There are times when I love making dinner. There are times when going out is the joy of getting together with wonderful people and catching up over a meal. There are times when there are no ingredients in the house (unless you count tomorrow’s yogurt and a packet of ice tea mix as “ingredients”). And there are times when I just want nothing more than to have someone else cook and clean up afterward. Since I don’t have elves that will do that, it’s out to a restaurant.
Girlfriend Guru and financial whiz MIATA EDOGA loves restaurants, but also realizes the cost of consistently eating out. Fortunately, she has put together five great ways to make sure that we don’t eat out when we really wanted to eat in. Which makes eating out all that much more special.
I’m a big fan of eating at restaurants. It’s a bad habit that we fell into a few years ago…going out to eat so often that it wasn’t a “special” dinner….it became just “dinner.” You may know the drill: you arrive home late and the cupboard is bare. You have two choices: make some dinner that’ll take another hour (so you’re eating WAY too late) or you’re eating scraps thrown together. Instead, you decide to eat out.
In his book Kitchen Confidential, popular chef Anthony Bourdain writes in a chapter called “Why My Food Tastes Better Than Yours” that the single biggest secret to his success is butter. He doesn’t apologize, instead telling readers that “your diet is your problem.” His only goal is to get you to come back and spend more money, and he knows that for most, butter is the key to your soul. Sadly, you and I both know that while it might be healthy for Tony’s pocket book, it isn’t great for yours OR your waistline. Let’s save your health and wallet with some tips to help you eat more often at home.
1) Create a meal plan. The biggest success in my quest to eat at home was listing all the foods we would eat during the week. By spending a little time on the weekend, you can save hundreds of dollars while concentrating on healthy foods. While a piece of paper works well, a calendar works better. If you have an iPad, menu planning apps are fun to use and can help you catalog your favorite recipes.
2) Plan something fun. How many of you eat meals at restaurants because it’s more fun? Sure you do. So do I. If you keep meals entertaining at home, it’s easier to resist the urge. Asking boyfriends, spouses, or children to pick one favorite a week may help the family jump onboard with eating at home. Make one night “taco Tuesday” or “meatless Monday.” Instead of waiting for Olive Garden, the family will get excited about the big meal waiting at home.
3) Theme meals. Why celebrate holidays at restaurants? Use offbeat and traditional holidays as an opportunity to have some fun with food at home. A good friend creates a hilarious Halloween dinner with everything from mummies (sausages in breading) to spider webs (nacho dip with guacamole spread like webs across the top). Use your calendar to make sure you remember upcoming holidays. If they’re bizarre, it’s even more fun. National “talk like a pirate day” is a fun at-home meal, as is “pi day.”
4) Watch cooking shows. Gordon Ramsay has a fun new show on BBC America called Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cooking Course. He teaches people to make basic foods that taste great. I like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and often use some of the foods they cook as ideas for recipes. Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals is a fun book with quick, healthy recipes. The idea is that you are what you think about. If you watch cooking shows and read cook books, your brain will work on more fun ways to create meals at home.
5) Still can’t stop? Set a limit. Eating at restaurants can be fun, but it seems that if you make it special you’ll appreciate the experience more. We try to eat away from home one meal per week. Because we’ve set a “one time” limit, even the process of picking the restaurant is more fun and we’re that much more encouraged to eat creatively at home.
There are many, many other ideas that can help you cook at home. Batch cooking many meals at once is helpful (and frugal) for many time-crunched people. Whatever strategies you use, your health and wallet will thank you when you make this important switch.
MIATA EDOGA is the President and Founder of Abundance Bound, a 10-year old company committed to utilizing humor, inspiration & lots of love to give individuals around the world the necessary tools to thrive financially, while keeping focus on the things they treasure most. Visit the Abundance Bound Facebook Page for your free copy of Financial Success for the Creative Soul!
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