Our ancestors, running around barefoot hunting (and praying) for the night’s meal, would have difficulty understanding our modern-day “problems.” Nevertheless, the struggle of having too easy access to too much delicious food is real. Whether you’re looking to save money, eat healthier, or both, try these 12 tips for eating less takeout.
1. Picture Yourself Old, Broke, and Working at Costco
With all due respect to Walmart employees, greeting shoppers isn’t a job you want to work in your 80s. Next time you turn into the Chick-fil-A parking lot instead of heading home to eat leftovers, realize that you are blowing your retirement through a never-ending series of wasteful decisions—typified by your taste for takeout.
2. Keep Your Checking Account on (Near) Empty
Many of us need to feel financial pressure to adjust our spending habits. If this applies to you, create the perception that you are broke (or, at least, closer to broke than you would like). Utilize high-yield savings accounts, Robinhood, and other investment vehicles. Not only will these accounts earn you valuable interest, but a low balance in your checking account may discourage you from blowing money on takeout.
3. Keep Frozen Meals on Deck
Too often, we cite convenience and cooking fatigue as excusable excuses to order takeout. We get it—even Gordan Ramsay needs a night off. Give yourself a much-needed reprieve from cooking by keeping a few frozen pizzas (California Pizza Kitchen’s brand is a standout), chicken pot pies, or other icebound meals in the freezer. Frozen items are convenient, quick to prepare, and significantly less expensive than ordering takeout.
4. Delete the Apps
Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub make it far too easy for us to indulge our sweet tooths and carb cravings. While deleting food delivery apps is not a fool-proof solution, studies show that removing your apps is the first step toward healthy self-reflection. Having to open the App Store, re-download the food delivery app, put in multiple passwords, and then order food may be enough of a hassle to stop you from ordering. When you can’t stop yourself from ordering apps, delete the apps.
5. Block the Apps
If you find yourself continually re-downloading deleted food delivery apps, it’s time for a more potent solution. Several applications lock your phone (or specific apps) based on your own settings. These apps (like Offtime and Flipd) are generally marketed to phone addicts but may be just as effective for serial takeout-ers.
6. Get a Head Start On Your Hunger
Whether you’re running the hundred-meter dash or aiming to curb your food-centric spending, a head start can help immensely. Rather than waiting for hunger pangs to arrive and succumbing to the urge for a quick meal prepared by a stranger, start cooking before hunger strikes. When you have a meal ready, it’s far harder to justify ordering Olive Garden’s fettuccine alfredo to-go.
7. Plan Your Meals for the Week
Planning a weekly menu has several benefits. For one, you can slate meals in a way that ensures variety. Secondly, you can be certain to have all the necessary ingredients, reducing the likelihood that you will swing by Taco Bell because you forgot to buy taco shells at the store. Lastly, planning your meals will allow you to mix low-effort meals (like pasta) with more labor-intensive feasts—protecting yourself from burnout.
8. Invest in a Quality Coffee Maker
Americans who are drowning in debt and struggling to pay their rent are spending thousands of dollars on Starbucks. Coffee is the most insidious takeout item for many out-of-control spenders, and the siren-like figure on the Starbucks logo sings an irresistible song that pulls vehicles to the drive-thru day after day. Switching from Frappe to Folgers is a tough sell, so give yourself a reason to kick your Starbucks habit. Invest in a quality coffee maker that gets excited to make your own Joe. In the long run, you’ll save money simply by saying, “Sayonara, Starbucks.”
9. Tracking Your Takeout Spending
Review two months of the money you have blown on takeout meals. Project that spending for an entire year. Between delivery fees and the premiums restaurants charge to ensure their profits, you are likely spending far more than you’re comfortable with. Unless you do the accounting, it’s easy to bury your head in General Tso’s chicken, pepperoni pizza, and other meals you shouldn’t order. When faced with the cold, hard numbers, you may suddenly realize why your bank account never seems to grow.
10. Track Your Money Saved
It is important to acknowledge and reinforce your positive behaviors. Every time you consider ordering takeout but don’t, make a note of it. You might even keep a spreadsheet tracking the money you have saved (based on estimates) each time you’ve said “buzz off” to your inner spendthrift.
11. Keep a Reliable, Delicious Snack Rotation
When you go to the grocery store, be realistic about your eating habits. Small snacks can be the band-aid that stops you from ordering an entire meal. If a stick or bag of beef jerky will tide you over and prevent a full-blown takeout order, stock up on beef jerky. Identify the reasonably healthy snacks you love and stock up on them. Munchies can be just the crutch you need.
12. Get Good at Cooking
The tastier the food you make, the more inclined you will be to eat at home. You’ve been looking for a hobby. Why can’t you become the next social media sous chef superstar? If you can truly get into cooking, you may eventually find that your own food is better than the overpriced, butter-soaked slop you used to order (to your financial detriment).