How can I reduce my meal costs?
The answer to this question isn’t always the one people want to hear. Basically, the best way to save money is to eat at home. That said, restaurant dining is one of life’s little pleasures, and you shouldn’t deny yourself the enjoyment. Here are my top tips for saving money — whether you eat in or out.
Tip #1: Save-ry home cooking.
No doubt about it, eating in is the best way to save money. Here are three ways you can maximize your effort for even greater savings on your weekly food bill.
- Plan your meals for the week ahead of time and make a list of all of the items that you need to buy. (Check out these 9 ways to meal-prep like a pro.) This way you’ll be less likely to purchase things that you don’t need. Also, you’ll be able to estimate the cost of your bill ahead of time and make adjustments depending on your budget before the cashier tells you the total.
- Clean out your cupboards on a monthly basis. When you do this, you will find items tucked away in the back corner that you forgot you had or that may be expiring soon. This will prevent you from buying duplicates of things you already have and allow you to cook food before it goes bad and gets thrown out.
- You’ll often see deals at the store if you buy the larger quantity of a product rather than the smaller version. Even if you don’t think that you’ll need all that food, you can always cook more and freeze what you don’t eat for future meals. This will save you money and time from having to prepare more meals — just thaw instead!
Tip #2: Restaurant restraint.
It’s nice to treat yourself to a meal out or sit at a table with friends and family while being served. The good news is you can still enjoy the benefits of dining out at a restaurant and save money at the same time.
- Instead of making Friday or Saturday your day to eat out, think about dining out on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday when restaurants often have deals like free appetizers, two-for-one meals or kids-eat-free options. Also, take advantage of early-bird specials or happy hours for other discounts.
- Restaurant portions tend to be big so don’t feel obliged to eat the whole plate and make yourself sick. Take some of it home, have it for lunch the next day and get two meals for the price of one.
- From time to time it’s nice to indulge and have a second glass of wine or dessert when at a restaurant. But such things can run-up the cost of your bill. Decide before you go out whether or not you want these extras as you’ll be less tempted in the moment when the server comes around.
Tip #3: “Takeout” extra costs on your bill.
Takeout can give you the benefits of getting the same food you would have had at a restaurant, but for less since you save on service tips and drinks. For even more savings though, think about picking up the food yourself instead of paying the cost to have it delivered. Plus, if the restaurant is close by, you can even walk over and burn off some of the calories you’re about to consume!
Next, read up on the 5 painless ways to save money this holiday season.