I want to reduce our "have to" eating out, so we can afford to do more "want to" eating out and other entertainment.
I've tried to fit our reasons into categories, so I can deal with them individually:
- On the run - when we (together or individually) have an activity after work, without enough time to go home and eat.
- Dinner of convenience - these are the times I'm too tired, or too hungry, to figure out a kitchen meal. This can happen on weeknights due to work/stress, or weekends due to extra activities and lack of planning. This is also known as the "nothing sounds good" cop-out.
- Case of the missing lunch (Anitra) - I like to bring leftovers for lunch, but there aren't always leftovers available to bring. If I don't want a PBJ, I often buy lunch in the cafeteria.
- Lunch run-out (Andrew) - He usually plans out lunches in advance (lately, he's switching between Caesar salad/wraps and frozen TV dinners) - but we don't always go shopping for replacement lunches before he runs out.
- With two regular weeknight activities this year, we've started to get better about eating out in this situation. When we're traveling together, we've been heating up Lean Pockets at one workplace or the other, then eating them in the car. When we're apart, we still need to work at it. I usually stop at Starbucks and spend some time relaxing and eating, while he travels straight to his second job and eats whatever is available to him.
- Planning ahead is the simple answer for convenience. I need to have more ready-made meals I feel good about eating, even if they're convenience food like frozen pizza. We currently have frozen tortellini and frozen meatballs, too. I need to keep more frozen vegetables on hand to "health up" these convenience meals.
- Two plans of attack for my lunches:
- Have foods/meals on hand to pack when there are no leftovers
- Make side dishes and/or extra quantities to expand the leftover capability of dinner meals
- Plan for lunch the night before (this applies to me, too). If we don't have any lunch fodder available, we need to either make some or go out and buy it before the stores close. There's a grocery store down the street and a BJs about a mile away, so there's no excuse not to do this.
Obviously, the more we plan ahead, the more we can allow for variety as well. I don't have to have a PBJ every Tuesday and a Lean Pocket every Thursday for dinner, as long as I plan other portable foods instead. But having LPs in the freezer and PBJ makings in the fridge is a good backup plan.
I think if we can implement all of these, we'll start seeing a lot more wiggle room in our budget, as we stop eating out at fast food just because it's convenient. Just in time to go to a nice restaurant for our anniversary! ;)