Going out to eat frequently is one of the biggest mistakes people make with their money. Most people would experience a radical change in their finances if they would cut back on eating out even a couple of times a week, let alone all together. The main reason that people go out to eat is for the convenience but eating at home can be convenient too.
Make meals easier by using convenience items. Even if you use nothing but convenience items for your entire meal, it is still less expensive than going out to eat. You don’t need to make homemade bread, muffins, biscuits, or cookies. Buy them already made. You can even buy things like French bread that is already sliced and buttered and ready to heat. It’s perfectly OK to use bagged lettuce, baby carrots, or anything frozen.
Keep it simple. Our grandmothers didn’t spend as many hours slaving away in the kitchen as we think they did. Instead of homemade bread or yeast rolls, the everyday meal included store-bought white or wheat bread on a plate with butter and jam. Grandma would open a jar of applesauce, a can of green beans or a jar of assorted pickles. She would toss a simple salad and have all her side dishes for that meal prepared quickly. For years our family raved about my grandmother-in-law’s great homemade noodles. One day when I asked her for her recipe, she pulled me to one side, laughing, and said “No one else knows this, but I always use frozen noodles!”
Our grandmothers knew the secret. It didn’t have to be complicated, gourmet, or elaborate for our families to enjoy a meal. It just had to be good, there had to be lots of it and it had to be made with love. It takes only a couple of minutes to slice an orange, apple or banana and lay them on a platter. Throw in some unpeeled small red potatoes to boil, slice pre-cooked ham, heat up a box of fish fillets or lay out a variety of deli meats and cheeses for everyone to make their own hoagies. It can be as simple as that.
Make clean up easy. I line almost every pan I use with aluminum foil or parchment paper, whether I’m roasting a chicken or baking biscuits, cookies or tater tots. I line every casserole dish too. Use paper plates and bowls if it helps. Use disposable pans when you can. You can usually find lots of them on sale around the holidays. Many people feel a lot of guilt connected with using anything disposable. If you are one of them, I give you permission here and now to use these things. Besides, when you eat out, just as much stuff gets thrown away (probably a lot more). It’s just that other people throw it away for you. I would much rather see you at home using paper plates and disposable pans with your family than having to work many hours of overtime to pay for dinner out. Relax and enjoy your meal! Your family and your pocketbook will thank you.
Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit http://www.LivingOnADime.com , sign up for our free Living On A Dime Newsletter and learn to save more!