How to avoid take-out

Ramen Lo Mein - avoiding take-out

Ramen Lo Mein from mealsoutsidethebox.com.

It happens every tax season. We order a ton of take-out. After teaching all day then meeting with clients or working on tax returns, the last thing I want to do is spend an hour making dinner. Take-out is easy. We could pick it up on the way home or just have it delivered. It was easy but tough on the wallet. We would spend 100’s of dollars each month on take-out, fast food, and delivery.

A few days ago, I realized that we had made it through tax season without ordering take-out, delivery or fast food. This seemed extraordinary to me, considering we really didn’t make this a goal. It just happened. But how did it happen?

Over the past few months, I have been much more flexible with meal planning. Rather than deciding exactly what we would have each night, I planned dinners for the week without assigning a day. I always made sure to have things on hand for quick dinners, like spaghetti, sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato soup. I even stocked some frozen pizza in the freezer. On the weekends, I would make something more substantial, lasagna or a roast, which could serve as leftovers for dinner during the week. I kept salad fixings in the fridge so I could throw together a vegetable in a few minutes.

Each night, I would decide what we were going to have based on the amount of time and energy I wanted to spend in the kitchen. Sometimes, my husband would make spaghetti or pizza so I could keep working. When I had a little more time, I would make fried rice or ramen lo mein. On nights when I was all caught up and felt like cooking, I would get a bit more creative and make enchiladas or beef stroganoff. Usually those meals were made with leftover meat from a roast I made over the weekend which cut my cooking time dramatically.

Dinner doesn’t have to be a five-star gourmet meal. Think about what you are purchasing when you get take-out. It’s probably not the best thing for you. Think about quick things you could make at home. Spaghetti can be on the table in fifteen or twenty minutes. Grilled cheese in about ten. You can lay out a make-your-own sandwich bar in about five (just pull sandwich stuff out of the fridge and invite everyone to make their own). Don’t let your busy schedule keep you from saving on food.

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