The highlight of the day is lunchtime, at least if you, like me, love food. We have around 90 meals per month if we count breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s many moments of joy but also moments of money spent. Food is often one of our biggest expenses and it is also one of the expenses we can influence a lot if we want to save money.
Let’s take a look at the numbers and how it can impact our budget by calculating our lunch costs eating out vs cooking. In our example we are eating out all weekdays and cooking on weekends vs cooking all days of the week. We will count on an average lunch for 10$ and the average cost for a generous home made lunch of 3$.
20 days a month x 10$ = 200$ + 10 days a month x 3$ = 30$
30 days a month x 3$ = 90$
We can conclude that depending on how many times you eat out you can spend between 90$ – 230$ a month on lunch (breakfast and dinner not included). That’s 140$ you could either spend on food or why not a flight ticket somewhere within Europe. The 90$ per month for home made lunches is a quiet generous amount as well, during my strictest financial times that was my monthly expenses for all my food.
We have seen the numbers and we can save a lot of money by cooking, I don’t think that was a surprise for anyone. In addition to the financial benefits of cooking there are also other benefits that can improve our life quality.
You are in control of what you eat and how you eat it. You can choose the ingredients, you get better nutrition (depending on what you cook) and you regulate the portions. Many of the health issues we have in the modern times is caused by what we eat. A lot of food is stuffed with chemicals in order to look and taste better and last forever. We eat processed food that lacks nutrition and is high on fats and sugar. I have eaten more than I should countless times in restaurants restaurant because I hate throwing away food, this is easily avoided when bringing your own food.
You won’t be disappointed, whether it’s good or bad you know exactly what you will get and there are no unpleasant surprises. Growing up I rarely ate at restaurants partly because it was expensive and partly because my mum cooks better food herself. This has led to me being overly critical of the food, I spend good money on the food and unfortunately many times the taste and quality does not live up to the price put on the food. With this said I’m a big fan of lunch boxes! Since I choose the food myself it’s often very delicious and I know exactly what I’ll get and I know it’ll be good.
You learn how to cook. Practice makes perfect, the more you get the chance to cook you will learn new tricks and get the chance to experiment. We will spend our whole life eating so it is worth learning a few things about how to make the food we eat.
To make the transitioning from eating out to cooking easier there are some simple strategies that can help on the way.
Limit Your Eating Out
If you are one of those who enjoy the whole experience of eating at a restaurant you don’t have to quit completely. Like we all learnt as children, we can’t get everything that we want. Make your eating out to something special to look forward to, maybe once a month, bi-weekly or once per week instead of several days a week.
Cook for Many Days
Cooking can be time consuming but cooking several portions often doesn’t require much more time compared to cooking one or two portions. Take one day of the week to do your cooking and then there is no need to think about cooking for the rest of the week. I usually do my weekly lunch cooking on Sundays and then I have my lunch boxes ready for the whole week. I enjoy eating the same food several days in a row but I know that some don’t. In this case stock up on different foods in your freezer so you can choose between different options. Cooking for many days saves time in more aspects than just cooking, because the food is already prepared I don’t have much dishes to do throughout the week, just a few plates that I ate on.
Have a Backup Recipe
Sometimes we are busy on our cooking day or we just didn’t feel like cooking. It is always good to have a backup recipe of a very simple and fast dish you can whip together in no time in the morning. This will prevent us fro spending money on eating out because we didn’t have time to cook. My fastest version of my backup recipes is to boil pasta together with frozen vegetables and add salt and pepper when it’s finished and BAM! You have lunch within 15 passive minutes. If you’re concerned with nutrition some ham or an egg can be added for protein (you can even boil the egg with the pasta and vegetables, talk about multi-cooking).
Cooking instead of eating out is one of the three thumb rules of how to save money on food. The other rules are to only eat the amount you need (excess eating cost money) and what you need (we need food with nutrition and not candy and snacks).