Eating out is expensive, especially when you have a family as big as ours. Even though I’ve found many ways to save when we do eat out, it can still be one of those items that busts our budget if we’re not careful.
When you are trying to save money, spending it eating out is a habit you must stop!
We made ourselves quit eating out and as a way to get everyone excited about eating dinner in, I chose a family read-aloud book and read one chapter to everyone while we were eating dinner, then we’d talk about it. They looked SO forward to that reading time. It was so much fun. The trick was only to allow one chapter… which typically ended in a cliffhanger, so everyone would beg me to read “just one more”. But to make it special, and for lack of time, I would only read one chapter a night. And no, it is not something you can do out at a restaurant because of the hustle happening in a restaurant, and a server coming to your table, and no one can really hear you reading. So it worked perfectly to keep it at home!
Kicking your eating out habit can not only be good for your wallet but also your health. Restaurants add extra salt and ingredients that you wouldn’t use at home, which can be bad for you.
Having the same old meals at the usual kitchen table can get a little boring after awhile.
If you are dedicated to eating in for a whole month, that’s 30 or 31 meals you have to create to keep your family on board!
Here is how you can keep eating IN fun so you won’t even want to eat out!
Try New Recipes
New recipes are the first thing I do to help spice up a boring meal plan.
If you are struggling to keep your family on board with eating in, try finding a new recipe!
You can try some of these easy dinner ideas to keep your meal plan fun and exciting.
Don’t bust your budget with expensive ingredients. Believe it or not, you can create new recipes out of what you already have in your pantry.
This can be a fun way to get your family involved and make it a fun game: Have each person pick out a different food item, then get to the kitchen! Or plug those ingredients into this awesome recipe tool and it will suggest a recipe for you!
Don’t Make Dinners So Difficult
I know I am less tempted to eat out if I already have a meal plan in place that is filled with easy recipes.
Recipes that are too complicated make it hard to plan for.
Stick to meals that can be created quickly, easily, and don’t require too many ingredients. This will keep you from impulsively dining out.
If you can make dinner in the time it takes to order a pizza, you’ll be less likely to order the pizza! Plan ahead. Spend one day out of the week or month to make a menu with the family so there are no surprises.
Make Your Favorite Restaurant Dishes… At Home!
With the internet and Pinterest, there is a copycat recipe out there for almost every single meal out you could desire.
From Olive Garden breadsticks to Panera soups, you can make all of your favorite meals right from the comfort of your own home. That image above is my Copycat Chili’s Skillet Queso Dip Recipe! Mmmmmm!
Try to add a few copycat recipes to your meal plan so you can enjoy the same dishes you love when you eat out. Maybe even have the kids be your server?! (they can write down your order on these free printable guest checks and you can even leave them a “tip” with this play money)
Keep Emergency Food On Hand
By emergency, I mean frozen, easy, and no big “cooking” on your part recipes.
This could be a frozen pizza, lean cuisine, frozen lasagna, or a freezer meal. It doesn’t matter what your go-to emergency meal is.
The point is that when you don’t feel like cooking, or you need something quick, you can whip something up for everyone without dining out.
If you have to cook every single night, you will burn out!
Stock your freezer with easy meals that you can pop in the oven while someone is setting the table. I keep a minimum of 6 pizzas in our freezer at all times. That way we have no excuse to order pizza when we ware too tired to really cook.
Keep these in your freezer for those moments when you need to play catch up, or it’s 8 pm, and you haven’t started dinner. I’m sure we can find a coupon to keep the price point low too!
Make Dinner Theme Nights
What is one of the most exciting parts of eating out? The atmosphere!
The atmosphere is what keeps guests feeling content and gives them something to look at when the conversation gets dull.
Mexican and Italian restaurants will usually have paintings of distant countries and landscapes on the walls, and some restaurants may even bring the decor right to the table.
Instead of just whipping up tacos for dinner, turn it into a fiesta! Add some decor from around the house to the table, and even play some Mexican music.
This can turn a boring dinner into a fun, festive treat… and keep you from feeling like you are making another mundane meal for everyone!
Play Dinner Games
There are so many fun dinner games out there you can choose from to make dinner time more fun.
Plus, you’ll get to know everyone even better!
Here’s a list of a bunch of fun dinner games you can play at the table to get you started!
Games can make mealtime more exciting, especially if these are something you only do at meal times!
Want another fun game to play while you are cooking? Play Iron Chef! You can have each family member create an idea of a dinner dish with the ingredients at hand. Try to keep it simple to avoid making a mess at the table, but don’t forget to have some fun too.
Eating at home doesn’t have to feel like a chore or even a bore! If you follow these tips to keep your meals fun and easy, you’ll look forward to eating IN for every meal. If you’re doing a spending freeze, you might not want to eat out again! Don’t let routine keep you from sticking to your money saving goals. Keep dinners, breakfasts, and even lunch exciting so you’ll never need to go out.
Your Turn: What is your favorite meal to make at home? Tell us in the comments below!
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