How to save Money on Eating Out

When we started our frugal living journey a few years ago, we knew we needed to save money on eating out. But when you have three small kids it can be so easy to hit up the drive thru.

cut back on fast food

Because let’s be real – kids who are hangry (hungry AND angry) are nothing to joke about. Am I right, moms?

Who am I kidding? I’m the one who gets ridiculously hangry if I haven’t eaten.  My husband and I are both foodies.  We love food.  All. The. Time.  Food makes life so much more enjoyable.

But the truth is, I know what it is like to continually eat out because convenience is a factor. Sometimes you are just barely surviving in a stage of life with babies and toddlers, or illnesses, or an insanely busy schedule that leaves you little time to get home and make a full meal. And I am just not one of those people who can wait 4 extra hours to eat dinner. I get headaches, and shaky, and like I said above, just downright hangry. If you told me I needed to cut back on fast food while I am hungry I’d probably ignore it and take out a second mortgage on my house if given the chance as long it means I could just eat a burger right now.

I clearly don’t make wise decisions when I am hungry.

So over the years I’ve learned a few secrets to help avoid panic at dinner time while we are running errands in town that forces us to breakdown and drop 40 dollars on fast food.


1 Pack a meal. Okay, let’s get the obvious one out of the way. If you know you are going to be out during meal time, pack a meal. I often pack a meal the night before because I know my morning brain will tell me making a meal is not worth the effort. It always is, though.

2. Pack a bunch of snacks. Making your whole family some meals to take in the car too much to handle right now? Buy a bunch of easy to grab snacks from the grocery store. When you are rushed for time, grab granola bars, apples, drink boxes, and trail mix. It may just be enough to tide you over until you get home.  Or sometimes we eat a mix of all of that kind of stuff and call it a “snacky dinner”.  The kids love snacky dinners.

3. If you have to buy takeout, plan for the cheapest option. When our family does get caught in a situation where we need to buy takeout, we usually go for one of two different pizza places that offer $5.99 medium sized pizza. We buy two for our family of 5 and because it is so cheap it doesn’t cause us to hyperventilate when we think about how it will affect our budget.

4. Don’t buy drinks. Seriously, drinks at take-out places are insanely over-priced! If we do buy pizza, we often make sure we’ve packed our own water bottles.  Cut back on fast food by packing your own drinks.

5. Buy drink boxes at the grocery store. But, if for some reason we even forgot to pack the water bottles, we’ll head to the grocery store for a pack of drink boxes. Way cheaper than buying everyone an individual drink at a fast food place.  The dollar store is also a great place to buy cheap beverages.

6. Avoid the main stretch of town with all the restaurants on it. Driving anywhere near the fast food stretch with your windows down just makes your mouth water when you are hungry. All of a sudden your determination to avoid the drive thru has dwindled and before you know it you find yourself at the takeout window handing your hard earned money to the cashier and you don’t even really know how you got there.

If you can take an alternate route to get you where you need to go, take it! Country roads with nothing but open space are the best option and that amazing country air will make you forget about food – at least for a short while.

7. Wait an extra hour or two to eat. So, I said up above that I am not the type that can wait 4 extra hours to eat dinner. And while that is true, I can eat an hour or two later. If we know our errands aren’t going to take that much longer, sometimes it’s worth it just to wait it out and eat when we get home, an extra hour or two later than usual.

8. Eat cereal, or toast for dinner. If you are out all day and the thought of going home and making a full dinner is discouraging enough to convince you to hit the drive thru, just eat cereal or toast when you get home. There is no rule that says you have to make a 3 course meal every night.

Your kids WILL survive one night if you give them cereal for dinner. Actually, whenever that has happened in our house I officially become the coolest mom to my kids. They love to eat cereal or cinnamon toast for supper. You can also make this pizza recipe to freeze for an easy meal you can just pop in the oven when you get home.

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9. Buy a coffee maker with a timer. This tip is for those of you who hit up the drive thru for your morning coffee. If you find you run out of time in the morning, buy a coffee maker with a timer. Get it ready the night before, put on the timer, and it will be ready for you to pour into your travel mug before you head out the door. A take out coffee may just be a few dollars, but a few dollars every day or a few times a week quickly adds up.


Our family really enjoys when we get to eat out, which, I guess is spoken like a true foodie, right? But it really does add up so we try to limit the amount of times we eat out.   You will be amazed at the difference in your bank account if you cut back on fast food.   Even just cutting back on a few trips a month can save you a significant amount of cash.  Use these tips to help you avoid breaking your budget so you will have more money for the things you want.

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