Eating Out Less

simplesteps

Here’s what I’ve decided as I’m writing the Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating series:  These steps can be taken in any order. There is not necessarily one step that should come before any of the others (except perhaps deciding that you need to take steps??!)

If you find yourself stumped as to where to start on your healthy eating journey, read through the Simple Steps posts I’ve written so far…and just pick something. You might start with drinking more water (and less soda or juice). You might start by eating an extra piece of fruit each day. You might start by eating out less (like we’ll talk about today). The point is that you start.  Pick something, set a goal and work toward it. Once you’ve accomplished that step, take another step. Go at a pace that works well for you. You can do this!

Okay, now let’s talk about eating out less

I did actually address this topic quite a while ago, so I would like to suggest you go read what I wrote previously too! The thing is…eating out is addicting. I have found that the more I eat out, the more I want to eat out. Or should I say…the less I eat out, the less I want to eat out.

I used to crave it. I used to sit at home dreaming of french fries from my favorite restaurant. I used to go out of my way to find a chance (or a few dollars) to eat out. And of course, I’d take big time advantage of the free Pepsi refills!!!

It’s amazing how the additives in fast food restaurants (and beyond) make your body crave more. And I don’t think I need to tell you that food from restaurants is hardly ever good for us? Do I need to say that? Okay, here I’ll say it:  The food from restaurants is usually rancid, poor quality, full of MSG, fried in nasty oils… Should I go on? 

How about expensive? In my experience, eating out costs more than eating at home, no matter what kind of value menu you order from or coupons you use. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how you can afford to eat healthy foods, you may find you have extra money for good groceries if you eat out less.

Now, am I suggesting that you don’t eat out at all? No, of course not. Sometimes it’s a necessity. Sometimes it’s a treat. Sometimes it’s fun. Our family enjoys the very occasional dinner out…and sometimes I go out and have a nice lunch with a girlfriend. Eating out isn’t evil…I’m just suggesting that as a step toward healthier eating…you may want to look into eating out less often.

You’ll save money and I promise that even if you aren’t eating the absolute best foods at home, eating at home is still better for you (generally) than eating out.

Okay, those are my thoughts. What are your thoughts about eating out? Do you find yourself wanting to eat out often? Have you ever craved certain fast food or restaurant food?

Comments

  1. says

    So excited for this! We actually used to eat out pretty much every night. But I am striving to eat more at home. It’s hard though because I am not a creative cook. I actually despise cooking & would rather scrub toilets. lol

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    Laura Reply:

    Maybe I could cook for you and you could come scrub my toilets? Remember though, I have four boys. And their friends are over a lot. My toilets are SCARY! :)

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    Debra Reply:

    I have an 11 year old boy & constant house full of boys. I don’t mind them! ha ha! I actually have 2 extra with us today as well.

    Be warned though, I live in Japan so it might take me some time to get there. Don’t stop scrubbing, yet! ha ha!

    Have a blessed day!

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  2. Danielle says

    Wow… this is SO timely! I was just speaking w/a friend YESTERDAY about eating out, and how they put stuff into the food to keep you coming back! (yup, MSG was even brought up!)

    I have to admit… Mcdonald’s is my downfall. Especially the nuggets! And the Mcflurry’s! (and they melt fast! lol)

    Our problem isn’t cost, or worrying about spending too much money on food. The problem is CONVENIENCE. I have SO many recipes bookmarked, but I have only tried two or three. Maybe I’m lazy? I’ve tried recipes… and they would be bland, so then I’m worried that ALL recipes will be like that. My cooking is ok… but if I can get a box of xyz and just throw it in the oven, it’s easier!

    And as I was speaking w/my friend we discussed a local organic farm, and she was interested in trying them out w/me!

    So, I either need cooking lessons, or I need to just try more recipes!

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    Semalee Bilbrey @ Nailing Jello to a Tree Reply:

    A really good book that got me started thinking I actually CAN cook is a book called “How to Cook without a Book”. Check it out from the library if you can, but you’ll probably buy it :) That will help a lot with your confidence in your own ability to cook good food. Then you won’t want other people’s cooking :)

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    Danielle Reply:

    Thank you so much!! I’ll check out the book.

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    Danielle Reply:

    I just bought the book off ebay. I’m a sucker for convenience! lol

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  3. says

    This is something my husband and I have been talking about a lot lately. We know it costs more money to eat out we also know it is unhealthy for us. But we are such suckers for the convience!! I have really been enjoying your once a month freezer meal posts and think that is a really great way to battle the eating out urges. Would you have any ideas as to what to cook on nights that you are exhausted, not feeling well, or just plain busy? I’d love to hear you thoughts!

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    Laura Reply:

    I’ll put this on my list of future post ideas…but yes (short answer) if I really don’t feel like cooking, a freezer meal is what I usually resort to. They are SOOOOOOO nice!!

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    Trisha Reply:

    I have several fall-back meal plans for crazy, tired, busy days. Usually we have the ingredients for these meals on hand:
    (1) Soft tacos: whole wheat tortillas (I keep them in the freezer), leftover meat of some kind (if you are a carnivore like me), and “taco fixins” (canned black or kidney beans, olives, onions of any kind, tomatoes, avocado, leftover rice (if I have it), sour cream, salsa, grated cheese — whatever you have on hand that works.
    (2) Grilled cheese sandwiches
    (3) Tuna melt sandwiches
    (4) English muffin pizzas (use your own frozen marinara sauce or purchased sauce)
    (5) Soup from a box (you can buy some scrumptious organic soups from Trader Joe’s)
    (6) “Garbage” soup: I save small bits of leftover veges, meats, pasta, and beans in a container in the freezer, and when we have enough, I throw it in a soup pot with a little vegetable or meat stock.
    (7) Frittata: in an iron frying pan, saute some onions, throw in a few leftover veges, and then pour a bunch of beaten eggs; tip the pan and lift the edges of the egg-and-vege mixture to let uncooked egg run underneath to cook. When you can’t do that anymore, toss some grated cheese on top and run the pan under the broiler to melt the cheese and cook the last of the egg mixture.
    (8) French Toast – yes, you read that right – french toast for dinner, why?, because it’s one of my husband’s specialties, and when I’m too tired and ask him to take care of dinner, that’s often what we have! It’s always good to have one of your fall-back dinners be something that is someone else’s specialty!

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  4. says

    Interesting that you would post this about being addicted to eating out! I have noticed since my switch to more healthy eating that I no longer crave eating out, in fact the idea almost makes my stomach turn! And the even stranger thing— we had the opportunity to eat lunch out the other day and my son said, “Mom can we just go home and get something? Eating fast food upsets my stomach”…. Hmmmmm :)

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    April Reply:

    I feel the same way! Sometimes when I tell someone that eating out often makes me sick,
    they give me a weird look. :)

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    Amanda Reply:

    I can almost guarantee that if we eat out someone in our family will have stomach cramps or diarrhea that night. Yuck!

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  5. says

    Funny you should post on this. We’ve just spent the last two weeks on vacation, and now my dd and myself have stomach pains. We’ve been eating only organic foods for a while now, but you know how hard that is to do on vacation. So, our bodies are revolting. :) So now I can see the affects of eating out often. I never saw them before, when we weren’t organic living. But this was a wake up call, and now we’re back on the healthy eating trail.

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  6. Anne says

    How did you kick the soda habit? Do you drink coffee? I have tried to quit drinking soda and then a few months down the road I am in a situation where there is only soda to drink and then I am hooked again. Craving the soda fix once again! It is terrible. As I type this I am drinking my morning coffee in hopes I can curb my soda addiction for the day!
    I wanted to let you know I love your recipes you post on here. Last night your popcorn chicken was a hit.
    It is ridiculous though, when I try to have our family eat better, but then here I am with my soda! I crave sugar, too. I bought the organic sugar cane, but it is not the same as the white sugar. My husband won’t drink the tea I brew with the organic sugar cane, it is not as sweet! Any thoughts? Any words of wisdom? :)

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    Laura Reply:

    Here’s a post I wrote about kicking the soda habit: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/our-healthy-eating-journey-part-9 I’m not a coffee drinker, I just love the smell of it brewing.

    I can SO relate to your drinking soda while you feed your family healthy food!!! I did the same thing and I felt SO ridiculous. Baby steps though, right?

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  7. Missy says

    Sooooo true Laura. Once I decided to eat healthy (and begin losing weight) I decided to completely give up all fast food about five months ago. No “everything in moderation” I’m just not having it. At first it was SO hard, I craved McD’s all the time, now I really have zero appetite for it. Nothing on the menu appeals to me, it’s hard to believe it ever did. Even pizza from my formerly favorite pizza place doesn’t hold much appeal, I just prefer loads of fresh, seasonal veggies so much more at this point. We do go to Panera on occasion, but I do think they are a step above fast food in terms of health, and we go out to eat at a real restaurant about twice a year, but it’s considered a treat and not a regular part of our diet.

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    Danielle Reply:

    mmm Panera!! I was at a woman’s conference in June, and they had Panera cater! Can we say yum?? I had no idea they did more than bread stuff (bagels and stuff). It was a god a mount of food too! A sandwich on rye bread, fresh fruit, and some sort of chips. (not lays or something unhealthy, I want to say organic or something) I do remember they were made w/sea salt and not fried! I now buy rye bread.

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    Ami Reply:

    I have finally talked my husband into taking us to Panera when we go out, and I was wondering if it really is better. It seems so much better to me, and as long as I stick with a whole food choice from their menu, I don’t seem to get cravings. Their salads are so crisp!

    We started some family challenges this past spring. We called it the “Healthy at Home” challenge and we tried to go 38 days without eating out, except for a planned outing for desserts on Mother’s Day with our parents. It was hard but we did it! Now we aren’t doing a challene any more, but we will only be eating out 3 times in August – all 3 planned outings at Panera! (I say that, but we may have to go out to Fazoli’s tonight instead of having the beautiful steaks I thawed out today.)

    About the soda pop – just keep trying! I’ve always tried to give up Mt. Dew, and it finally took this last time. I haven’t had any since New Year’s Eve! But 2 nights ago I dreamed I took a few drinks and the taste sensation was so real. CRAZY! But it was just a dream, I didn’t really give in!

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  8. says

    Eating out is addicting!

    My husband and I try not to eat out but sometimes its unavoidable. When we do I notice that we crave it more.

    I think that when you choose to eat out you need to do your research ahead of time. I prefer eating at Subway over McDonald’s because I find that i don
    t feel as icky afterwards.

    The downside to eating real foods is that meals often require more preparation. One tip that I have found is to pre slice all my veggies when I come home from the store. I find that I am less overwhelmed when dinner time arrives and can easily pull things together. It’s also helpful to have plenty of veggies/fruit to snack on if we are hungry and dinner is going to take awhile.

    Also, learn to make some of your favorite restaurant choices at home, It will save you money and you may find that you like your version better than the restaurants.

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  9. Esther L says

    Well put Laura. We have lunch catered into our office 2 or 3 times a week. While I don’t have to pay for it monetarily, I do pay for it in the bloated and just plain icky feelings that always arrive after 3 days in a row of restaurant food. Thankfully, my husband and I absolutely love to cook and enjoy whole foods and that’s what my kids know and love too!

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  10. Hezzie says

    Hubby and I have realized that the $30 spent on a mediocre dinner out with 2 little ones can be much better spent on some good steaks, fresh veggies and yum-yum homemade dessert at home. We are much happier when we do that!!

    We also try to avoid franchise restaurants when possible~ too processed! Give me a real hamburger fron a ‘mom&pop’ shop anyday…

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  11. teresa says

    So true! Once you stop eating out, your body stops craving it. I think fast foods and restaurants have way too much sodium for our bodies to handle. I am always swollen and feel miserable most of the time. Eating out is so expensive, you almost have to take out a 2nd mortage and it is killing Americans. The more i cook at home, the more I want to and since eating real foods, I am dropping weight..even in the menopause years.. thank you Laura for your great help!

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  12. Kellie says

    I prefer to eat at home, because I know what’s in my food, and it saves us money. That being said, I still crave a juicy cheeseburger now and then, and not the homemade kind! I just need to keep reminding myself of what is in the fast food burger and how bad it is for me.

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  13. Linda says

    I try so hard not to eat out. Since I really took big steps to eat healthier(I wasn’t doing too bad before, but I buckled down even more), I do not want to eat out. I always regret eating restaurant food. My tummy does not like it. I did eat out yesterday so I could at least say hi to my niece for a minute at the restaurant where she works(she’s a teenager and hard to get time with). It’s not bad as far as eating out goes. It’s called Just Fresh. I would just rather eat at home.

    Linda

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  14. says

    This is such a great series of posts! I went on Weight Watchers a couple of years ago and your advice is a lot in line with what have learned through the program. Eating healthy is so important! Not just to lose weight but also to live a longer and fuller life. So important for our health and the health of our children.

    We do not go out to eat a lot. That is one of the ways that we save money. With 6 kids, it can be so expensive! The fast food places are the worst as far as healthy eating. The only time that we go out to eat is on birthdays or special occasions such as anniversaries. My husband and I will occasionally go out on our “date nights”. When we do go out, we try to eat somewhere where I know that I have good healthy food choices.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts in this series!

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  15. says

    I agree! While on vacation this past week, we ate out a lot and you know what? (pause for you to say ‘what Kristine?’) My family actually got tired of eatting out and wanted mommy’s home cooking.

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  16. Cindy says

    When we starting reading the Total Money Makeover we looked through our spending and discovered we were spending an obscene amount of money on eating out each month. So, we decided to cut back to once, maybe twice a month. Since I was the one who usually suggested it, it was especially hard on me. My excuse was that we have two small children at home and cooking and doing dishes was difficult with a crying baby. However, I was mad about the money we had been spending on eating out, so I commited to stopping the madness! Now I don’t crave eating out and I have a menu plan so I don’t have to think about what to fix and I have the ingredients already because with my menu plan I knew what to buy at the grocery store!

    This is such an important step to eating healthier and saving money!

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  17. says

    Another thing bad about eating out: factory farmed meats. Um, yuck. I am finding more and more that no matter what I eat when I go out (I try to eat healthy in spite of eating out. I used to find eating out as a treat to eat whatever I wanted.), I end up with a stomach ache. My husband LOVES to eat out and he always tells me that he likes my cooking better “but there’s just something about eating out” that he loves. Yeah, I’ll tell you what I DON’T love…getting an upset stomach, fighting with an almost-two-year-old because she can’t eat anything we are eating as a result of a sensitive tummy, and the bill. I would pick eating in any day!!! :)

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    Amanda Y. Reply:

    Yes, the factory farmed meats is currently our biggest motivation not to eeat out. I would eat out all the time otherwise. But, knowing that the chicken, eggs, and beef are subpar, fatty, subject to recall, grown in inhumane conditions, I’m quickly learning is reason enough not to eat out. HOWEVER I must mention that Silver Diner (an east coast chain) has grass-fed burgers and free range eggs! It’s a start! Yay!

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  18. Carmen says

    We hadn’t gone out to a “real” restaurant for a while, so my husband and I decided to treat ourselves this past Friday. He ordered a nice steak, hashbrowns and the salad bar. Not long after he had a digestive response that we’ve realized has happened quite frequently… it’s almost as if the food is too rich or something. I think it might be a while again before we go out to eat.
    On the other hand, I’m a sucker for McD’s french fries (I have been craving salt) and pizza. Maybe I should have hubby build me an outdoor brick oven so we can make that crispy-crust style pizza at home :)

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  19. Amanda Y. says

    It’s addicting. My problem is, as long as we ONLY eat at home (esp. for dinner), I’m ok. But as soon as we have to break that (and you know, it happens, you’re travelling or have to visit friends or family, etc.) and we eat out, I take FOREVER to get back to cooking and eating at home! Help!

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    Danielle Reply:

    Yep!! We went a whole MONTH w/o eating out (don’t laugh—that’s a LONGGGGG TIME FOR US!). Not sure what happened, but after 4, 5 or 6 weeks we had take out, and it was over!

    I was cooking, I had menu plans–basic tho, since I don’t cook a lot! I probably got tired of the same stuff!

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  20. Dawn says

    It’s almost impossible not to eat out when traveling. Otherwise, we eat out very rarely and are usually sorry afterward! Laura, I would love a post on ideas for healthy foods to take on road trips.

    [Reply]

    Danielle Reply:

    Or… what to do when you go away for conferences and stuff,
    and you don’t have access to a kitchen! And you are eating at
    10 or 11 at night, at a fast food place—it just happened in June to me.

    Luckily I was soooo sick to my stomach the 3 days, I didn’t eat. I had juice and fruit.

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  21. says

    We don’t really eat out, mostly because we live in a town of 900 now and there isn’t anywhere to eat out! Before we moved here, we lived in a large metropolitan area but only ate out maybe 1-2 times per month. It’s much more affordable to eat at home!

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  22. says

    We eat out rarely – once a week if that…It’s sooo bad for you. You don’t know what’s in it. Usually too much sat fat. WAY too many calories. We have a tendency to go overboard and it’s just bad all around! Great post!

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  23. says

    We eat out rarely – once a week if that…It’s sooo bad for you. You don’t know what’s in it. Usually too much sat fat. WAY too many calories. We have a tendency to go overboard and it’s just bad all around! Great post!

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  24. Chariti Kupiec says

    Hi there,

    This is a nosy question and I would understand if you don’t answer but I’ll ask anyway…roughly what is your monthly grocery budget? We eat whole foods, nothing processed, and I’m only feeding 3 boys but I can’t seem to get my spending below $800 month. We don’t have any food co-ops here but I do go to the Farmers Market and try to buy what’s in season and costs less. I get my eggs from a farm and they’re reasonable. Organic beef & chicken are my most expensive items. I grind my own wheat and LOVE all your great recipes. So all that to say -am I crazy for wanting to spend less? Is that a reasonable amount? It KILLS me to spend that much on food PLUS it makes everything else so tight.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Here’s a post I wrote about our budget: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/feeding-the-family-breaking-down-our-2009-food-budget but it’s a little outdated. I should try to write a more current post, although I think it would still be similar to the $500-$550/month.

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  25. Erin says

    My husband is an Aztec dancer and right now is a two week long fair that his group is preforming in. That means on weekdays, after he gets home, we go to the fair. That isn’t too bad since I can make home food. But on weekends, we are there from lunch time to 10 or 11pm. We end up eating fast food from outside the fair or pizza or the other day it was carne asada cooked on a little grill. With a small amount of fair food thrown in for good measure. Before the fair, we had stayed a weekend out of town too for another preformance at a Pow-Wow. Starting from that weekend, “junk,” non-organic food has been what we have been eating a lot lately. It is true it makes you addicted. But it also has been making us feel icky. Just like another person said, it makes our tummies gassy. Given the choice, I prefer home food. Though I am having an issue kicking the McDonalds Mocha Frappes, I would rather be eating my homemade , organic, “real” food.

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  26. Anna B says

    I used to eat out once a week, every week. Then I discovered I could cook at home (cheaper!) the same meals I was eating out! Eureka!

    I’ve been eating out a lot less since I really started focusing on cooking and meal planning. I discovered that when I have a tasty meal planned and ready to make at home, I’m not nearly so tempted to eat out!

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  27. Sile says

    Late to the party. I’ll catch up, I promise! :D

    We didn’t eat out for the entire month of October. My husband thought it was to save money. While that was half my goal, the other half was to give him a taste of REAL food without the distraction of all the horrid stuff you can get from restaurants.

    I will admit to having cravings for burgers and fries. However, I soon found that making a meatloaf and baking some potatoes fulfilled the craving! (and meatloaf freezes great even after cooking!) Just one month out and I really don’t miss eating out. Sure, cooking everything from scratch at home is more work, but I’ve been endeavoring to do extra cooking on the weekends to alleviate some stress (since I’m still working until the babies start coming). Mostly it’s just been getting breakfast food cooked and frozen (mostly whole wheat carrot waffles), but at least I don’t have to rush to make us a breakfast in the morning. It’s great that my husband hasn’t even reached for cereal in a long time. He was such a cereal junkie. One more thing to cross off my ‘let’s not buy that anymore’ list. ;)

    But I’m rambling. Not eating out = saving money + eating better! :D

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