Skip to Content

7 Reasons You’re Eating Out So Much

2021 update: I’m running a bit behind today, so please enjoy this goodie from the archives.

Takeout food can certainly be a godsend on a crazy day, and eating in a restaurant is an awful lot of fun.

But oh man, it’s so expensive.

And the more people in your family, the more you feel the financial sting.

Even a fast food meal can run our family $35 or more, and that’s not something I want to do every night of the week!


If you’re wanting to cut back on your extraneous spending, eating at home is a super place to start.

chicken pomodoro


The problem is, getting dinner on the table every night is a bit of a challenge, which is why the takeout/restaurant industry sucks in so many of our dollars every year.

So, here are some reasons you’re probably having resisting the siren call of a restaurant, plus suggestions for avoiding the temptation.

(I’m able to make this list because, um, personal experience…)

1) You don’t have a plan.

While some people are able to poke through a nearly-empty fridge and concoct a delicious meal, the vast majority of us need a plan.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and you can plan for just a few days at a time if a week is too overwhelming.

menu board with chalk ink

A big benefit to having a plan?

When you shop, you’ll be able to buy the proper ingredients for the meals you want to make, and that’s a huge help in sticking to your cook-at-home plans.

(How many times have you ordered pizza because you were missing a key ingredient for your meal??)

2) You aim too high.

If you are an idealist, you might be trying to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to dinner prep.   If you plan a dinner menu with four fancy items on it, you might get so overwhelmed, you decide you don’t feel like cooking at all.

A simple meal that you actually cook is way better than a fancy meal you don’t get around to cooking!

3) Your idea of what makes a dinner meal is too narrow.

If you get past the idea that dinner has to be a large cut of meat with two sides, lots of quick and easy possibilities open up.

cooks illustrated curried chicken salad

Breakfast for dinner, sandwiches, soups, and salads are all great options that don’t require many hours in the kitchen.

4) You don’t let anyone else help.

If you shoulder all of the cooking responsibility in your home/dorm/apartment, you’ll probably burn out.   Let a roommate/spouse/kid take some of the load off.

I’m pretty guilty of this one, but this summer, I’m kicking off the Teach My Children To Cook initiative which means that (hopefully!) in a few months I’ll have some competent chefs in my house.

5) You don’t think about dinner until 5 pm.

Even if you do have a plan in place, it’s good to review it early in the day.

If it’s 5:00 before you realize that you need to thaw or marinate something, you’re going to be awfully tempted to call in some takeout.

6) You don’t look at your schedule/the weather when you plan.

If you’ve planned a pizza meal (which requires a 500 ° oven) for a 95 ° day, you’re unlikely to actually follow through.

Same goes for a grilled meal on a rainy day (although I do stubbornly grill in the rain sometimes!).

grilled peppers and onions

In the same vein, if you plan a more elaborate meal for a night when you get home 20 minutes before dinnertime, you’re going to be in trouble.

I try to always look at the weather forecast and our weekly schedule when I choose meals.   I plan a make-ahead meal if we’ll be at the pool all afternoon, a portable meal if we’re eating somewhere else, a cool meal for a hot day, and so on.

Things come up and weather can change, but this still ends up being a helpful habit.

7) You don’t have a repertoire of fallback meals.

When your best-laid plans go awry, it’s super helpful to have a mental list of quick meals you can assemble from ingredients you usually have on hand.

Here are some fallback meals I use:

bacon and cheese quesadillas (I keep bacon and tortillas in the freezer and cheese in the fridge)

pancakes or waffles (I pretty much always have buttermilk in the fridge)

-grilled shrimp with veggies (shrimp cook super fast and require no marinating)

pizza bagels or pizza subs

These quick, unfancy types of meals have saved us from a $50 takeout bill many a time.


So, how about you? When you break down and get takeout, what’s usually the reason? Let me know in the comments!

(And help out the FG community by sharing your best tips for takeout avoidance!)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Tuesday 31st of August 2021

I adore you. Now, if you would just post what I should buy and my meal plan that would great... I have actually started making dinner thanks to your inspiration! Yay me, finally momming!!! It helps to have a kitchen and not work past 6pm which I am mostly doing lately. Again, yay me!


Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Yay you for cooking dinner!!


Sunday 15th of August 2021

This is so timely, now that summer is drawing to an end - thank you!


Wednesday 11th of August 2021

I always keep a french bread Loaf in freezer for emergency pizza and eggs and toast with fruit is another quick emergency supper!


Wednesday 11th of August 2021

We eat out a few times a year at most. Usually for birthdays and our anniversary--and then we save up so we can eat at very nice places. But no fast food (except traveling by car long distances), and we rarely went out to eat even before Covid. We cook from scratch at home almost all the time. I'm even surprised how much the Frugal Family eats out, although I understand that you use coupons and other money saving tricks ;o)

My observation is that so many people don't cook at all anymore. And we are raising generations of kids who have no clue how to cook. Families might pick up takeout or pre-made meals (pizza, rotisserie chicken, frozen foods to cook in the microwave or air fryer). Even at breakfast, a very simple meal, they are more likely to pour a bowl of cereal or heat up a pastry than cook an egg, which takes about the same amount of time. I understand the time crunch--we were a two career family with kids in ballet and performing arts, but it's doable if you follow the steps Kristen has outlined. We plan a menu every week and shop based on our menu. Things are more relaxed now that my husband is retired and does the shopping and cooking, but we managed even before.

I think lack of home cooking is having a profoundly negative effect on people's health, as well as their budgets. Another consideration is the packaging, especially now with Covid. So much plastic, and there is really not a good recycling stream for plastics. They are clogging our waterways, oceans and landfills. Plastic is leaching into our drinking water.

I was watching a video blog of a family teaching their eldest son to cook (using one of those pre-packaged meal in a box things). It's such a simple thing to follow a recipe if you understand a few basic cooking terms. One gift you can give your children is to teach them these basic skills and give them a repertoire of simple meals they will know how to make so they can choose a healthier way to eat if they are ever motivated to do so. Just like teaching your child to swim, drive, and do laundry, cooking is an essential skill.


Wednesday 11th of August 2021

These are so true! I tend to plan a chicken, a meat, a fish, and a pasta meal. But then my plan goes out the window when I see something delicious on FB or Pinterest lol. We have a very well stocked pantry so I don't usually have to run out for anything, or I can sub kale for spinach, etc. And I always check the weather to see if I need to sneak a salad night (for hot nights) or soup night (for cold) in there!

When my husbands aunt died, it was a whirlwind of a week and we were out most every day of the week leading up to the wake/funeral, and we ate out almost every day. I could not believe how much we spent on food, and then because I had just shopped the day we found out she had an accident, all the fresh produce went bad and I had to throw most of it away. Talk about a double (well...triple...) whammy!! Such a bummer.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.