By Laura Hazelton, Contributing Writer
Today's Daily Tip: Donâ€™t be afraid to buy items that you really need to help yourself succeed.Â Frugal doesnâ€™t mean cheap, it means carefully chosen.
Whether you've made a resolution to spend less money or eat more real food (or both), making more meals at home should be high on the priority list to make those goals a reality.Â There are so many benefits to limiting your meals out!Â The new year is a great time to make changes in your routine and implement those goals. Â Instead of focusing on why we shouldn't eat out, let's look at all of the benefits of making our own meals at home!
Why Eating In is Better!
Save Money and Stick to Your Budget
One of the biggest benefits of eating out less is its effect on your budget.Â You can cook a meal for a fraction of the cost of eating out. If you are trying to find a restaurant that uses quality ingredients it will cost even more!Â If you are trying to save money, this is a great way to do it!
Free of GMOs
The majority of foods served in restaurants contain some form of GMOs.Â Anything processed most likely contains soy, foods are fried in GMO oil and the meats were fed with GMO feed.Â Unless the restaurant specifically states that they donâ€™t use GMO products, they are difficult to avoid.Â Avoiding GMOs in your own cooking is a lot simplerâ€”cook with whole ingredients!
Control Over Pesticides
We all know pesticides are a bad thing.Â Consuming them exposes us to toxins that can cause all types of problems in our bodies.Â The majority of restaurants use conventional produce which was grown with these pesticides.Â You also canâ€™t be sure how thoroughly the produce was washed during preparation.Â If you prepare your meals you can be sure exactly what chemicals are going (or not going) into your food.Â You can put emphasis on the dirty dozen if you are on a tight budget and use a produce wash for any conventional produce you use.
Increase in Nutrients
Itâ€™s also difficult to avoid processed foods when you eat out; sadly, processed food is the norm.Â And processed foods lack nutrients that are natural in whole foods.Â If you make your own meals they will be much more nutrient dense.
Free of Allergens or Food Sensitivities Â
Preparing your own meals at home means you donâ€™t have to worry about food allergies or sensitivities.Â I canâ€™t tell you how many times Iâ€™ve eaten at a restaurant after being assured their food was free of allergens only to end up with sick kids.Â If you make the food, you can guarantee it will be safe.
It tastes so much better!
If you are used to eating real food, youâ€™re likely to be disappointed in the food you pay a lot more for in a restaurant.Â Everything Iâ€™ve mentioned above adds up to food that just wonâ€™t meet your standards.Â It wonâ€™t taste as good!
So How Do You Avoid Eating Out?
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We all get busy and overwhelmed with life at times.Â These are often the times we are drawn to eating out.Â An over-scheduled day, illness in the family or traveling are all times when grabbing food out can seem so convenient.Â Of course, these are the times when our immune system will need real food packed with nutrients the most.Â So here are some ways to help you avoid slipping down the eating out-slippery slope.
This is one of the biggest preventive steps you can take.Â To start with, just make a list of meal options for the week without assigning days.Â Then make sure you take stock of what you have going on that week.Â If youâ€™ve got an especially busy day or an evening where youâ€™ll be out, plan a freezer meal or slow cooker dish that can be left all day.Â For meal planning ideas you can check out MAKâ€™s archive here or mine here.
Freezer meals are a busy momâ€™s lifesaver when it comes to keeping healthy meals on the table.Â You can prepare these healthy meals whenever you have time and freeze them for those days when you donâ€™t have that time!Â If youâ€™re looking for more info on freezer meals, you can check out my post here and for more freezer meal ideas, check out this post by Katie.
Make It a Picnic
Itâ€™s not always realistic to be at home at meal times.Â If youâ€™re out and about for the day or traveling, pack your meals and make it a picnic!Â A little planning ahead and you can take a much healthier meal with you than what youâ€™ll find at most restaurants.Â If you get in the habit of doing this, it can take as little as 10 minutes to throw together a picnic for your family.Â A bonus: you get to find a picnic spot and enjoy some sun and fresh air!
Socialize at Home
Many times when we eat out, itâ€™s because we are having dinner with friends or family.Â But you donâ€™t need to go out to enjoy time with friends.Â Host a potluck dinner for a group of friends or family and have everyone bring a dish.Â Another fun option is to organize a progressive dinner where each person hosts a course for the meal at their house.Â You could even get together with a friend who also wants to eat out less and take turns hosting dinner so you get to take a break from cooking!
Eating out less is a great goal for 2013 and itâ€™s got so many benefits!Â There are many other ways to make sure you make more meals at home so see what you can come up with!
Feel ready to implement this plan?Â Iâ€™ve got a quick and easy meal that is perfect for busy days!Â This slow cooker chili can be left cooking all day if needed.Â It also makes a great freezer meal and can be taken on the go if youâ€™ve got a thermos.Â I cook beans in large batches and freeze them in smaller portions and thatâ€™s what I used in this recipe.Â You can use canned beans in a pinch but I encourage you to make your ownâ€” theyâ€™re healthier and so much cheaper.Â You can also make the ground beef ahead of time if needed.
Â Whatâ€™s your favorite strategy for avoiding meals out?
**This post has been entered into Simple Lives Thursday #129 and Keep It Real Thursdays.**