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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Breaking the Fast Food Cycle

When I first started this blog it was a way for me to track how much my family was eating out.  We had gotten into the habit of eating out 3-4 times a week for lunch and 4-5 times a week for dinner.  Not only were we spending hundreds of dollars on fast food but I was also still spending all of our allotted grocery budget each week on food that eventually just went bad in my fridge, thus wasting even more money.  At one point I realized that all our discretionary money was being spent on eating out and that simply had to change.

It's been a little over a year and a hard struggle, but I'm happy to report that our eating out has curbed dramatically.  We still eat out on occasion, but it is typically planned and put into our monthly budget.  Since I have become much more aware of just how much bad food costs, I am less tempted to eat out just because.  Why spend $30 on fast food when I can make something much better for way less?  Also, there is just many more things I would rather do with that $30. 

Here are a few of the things that helped my family break the fast food cycle:
  • Desire--This may seems lame, but you really have to want to stop.  For us, it came from realizing just how much we were spending on food that really was not good for us.  It also helps to have a reason or a goal.  We wanted to buy a house and in order to make that work, we needed the extra money eating out was taking.
  • Budget--Each pay period I sit down and write out a zero balance budget.  This means that every dollar is accounted for--there is no "free money" sitting in my account.  After tithing, bills, groceries, household items and fuel, I look at what money I have left and assign it a category.  I typically plan one or two days each pay period for eating out.  If we eat out more than that then that money comes out of my grocery budget (my grocery budget is $100/wk for a family of 6).  This makes me less tempted to eat out, since it typically costs us around $25-30 and I know that I can feed my family dinner at home for around $3-7. 
  • Meal Plan--Each week I create a meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks based on the weekly grocery ads, coupons, and what I have in my pantry/fridge/freezer.  I also include a night for left overs. 
  • Fall Back Meals--These are meals that your family likes that are quick and easy to make and you always have on hand.  For us they are: spaghetti, eggs, and cheater shepherds pie (can of Dinty Moore and a packet of instant mashed potatoes.)
  • Don't Give Up--Occasionally, we'd fall back into bad habits having periods were we eat out more than necessary.  Instead of giving up, we just resolve to do better again.
Now that I feel we have our eating out under control it's on to our next food goal, which is to eat healthier.  I've noticed lately that our meals have become very centered around meat so I've been trying to have more fresh fruits and vegetables with each meal and less meat. I'm also trying to introduce more whole grains and fiber into our diet. 

So, onto the next adventure!


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