No matter how committed we are, and how good our intentions, there will be times that we feel like faltering. I am pretty disciplined about eating at home and not spending unnecessary money on takeout, but like many people, there are times that I just don’t feel like cooking and the temptation to swing by a local fast food joint runs high. These are four strategies I use to prepare for the temptation in advance so that when it strikes, I can combat it without caving.
1. Have leftovers or other meals frozen and ready to be warmed up with minimal fuss.
I generally have a few frozen meals ready to go (leftovers from meals past) that just need to be popped into the oven and heated up before eating. I rotate these on a regular basis, sending them with my spouse for lunch or having a leftover night if they don’t get eaten and replace them with new ones. Then when I have a “I can’t cook” night, there’s food ready to eat with just a few seconds of effort.
2. Have quick-fix favorites on hand that can be made with less effort than driving to a restaurant.
Sometimes the idea of cooking feels awful but leftovers feel worse. That’s what I keep a few quick-fix favorites on hand for. It only takes a few minutes to make up a plate of sandwiches or salads, and it satisfies that craving for quick food without spending unnecessary cash.
3. Have a meal plan each week so you don’t have to think about what to cook.
When all else fails, stick to the plan. Many times, if there’s a plan in front of me, I can motivate myself to carry it out versus going out to pick up food. I am good with a plan. And as a bonus, if I’ve planned the whole week and am feeling particularly unmotivated, I might be able to switch for a really easy meal planned for later in the week.
4. Remind yourself of your goals and what the money spent on takeout would take away from.
The one thing that’s best at keeping me from spending unnecessarily spending money is taking a moment to ask myself – is this worth possibly eliminating our debt a month later than we might be able to otherwise? Is it that important to have someone else cook for me tonight? That thought is, many times, enough to keep me on track for another day.
This is not to say that you should never go out to eat or pick up takeout. The key is to do so because you choose to, plan to, and have made provisions to do so, not out of desperation or utter exhaustion. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, anxiety, and stress for our family, and many many nights I really felt like throwing out the plan and just driving up to a window that would give me food for a swipe of the debit card. I’m happy to report that the only time we took a drive through detour was on the way home from my colonoscopy. I definitely was not in the mood to cook and my spouse had a work emergency and needed to work from home as soon as we got there, so we took a little Sonic detour. I hadn’t had solid food in over 36 hours and I was hungry.