories – so untrue), use your leftovers and don’t let your food spoil or go to waste, don’t eat out as much, serve more of cheaper filling foods and less of the expensive food – even if it is whole food. Plus a carrot is a carrot even though many would have you believe differently so your carrot costs the same as mine. The same goes for bananas, turnips, oranges, pineapple, strawberries all of these are not processed foods which means a good portion of your diet is just regular food.

      As you can see the principles are the same. Plus like anyone else with medical needs you may then have to save in other areas more and do without.

  102. IamSam says

    Thanks for the suggestions. I still don’t yet find it feasible to do at this time. I’m trying to figure out how to eat right and at home.

    But truth is I don’t have time to prepare meals the day before. I work fulltime, come home, clean, take the dog out for his walk, then it takes me 10 to 15 minutes to get food and eat, then I go to work again on my other job and when I’m done for the day I’m done.

    I don’t have the time on the weekend to prepare meals either. That is usually set aside for chores, volunteer work and some recreation. Somewhere in the schedule even if I did pre-cook I’d hit a snag in the week, have to get something to eat at the resteraunt, and now the food I did prepare is getting older and will be thrown out. I just don’t have 6 hours in the week to make food.

    For example I’ll give you an example of a quick meal I make. I go out have to go to the store to get Tilapia and some vegetables. Very simple. (20 min) Total cost with vegetables. Tilapia $5 Asparagus 4 Carrots 2 = $11 dollars for that meal. That is the simplest meal I can think of making that is healthy. Then I go home and prepare it. (20 minutes) I do clean as I go however I do want to serve it hot so remove from pan and put on plate. Even though I cleaned as I went I still have pan to clean and the dishes we ate off of. (5-10 minutes)

    Minimum time = 20(store)+20(cook)+10(clean)= 50 Minutes
    Cost = $11

    or I could swing by the Chicken place

    Cost= $9
    Time to swing by on way to work= 10 minutes

    I’m just not seeing the savings here. Please help because I do want to save really bad but so many of these calculations and making it easier seem to forget a few added things here and there.

    There are 2 of us.

    • says

      I know for some of us there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day but if you are really are serious about getting out of debt and saving it is totally doable. I worked 70 hours a week 6 days a week with 2 kids, dog, cat and I had to do all my yard work, house cleaning and maintenance etc. Not only that but I didn’t just get up in the morning and turn my thermostat on to heat my house but had to build a fire, clean ashes out of the fireplace and other extra jobs like that that most people don’t do. I say this not for any one to feel sorry for me or even to think I was super woman – I wasn’t. It was hard- but to show that I know what it is like to have to work long hours and to be super busy. Even with all of that I still managed to fix 3 meals a day for us.

      Part of the reason you aren’t seeing the savings is you are comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing going out and buying caviar and imported mushrooms to cook at home and saying it cost me way more to fix this meal at home then it did to go to McDonald’s. You need to compare like with like.

      For example if I fixed a chicken meal at home it would cost me $.75 for the chicken (in place of tilapia),$.75 for broccoli (in place of asparagus),$.30 for already cleaned carrots (even less if I buy uncleaned carrots). The total cost of the meal is $1.80 using like items that you used. $1.80 compared to $9 at chicken place is $7.20 savings and over $2500 savings a year.That is savings for one meal for 5 meals a week it would be a savings of $12,500. There are many meals I could make using this same method that would get you the same savings like tacos, ham slice w/ sweet potato and green beans, macaroni casserole, tuna sandwiches with sliced tomatoes and green peppers. There are 4 meals off of the top of my head.

      As far as time goes let me walk you through how I would do it with your schedule.I would walk in the door from work, turn on oven, take out pan (non stick or cover one in foil – for 2 you only need a small pan), slap the chicken in it and put in oven – 1-2 mins.. Go change clothes, do your chores, walk the dog. Come back set the table – with paper plates -1 min. Get out carrots and put on a plate, rinse broccoli and place in dish and microwave 1-2 mins. You have now spent about 5 mins. into the meal by this time the chicken should be almost done. Add 5 mins for washing the chicken pan (which won’t be much if you use foil or a non stick pan), your broccoli dish, silverware or you could use plastic like you get at the chicken place and you only have 10 mins. into the meal.

      As far as time on the weekend you may have to rearrange your priorities and cut out some of the volunteer work and recreation. We have to be careful because we want to save and get out of debt but we don’t always want to sacrifice, give up things or make ourselves uncomfortable to do it and it doesn’t work that way. In the same way you have made up your mind to work hard at a job to earn money and faithfully do it every day you need to make up your mind to work hard too at saving money. They both accomplish the same thing and both have to be done with work. You wouldn’t dream of getting up in the morning and say “Oh it is going to take me too much time to get ready for work today so I don’t think I will go.” Of course not. But yet you are saying the same type of thing each day when you say “Oh I don’t have time to fix a meal today.” The main difference is that the consequences for the first is short term and you will lose your job right away. The consequences for the second is slower and more long term because it takes time for the debt to sometimes build up but both put you in a pickle.

      One thing too so you won’t feel overwhelmed start slow.Like other things most can’t go from eating out 7 days a week to fixing a 5 course meal at home everyday. Fix just 2 meals a week at home and use convenience foods and paper plates if you need too. Pick out 4 easy meals and repeat them over and over until you get comfortable with them. You won’t get tired of them because at 2 a week you will only be repeating them every 2 weeks. Then maybe try having 3 meals at home and start using plates. Again do until you are comfortable.

      As far as things spoiling, I can keep carrots, apples, oranges for a long time (like a month) in my fridge. Until you get use to things serve tuna on a lettuce leaf instead of fresh fish. You can keep it on your shelf for a long time. Don’t get too hung up on the “eating healthy” thing. Yes we need to eat healthy but if they say fish is good for you that doesn’t mean you should eat it 7 days a week or that the only good vegetable out there is asparagus. Canned green beans are still really good for you. It is like we are ODing on health foods and we are going to have a bunch of people dying from hypertension because they were stressing so about their food but I digress and that is another whole subject. Sorry.

      Anyway take it slow. One step at a time. You may not arrive immediately but you are at least headed in the right direction that way.

  103. says

    I really love this web that share me the best advice about “Stop Eating Your Way Into Debt” and i would gladly to follow this advice. Thanks 1

  104. Julie says

    good read!!!! I’m so guilty of being out running errands and exhausted and feel entitled to a meal being cooked for me….sometimes I talk myself out of it by thinking of the cost of getting sick because it is likely that SOMEONE who encountered my food came to work even though they didn’t feel well because they don’t get sick days and they have kids to feed…..or just need play money because they are teenagers 😉

  105. Charlotte says

    My problem is that I’m 68 & have back, hip & leg problems, plus Fibromyalgia. My husband does the grocery shopping & can help me a little in the kitchen. We eat take-out far too much. Exhaustion is a big problem too. Any words of wisdom?

    • says

      Relax and don’t worry about it. There was a point in our lives when I didn’t even have the strength to get the milk out and fix a bowl of cereal. At that time there was a pizza place that delivered and if they didn’t get it there in a certain amount of time it was free. We at delivered pizza for about 3 weeks in a row because it kept being free. I went for years not wanting to even look at a piece of pizza. I felt so guilty but the thing was that was making me feel worse. God finally reminded me that I didn’t make myself sick and there was nothing I could do to live a normal life at that time so just do the best I could with what I had. At that moment it was free delivered pizza. We survived and I am eating pizza again. : )

      Now if you are worried about eating out being too expensive you may have too do it some at this time.Some things to help with that though is to order the least expensive items that you can when you do eat out. That is what I call a different mind set. Most people who eat out not only eat out often but even worse they look at the menu and order everything they want even if it is the most expensive stuff on the menu. You don’t have to buy huge meals from fast foods either. Buy just a chicken sandwich only. Instead of fries have a piece of fruit from home. Drink water from home. If a cheese burger is more expensive it isn’t hard to order a regular burger and then add a slice of cheese when you get it home.
      You maybe can’t fix big meals right now or for quite awhile but keep it simple by eating a bowl of cereal for supper with a glass of juice or fruit and some toast.
      Also it is cheaper too to keep a stock pile of frozen things (that you bought at the store and not made yourself) then going out to eat. Thinks like frozen veggies, potatoes etc. Use disposable pans and paper plates. All of this is still cheaper then going out to eat.
      Keep it simple. You don’t need to cook a full meal. Canned soup and crackers with some baby carrots and sliced cheese or peanut butter for your crackers.
      Don’t let “them” scare you. That is the people who holler if you don’t eat everything made from scratch and grown in your own garden you will die. It reminds me of a funny thing I saw the other day that said “Has there ever really been a recorded and positive case of someone dying from salmonella from eating cookie dough.” My mind set is go ahead and eat the cookies dough. If I don’t chances are better I will die early from a heart attack from worrying so much about these things. They have never usually had a horrible long term illness where some days you are lucky to get out of bed and go to the bathroom.

  106. Magdalen says

    This was really interesting and Jill’s responses so kind and patient, gently explaining how changes can be made almost painlessly.
    It also caused me to do a few sums. To my horror, I didn’t realise how much we were spending/ wasting. Thank you all.

    • says

      Thank you Magdlen. It is a shocker when you first find that out isn’t it. I am so glad you took the time to do that. There are so many ways in little things we tend to spend without even realizing what we are doing That is why I always say put pen to paper and really look at things. I am so surprised at how many people guess at what they are spending on things with out even realizing it. I have even caught myself doing it.

  107. Trouble OHara says

    I love you money and food saving tips! I bought your Dining on a Dime and am halfway through reading it. I am so excited to start implementing these suggestions in our household! It is just the hubby and me, the kids are all grown and out of the house. I am thinking of getting a copy of the book for the kids for the next holiday!

    Thank you!

  108. Mary Jane says

    All food is hard to come by. In wealthier developed countries, we are often insulated by the true cost of real food, through marketing systems, and over production. In most of the world, basic foods cost 50 percent or more of a person’s wage. Some people work for an entire day, to gain a humble meal once a day, in the evening…no stores of extra food, and not a whole lot of choice. A simple little meditative practice has made me stop and think about all of this, and how blessed we are in the wealthier countries. When I say a usual grace over a meal, I take a moment to think about all that had to happen to get that meal to my plate. Example: A piece of toast, with peanut butter and a cup of coffee. Someone had to plant, nurture and harvest the wheat for flour. Yeast had to be cultivated, harvested and processed to be stored. A factory had to grind, and package the flour and other ingredients. Trucks had to be in place to transport that flour to the grocery stores. (You need a whole other laundry list of what is required to keep trucks transporting our goods). Stores had to be set up, and employees had to be hired to get the flour out for sale. We needed a source of income and a vehicle to bring that bread home, and able bodies to make the bread, fuel to cook it, etc., and on and on it goes. That doesn’t even address the peanut butter and coffee. For me, this always helps me keep my perspective when I am tempted to complain about how much work and time it takes to prepare a meal. It also helps me realize how blessed I am. There are people living in third world countries, who would gladly line up to trade places with me when it comes to being able to provide food for my family, under the conditions that I have.

    • says

      Very well said Mary Jane. It is so true. I find it hard to be patient sometimes on our attitude towards food. Sometimes I want to break down in tears when I walk into a grocery store because I am so very grateful to have the freedom and money to be able to walk in and pick and choose from so many good things. I had better stop there or I will be on my soap box.

  109. Mae says

    I love your post. Eating out now isn’t special at all. It is a waste of time and money. Even though we don’t have a kitchen most of the time now, I would much rather stop by the grocery store and pick up a can of soup, some yogurt, some fresh veggies or a frozen meal or frozen fish, etc… than to eat out.

    My husband and I work and live on the road. I spend 10 waking ours a week at home every other weekend. I spend most of that time tiding up the house and washing our clothes. During the spring and summer months he tends to the yard. There is little time to cook. When on the road we don’t have a kitchen so we eat out every meal. It isn’t fun at all and costs a fortune. I keep telling my husband that we would be better off to stop by the grocery store and get something fresh each day instead, but he rarely agrees. I keep telling him that we pay 30% of our meal in tax and tip. Eating a simple meal from the grocery store is much healthier too.

    I do the best I can to help myself eat healthy. I try to get coffee for breakfast and then get a to-go cup and then I add some nutrients such as chia seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, coconut oil, flax seed, hemp seeds etc… to make my coffee into an affordable healthy breakfast smoothie type meal. I can do the same with chocolate milk or orange juice which I switch up with the coffee from time to time. There is one restaurant we go to for breakfast and lunch periodically that has an awesome fresh made plain Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries and a touch of honey for $4.00 so I have no guilt with this meal but of course you do have to add in the tax and tip.

    When we weren’t on the road and the kids were @ home we ate out some but not often. When the kids were older and had after school activities, they were responsible for filling the cooler in the morning with their desired snack and light dinner items such as cheese cubes/sticks, yogurt, pepperoni, a sandwich, popcorn, a drink, etc… After work, I would pick them up from after school care and while we headed down the road to the next activity they could eat a snack and on the way back home they could eat the light dinner. Once we got home, while they worked on homework, I made up a quick after dinner snack. This worked out well for the busy nights spent driving from scouts, to church, to practice, to school events etc… This was much better than sitting idle in the long line of cars wrapped around the building of a local fast food joint.

    When the kids were older, we had a family plan. My husband and each girl (3) had one night a week Mon. – Thur. to set the table, make the meal, and clean up. One night a week was the only commitment. The other nights they could get up from the table to go about their evening. Even I had the privilege of getting up and walking away from the table on most week nights. The first few nights it was very strange and difficult for me to just get up from the table and walk away.

    This plan worked out wonderfully. No fighting to get someone to help clean up, etc… I was responsible for Fri. Sat. & Sun. One weekend night was a dinner out if desired. The kids were responsible with my help if desired/needed to plan the meal and email me their food list so I could make sure they had what they needed to make dinner. They were also responsible for swapping nights if their schedule conflicted with their scheduled dinner night. My husband would always be the one to forget to plan for his night. A quick sandwich and possibly soup was in order on a night that someone (usually my husband) forgot to plan a meal. Wish I had started this plan before they started high school.

    I didn’t grow up eating out. Meals out were once or twice a year and were super special. Trader Vicks, Chesapeake Bay Seafood House, Ginos Pizza, PJ Skidoos, Rusty Scupper, Red Lobster, Victoria Station, and others over the years that I can’t recall.

    My dad took his lunch to work 4 days a week and ate out with his colleagues on Fridays. When I came home from college, I did the same and he and I would meet up for a Friday lunch out once a month. These meals out with the family and with my dad were special.

    Three or four years ago, when my middle daughter was a senior in college, she had me over to her dorm kitchen and made me a super special birthday dinner with cake too. Will never forget that meal/experience. Eating out now, not special at all. We can afford to eat out, but why. I can think of better ways to spend that money, like taking a nice trip or possibly saving the money. Again, love your post!

  110. Mike says

    I enjoy eating out at nice restaurants. It’s worth it to me to spend the slightly exorbitant costs to get a meal way that is truly fantastic, the atmosphere, service, and relaxation.

    I make it work by not eating out very often. I’m not going to bother stopping for fast food or going to bland eateries like Olive Garden or something where I can make the same dishes better myself. We try very hard to save on our grocery bill, eat healthy with home cooked meals, and once in a while splurge on a truly fantastic meal. A great dish is one of life’s pleasures.

    • says

      Even though we recommend not eating out so much it is only if you are in debt and can’t afford it. I say go for it otherwise and it makes it more fun and special if you don’t do it all the time. There is nothing wrong with spending your money to have fun on something once in awhile it is only if you are deep in debt and can’t figure out where your money is going or how to get out. So enjoy. Sounds nice, relaxing and yummy.

  111. Maggie says

    Just had to comment on easy meals. Last Christmas, our Safeway (grocery store) had turkey parts – breasts and thighs and drumsticks on sale for 39 cents per pound. I couldn’t believe this was right so even after putting 2 pkgs of each in my cart, still asked at the check out if this was correct. I got each pkg for 83 cents and they have been great meals throughout this year. I cooked one of the turkey breasts at Christmas and have used the rest during the year. But I digress from the comment about easy meals. I took out the last pkg of thighs from the freezer yesterday – boy, are they big – 2 in the pkg – cooked it for dinner in the oven tonight and that turkey aroma – can’t be beat. It took about 5 min to prep it for the oven – a little salt and pepper and poultry seasoning and I only had to check on it once – to take the cover off so it could brown. Some frozen mixed veggies and a sliced peach (some stuffing for me and cranberry sauce) and dinner was done. I had been wanting some KFC chicken but this was much better and cheaper. Also, quicker and I could get other things done while it was cooking and not have to go out.
    Keep an eye out for specials and save time and money for meals.


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