A lot has changed in the last 50 years when it comes our eating habits.
We used to eat the majority of our meals at home – now we eat them on the run. From grabbing fast food to downing a granola bar on the run, we’ve found convenience at the price of our waistlines. According to the CDC, the average American eats out four times a week, which can mean adding at least 8 pounds to your waistline each year.
And what does it do to your wallet? Well, if each fast food meal for your family costs $30, you could be looking at an annual cost of more than $6,000.
I’ve struggled with eating out for many years. It’s not that I don’t enjoy cooking, it’s that sometimes I just want the quick fix of having someone handle all the details of the evening meal.
But as I try to shed a few pounds and work to trim expenses, I know that I could be choosing healthier options.
Baby steps to healthier (and more wallet-friendly) food choices:
Plan a menu. Having a menu makes it much less likely that you’ll hit the drive-thru. Plan your menus around what’s on sale and what’s in your pantry.
Make it convenient. I try to make sure that I have some convenience food items in my freezer and pantry for days when unexpected things come up. It’s much cheaper to throw some chicken strips in the oven than it is to go out to a fast food restaurant. Just be sure to watch the fat calories and sodium content on convenience items. Want to make dinner at home convenient and even more healthy? Spend a day preparing home-cooked meals you can put in the freezer. Then on those crazy busy days, you’ll have your very own frozen dinner to put in the oven.
Pack snacks. We often end up stopping to eat when a small snack would be enough to tide us over until we got home and could make dinner. Keep an ample supply of fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, and whole-grain crackers to keep your tummy from rumbling.
If you must eat out, you can still make budget-friendly, healthy choices. Choose water over soda. Choose grilled over fried. If your entree is gigantic, save half for lunch the next day. Think twice before you order dessert.
Once you realize that there is a world of culinary delights you can create in your kitchen (even when you’re on a budget), you’ll be much less tempted to eat out. Who wants to wait for a table and deal with the crowds, when you can enjoy a great meal in the comfort of your own home.