One of the expense categories where my wife and I struggle the most is dining out. And I imagine that we are not the only ones. In fact, many of m friends find themselves splurging a little too often on dining out. So why the lack of self control despite having a budget and feeling so committed at the beginning of the month?
Here are my thoughts. Please add your own reasons in the comments.
Commit to a dinner plan before you are hungry
Much like the adage, “Don’t grocery shop while you are hungry,” you should avoid making the “What’s for dinner?” decision while you are hungry. Though don’t just decide early in the day that you will be staying in, actually commit to your decision by putting the meal into action. For some of you stronger willed individuals, committing may mean just getting the chicken out to thaw. For the rest of us, we need to go the extra step and practically make half the meal before getting hungry.
Another reason for committing early in the day is to avoid the temptation after work while you are in the car running errands or driving home. Many of our lapses in judgement are a result of deciding what to do for dinner while we are driving around. Going home, preparing the meal, cleaning up, etc. sounds like so much work when, “Hey, isn’t Cafe Rio just around the corner?”
So at least plan on your meal early in the day or week. It’s even more effective though if you can commit to your plans be beginning your preparations.
Reduce the size of the expensive main dish
I’ll give you an example to illustrate what I mean. I have a family of four. My two little girls don’t eat a lot, so we grilled up only three chicken breasts for dinner last night. My girls shared one breast, my wife and I shared a breast, and the third was stuck in tupperware as my lunch for the following day. Now, half a chicken breast won’t fill many guys, including myself. So we made garlic bread (purchased for $1) and vegetables such as corn (which we buy in bulk from Costco). By the end of the meal, I was full despite having had a small portion of protein (the most expensive part of the meal).
So get creative and add tasty, inexpensive sides to your dinner time meals that allow you to make a smaller portion of the expensive part of the meal. This same tip is also great for losing weight. Controlling portion sizes is one of the biggest factors in a successful, long term diet plan.
Make sure to have leftovers from dinner
Another expense category where many families struggle is work lunch. Your best laid plans to get up early to make sure that you have enough time to make and pack a lunch can easily fall through if you hit the snooze button one too many times. However, if you have leftovers from last night’s dinner already packed and ready to go, then you are much less likely to eat out come lunch time.
This money saving tactic obviously isn’t rocket science but does take some planning and forethought. For example, not all meals re-heat well or a recipe may only serve four but you need it to serve five in order to have one leftover meal.
You also have to practice self-control at dinner time. It’s happened more than once that my wife has made extra but my appetite took over and I ate everything. So stop after your portion is gone. This is also a healthy habit to form as well. Extra servings are rarely needed.
So what other tips do you have for saving money at dinner time?