Looking for easy homemade dinner ideas as an alternative to eating out? Here you go!
We've never eaten out all that often, however over the last few months I've noticed it feeling more and more difficult to enjoy a meal out at a restaurant. Honestly, these menu plans are so good, that there aren't many restaurants that can beat my own home-cooked food, but every once in a while we do love to splurge!
We usually choose a fast casual option (think Chick-Fil-A or Jason's Deli), but lately it seems harder and harder to find a yummy meal on the go. In fact, in the last five days we've attempted to eat out three times, and every single one of them has ended in us turning around and heading back home.
A few Sundays ago we met family at a sit-down restaurant for a meal, and the wait to be seated was over 45 minutes. (There were plenty of tables, just no servers to be found.) Last night my husband and daughter planned to drive-thru at one of their favorite chicken restaurants (um, it wasn't Chick-Fil-A!), and the drive-thru lane wrapped around the building so they came home for pb&j. And this morning when I was going to splurge on a Starbucks (I had a gift card!), I drove into the drive-thru late only to see a sign that said they were closed for the day (I'm assuming due to lack of help. Whew!)
While my primary reason for eating at home has been to eat healthier food for way less moo-lah, it now almost feels now like eating at a restaurant simply isn't worth the effort. (I hate that, because I love to support local restaurants when we're able by eating out, but I know it's got to be so hard to be in the restaurant industry today!)
But I was thinking about it this morning (wondering what on earth is even happening in all honesty?) and it occurred to me that in the last 50 years, our eating out consumption has gone way up, while our cooking in meals have gone down a whoooooole lot.
In fact, one statistic I read said that the average American eats out 4.2 times per week, with an average meal costing a whopping $12.75 per person.
(I'll do the math for you: that means a family of four x $12.75 per person x 4.2 per week x 52 per year = $11,138.40 per year. Basically the same cost as a car, or a SERIOUSLY awesome vacation.)
So, since eating out is kind of a hassle right now (and not always good for you . . . and expensive!) here are five simple alternatives to save your body, budget, and brainpower.
1. MAKE BETTER FOOD AT HOME with homemade dinner ideas.
If you're struggling with what to make for dinner each night, try out our Menu Planning Made Easy Menu Plans. (Don't take my word for it ~ just read the reviews!)
They honestly are so good that my family would CHOOSE to eat them most of the time over heading out to a restaurant (in fact, my daughter at college has a list of meals she wants me to bring her because she's tired of eating out or on campus already!)
To make life easier make your menu plan and grocery list a few times a month (I plan mine using my Home Planner on Sundays), order groceries using Kroger Clicklist or Instacart, and prep your meals in the morning. Thirty minutes of preparation on the weekends will save you hours during the week and you'll eat better for it!
2. Prep a few freezer meals.
This is a game changer. For real. Take a few hours on a Saturday morning and make a bunch of recipes, then just add a salad and some bread to make a meal in a pinch on busy weeknights. (You can snag our freezer meal box right over HERE while it's in stock today).
3. Try a food delivery service like Hello Fresh (they're offering 6 meals for 4 people per week = $89.70 shipped (normally $180) – that's $3.74/serving!
Meal systems like Hello Fresh do all the work for you ~ just choose your meals and make dinner each night. Right now they're offering some incredible discounts, so this is a great way to save if you're short on time!
4. Buy a few fast pantry meals and always keep ingredients for them in your kitchen:
Looking for a few ideas? Here you go:
- breakfast for dinner
- grilled cheese and soup
- grilled chicken
- frozen pizza
- and LOTS more ideas right over HERE. Whew!
5. If you absolutely need to eat out, try ordering food ahead of time, or eating during “off” hours ~ like early dinners, late lunches, etc.
Being willing to be flexible on what time you eat of day will drastically reduce your stress level, and help local businesses to stay a little busier during their slow hours too.
(Also watch for simple ways to save at your favorite restaurants right over HERE).
Have YOU noticed your local restaurants are super busy lately and struggling to keep up? Do you eat at home most nights? How often do you eat out during the week (and how big is your family?) I'd sure love to hear ~ leave a comment to share!