Eat at Home: Tips, Projects and No-Fail Strategies to Save Money and Avoid Eating Out

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My household is in total budget mode right now. With a wedding and (hopefully) buying a home on the horizon, we're really examining our finances and trying to squeeze out every dollar that we can. Thanks to a money managing app, we're able to see the areas of our monthly spending where we can cut down on costs. Guess what? Aside from rent, our biggest expense every month is dining out. It's time to get serious about eating at home.

I found some proven strategies to help frequent diners hit their stride with home-cooked meals. Here's a hint: it's all about preparation. If we can stay on top of meal plans and making room for dinner at home, we can easily save thousands of dollars this year. That will definitely help with a down payment, huh?

Keep your goal in sight. Print and frame a weekly meal planner (Handmade Mood has a great free printable) to keep your at-home goals front-and-center in the kitchen or dining room.

Clear off the table. It's easy to let your dining area get optioned as a place for kids' crafts or an occasional office. But if you want to eat at home more often, keep your eating area — whether it's a big farm table or a tight breakfast bar — cozy and free of clutter.

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Get an app. The Kitchn's Stephanie shares three favorite iPhone apps for planning meals ahead of time to reduce the temptation to eat out.

Make a set dinner time. Treat your meals like an important appointment: stick to a time that works for your family and get prepared in advance. I'm less likely to run out for take-out when dinner doesn't sneak up on me.

Keep a dinner diary. Tracking the great meals you've made at home in the past gives you ideas for future meals, like your own family restaurant menu. (You can then jot down your mealtime staples on washi-tape magnets, like Onel from Onelmon blog, for another creative meal-planner board.)

Keep a dinner out diary. It can be eye-opening to keep a record of how often you eat out (and how much you spend). Jot down in a journal every time you grab take-out or have dinner at a restaurant, and you can literally see how much eating out can cost.

(Image credits: Handmade Mood; Kesu/Shutterstock)