Everyone knows that eating out is expensive and a few extra restaurant meals can really blow your monthly budget. This is something we struggle with in this house ALL the time. I like going out to eat, trying new restaurants and having someone else cook for me…kind of the best right? But do I like it more than being able to pay all my bills and hit all my savings goals at the end of the month? Nope…well, almost always nope. Sometimes a new fried chicken place opens just down the street, and you overindulge a little, whoops. Not only is eating out hard on your wallet it’s also not so great for your waistline. I’m more likely to overeat when I’m at a restaurant than if I’m eating at home. It is also easier to make healthier choices when meals are planned in advance.
Everything in Moderation
I’m not saying you can’t ever eat out, but you need to have a plan in place to make sure you’re not doing it too often. For us, that means we allow ourselves to have one dinner and one lunch out per week. Sometimes that’s a fancy dinner if there’s a special occasion, but it’s more typically a chance to hit up one of our neighbourhood favourites. Dinner out doesn’t need to be expensive, but it’s always going to cost you more than if you cooked for yourself at home. I actually find lunches out much harder to stick to. The bf is great at this and VERY rarely eats out at work, and when he does it’s usually just Subway or something equally as inexpensive. I try really, really hard to be good most of the time but I also have co-workers who are very convincing about going out to grab lunch and sometimes it’s just so hard to say no! We’ve made a once a week deal though and have been pretty good at sticking to it.
Making a Plan
The one thing that dissuades me from eating out is having a fridge full of food to cook. I HATE throwing out food, it makes me crazy! So if all the ingredients for a recipe are ready to go, you can bet that meal will get made. If I have to run out to the grocery store and buy anything, though, all bets are off and we’ll be way more likely to grab some take-out or head to a restaurant. This is where meal planning is a lifesaver. I don’t cook; I hate cooking…a lot. The bf does like cooking though and is way better at it than me, so that’s his job. My job is doing the organizing part; picking what meals we are eating for the week and putting together the grocery list. Then we have a super romantic Sunday afternoon date at the grocery store to pick up everything we need for the week. Grocery shopping sucks but going together makes it a little bit better and getting everything in one shot saves those mid-week trips that make take-out sound so tempting.
One thing that has made grocery shopping easier has been to use a home delivery service every so often. We’ve been using Spud for almost a year and have been really impressed with it. It is slightly more expensive than the grocery store but the quality is excellent and having fresh produce delivered right to your door is so convenient. Most of our grocery shopping is done at Superstore, which is not known for high-quality fruits and veggies. It is also almost always out of something we need, so Spud has filled a gap. If you’d like to try it out, you can get $20 off your first order by using my referral code
Pinterest is an endless resource for recipes and that is where I find probably 99.99% of the meals that we eat. I might as well just get rid of our stack of cookbooks because I never even look through them. Both of us work full time so quick dinners are essential for weeknights and slow cooker recipes are even better. There’s not much better than to walk into the house after work to the delicious smell of an already cooked dinner. I also like to choose recipes that have leftovers for lunch the next day. As I said above, I hate food waste, so making sure there is enough for another meal is an easy way to stop myself from going out for lunch.
To give you a head start on meal planning I’m going to include the recipes we’ve got on the calendar for the next two weeks. There are 12 meals in total, 6 dinners to make at home plus a freebie day each week. If you want even more suggestions, you can check out my ‘Dinner Ideas‘ board on Pinterest.
- Red Curry Lentils – we haven’t made these yet but my mom made them for Christmas eve dinner (curry night!) and they were a hit! I love lentils and am making some progress in convincing my meat-loving boyfriend that they are a real meal.
- Easy Skillet Baked Ziti With Sausage and Ricotta Recipe – this is a brand new recipe for us, but the Serious Eats food blog is a highly trusted source in our house. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (the recipe creator) is ‘the guy’ when it comes to cooking.
- Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos – cream cheese and hot sauce…what’s not to love? Cooking the chicken breasts in the slow cooker means these are really quick to put together for dinner. We just serve them up with a side salad and there are always extras for lunch.
- Kalua Pork Tacos – tacos have become a weekly staple because and this recipe is my favourite. The slow-cooker pork is delicious, and I love the addition of mango to the tacos.
- Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry – even though this curry is meatless it’s still super satisfying and filling. It’s already packed with spinach but we usually throw a couple of handfuls of peas in too. Don’t skip the peanuts, they give a nice added crunch.
- 7-Ingredient Easy Zuppa Toscana (Creamy Gnocchi Soup with Kale and Sausage) – this is my all time favourite soup! I’m really fussy about meat and find that the Italian sausage from the grocery store can be a little chewy so we’ve been using these sausages from Spud and they are so good in this soup.
- One-Pan Chicken Burrito Bowls – Another quick and easy meal for during the week. I actually omit the chicken from my portion, so this is an easy meal to make vegetarian.
- Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp Noodle Bowls – I’m just now noticing that there is a curry trend going on in this meal plan, so my apologies if that’s not your thing! These shrimp bowls are so delicious and packed with flavour. Do as the recipe says and keep the noodles separate until serving or they’ll get mushy. This goes for packing leftovers too.
- Huevos Rancheros – You’re right, this is a breakfast recipe but breakfast for dinner is a thing. Eggs are cheap, full of protein and delicious so why wouldn’t you want to include them at dinner time.
- Korean Beef and Rice – I can’t even count how many times we’ve made this recipe. It’s about as quick and easy as you can get. Usually, we’ll toss in some broccoli with the saucy meat to hit the veggie quota.
- Asian Pork Tenderloin with Ginger Glaze – Another slow cooker recipe that will make dinner a breeze. The glaze for this pork is amazing, and you can serve the pork over salad and it even doubles as a dressing.
- Sticky Thai Peanut Orange Chicken – Speaking of delicious sauces…this sweet, citrusy, peanutty concoction is where it’s at.
There you have it, two weeks of dinners that will hopefully get you off on the right meal planning foot. Are you guys avid meal planners or are you more prone to winging it? I’m always on the lookout for new recipes, so if you have any go-to’s let me know in the comments!