In or Out?

When we were first married and we both had good jobs, we ate out entirely too much. We brought home pizza several times a month and ate at restaurants two or three times a week. We hated our little kitchen in our little house so we just avoided it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have more money to spend at Garage Sales.

When our son was born, we still ate out once or twice a week so that I could get out. But when we had our second child and now our third, eating out became a bigger chore than joy.

After a long day with little people or at work, most of us still ask that question “in or out”? I think I have found something in between. I have 5 ideas that are less expensive than traditional eating out. You still have a small amount of prep and clean up, but it saves loads of cash. And maybe it’s alright to eat off of paper plates occasionally. With all of the money you save, you can go out to eat once a month at a really nice place… if you get a babysitter.

If you are just not going to eat in, here are a few things we do to save a few bucks when we’re out…

Drink water. Most restaurants around here charge $2+ for iced tea and soda. With the money you save, you can buy a 12 pack of soda when it’s on sale.

Happy Hour. A lot of restaurants have happy hour. Call ahead to see what some of those specials are and if children are allowed in that seating area. Often you have to order a beverage, but you still save a lot of money on those half price nachos and that $2 salmon burger.

Small Orders. We’ll sometimes get one entrée to share between adults and one kid meal to share between the kids. If we’re still hungry, we’ll order a cup of soup, a basket of fries, or dessert. Usually, we find we aren’t that hungry and restaurant portions are big enough to feed a few more people.

It is pretty easy to drop $50 or more at a restaurant especially if you order adult beverages. So here are a few easy meals you can do at home for around $10. They’re not fancy or award worthy, but they’re not too bad either…

1 – Roasted Chicken ($5.99), Deli Salad ($2.99), and bread from the bakery ($1.19). Total: $10.17

2 – Frozen Lasagna ($4.79), bagged Caesar Salad ($3.99), and bread from bakery ($1.19). Total: $9.97

3 – Microwave Baked Potato (2lbs @ 0.85/lb – $1.70), Canned Chili ($1.99), bag of Mexi-Salad ($3.99), and Shredded Cheese (8oz – $2.49). Total: $10.17

4 – Salad Greens ($2.99), Canned Beans (black or pinto) ($1.29), Canned Whole Kernal Corn or Sliced Black Olives ($1.35), Shredded Cheese ($2.49), Ranch Dressing (on hand), Corn Chips ($2.00). Total: $10.12

5 – Fresh Pasta (refrigerator section) ($4.69), Pasta Sauce ($3.69), and microwaved Frozen Peas ($2.29). Total: $10.67

 (*Note* Prices are NON-sale prices. If you buy generic and on sale, you can save even more.)

Now, I know that some of these meals require a little bit of preparation, but just think of what is involved in eating out. You strap everyone into their car seats, drive to the restaurant amidst screaming, order, prevent near disaster with the salt and pepper shaker, receive your food, stop your children from throwing said food at the table next to you, “enjoy” your meal, and then pay out the nose for mediocre food.

In that same time and for a lot less money, you could have gone to the store, picked up the necessary items, returned home to prepare the meal, opened a few cans, pushed a few buttons on the microwave, eaten hot food, and cleaned up. All while wearing sweats and without any embarrassing toddler stories tell (like mine with the projectile vomit at the burger joint)!

BonusCozi allows you to put together shopping lists and text message them to yourself OR text them to your husband on his way home from work.



  1. sara kay said,

    April 29, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Clara, just wanted to say I’m reading, and enjoying this a lot. If you keep it up this little blog is going to get very popular very quickly! 🙂

  2. Rebekah said,

    April 30, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Do you think you could post a snack list? It seems I’m always running out of ideas. Pre-made snacks are often fairly expensive. Just wondering if you had homemade snack ideas – and ones other then fruit. Jude can only eat so much of that before…well, you know how it goes.

  3. Rebekah said,

    April 30, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I noticed you have a hamburger recipe list going. How about inexpensive meal ideas with chicken?

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