One of the first things we did when we began our frugal lifestyle was to severely limit our time dining out. We love dining out for many reasons: don’t have to cook or clean up, we’re tired, or we want to celebrate. But, to save money, we looked for alternatives to dining out.

After a hard day of work, my husband was the one who always wanted to eat out. He enjoyed the specialness of going out and having a good time of conversation and a great meal. When we started adding up this huge budget-buster we found how large the bill was. We knew it was a definite problem and was destroying out budget.

To find alternatives to dining out, I read many articles that gave great advice. It wasn’t always easy, but the tips were all based on planning. The little bit of time spent planning meals and emergency meals was well worth it and our budget showed the proof.

Planning

Meal Planning

Meal planning sounds so tedious, but it works. Working through your freezer and pantry, plan meals around what you have. Then keep a running list of what you need to complete the meals. Make sure to include breakfast, lunches, and snacks. When you have plenty of available food, there won’t be as much temptation to go through the drive-through.

Pick up snacks that will keep well for a while. When our children were home, I liked to keep the small packs of peanut-butter crackers in our car. We were always running around to sports practice, games, and ballet. Having snacks and bottles of water stored in the car was a real budget hack!

Many times, eating out happens because it’s a special occasion. I feel like that is sometimes unavoidable. Nevertheless, when I planned ahead and prepared a special meal at home, we were all happy and satisfied. Cooking the favorite meal of the birthday-child was just as much fun as going out and spending too much money.

Replicate your favorite dishes

If you’re serious about having a particular dish from your favorite restaurant you should check out recipes that are copies of famous restaurant fare. CopyKat is a fun website that has lots of recipes that are good copies of some of the most delicious dishes out there.

Tablespoon has some delicious copy-cat recipes, as well as tons of quick and easy recipes. One of my favorite things to utilize is the crock pot or instant pot. I’ve always used crock pots to create hearty meals with almost no work. The Instant Pot is a new kitchen tool for me and it’s super to help you create good, hearty meals very fast!

3 Alternatives to Dining Out fish

Emergency Meals

The most important alternative for my family is having emergency meals. These are the regular options that I keep on hand for those nights…..you know what I mean. Whether there has been a late practice or you have a headache, emergency meals are needed.

It really helps to keep 2 or 3 meal options handy. Pick things that you know your family likes and that are fast. We like to keep a frozen pizza in the freezer. Another easy option for us is to keep plenty of spaghetti and jars of pasta sauce. Many times when my children were younger we had this and I made some quick drop cheese biscuits to make the meal special.

Emergency meals don’t have to be as balanced or healthy as your regular planned meals. Pizza at home is still not as bad as getting bags of cheeseburgers and fries. Plus, you’ll save lots of money by eating at home.

When you plan your meals, it’s a great idea to plan one fun meal every week. This will help you to not feel deprived because you’re not dining out. Grab a few carnations for the dining-room table or light some candles and eat by candlelight. Have a themed night: Italian, Mexican, or French cuisine might be a wonderful way to try a new recipe.

Think about the things that make you enjoy a meal out and try to replicate that at home…..just do it cheaper. Use what you have and make mealtimes special for you and your family.

@2019, copyright Lisa Ehrman


Lisa Ehrman

Lisa has been blogging since 2013, and loves sharing resources and ideas for living a simple life. To get free printables, bonus words, and more - sign up for the newsletter.

32 Comments

Deb Pelletier · November 26, 2019 at 2:01 am

We like eating at home , but nice to go out once and awhile.

    chronicallycontent · November 26, 2019 at 2:17 am

    It certainly is nice on Mother’s Day 🙂 I don’t like to lift a finger on Mother’s Day. lol

Donna L Holder · December 1, 2019 at 4:45 pm

dont get to go out much. when i do its nothing special

    chronicallycontent · December 1, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Well, I understand how hard it is to eat out and afford it. Honestly, I feel much better when I eat at home.

Calvin · December 1, 2019 at 7:46 pm

Good ideas, I rarely dine out, only a few times a year at most.

    chronicallycontent · December 1, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks 🙂 It’s certainly healthier and cheaper to eat at home 🙂

Sarah L · December 4, 2019 at 6:33 am

Those are excellent suggestions. Dining out can be so budget busting.

    chronicallycontent · December 4, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    Glad to be helpful. Yes, they certainly have busted our budget! 🙂

Tracie Cooper · December 5, 2019 at 3:58 pm

I love all these great tips especially the tip of having emergency meals in the freezer!

Meghan · December 6, 2019 at 4:24 am

I really do need to meal plan more. It would make things much easier.

    chronicallycontent · December 6, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I hope that my Meal Planner might be of some help to make it easier for you 🙂

Wanda B · December 6, 2019 at 4:35 pm

We love cooking at home and only go out occasionally.

    chronicallycontent · December 6, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    I agree. I like to know exactly what ingredients are in my food 🙂

Deb Pelletier · December 10, 2019 at 5:08 am

Thank you for the information, good ideas.

Sandy Klocinski · December 13, 2019 at 6:23 pm

Most days I prefer eating at home. And when I do go out it’s never anywhere fancy. Usually to lunch with my sister

Shannon V Holmes · December 15, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Meal planning is something I need to work on.

Renea G. · February 16, 2020 at 2:47 pm

Excellent article. I’ve been meal planning for over 4 years now. I make a lot of freezer meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I buy everything I need for the month, at one time but from several different stores. It helps keep my food budget low, instead of shopping weekly. I do use some coupons, paper & digital. I also use rebates, one receipt for ibotta, dosh, checkout 51, receipt hog, etc.
I even make my own pizza’s. On the odd occasion, one of the kids will have pizza at a friend’s house from a chain delivery place and they say it tastes like cardboard with skimpy toppings. Or eat at a fast food chain and they say it doesn’t taste like real food.

    Lisa Ehrman · February 16, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Freezer meals are such a super way to save money and time! My kids favor home made pizza, too. The dough is so much healthier and we love the taste. Keep up the awesome work 🙂

Nerlande · March 1, 2020 at 6:19 pm

These are such great ideas would love to do this one day

Dana Rodriguez · March 25, 2020 at 9:36 am

These are great ideas. It is really rare we eat out at all except for an occasional pizza or special occasion.

    Lisa Ehrman · March 25, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    Glad to bring helpful ideas. Eating out is something we did rarely, too. Now, we don’t even have the option.

L. Emmaline · June 20, 2020 at 3:27 am

Just signed up, thank you for the free meal planner!

Debbie P · October 25, 2020 at 7:04 pm

Thanks for the article. I’m always looks to save money!

megan allen · December 2, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Once again great advice!! We spend too much money dining out. Of course we don’t like the dishes and it cutts time but we need to save money! Thanks for the tips!

Sister_Su · April 14, 2021 at 4:56 pm

Being immune-compromised, I don’t trust anyone to prepare food safely for me. Believe me, I’ve seen some pretty horrific things in restaurants in the past. However, I certainly do understand the temptation to eat out -even though it could be deadly for me.
Carrying some homemade protein bars on me is something I’m going to try to remember to do in the future.

    Lisa Ehrman · April 15, 2021 at 10:33 am

    Yes, that’s wise. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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