Author Topic: Self-employed folks with crazy schedules: how do you avoid eating out?  (Read 5343 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I find it really hard to find time to cook for myself because it it's not something I'm in the habit of, and my schedule has me all over the place at unpredictable times, so it's very hard for me to establish the habit.

Mind you, I really enjoy cooking for myself when I do.


  • Magnum Stache
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You can put a crockpot on a timer (a simple time on/time off timer that plugs into the wall socket is available at places like Walmart). Put your dinner stuff in there and set up the timer; enjoy delicious food when you get home even if it's not quite at the time your expect. Ditto for a rice cooker.  Either one can also have a timer built into it. Make enough each time for four meals, then just pop the leftovers in containers in the fridge or freezer.

Or, make meals of simple easy stuff when you get home hungry. A sandwich is quick. Pasta is quick. I just whipped a mixed green salad with beets (pickled beets in a jar) and goat cheese in about 5 minutes. Canned or boxed soups with a bagel on the side are also delicious and still cheaper than eating out. A fruit smoothie is also ridiculously easy to make.

If you are worried that you will be stranded somewhere far away and starving, then taking some food with you in a small cooler out of habit. Not a super big deal to bring it back inside if you don't use it.


  • Walrus Stache
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I make a large meal every weekend and then we eat leftovers for the week after we get home from work. Very easy and very cheap. We always have some vegetable, some meat, and some starch, but the variety is pretty good week to week.

I also make a homemade granola that I eat for lunch along with dried fruit and nuts. Super cheap, convenient, healthy, and easy.


  • Walrus Stache
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I always keep some easy stuff that I can just throw in the oven to cook when I am tired, lazy, busy, etc.


  • Bristles
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I make a large meal every weekend and then we eat leftovers for the week after we get home from work. Very easy and very cheap. We always have some vegetable, some meat, and some starch, but the variety is pretty good week to week.


Also, I have to travel on small day trips (6-8 hours); I take a container of almonds, pecans, etc (bought in bulk, of course). This staves off any hunger cravings and removes the need to eat until I get home for supper.


  • Pencil Stache
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Been self-employed for 12 years now.  About 8 years ago, I changed my shopping habits from processed to mostly fresh and do it yourself.  This in turn helped our budget (from an average of $550 spent to $300 a month) and waistlines.  For example, instead of buying a frozen pizza and breaded shrimp, for instance, I take that $15 and buy chicken breasts and ground meat.  This week's meals (I'm a low carber):

Tonight:  Flounder en papillote (parchment paper), roasted turnips, and homemade flax seed muffins if I have time.
Tuesday:  Pork burritos
Wednesday:  Coney island pie
Thursday:  Leftovers
Friday:  Most likely out of town
Saturday and Sunday:  IDK yet

The flounder packets and Coney island pie could be assembled on a day off, for instance, and be ready to pop in the oven.  I'm going to put the pork into the crock pot tomorrow morning so it will be ready, and smell oh so good, when we get home from work tomorrow night.


  • Pencil Stache
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I'm going to pick on you, but I know this isn't really just a "you" problem.

I find it interesting how, as humans, we find our tribe and identify with them to the point where we exclude others for no reason. You stated "self-employed people" but there's really nothing in your problem or solutions that have anything to do with being self-employed. It's just a tribe with whom you've identified yourself.

Regarding the question: if you want to avoid eating out and don't often cook if it's just you, do you enjoy eating foods that don't require a lot of cooking? I'm thinking canned (or cooked from dry and bulk frozen) beans and tortillas, or oats, or sandwiches. Keep stuff like that on hand and hopefully it will feel easier to eat that then go out. If you're out of the house, bring fruit, sandwich, etc with you. Or there's always bulk cooking and freezing in individual serving sizes. For that I like to freeze in canning jars because they're cheap and the right size.


  • Pencil Stache
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Cook huge meals and then freeze them in individual servings.  If you have a freezer full of yummy stuff (and a variety of yummy stuff!) it will make it a lot easier to just grab something when it is convenient.


  • Pencil Stache
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I make a large meal every weekend and then we eat leftovers for the week after we get home from work. Very easy and very cheap. We always have some vegetable, some meat, and some starch, but the variety is pretty good week to week.

I also make a homemade granola that I eat for lunch along with dried fruit and nuts. Super cheap, convenient, healthy, and easy.
How do you arrange this without taking up a lot of time or becoming resentful of having to do it? I love making granola, cooking crockpot meals, have a rice cooker, etc, but I feel like I'm eating up (no pun intended) nearly 1/4 of my free time or more just preparing food (that is, if it's enough food to last 2-3 people 4-5 days). I enjoy cooking, but free time is very valuable - especially when it's pockets of time that we both can leave the house together. Most of the week it's not possible.

Another factor I have is a sensitive stomach, so I can't eat leftovers more than a few days old. Would love to know if anyone has a twice a week cooking system that isn't too time consuming during the week.


  • Walrus Stache
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For those I am exhausted days, and it is just me, yogurt for dinner and a handful of nuts and apple works!  I don't feel well if I eat out too much, so that helps avoid it for sure.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Not self-employed but DH and I both work long hours so I meal plan every week, here are my steps:

1. I keep all my recipes in Evernote. Even if the recipe is in a cookbook somewhere, I'll at least put a note in evernote with the name of the recipe and where to find it.
2. Also in Evernote, keep a list of "Dinners we like" some of these are really basic (pasta with sauce) and others are the names of actual recipes.
3. I tag recipes I've made in Evernote and that we've liked with "Cooked-Good"
4. I buy mostly fresh whole foods so coupons do me very little good but I do check the sales every week and plan my meals around what's on sale - chicken breasts on sale, you know I'm making something with chicken, lettuce in season at the farmer's market, we're definitely eating salads, etc. If I don't know what I want to make off the top of my head with something that's on sale, it's really easy for me to run a quick search in evernote.
5. I fill in my meal plan with all breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks (I keep it in a simple spreadsheet in Google Drive). I fill in any meals that I know are business or social commitments.
6. I'm cooking for 2 people so on a typical week, I'm making 2-3 dinners. I pull from recipes I know we like, may try a new one, etc. I list the recipe name in my spreadsheet and know that I can grab it from evernote when the time comes. Since most recipes are designed for anywhere from 4-8 servings, for only two people this can last us for quite a while. In general I plan that most meals have a protein, starch and veggies.
7. For lunches - I'll make 2 big pots of soup and then freeze them in individual containers. Most soups (except for cream based) freeze really well and are very cheap. One big pot of soup is about 10 meals for us, typically supplemented with some fruit or a salad at the same meal. Making two soups at once isn't really any harder than making one because a lot of the chopping and ingredients can be the same for each. FOr example, many of my soups have a mirepoix base (onions, carrots, celery). This also allows you to alternate soups for variety. Other lunches I do are sandwiches, packed the night before with fruit and veggies for sides. I package up all the sides on the weekend.

Like an earlier commenter, I used to feel like all my free time was taken up preparing meals. However, you get so much faster at it all as you do it more and more. It's just getting through that rough spot where you feel like you are cooking non-stop and nothing else. You learn little tricks too like laying out your grocery list in the order that the store is organized in. Also recipes take less time to cook the more often you make them, so you learn to mix in known recipes and new ones based on time/energy.

Spice mixes - I make my own - much cheaper and lower in sodium typically. Then I keep them in containers in my freezer - taco seasoning, gyro seasoning, etc. 1-2 tablespoons to a pound of meat, and I'm good to go. Makes cooking so much easier and more flavorful.

Finally, have some meals on your list that are encompassed almost entirely of pantry/freezer ingredients. For example, in a pinch I know I can throw together some beans, rice, corn, salsa and make a mexican skillet. I an supplement with whatever I have on hand - cheese, lettuce, avocados, etc.


  • Bristles
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I do big batch meals like lasagna and chilli and freeze individual sized containers of it.  I'll do one cooking day and have 10 or 20 meals saved from it.  I work a crazy schedule too and its hard to have time to prep. This has cut down on my eating out at work a lot, and is a lot healthier as well.  Start looking up simple recipes that you like, and freeze well, and make a double batch for supper one night.  freeze the left overs. picking a cooking day also takes the stress out of the other days and frees up my time for other stuff too i find.  I'm getting to really love chilli.  Cook some meat. throw some stuff in iwth it, and stir every so often for about 90 minutes and its a huge pot of chilli when i'm done


  • Stubble
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My wife and I work out after workout Monday Wednesday and Friday from 5-7 so when I get home at 7 I am ready to Eat.
I plan easy things for those days, or means where I all of the work is prep that I can do the day prior. We make big meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sundays with leftovers.

We eat super healthy, and low carb, so there aren't many easy meals, but here are some of my favorites.
Blackend Salmon With Broccli or Asparagus (doen in less than 20 mins with no prep)
Shrimp veggie stir fry (you can even buy it frozen of you like)
Crock pot pork and bean soup


  • Stubble
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Keep frozen food you like in your freezer, and also canned/pouch food.  Stuff like ravioli, frozen chinese dumplings, frozen veggies you like, good canned soup, tastybite indian food,  that sort of stuff.  Most of this stuff can be heated up in 2 - 10 minutes and is a nice happy medium between making your own food to freeze and keep on hand (which is great, but realistically does not always happen) and spending the money on a meal out or a full blown frozen meal. 


  • Bristles
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burgers. There is no reason that they can't be healthy. Lean ground beef grilled in 12 patties at a time. Add spinach leaves, fresh cucumber, ketchup, one of the healthier wheat breads like Peperidge Farms.

Individually packaged talapia is cheap too and microwavable. It gets kinda boring, but its pretty good tossed on some wheat bread with a little tartar sauce


  • Pencil Stache
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Self-employed for 17 years. Here's what I do.

Working-at-home days.

1. Rotisserie chicken. They're inexpensive, nutritious (especially if skin removed) and can make multiple meals.
2. Various pre-seasoned, frozen wild salmon entrees (I get mine at Costco. Bake for 35 minutes. Throw a plate of asparagus in salted and sprinkled with olive oil.)
3. "Poor man's Chipotle." - Bed of greens, black beans, avocado slices, leftover Rotisserie chicken, sprinkle with olive oil or Balsamic vinegar.
4. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon snacks: handful of almonds, apples with peanut butter, ready-to-drink protein drinks
5. Smoothies. BlendTec is my favorite device.

Running around days:

1. Throw Poor Man's Chipotle in Tupperware in a cooler.
2. Take No.4 snacks with me.
3. Eat at Chipotle. Get a bowl, cup of water. $9, less than $8 without guac. Best nutritional value when eating out.


  • Walrus Stache
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Sandwiches are quick n easy.
Pasta/potatoes/rice with some kind of meat can be easily cooked in bulk.
Overnight oats are easy for breakfast.

There are literally SO many dishes that take little time to make if you just get creative.