10 Ways To Make Sure You Will Order Takeout

A while back, Elizabeth from Ready, Set, Simplify wrote a Ten Ways to Waste Food post, and I thought it would be fun to write a similar post about how to avoid cooking.

1. Don’t plan a menu.

Fly by the seat of your pants, baby! That way, you’ll frequently have no clue what to make for dinner.

2. If you do plan a menu, be sure to ignore any busy days when you plan.

Plan a very complicated meal for the day when you’ll get home at 6:00 pm. You’ll give up on that meal before you even walk in the door.

3. Fill your menu plan with nothing but new recipes.

You’re bound to get weary of slogging through unknown territory (new recipes always take at least twice as long the first time you make them), and even if you don’t, your family will probably get a hankering for something more familiar.

4. Try recipes from anywhere and everywhere!

Don’t used tried and true sources, like Cook’s Illustrated or Better Homes and Gardens…stick with back-of-the-box recipes, obscure diet cookbooks, or recipes from around the internet (don’t bother to read the comments or ratings when you’re choosing those).

That way you’ll end up with untested, unreliable recipes, your meal will be a disaster, and then you’ll be left with no choice but to ring the pizza man.

5. Never follow a recipe carefully.

That way, even if you do happen upon a reliable, tested recipe, you can still be sure it won’t turn out. Leave spices out, substitute ingredients, don’t stress about cooking times. Just do whatever feels right.

6. Always grocery shop without a list.

If you go to the store and randomly throw food into your cart with nary a plan or list, you’ll never have everything you need to make a meal. Hello, takeout!

7. Don’t try to cook anything except super-duper perfectly healthy meals.

Everyone knows that’s not maintainable forever, and besides, even if you can persist, other members of your household will probably commit mutiny and make you order out.

8. Don’t do any dishes all day long.

That way, by the time dinner rolls around, your kitchen will be a disaster and you’ll have no space to cook.

9. Don’t think about dinner in the morning.

5:30 pm is a good time to start. That way you won’t have time to thaw, prep, or simmer anything.

10. Don’t think about the cost, or at least justify it six ways to Sunday.

“I had a long day.” or “I’m really tired.” or “We don’t do takeout as much as most people.” or “At least it’s not as expensive as going to a restaurant.” will all do nicely.

What would you add to the list? I’m sure even the diehard cooks among you must have a tip or two to share. ;)


Today’s 365 post:Done!

Joshua’s 365 post: Galileo’s Work


  1. Amy says

    Always leave the ‘What’s for dinner?’ decision up the the kids.
    Our 9 and 11 yr old boys would have us going to McD’s 3 or 4 nights a week.

  2. michelle says

    Don’t have a back up plan. Assume you will want to cook every meal. I work full time and have two small children (2 and 4). I have at least one frozen meal in my freezer (I have stuffed shells in there right now). I cook pretty much every night but when I just can’t I know I can still put a home cooked meal on the table. I also schedule left overs night in my menu. Avoid food waste a no cook night.

    • EngineerMom says

      I do the same thing with the frozen meals and LO night (always Thursday, since we have homemade pizza on Fridays and I shop Saturday morning).

      I would add:

      Thinking you can only eat “dinner” food for dinner. We have “breakfast for dinner” every Wednesday, inspired by Kristen. We also have sandwiches and soup a lot in the winter, especially on Saturdays, since we usually go to the 5:00 Mass, meaning we’re not home and cooking until close to 6:30 (we usually eat around 6:00).

      Another tip for menu-planning is to have “theme” days: Sunday soup/salad, Monday breakfast, Tuesday vegetarian, Wednesday pasta, Friday “kid’s pick” (mac and cheese, grilled cheese, spaghetti, pizza, a favorite hotdish), etc. That really narrows the recipe selection for each day and adds some predictability to the menu, something my husband and kid seem to appreciate!

  3. SandyH says

    #2 so true!! And to expand on that theme, be flexible enough so that if a day suddenly turns hectic, you can substitute another day’s meal plan. Might have to rely on your microwave for thawing, but it’s never a bad idea to have something planned for the week that doesn’t require much prep. That can be your emergency meal if the day caves in. Or rely on a homemade freezer meal. You will never love yourself more than on days like this, you can reach in and pull out a whole meal from the freezer.

  4. says

    Wait until you’re hungry to start cooking.

    Once I get hungry, I loose all desire for complete meals and don’t want to cook. So I always try to start around 5 pm, hungry or not.

  5. says

    Now this is both funny and sad. I chuckled at all your tips – very good. Sad, because right now I’m struggling with meal planning and it’s affecting our homeschool days. Just this morning, I told my husband that I needed to sit down & plan out a week (at least) for not just dinner but other meals as well (and snacks too). Right now, besides #1, #2 is a problem (we’re trying to adjust to a new schedule – always a learning curve there) and #3 needs to be reigned in (coming out of summer mode when I have lots of time to cook & try new things is so nice & easy but doesn’t fit with our busy Autumn/Winter days). Oh and you may just want to throw in #8 too! I suppose, if I were better organized in the meal plan department, then I might have time for #3.

  6. says

    Great list. I like to keep myself a bit on my toes by trying something new a couple of times a week but you need your old stand-by’s.

    I might add; don’t watch the weather. Planning a salad inspired meal on a day where the weather has radically turned to chilly is a great way to avoid eating what you planned.

  7. says

    Cute…I find that if super time floats around, (i.e. my hubby is a farmer. In the winter we eat at 5:30 pm…fall…8:30 pm) I get frustrated without having a definite time.

    Another issue…not remembering to take meat out of the freezer….or unexpected company.

  8. says

    Think, “I don’t want to eat what’s planned for dinner. Let’s just get takeout. Yum!”

    Or, know what you’re planning to make for dinner, but wait to start cooking until after your 2-year-old is asleep. That way, you’ll be exhausted AND loathe the idea of wasting precious sleeping-baby time to cook. Here comes takeout.

  9. jen S. says

    I’m totally busted by #8 this week. Thankfully we had a gift card, which is how I justified it. Now the dishes are done and I’m back on track… for now. Good list, good to keep in mind. I used to do a lot of prep in the afternoon when I had them all napping, but since we began a new school schedule, I’ve lost the afternoon nap time and am struggling to adjust! Thinking about it in the morning and the night before is the way I’m working at getting back on track!

  10. Cara says

    I’ve got to say I have never made a menu plan, rarely follow recipes exactly (though, I did when I was a new cook) and usually grocery shop for one to two days at a time. We never eat take out for dinner, unless we get a craving for BBQ. For us, its planning too far ahead that causes problems. When I shop for even more than two days ahead, we inevitably don’t feel like eating what I’ve planned and end up making something else. (And then I have to make sure we do cook what I bought before it goes bad.) Maybe its because I have only have a one year old kid and a husband who eats next to nothing that is available in take out, but keeping it simple works best for me. Tired? Porkchops on the stove top and a big salad. In the mood to cook? Time to try that recipe I’ve been saving.

  11. Mary Kay says

    Don’t have a list of quick, easy meals, with basic ingredients kept on hand. It could be eggs/omelets and toast or spaghetti and meatballs (jar sauce and frozen meatballs). Things you can make a quickly as getting take-out, but healthier and much cheaper.

  12. kristy says

    Don’t try to make it yourself (because when you do attempt to make fast food at home, it’s ALWAYS better and it’s called fast food because it’s fast to make, even at home!). I used to insist on doing chinese takeout once a week – but then for health and financial reasons, i started toying around with making chinese stir-frys at home and WOW, they blow the takeout away! absurdly deelish, super fast and easy and if you want, it can be a little or a lot healthy :-)

  13. priskill says

    Oh, too funny — too true!! You had me at flying by the seat of my pants!

    I would add, always drown your frustrations in steaming vats of fried fast food — plan on upholding your right to medicate stress with sugar and transfats, baby!

  14. says

    We really don’t have the option to go out to eat, so if we don’t plan, we’re just screwed. The only restaurant we have quick access to is Subway. The next closest fast food restaurant is McDonald’s; and it’s over the river and through the woods away. We do have a list and a general idea of what we want to eat, but a lot of times I just make it up the day of.

  15. Jennifer G. says

    These are great! I have to admit that I’m guilty of most of them, especially failing to plan at the grocery store and on the menu side.

    But we still don’t get takeout very much. I get home significantly earlier than my husband, so we’re late eaters.

    And we live right next to a grocery store, so it’s pretty easy to run in and grab whatever I need to make dinner.

  16. Karin says

    This was great! Just the kick in the pants I needed as I am trying to figure out what in the heck we should have for dinner tonight, soccer night when the boys have to get out the door an hour before I usually have dinner ready!

  17. Anonymous Auntie says

    My nephew has been married for 13 years, and they eat take out almost every night. He’s married to a real nice girl, but she doesn’t cook, and they blow through money like crazy. And they have four children.

    She could probably give you some pointers for this article.

    • Kristen says

      Mr. FG and I know people like that too, and we’re amazed they can afford it. With six in our household, we’d definitely be in the poorhouse if we never cooked at home!

  18. says

    This is an amazing list! I’d add “think about food all day to the point where you don’t want to make a single decision about it”. I HATE having to meal plan for our family. Everyone has different tastes, food requirements, allergies. I get so overwhelmed by having to think about everyone’s meals that I either don’t eat, eat crap, occasionally get over it and cook, or just get something out. Any tips for how to make food an easier topic? If it weren’t so necessary to survival, I’d just move on, but alas I have no other option :(

    • Melissa Z says

      I don’t have to deal with food allergies or multiple people with different tastes (hubby’ll eat pretty much anything), so I don’t have personal experience but my idea is to make a list/spreadsheet that has each person’s name & 4-5 different dishes they like that aren’t too complicated. Then try to make one dish off each person’s list every night. Make extra of that dish (maybe 5 meals worth and label with their name & put in freezer) & get takeout for everyone else. Then after a week or two, you’ll have meals in the freezer that you could pull out for each person & you’re not trying to make a different meal for each person every night.
      Almost anything homemade is equally/more healthy than most takeout, so I try to keep a few things that are super easy on hand, even if they aren’t “healthy” for when you don’t feel like doing much (scrambled eggs are my go-to easy dinner; pigs in a blanket or frozen pizza are other minimal effort meals for us). Good Luck :)

      • says

        Thanks for the suggestions! I try to make extras and save, but kiddos keep changing their tastes on me! One has a corn allergy and the other has a gluten sensitivity…so they are opposite with what they can eat. The problem I’m running into is that I make meals, but everything has too much flavor for them! We put in on their plates, but they won’t eat. I’m just ready for them to be a bit older, so meals will be easier…and not all PB&J’s, cheese, and eggs haha!

    • Rosa Rugosa says

      Why don’t you just poach Kristen’s meal plans that she posts every week? I’m sure she wouldn’t mind or else she would hide it under her pillow instead of posting it on her blog :)

    • Suzan says

      Megyn I am so with you. I try hard to respect everyone’s likes and needs. Food allergies are the dizzy limit. I am the sufferer in the household.This last Sunday night I made myself very ill. I mistakenly served myself the “egg” pasta and I am allergic to egg. One bite and I was sick for days. Everyone thought it funny. I hate cooking now as I have to work so hard to accommodate the family but it is just plain hard work.

      I also dread family gatherings. Australians love seafood and I am allergic to that too. No one wants to understand and I am tired of being branded anti social because i cannot even be in the same room as prawns etc.

  19. Simply Mommy says

    I’m most guilty of 8 and 10. Though since we moved from a townhouse smack dab in the middle of town to a house twenty minutes from any decent take out it’s cut way back on our eating out or take out. It’s more convenient to just cook.

  20. says

    To funny. We hardly ever get takeout, nor do we eat in restaurants more than 4-5 times per year. However, I am not a meal planner. Luckily, we have two big grocery stores within a couple blocks of the house, which means I can buy fresh ingredients as I need them.

    Just yesterday a friend was giving me a tip about bringing my own containers when I get takeout, and it made me realize that this was an irrelevant tip for me.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

  21. Melissa says

    Ummm you just summed up exactly what I’m doing wrong…..I actually woke up this morning with the one and only goal of planning a menu, making a list and sticking to it! With back to school we have gotten so off schedule that flying by the seat of my pants is becoming very exhausting!

  22. says

    I’d add….

    Don’t keep some basic staple store cupboard (and freezer) ingredients in case of emergency to rustle up a quick, easy and unplanned meal. Presume there will be no minor family disaster’s or changes to plan such as an impromptu visit to the Dr’s, Dentist or Vets.

    • Elaine says

      Or, don’t replenish your fridge, freezer, or pantry after your emergency is over. That way you will absolutely not have enough of “things that can go together” to create a meal.

  23. Walnut says

    Make sure to plan produce heavy meals for the very end of your meal planning week. I guarantee that spinach will be wilty with a side of slime.

  24. Michelle says

    Ooooh – is that Five Guys food in the picture? That would be #11 for us: the kids begging for Five Guys because it’s been soooo long since we went there!
    I’m actually freezer cooking today (shredded beef, no-cook manicotti) in an effort to stay ahead of the Takeout Trap.

  25. says

    I would also add that it’s very important to let your self esteem get wrapped up in how your husband/children react when you answer their “What’s for dinner?” question. That way, if they don’t look excited about it, you’ll have a great way to make up for it by ordering takeout. Confidence always gets in the way of takeout, so you’d better throw that out the window!

  26. SandyH says

    I would like to add something that worked for me. (I raised four kids and definitely menu planned.) each child was responsible for one menu idea per week. They had all week to think about it, and it got them involved. They also knew I had the power to guide them on their choices; but I have to say, they caught on pretty quick! their deadline was the day I made my grocery list.

    I knew it was working when they gave me their ideas WITH the recipe they found in a cookbook! (and when they were older, online.)

    They are grown now, in their 20’s , and are all decent cooks.

  27. Suzan says

    Allowing your trainee chef son to cook might lead to you wishing you had ordered a meal instead. My boy wanted to cook his grandfather a special meal. After two hours he threw the lot in a stock pot. The kitchen had to be bleached and a huge clean up followed. We ate late but it was home made. Roasted vege etc are a life saver.

  28. says

    Those internet recipes that are untried disasters! It’s one of the reasons why, when I started my cooking blog, I promised to my readers they would never get a recipe I had not made myself successfully, and with photos to prove it. I have enough cooking experience to look at a recipe and say, “Well, that won’t work,” but I’ve also had some near-disasters. We eat at home 98% of the time, and I have become really good at plan-overs. Kristen, you have been a great inspiration to me. We spend half as much on food as other couples, and are happy and well-fed in the bargain.

  29. carolyn says

    I’m not so sure I appreciate this post. Goodness, you sound a little high and mighty. I’m sure that’s not your intention because you seem like a very nice person. I don’t know, it sort of pokes at people who aren’t super planner types like yourself. I am sure that you know that people do what they can in their busy lives and if takeout is what fits into the day, then that’s what is done.

    • Diane says

      “You know that people do what they can in their busy lives”… I think you missed the point, Carolyn, and were a wee bit snarky, to boot. Planning can help add calm and order to a busy life. It can also relieve stress and make the day seem less busy. Amazingly, it may even give a person time to rediscover their sense of humor.

    • Kristen says

      Actually, you know how I came up with the list? By thinking of things that I’ve done that make ME order takeout. :) I’m in the trenches with you guys, and as I’ve said a number of times before, I frequently feel like ordering out instead of cooking. ;)

    • minders says

      I didn’t think this post sounded high and mighty, and I’m not a supper planner most of the time. I think Kristen (with a sense of humor) was trying to help people out by giving them tips on what leads to the getting take out urge..it’s up to you rather or not to take any of the tips. There are other things that help to avoid the take out urge. Have some crock pot recipes in your file (those don’t take long at all to put together most times, and you can just set them and forget them while you go to work, then they are ready to eat as soon as you get home), freezer meals that you made another day when you had more time on your hands, etc.. She’s not saying it’s a crime to buy take-out. We all have times when things just don’t work out and that’s ok.

  30. Siebrie says

    Allow your children (and husband) to whine about what’s on their plates. In our house it’s fine if you don’t like something, but I don’t want to hear it, just put it on the rim of your plate.

    Don’t get the rest of the family involved in menu planning/cooking. That way, all the responsibility lies on you! My husband and I cook on alternate nights, double portions and sometimes one will start cooking a dish and the other will finish it. Our 3yo dd helps cutting mushrooms, cutting bell peppers, peeling eggs, mixing cream and spices, etc. (under close supervision, of course!). She will eat what she helped prepare.

  31. Megan Goodrich says

    This is TOO funny…. and I have to make a confession: This IS me :( lol. I started following you, Kristen, a few years ago now. I was a litte Betty Crocker. I’m a stay at home mom And a NEW homeschooling mom of three This year. We’ve moved again and I’ve been very worn down, too by a up and down marriage…. So, this list is what I have been living for a while now. I love to cook, bake and do things around the house that make it- oh, so comfy and warm- but life has just gotten off track. I fear it’ll take me forever to get back on track. I keep hoping that it’ll get back to the “good ole days” but I’ve become so accustomed to this quick meal deal of take out or fast food, pizza- whatever that it’s REALLY hard now. Maybe I’m a bit depressed. I feel like life’s whipped my tail end, lol!!!!! Am I the only one :) ??

    • Kristen says

      Aww, I feel your pain! Sometimes it seems like cooking dinner is just impossible. I’d suggest keeping things super-duper simple…I don’t often recommend relying on convenience foods from the store, but they’re likely to be cheaper and healthier than takeout. Also, simple homemade dinners would be good…breakfast for dinner, marinated and grilled or baked chicken, hamburgers, etc. Hang in there!

  32. WilliamB says

    Get in the habit of declaring emergencies and getting take out.

    Habits are really hard to break. You can use this to your advantage by developing habits you want, then cruising after that. There was a time in my life when I was traveling almost weekly to the airport. I developed the habit of taking subway home ($8.50/trip, including a short cab ride) instead of cab all the way ($45). There were times when I felt like taking a cab because I was tired or cranky but habit won out every time. Money in my pocket, baby!

  33. Kat says

    I read this last night and it really helped remind me why I need to not order takeout tonight. My reasoning tonight…I have had a really bad day and I deserve it. It would have also derailed the diet too since what I felt I “deserved” was horrible unhealthy. Instead I came home and ate bbq chicken, home made bisquits and a green salad. Thanks for the reminder

  34. says

    Thanks for a great post. I must admit that in the last few months I have been guilty of almost every single point you made, and a repeat offender on some. I am trying something new, this time around. Instead of worrying about the time it takes to cooking after a ten hour day at work (my husband has classes so there won’t be much help from him), I am taking the time I have on the weekends to prepare, freeze, and preserve meals for the week ahead. I am hoping that a few hours one afternoon can save me some cash throughout the week.

  35. Pippi says

    Get pregnant and have a baby! I swear — the time I’m pregnant until about 3 months after the baby is born is take-out and convenience food crazy! Cooking is so hard when the smell of food makes you sick. Aside from reproducing my be guarantee that there will be take-out is to leave the weekends blank on my menu plan “because they’re far away and we’ll want to be flexible.” I’ve now started to do my grocery shopping and meal planning on Fridays so that I can’t make that excuse.

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