How to Eat at Home to Save Money

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If you eat at home, you will save money, and probably eat better, too. But, how can you pull it off without a lot of hassle?

How to Eat at Home to Save Money | Life as Mom

Spaghetti Squash with Vegetable Bolognese

Everybody knows that eating at home can save you money. In fact, there are added benefits, such as increased food safety and a chance at healthier ingredients. But, eating at home can be hard to pull off in our busy days.

Ask me how I know.

Imagine that you’re running errands or picking kids up from soccer practice. You know that the dinner you planned to make will take a good hour, so you make a detour and pick up Chinese takeout on the way home. While there’s money in the budget, in your efforts to “save time,” you end up waiting an extra 30 minutes at the restaurant because they’re busy and don’t have the items ready that you want. Add in the extra drive time, and you could very well have just gone home and continued with Plan A. You may enjoy that take-out meal, but that’s $30 less in your eating out money for the rest of the month.

Plus, you need to make sure you don’t waste the ingredients you bought to make dinner at home. Eating at home doesn’t not difficult, but it takes some slick tricks. 

How to Eat at Home to Save Money

Here’s my thinking on how to make eating at home easier:

1. Have a plan.

Meal planning is the first line of defense against increased spending. You can take many approaches to meal planning: planning for a month, planning for a week, buying a meal plan already prepared.

No matter how you slice it, having a plan helps me know what we have on hand and reminds me what I can do earlier in the day to have that plan actually come to fruition.

2. Keep quick fixes in mind.

I am also notorious for forgetting to thaw or do other pre-prep ideas in order to fulfill that meal plan. That’s when it’s helpful for me to have some back-up plans for the nights when I really do need a Plan B.

Quick fix dinners come to the rescue! Dishes like Beans and Rice come together fairly quickly as do sandwiches. My Everyday Marinara Sauce is quick and cheap.

How to Eat at Home to Save Money | Life as Mom

Spicy Beef and Bean Stew

3. Be patient.

We need to be patient when it comes to meal times. When we think with our stomachs, particularly the growling ones, we tend to make the most expedient, but not always the wisest choice.

4. Offer an appetizer.

On those grumbly tummy nights when you know dinner will be awhile, don’t be afraid to pull out the veggie tray. A small appetizer makes it much easier for everyone to wait patiently while dinner is prepared. Keep a few such items on hand, like veggies and hummus, cheese and crackers, or even chips and salsa.

5. Remember the end goal.

Your financial goals come into play when you’re making the decision between dining out and eating in. Ten years ago, I would not even have considered dropping $30 on a quick Chinese dinner. Being debt-free allows us a bigger budget for “fun food.” However, that doesn’t mean we throw all caution to the wind. We got where we are by being careful with our money. We need to keep to that resolve.

How do you make it easier to eat at home and save money?

How to Eat at Home to Save Money | Life as Mom

My new e-course, Healthy Eating Made Easy can help you handle this witching hour dilemma. Don’t be stuck without a meal plan or some quick fixes at the ready. Through cooking videos, meal plans, recipes, and time-tested strategies for saving money, you’ll learn how to make healthy eating easier!

Get the support you need to make changes for the better!

The course includes:

  • How to Eat at Home to Save Money | Life as MomEncouragement and support to meet your healthy eating goals
  • Easy, doable strategies to eat better and save money
  • Video tutorials for healthy food prep
  • A healthy living daily docket to help you track your sleep, water intake, exercise, daily schedule, positive intentions, and more.
  • Deliciously simple recipes for main dishes, sides dishes, sauces, dressings, dips, spice mixes, and more.
  • Ideas and worksheets for reducing spending, choosing the best grocery store, meal planning, using up leftovers, packing better lunches, making healthy food swaps, making better meals, preparing food to freeze, and more.

You’ll also receive a free copy of my meal plan, A Month of Meals: Protein Style. This was originally sold for $9 but is no longer available.

Get it FREE when you take the Healthy Eating Made Easy Course.

How to Eat at Home to Save Money | Life as Mom

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Julie @ The Family CEO says

    Planning almost always equals savings, doesn’t it? Your food pictures look scrumptious!

  2. great ideas!

  3. Thanks for hosting.

  4. I agree with meal planning being essential to helping keep us from eating out. We’re most prone to eat out on Sundays because after church we’re always starving. For that reason, I usually try to plan to put something in the slow-cooker or to eat sandwiches to eliminate the temptation to eat out.

  5. totally agree with your whole list! today i was SO hungry after running around all morning with the kids i stopped and got food. Spent money I didn’t have all in the name of my stomach screaming out in hunger!

  6. I like the appetizer idea. I also keep a list of quick fixes (or “emergency meals” as we call them). It’s true that when Mom is also thinking with her stomach, the meal plan can go out the window.

  7. Having a plan definitely helps us eat out less! Thanks for this post!

  8. Having componets of meals cooked and in the freezer helps speed up dinner. Tonight, I used precooked Mexican Rice and grated cheese from the freezer to throw together a casserole.

  9. The appetizer idea is great. In fact, some days all we eat is appetizers – especially when it’s hot. 🙂

  10. Ooh, I have to deal with a similar situation this afternoon. I had to schedule a doctor’s appointment at 2:50 to get my ear checked. I had planned on making pizza, however, I have no idea how long the appointment will take, plus I anticipate needing to get a prescription filled.

    Enter Plan B: I’m putting together baked ziti this morning to have ready whenever I get home after the appointment. It needs only about 30 minutes to bake, and my 15 year old could put it in the oven if needed.

  11. I’m going to organize my pantry for more “quick fix” meals as the school year starts. Thanks for the reminder!

  12. Great tips as always, Jessica. I particularly love the”appetizers” one. It makes so much sense to have everyone nibble on something while we get a healthier, budget-friendly dinner ready. Thanks for sharing.

  13. We ALWAYS stock our pantry (it comes from living in blizzard country when I was young), so there’s always something to eat while we wait to cook.

    I’ve learned to pack snacks if the kids and I will be out for any length of time: veggie sticks, nuts and raisins, granola bars, corn chips, etc. Especially for me, because I’m the one making the decisions and cooking.

    And I’ve stocked the van with styrofoam cups and plastic cutlery, so that, in a pinch, we can buy yoghurt or V8 from a grocery store for an impromptu picnic. Since we only have plain yoghurt at home, the flavored kind is a super treat. Bananas are also a great tummy filler.

    Now, living gluten-free, the temptation to eat out is even less, but I always pack a gluten-free energy bar in my purse, just in case.


    Annie Kate

  14. Offer an appetizer? That’s a great idea, and not something I usually think of when I’m pulling together a last minute dinner.

    I keep some super-easy foods around all the time to fight off the urge to call for takeout on busy nights. Hans chicken sausages are everyone’s absolute favorite simple meal (often with canned beans and sliced raw veggies with dip). They’re not a super cheap item to buy, but they are a steal of a deal compared to going out!

  15. Right on target!
    And I have found that if I have a plan, and my hubby *knows* that, he will be less likely to suggest eating out (yes, he’s the restaurant villain in our family!).
    The plan.
    It can change, but boy, it’s nice to have it.

  16. Ellen says

    My back up plan usually is breakfast for dinner…

  17. Sometimes it is hard to eat at home on the weekends, but I “sell” it to everyone if we eat at home, after dinner we can go out and do a fun event like mini golf or get ice cream!

  18. Excellent tips, especially for summer. I work through the summer, which means I try to do special things with the kids in the afternoon. Since I get home around 4, if we go out, we’re never home in time for dinner. So, I get my kids used to a late dinner (6:30 or 7PM) during the summer. I give them a big snack in the afternoon (fruit shake, ice cream sundaes, cookies and milk) and that takes the pressure off having dinner ready early. It’s not necessarily the very healthiest eating plan but it helps me keep the mood relaxed in the summer and avoids the need to buy takeout. Most days.

  19. I love your recommendation to offer an appetizer. I do that too, and it is a great help! A lot of times I serve fruit or veggies, so if they fill up, it was at least on something healthy!

  20. Great tips! The patience one in particular. You have to wait for someone to cook the food…might as well save $$ and have it be you!

  21. Lucky says

    I can relate to the patience one. I came home dead tired a few nights ago only to find our crockpot dinner burnt to a crisp. I caved in and ordered pizza. It took 30 minutes to come and didn’t even taste that great. I totally could have scrambled a few eggs or something instead.

  22. We have started to focus in on portion sizes more to make sure we aren’t eating too much. That saves money because you don’t go through as much food. We also have a garden this summer and it sure helps on the grocery budget, even though all we are getting right now is lettuce and some raspberries. I would plant more fruit trees to save money if we had space. If we are hungry and dinner isn’t ready yet, I get out leftovers if we have any in the fridge or some fruit. Staying in a budget and planning a menu has really saved me some money. We also don’t waste food at all.

  23. Christine says

    We save money on nights like the one you described by eating at home and declaring a “YO-YO” dinner. My dad made these up when I was a kid. YO-YO stands for “You’re on your own.” Every person was left to fend for themselves.

    As a kid, we loved YO-YO dinners. We would eat cereal of a granola bar and chips. It wasn’t always healthy. Sometimes we’d pillage leftovers or eat toast. But as an occasional thing, it was probably at least as healthy as fast food, was way less stressful and us kids thought it was quite the treat.

    I use it now. With small kids, it generally means they let us know what they want and we don’t protest. Chips and salsa with slices of cheese? Ok. Toast, ok. It’s a nice relaxing way to hang out, it saves money and it’s a good solution in a pinch.

  24. Mara says

    Great post – I need these reminders, too. My go-to meal is usually scrambled eggs. The kids sometimes complain about it, but it’s ready in less than 5 minutes!

  25. Hi everyone. I posted about using water kefir grains to make a homemade probiotic drink called water kefir. 🙂

  26. Stacy says

    I agree with you on all of this. My husband is always the one who will not wait when he’s hungry, so oftentimes he will get a burger somewhere while I choose to wait until we get home. He and some in his family have a pretty dramatic blood sugar drop if they don’t eat, so I think he just doesn’t want to do that. I don’t agree with his approach, but he is his own person, and I also don’t want to nag him.

    The one thing I would add to what you say above is to always or usually bring snacks with you. I know I only have one kid, so it’s easier, but I really feel like it saves us money and time to bring a cooler bag with some banana, a PBJ sandwich, some milk, and maybe cheese and crackers. They’re all easy and cheap.

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