For many people, food and entertainment costs are the first things to be cut from a budget. These costs are some of the most flexible budget items; unlike utility bills and mortgage payments, they are within a person’s control to change. Although eating is a life necessity, it’s possible to eat very cheaply by cooking meals at home and focusing on inexpensive food options centered around vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Unfortunately, all of that can get very boring, and people may find themselves leaving home for a bite to eat as a way to break up the drudgery of always cooking meals. They may also end up ordering takeout on nights when there’s not enough time to cook or they just feel like a change of pace. There’s nothing wrong with ordering takeout when it’s done responsibly, but when the average American spends $225 a month eating out, there’s plenty of room to trim that figure.
Here are a few ways to order takeout without blowing your budget:
- Save eating out as a treat, and order something you’ll truly enjoy. Rather than turning to McDonald’s every other day, try to limit your takeout to once a week or less, and pick something you can really savor even if it’s more expensive. By choosing high-quality food that you enjoy, you’ll have a higher chance of being satisfied with just one meal.
- Try eating locally. Chain eateries can often be very pricey for low-quality food. Opt for ordering from a local takeout place, food truck, or taco stand instead. The food will probably taste better and be cheaper as well.
- Order family-style. Some takeout cuisines lend themselves to this, and it’s often much cheaper. Instead of ordering separate dishes for everyone, order a large entree and a few sides and divide it up. This is ideal with Asian cuisine of all kinds, but it can work for others too, if you’re creative.
- Skip the beverages. You can save $2 or more per person by drinking water instead of soda. If you don’t like water, keep a few tasty beverage options in your house to accompany take-out whenever you order it.
- Sign up for promotions. Most eateries have a mailing list you can sign up for that will periodically send you coupons and promotions. Take advantage of these to get the best deals on your favorite restaurants. You might even be able to sign up for a loyalty points program that will make you eligible for free meals.
- Pick it up rather than get it delivered. Sure, delivery is convenient, but picking the food up at the restaurant saves you from paying a tip. After you get the food, make a detour to a local park and have a picnic for a change of scenery.
By choosing your meals carefully, taking advantage of cost-cutting strategies when you can, and picking restaurants that will satisfy your cravings, you can keep your expenses in line without having to cut out your beloved takeout.
Renee Varney is a freelance blogger who occasionally writes for Delivery.com, a site she loves using to find Local Pizza Delivery Online.