Eating out: ways of avoiding it

Mon, Jan 24, 2011

Budgeting

When you’re looking to cut your spending, you’ll often receive the advice to avoid eating out. It sounds like practical, straightforward, easy-to-follow advice: just don’t eat out! Cook meals yourself and brown bag work lunches (if you work outside the home). Plenty of people do it and don’t find it difficult.

But everyone has their quirks and foibles, and avoiding the lure of the restaurant is really tough for some people. With that in mind, here are some thoughts, suggestions, and observations to help you out if you’re one of them.

1. Eating out isn’t all kittens and daffodils. Next time you’re tempted, try to focus on some of the unpleasant aspects. For example, noise, chatter, waiting for service, finding parking. If it’s lunch or breakfast, maybe you could think about how much of your break is sucked up just waiting or travelling to and from the location.

And there’s always the obviou ones: the expense, the fact that you can usually make healthier food at home, that portion sizes are likely to be too large. Try to remember that it’s usually easier to make the decision that produces the greatest short-term benefit, but that long-term benefit is what you want to stay focused on.

2. Look after your health. If you’re working too hard and not ensuring you get enough sleep it’s going to be tough for you to turn down the convenience of a restaurant and to be able to make intelligent choices about what you put in your mouth. It’s all too easy to see dining out as a treat and a break away from one’s responsibilities and duties. Often preparing food is the last thing you feel like doing at the end of a stressful day.

It is important to have things in your life that make you feel good about living it. If eateries are one of those things for you, then it’s a good idea to find something else you can replace it with, bearing both your personal health and financial situation in mind.

3. Why do you like eating out? Do you find organising and planning meals a chore? Is it a desire for company? Peer pressure? Is the food better than you can make yourself? Is it sheer convenience? Are you exhausted at the end of the day and just can’t be bothered?

If you can isolate the reasons why you like eating out then it will help you to find alternatives that will work for you.

4. Look for balance. The way people live today can be mentally exhausting and physically draining. It helps to get adequate nutrition. If you really feel you don’t have the time and energy to prepare food it’s time to look at what you can remove from your life to get that time and energy back.

If you have family with adults in it, there’s no reason why you should do all the cooking yourself. Even if other family members can’t cook, there will be some kind of preparatory assistance they can offer that will give you a chance to get some rest.

5. Exercise your own creativity in finding ways to cook your own meals that will gel with your lifestyle and preferences, and not fight them. It might mean a once-a-month cook-up, menu planning, living off cold food. If you have trouble planning meals you can always do some research online for shopping lists and recipes.

And if you really can’t stand cooking, there’s nothing wrong with compiling. Food doesn’t have to be hot to be nutritious, so you can always fill your fridge with components of sandwiches and salads. Plenty of crock pot recipes take very little effort and work well for people who hate to cook or simply find themselves too tired to.

No one is denying, of course, that restaurant food tastes delicious, but it’s worth remembering that they often use more fat, salt, and sugar than people use at home. The more used to the flavours of home cooking you get, the less you’ll desire restaurant food.

6. It’s still fine to go to restaurants. Just make sure you’re going to restaurants in a way that fits in with your financial circumstances and goals and makes for a healthy eating lifestyle. In fact, knowing that eating out isn’t completely off limits can make it easier to stick to your budget.

And one final tip: you’ll get more pleasure out of eating out experiences if you choose places that are memorable and offer you something new. At all costs avoid eating over-priced food at average places.

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