Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to Avoid Eating Out in Restaurants (With Exceptions)

Eating out is one of my financial downfalls.  I am frugal in almost every other area of my life, but eating out is a weakness.  At this point my husband and I have a routine that substantially reduces our restaurant bill.  We are both small people and can usually split a regular sized entree without having to order more food.  At most restaurants this tends to keep our bill between $20-25 after a tip.  Regardless, as the person who makes most of the food in my household I am often tempted to go out to eat when I just don't feel like cooking.  As such, there are some strategies I use to cope with this temptation.

One technique is to simply buy some convenience foods, even though they can cost more than scratch ingredients at the grocery store.  When you are choosing between eating out and eating out, the convenience food will have cost less than the alternative.  Another technique is to force yourself to eat leftovers or other things that are less than satisfying, but will fill you up nonetheless.  It also helps to know your body.  I usually am less picky when eating lunch, and can usually go for refrigerator leftovers, versus dinner when my stomach is more particular.  I know this sounds funny, but it can help when strategically planning one's meal. 

When one does eat out, it can help to order an appetizer for an entree; split an entree with an extra salad or soup; or to use a two for one entree coupon.  My Entertainment book (can be purchased for $20 in major cities) has many of these coupons for chains as well as locally-owned eateries.  Some restaurant meals can be stretched for a couple days.  I find this is particularly true with pizza and Chinese/Asian restaurants.

My last suggestions relates to a wider subject of meal planning /grocery shopping/ and simply having on hand appropriate ingredients to make the foods that satisfy you and your family.  Trying new recipes also helps tremendously, in addition to knowing how to properly store food.  Lately I have becomes very good at freezing ingredients and have frozen cubes of white wine, chicken broth, and other goodies to use in many dishes.  I also found a great recipe for a soup I loved at a local Greek restaurant (Greek lemon rice soup).  As such, the next time I crave Greek food I can prepare it myself instead of relying on a restaurant to prepare my favorite dish for me.  Happy cooking and saving.

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