but i just dont feel like it four strategies to fight the takeout urge

June 26th, 2008

But I Just Don’t Feel Like It… Four Strategies To Fight The Takeout Urge

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.  :)

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33 Responses to “But I Just Don’t Feel Like It… Four Strategies To Fight The Takeout Urge”

  1. I need to work on having more leftovers, we usually eat everything, unless I make a TON.

  2. BakerDancer Says:

    June 26th, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Leftovers have been a really easy solution since my divorce! I was used to cooking for four and now I only “have to” cook for three. Nevertheless, I continue to cook in the same quantities as before the divorce so there are always leftovers! I know, that sounds like a sick silver lining, but we’ve got to look for them wherever we can, no? I actually rarely use my leftovers for dinner, though. I freeze them in lunch-size plastic containers and bring them to work.

    Money troubles following the divorce also forced me into basically following ALL of the suggestions in this post. I plan meals religiously and shop only for ingredients needed for planned meals. That way, I’m never missing ingredients and I never throw away cash on extras that don’t fit into the plan.

  3. … or you could just eat takeout guilt-free by planning for the expense in advance.

    Remember those little splurges occasionally can keep you from getting beaten down by the debt monster :)

  4. I’m not a fan of eating out because I’m a health nut, and there just aren’t any healthy places nearby.

    We try to make extra food for leftovers, and we definitely do the quick and easy meals sometimes.

  5. @ Brandon – I did say that at the end ;)

    Planning for takeout is one thing, impulse takeout is another :)

  6. Impulse takeout is my weakness. Especially this week. I had no idea I’d be so tired after working at VBS!

    Thanks. I needed to read this. :)

  7. My mother has always made double batches of food, like macaroni and cheese, and frozen one for nights that she didn’t feel like cooking or worked late. A lot of times she would bake it halfway, then finish baking it when she took it out for a dinner. Heat up some frozen vegetables and it’s a fresh, tasty meal in no time. Now that I’ve grown up I really appreciate the wisdom in this.

  8. @paidtwice – Ha sorry, I only scanned the article :)

  9. Michelle H. Says:

    June 26th, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I do the same thing as Minnie’s mom. If I make lasagne, I make two and freeze one and bake one. Same goes for pizza. Chicken and broccoli casserole works well too. Even in spite of this, I STILL have times where we eat out too much. I guess it’s always a battle….sigh…

  10. I keep canned tuna and chicken handy for times like that! It’s so easy to whip up some tuna or chicken salad for dinner without thinking! In fact, my friend called me on Sunday to see if I wanted to go to dinner, but I suggested (after much deliberation on my part) that she should bring her food to my house and we could still eat together! And I made tuna salad for myself….

  11. One of my favorite strategies for this is to prepare meals in a slow cooker. I do all the prep in the morning, and when I get home I have a hot (and healthy) meal already waiting for me! I’m single and am usually in no mood to cook when I get home, so it works great. Plus, there are lots of leftovers to freeze. :-)

  12. GREAT post!

  13. Single – so impulse eating is the $1 menu drivethru – just a sandwich. No fries no pop. I just don’t know how families can afford it anymore… I limit myself to once or sometimes twice a month.

    However – I try to cook lots each weekend, and freeze in portions to take for lunch and/or warmed up later in the week/and a big batch frozen in case the family/grandkids is coming over. Cooking for one is so depressing that it is better for me to just be able to nuke my leftovers and get on with my home remodeling projects when I get home from work… no waste of time that way.

  14. 3. Have a meal plan each week so you don’t have to think about what to cook.

    That’s the one that works best for me. I’ll also try and find food that’s been reduced in price for a short date that can be used that day. Try and get the 2 for one offers or half price deals as well. By hunting these out you not only save money but you also get the variety from week to week as the offers change and you sometimes get to try something new. Great post and the way you try and justify to yourself is a great way to cool off before making hasty and expensive decisions. It works for me. Take care.

  15. Oh my goodness this post was so good… There are many times at the end of the day that I am tired or just want to have something fast… That is usually when we have breakfast for dinner… there are so many fast yummy options that my family is satisfied and happy :)

  16. These are some really good tips. Many of my friends get takeout on Fridays in particular. I have worked so hard to eat healthy, lose weight, and be frugal that I don’t want to fall in that trap anymore.

    We still 1-2x a month do the impulse eating out. But that can easily be $30 a pop. Yikes. Even “let’s go grab a burrito” is easily $20.

    Now I plan for leftovers whenever my husband is out of town on business, and every Monday, Thursday and Friday. I keep a few healthier frozen options (like veggie burgers) for desperation dinners (1-2x per month).

    These strategies have saved us hundreds of dollars.

    I do like to eat out now and then, but with a particular group of friends, I generally end up getting stiffed on the bill (they either don’t tip much or are bad at math), so I don’t go very often.

  17. Eating out is my biggest financial weak point each and every month. When I’m feeling down, its so difficult to cook, and so easy just to say, “forget it, I’m getting take out”.

    I think I should invest perhaps in some good Tupperware so that when I do cook I can cook for more than just one and stash the leftovers for later!

  18. This is a great list. However, I have to admit I’m about to give in to the fact that I really do NOT want to cook again tonight. Tomorrow’s a holiday and I’ve been working my little tush all week so the kids, the Boyfriend and I are heading out for Kid’s Night at a local Italian place. But in my defense, we haven’t eaten out since May, so I say they probably deserve a break from my cooking as much as I do. :P

  19. We’ve been working on fighting the urge, too, after we spent nearly as much on takeout/dining out as groceries one month! Yeesh. These are great tips. If you’ve got a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (or something comparable) nearby, my family has found that they have great prices on bulk items like beans and grains. As vegetarians, this really helps us stock up on protein that keeps us fitter and fuller, too :)

  20. This is a great post. I need to print it out and tack it to my fridge. :P

  21. One last tip – have a small snack, preferably with you at all times. Very hungry = must eat NOW, which makes the idea of going home and THEN starting cooking much less appealing. A small baggie of dried fruit and nuts can stave off pangs of hunger enough that you remember why you’re cooking at home in the first place!

  22. Like you noted, having the ingredients on hand for a fast dinner makes all the difference. Of course, the strategy that really works for me is to live in a small town with two fast food options that are both pretty crappy. I’d eat my toenails before paying for some of that food.

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