Author Topic: Eating Out: Behavior Modification  (Read 5386 times)

multi-vitamin

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Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« on: July 20, 2017, 02:43:24 AM »
Hey All,

I am spending way too much money on eating out. Typically I eat out 2 times a day 6 days a week. Anyway, I'd like to knock this down to 1 or 0 times a week, as I would love to put the money to better use elsewhere. Any thoughts on how to modify compulsive eating out behavior?

405programmer

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2017, 06:22:31 AM »
I struggle with this too so I'm not one of the badasses that only eats out once a month. I find that if I cook food I really like then I'm much more interested in eating at home. Don't try to go straight to super cheap home meals. Start slow and cook your favorite foods at home. Make burgers on  a cast iron skillet. Make stir fry. Also, start simple on your recipes. Don't try to make hand-breaded and made from scratch general Tso's chicken. Grill and slice some chicken and toss it in some store bought sauce until you actually WANT to make the sauce from scratch. (trust me if you try some scratch sauce it you'll want it more often).

Also don't try to learn 100 recipes. Make 3 things and make them perfect to your tastes. That might take a full month. Once you have that down you can expand into even healthier and fancier dishes. Just remember even if you're making something that isn't drastically cheaper or healthier your goal in the first month or two is to establish the new habit. If you usually are eating out in social settings try just inviting people over to your place! That works more for dinner parties than workday lunches though..

Good luck!

des999

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2017, 07:24:14 AM »
in my opinion it's best to try smaller incremental changes.  Like, start by only eating out 1 time a day instead of 2.  Or go to 4 days instead of 6.  I think getting those small wins is better psychologically than trying to do it all at once.  Trying to cut it out 100% all at once will lead to more failures.  It's kind of like dieting, it is proven that having a 'cheat' day actually makes people stick to their diets more often, knowing that the cheat day is coming and then they can eat that cake (or whatever).

I struggle with this as well, as I look at eating out as entertainment, not only just food budget.  one thing my wife and I do to allow us to still go out to eat is to split meals, or to just do drinks and appetizers.  Still go out, but spend less.


ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2017, 07:24:39 AM »
The key is to have cooked food so readily available that it is more of a hassle to go out than to eat at home.

Try meal prepping every Sunday night so all you have to do during the week is heat up the food. As for weekends, you have more time, so you should be making things fresh.

All that said, I'm not like people on here who never eat out. I like getting Chipotle or something once a week, or going and meeting friends for dinner and drinks, because it's fun and tastes pretty darn good.  Balance is the key.

MrsPete

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2017, 07:37:20 AM »
Since you're currently a hard-core restaurant diner, any steps towards eating at home will be positive for your wallet.  My thoughts: 

- Do you have good tools for cooking?  If not, start investigating what you'd enjoy, and treat yourself to a crock pot and good pots and pans.  Oh, and good knives.  Having the right tools does make cooking easier. 

- When you make a casserole or sauce, always make 3-4Xs the amount you need and freeze portions for the future.  For example, we love Bourbon Chicken, but the sauce requires about a dozen ingredients, some of which we don't typically keep in the house ... so we buy the right stuff, spend 30 minutes making 10 ziplock baggies, and then we can have a favorite dish simply by pulling out a pack of chicken and one ziplock. 

- Soup is a good place for a first-time freezer to start; dole it out into individual ziplocks and freeze it "flat" so it won't take up space in your freezer.  Spaghetti sauce is also a good starting item; I love the Pioneer Woman's meat sauce. 

- When you're pushed for time, breakfast for dinner is fast, and everyone likes it. 

- If you're just not up for cooking, yet you really don't want to go out, consider picking up deli food from the grocery store or take-out from a restaurant.  You'll avoid drinks, which are monumentally expensive "out", and you won't be tempted to have dessert. 


ketchup

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2017, 07:44:20 AM »
The key is to have cooked food so readily available that it is more of a hassle to go out than to eat at home.
This.  If you take the habit you're trying to break, and make it harder to do it than to not do it, you're 90% there already.

Always make at least 2-3x the food you want, so that you always have leftovers.  It usually takes about 10% extra time to make twice as much food.

Rosy

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2017, 09:31:56 AM »
I put a little post-it note on my computer and refrigerator, "I am redirecting my money". It immediately makes me think of my current goals. Works for me, because I am one of those, "Oh look shiny" people:)
I'm usually half way out the door, before I remember, "Oh, I forgot - I'm trying to cut down on going out to eat:)".
Having that little reminder really helps.

Depending on your personality and level of motivation, perhaps you could begin by dedicating this next week your first - no going out to eat week. Spend a couple of hours preparing food this Sunday, freeze it in portions ready to take to work - voila. If you can manage one week you will have a better idea of what was hard and when and why during that week - then formulate different plans going forward.
You know forethought and planning goes a long way toward a successful change - redirect your money:)

What worked for me was, I designated Wednesday, sometimes Friday, as the day I planned to go out to eat for lunch or supper. I preferred Wednesday for work lunches, since it split the week in half - and - I only had to go two days with my own lunch before I got to eat out again:).
But I preferred Friday for going out for supper, because they often have Friday specials and it would save a bit more money.

It's not really all that hard, because not only do you exercise and strengthen your frugality muscles, but it is great to see the savings in your account - you will put those savings into a separate account of course, right?:) - so you have tangible proof that you are a bada$$.
You can do this!

CindyBS

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2017, 10:11:10 AM »
Have a list of very easy meals to make on your fridge that you can make no matter how tired or unmotivated you are.

You are probably not in the mindset of cooking, so while I normally would eschew frozen/canned/prepared foods, that may be a baby step to cooking for you.

Some other ideas are:

Scrambled eggs or omelet with carrot sticks.

Grilled cheese with fruit

Hummus with pita and fruit or veg. 

Have frozen veg on hand. 

I suspect your grocery buying habits are a little rusty as well, so while you get into the groove, perhaps it is better to lean towards things like frozen veggies instead of fresh. 

ETA -

Peanut butter, and/or nuts. 

Also, I have my financial goals posted in my kitchen where I walk past it about 15 times per day.  Except instead of having any real numbers posted for others to see, I have an adult coloring pages.   One is a bouquet of flowers, every $50K saved, a flower gets colored in.  The other is a pattern, every block of the pattern is $1K of my mortgage going away.   Visualizing goals REALLY helps me.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2017, 10:15:05 AM by CindyBS »

FindingFI

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2017, 10:53:47 AM »
Consider why you eat out so often and use that to figure out your next step.

Is it because restaurants meals taste better?
Find a local cooking class and start building culinary skills. 
Got any friends or family that are great cooks, ask them for lessons.
Watch cooking shows.

Is it because planning a grocery list, heading to the store, and cooking takes so much time? 
Try batch cooking a couple meals in one night and you'll have lunch and dinners for a week.
Start by just getting supply for sandwiches or salads for lunch and work your way up to making dinner too.
Crockpot meals save a ton of time.  Dump everything in before going to work and come home to a meal that's hot and ready to eat.
Grocery store rotisserie chickens are around $5-7 and we usually get 4 servings with a few roasted veggies as sides.  That makes a cheap and easy meal.

Is it because cooking requires a lot of cleanup?
Grill as much as you can. 
Look up one pot or one sheet pan meals.


 
 

Noodle

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2017, 11:10:18 AM »
I think you are getting great advice, especially about figuring out more specifically why you aren't eating at home (taste, liking people around, exhaustion, disliking the planning, etc).

Also, don't be afraid to use crutches while you transition to more at-home eating. Bagged salads, pre-prepared foods, grocery delivery services, whatever...my grocery store has fresh-prepared meals with a protein, carb and vegetable side. They are not the cheapest thing ever, but definitely cheaper and quicker than eating out! And there is nothing wrong with REALLY simple meals every so often. Some nights I just have scrambled eggs on toast and a piece of fruit for dinner. Costs almost nothing, and WAY quicker than even a counter-service restaurant. You can work on being a food cost ninja as the next step.

RK1451

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2017, 11:29:51 AM »
If you can make dinners that also make good leftovers, you can kill two birds with one stone.  One silly thing that changed how I felt about leftovers (they used to be something I knew I should take for lunch, but really didn't want to) was getting some really nice glass containers to store them in (we got glasslock ones, but there are others) - first, I can see what's in them in the fridge so I don't forget about stuff, and second, it just feels a lot nicer to heat and eat my leftovers in glass than in old plastic takeout containers, which is what I was using before.  We spent a silly amount of $ on the glasslock (like over $100), but now I eat leftovers for lunch most days and actually enjoy them.  If you portion out your leftovers into containers as you clean up from dinner, then there's no "lunch packing" time in the morning - you just grab your containers and go.

One favorite that makes a quick, delicious and healthy dinner plus lunch is taco bowls.  I make some brown rice (Minute rice works fine for this and is quick), and saute up some onions and peppers (can use fresh or frozen), drain and rinse a can of black beans and throw that in, and add frozen corn and/or frozen broccoli depending on what I feel like.  Top with shredded cheese (I buy the bagged shredded stuff to make these easier), sour cream, and chopped fresh cilantro, fresh tomatoes and/or avocado.  No one of those ingredients is essential, so it's a really flexible meal.  Sometimes I do cooked sweet potato cubes, leftover meat, or shrimp.  With the leftovers, I put all the "warm" ingredients in one large container, with the cheese, and all the "cold" ingredients (any fresh veg & sour cream) in another container.  At work, zap the warm container in the microwave and dump the cold ingredients on top.  It's a meal I really look forward to all morning, and would cost $9-$10 at the lunch place down the street.

RK1451

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2017, 12:10:54 PM »
Oh, one more idea - if it's really impulsive eating out (I'm on my way home to cook dinner - oh wait, why don't I stop here and get something to eat!), try altering your route so that you don't pass by the most tempting restaurants. 

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2017, 02:53:26 PM »
Oh, one more idea - if it's really impulsive eating out (I'm on my way home to cook dinner - oh wait, why don't I stop here and get something to eat!), try altering your route so that you don't pass by the most tempting restaurants.

I actually do this as well.  There's a main corridor that I intentionally dodge every day.  This sounds crazy, but you almost forget the restaurants are there after a while.

In other words, driving by Wendy's every morning and afternoon is a reminder twice a day that Wendy's exists. But when you stop driving by it, you forget about it.

The brain is weird, man.

le-weekend

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2017, 04:06:43 PM »
I used to eat out all the time but managed to change that habit slowly and surely!

Agree 100% with what others have said -- start small, don't pull the plug all at once, frozen or packaged meals are OK since they still cost less than restaurants, and if you do cook, try to make multiple servings so you can have leftovers.

I absolutely hated cooking, but finally learned to make 2 (then 3) very simple meals that yield a bunch of freezable portions that I can repeat many times and not really tire of them (thank goodness I'm not a variety-craving foodie). Like many others have suggested, I do cooking on Sunday afternoon, line up my single-serving Ziploc bowls, and freeze everything. Then at work, I microwave them and they're as good as new. (It doesn't have the same 'ick factor' as leftovers because this food started fresh and was immediately frozen.)

This is my most frequently repeated meal:
- Boneless chicken thighs baked at 425 for 20-30 mins with nothing but olive oil, salt and pepper. They are delicious, and single portions freeze and re-heat beautifully in the microwave.
- Make a big pot of brown or white rice. Spoon into single-serving containers. Re-heats very nicely.
- Buy a plastic container of lettuce at grocery store. Dish into single-serving containers. Throw in a few carrot sticks or other veggies for variety. You could prepare 5 servings all at once for the week and keep them ready in the fridge.

Bonus tip: I put a dish towel in my insulated lunch tote between the container with lettuce and the containers pulled from the freezer, because if they touch for too long it makes the lettuce disintegrate / wilt in a really funky way.

GOOD LUCK!  Baby steps!  It is so satisfying to eat food you prepared and save restaurant meals for when you're just too pooped or need a treat or whatever.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2017, 04:08:50 PM by le-weekend »

sjlp

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2017, 07:07:40 PM »
I think it also helps to find something fun to do besides eating out. I found eating my homemade lunch felt a little quick and sad, so I try to take a walk outside, listen to a favorite podcast, chat with a friend, etc.

If you're used to going out all the time you probably crave variety, so leftovers aren't as appealing. Finding items to cook that can be recycled into different meals helps with this. So I can make a big batch of roasted vegetables, and they go in the pasta sauce the first night, quesadillas for lunch the next day, a teriyaki bowl the second night, and any leftovers go into an omelet for breakfast.

MrsPete

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2017, 11:05:55 AM »
Always make at least 2-3x the food you want, so that you always have leftovers.  It usually takes about 10% extra time to make twice as much food.
I agree with that, and, extending the thought, pulling a home-frozen meal from the freezer and getting it to the table requires about 10% of the time it would take to cook a full meal from scratch.

Note:  Some things -- for example, casseroles or enchiladas -- I like to freeze in throw-away aluminum pans.  These are very cheap to buy in bulk on ebay. 

Consider why you eat out so often and use that to figure out your next step.

Is it because restaurants meals taste better?
Find a local cooking class and start building culinary skills. 
Got any friends or family that are great cooks, ask them for lessons.
Watch cooking shows.

Is it because planning a grocery list, heading to the store, and cooking takes so much time? 
Try batch cooking a couple meals in one night and you'll have lunch and dinners for a week.
Start by just getting supply for sandwiches or salads for lunch and work your way up to making dinner too.
Crockpot meals save a ton of time.  Dump everything in before going to work and come home to a meal that's hot and ready to eat.
Grocery store rotisserie chickens are around $5-7 and we usually get 4 servings with a few roasted veggies as sides.  That makes a cheap and easy meal.

Is it because cooking requires a lot of cleanup?
Grill as much as you can. 
Look up one pot or one sheet pan meals.
Good idea.  Analyze your reasons for eating out.  Personally, I like it because it's uninterrupted family time.  No one's hopping up to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.  The TV's not on.  We pay attention to one another.  That, and I hate cleaning up.

Tris Prior

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2017, 07:37:27 PM »
Good idea.  Analyze your reasons for eating out.  Personally, I like it because it's uninterrupted family time.  No one's hopping up to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.  The TV's not on.  We pay attention to one another.  That, and I hate cleaning up.

Ditto! When Boyfriend and I eat out, no one is on a device, no one has headphones on, no one's editing a podcast while they eat, nothing's on in the background. We have been able to get around this somewhat this summer now that we moved to an apartment with a back porch - we sit outside and have dinner there sometimes and it feels a little more special.

Moving to an apartment that has a dishwasher also has done wonders for my willingness to cook. When we had to handwash everything in our last apartment with very poor water pressure, we were miserable and much more inclined to order in or go out.

Another reason that I just recently realized is that my homecooked food just never comes out as well as restaurant food because I usually read a recipe, gasp in horror at how much butter/oil/salt/sugar is in it, and cut back on it. No wonder it doesn't taste as good as the restaurant food that probably has a godawful amount of salt, sugar, and fat in it that I'd rather not know about! Solution: follow recipes as written and seek out recipes that are healthy to begin with, rather than trying to healthy them up myself. Cutting back on the unhealthy ingredients always results in a large amount of food that I do not want to eat (because of course my FAIL recipes are always the recipes that make tons of leftovers!)

Capt j-rod

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Re: Eating Out: Behavior Modification
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2017, 07:48:51 PM »
I started a diet... really not a hardcore Atkins or paleo diet, but I only eat Whole Foods that I can identify their origin. Vegetables, fruits, meats all need to be identified. No processed foods. It makes eating out a little more difficult thus we cook more. The more I cooked, the more I saved, the healthier and better I felt. Isolate out a food budget. When you see directly how much further you get money wise, you will have more drive. My diet is easy to follow and saves money in reality. Processed trash in a box is actually more expensive. It's easy to do in summer with the garden contributing and the farmers markets in swing. The last thing is no soda. I make iced tea and the rest is mostly water. I did leave beer in moderation in the mix. Things like this will help out with the cash and the eating out urges.

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!