Do you hate to cook? Do you seem to ruin every meal you make? Is it just easier to go to the drive thru after a busy day? If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably spending quite a bit of money eating out. While there is nothing wrong with eating out, doing so regularly can be quite costly. If you are trying to trim your budget or find extra money to apply to debt or for some other purpose, you may want to try to curb how often you dine out and experiment with cooking at home. It isn’t difficult; I promise.
- Get the right equipment. If you don’t cook at home frequently, chances are that your kitchen is not equipped with the proper equipment to make cooking easier. If you are just beginning, consider investing in a few good pots, a skillet, and a slow cooker. If you have been dining out 5 times a week, you will recoup the cost of buying the cooking equipment in about two weeks of not dining out, so you don’t have to break the bank. You can look on Craigslist for used cooking equipment if you would like to save even more.
- Take advantage of the slow cooker. I love the slow cooker because not only is it easy, but most recipes are fail-proof. Simply put all of the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, let it cook all day while you are at work and come home to a hot, fresh meal.
- Pick easy recipes. My favorite resource is food.com. A quick search of food.com reveals over 4,000 recipes for slow cookers. (Alternatively, search by the name crock pot.) Depending on the size of your family, you could cook four slow cooker meals a week, have a night for leftovers and two nights of dining out. Best of all, anyone can cook using the slow cooker. Want an easy recipe to get you started? Simply add 4 chicken breasts, 1 cup of salsa, 1 cup of corn and one can of black beans to the slow cooker. Let cook for 8 hours on low. When you come home, shred the chicken, mix all of the ingredients, and serve on tortillas. Even the most challenged home cook could make that recipe, and it is much healthier than eating out.
- Keep a list of your favorite recipes. As you prepare meals, keep an electronic file of your favorites with the links to the recipe. This will make meal planning at the beginning of the week effortless.
- Freeze your extras. If you find that one meal made enough for two meals, consider freezing the leftovers for a future meal. Put the leftovers in a Ziploc bag, squeeze out the air, label, and freeze flat for easy storage. The next time you have a busy day, simply pull the meal from the freezer in the morning, thaw in the refrigerator, and reheat when you come home.
Dining out can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. If you would like to do more cooking at home, try some of these easy strategies. Not only will you save a significant amount of money, but you will probably eat much healthier too.
Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1), blogs at both Mom’s Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and paying down debt, and Fiscal Phoenix where she writes about rising from the ashes of your financial mistakes.