Kale Smash and Hummus Sandwiches with marinated tomatoes and Keen Green Salad. (Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
I am that girl who walks into class with an overpriced coffee and a scone to match because I convinced myself that “Hey, this is super convenient in between classes, and it’s only a few dollars here and there, right?” Wrong. I was so incredibly wrong.
After calculating how much money I spent eating out last month, I couldn’t help but react like the “white guy blinking” meme.
I had spent over $300 on fast food, coffee and numerous restaurant meals because the moment one of my friends asked, “Where are we eating?” We were already Googling places to go.
Realizing I wasted the equivalent of a month’s worth of groceries on food and drinks that are no where near filling, it was time for an intervention with myself, for myself.
Although I am not the only one who is guilty of this, considering the average American eats out at least four
times a week according to The Simple Diet. There are ways to combat this outrageous spending if you want to feel fuller for almost half the cost:
Go grocery shopping the right way
Believe me, the last place I want to be is a grocery store. The moment I walk in, I already feel anxious and want to get the hell out of there because I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Despite being a novice grocer, I have tricked myself into believing I’m a pro-grocer if I research and create a detailed plan beforehand. Before you roll your eyes and try to reason every petty excuse imaginable, just give it at least a few grocery shopping trips before you get the hang of it.
First and foremost, research recipes to get an idea of the kind of ingredients you’ll need to execute this dish. This isn’t just a one and done recipe ingredient list either. Figure out how many days you’ll be busy at work or school and create a cumulative list of recipes to use throughout the week.
While it will save you money if some of the ingredients can be used for multiple recipes, ensure the plates are diverse enough so you won’t get tired of eating the same dish everyday. With your saved recipes documented and your ingredient list in hand, you’re almost ready to go grocery shopping.
While I know you’ve probably heard this countless times, do not step foot into any grocery store on an empty stomach. If you do, you’ll most likely end up spending more money than you planned because we both know those double stuffed Oreos were definitely do not part of your ingredients list.
Now that you’ve got your ingredients, it’s time to put those do-it-yourself recipes to the test. While practice makes perfect with certain recipes, some of them just won’t work or taste as good even though that infamous food blogger swears it will.
Because errors are likely to happen your first time around, make sure to try your creation before packing it and bringing it to school or work. If you risk not trying your meal beforehand, it may result in a disappointing lunch that ends up in the trash and leaves your stomach growling for a fast food substitute.
Invest in a lunchbox
If you commit to buying a lunchbox and ice pack, you no longer have to worry about your meal potentially spoiling throughout the day. With the ability to effectively store your already prepared lunch, there really is no excuse as to why you should constantly be eating out during your school or work day.
I know this may sound childlike, but there are mature looking lunchboxes that shouldn’t deter you from attempting to bring your sacked lunch. On the other hand, if you’d rather tote a more daring style that resembles your favorite childhood cartoons or superheroes, more power to you.
Invest in a reusable water bottle
If you start to feel your stomach start to growl after you just ate, it may not always be because you’re still hungry.
Although you may think you can tell the difference between hunger and thirst, a recent study done by The Seattle Times proved that 62 percent of the time people drank when they were hungry but not thirsty and they ate when they were thirsty but not hungry.
To combat this confusion, keep track of your daily water intake. Although you can supply your bag full of plastic water bottles that will be lukewarm in a matter of hours, you can instead invest in an insulated water bottle. Aside from being able to personalize your reusable bottle with an array of stickers, insulated water bottles can stay cold for up to 24 hours depending on the brand.
Go out (occasionally)
Although the goal is to encourage you to start meal prepping and taking your homemade meals to avoid eating out all of the time, that doesn’t mean you have to turn down your co-workers or friends every time they ask if you’d like to order a pizza or eat at a restaurant.
While you may want to be more conscious of your food spending, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally going out or picking up some Starbucks on the way to work.