In this post, I share with you five ways you can save money and keep your food budget in tact even when family or friends visit from out of town.
These five tips are tips I use frequently, and I am specifically going to be using them next week when my parents come and stay for a few days. I know that no matter how many times we say, “Let’s not eat out so much” that all bets are off when we’ve been out all day and we’re all too tired to think of anything anyone wants to cook.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of totally blowing through your monthly food budget without even realizing it. Things like buying extra cups of coffee while out and about, or deciding everyone is too tired to cook or it’s too late to start cooking, so we order carry out even though we ate out for lunch too. Sound familiar?
1. Prepare and Get Food Ideas at Places Like Pinterest
Thinking it and doing it are two different things obviously. I think about ways to save money all the time, but when push comes to shove, those thoughts quickly become secondary when my hunger and lack of planning frustrations suddenly take center stage.
With my parents coming into town next week, that means I MUST prepare NOW.
If you ever struggle for ideas, just go to Pinterest and you’ll find tons of great information for bulk purchasing, easy meals to make and freeze, and all other sorts of recipes and tips that help bring out your frugal side.
When I once visited my mom to help her out when she had a bad back, it’s Pinterest that gave me tons of bulk meal planning ideas where I was able to freeze meals for her to use once I left.
Preparing takes time, but even just one tip or action that you take now will benefit you later. Over time, it becomes easier and the benefits so great (like saving money!) that you’re actually motivated by positivity rather than a negative, “Ugh I can’t stand doing this” mentality.
2. Cook a Plain Whole Chicken For Multiple Uses
I’ll actually be purchasing two whole chickens, one for multiple uses which I will explain now, and the other for using in my pressure cooker for a nice meal which I’ll explain next.
We do this frequently and it saves a ton of money and is super convenient. Even with an organic chicken which may cost about $13 to $16, we get multiple meals that save us much more than that.
Idea #1: Shred the chicken and freeze it in separate bags.
Since I don’t like cubed chicken, I tend to shred everything, plus I think it goes further. I use cooking gloves and just tear the thing apart with my hands. For the breast I use a fork and knife to slice it and break it apart. Whatever works for you.
Don’t just shove everything in a large gallon bag and put it in the freezer, instead use quart size freezer bags and fill each with the chicken. This makes it easier to grab a smaller amount when you don’t want to thaw everything.
You can use the chicken meat for:
- Chicken salad
- Rice and chicken (check out my rice and turkey recipe and swap the turkey for chicken)
- Slice the breasts and use for chicken sandwiches (or use the shredded too)
Idea #2: Cook a whole chicken in a pressure cooker for a fast meal
I love my pressure cooker and this is exactly why! I can set it and forget it. Unless you’re a master at cooking perfect chicken in the oven each and every time, this is a great way to prepare a good home cooked meal without all the fuss.
Is this really saving you money with guests? Yes, because it’s so easy you have a great meal without eating out. I make beautiful Sunday meals with my pressure cooker and you’d think it took me hours.
I put together a totally impromptu video (posted on my review page) a little while ago that shows how I cooked a whole chicken to take to my in-laws, plus roasting potatoes in the oven and getting myself ready, all under an hour. I managed to condense to a 5 1/2 minute video, which is pretty cool.
While the chicken is doing it’s thang in the pressure cooker, you’ve got time to create your side dishes and clean up the kitchen. When the chicken’s ready, you’ve got about 4-6 cups of chicken broth to freeze for later, plus a nice cooked chicken ready to be served (albeit, not crispy).
3. Eat Out For Lunch Instead of Dinner
Obviously to really cut back, don’t eat out at all, but with family in town you know that’s unrealistic. However this rule can apply for yourself if you have the option of swapping dining options for lunch rather than dinner.
Lunches cost less than dinners when dining out. Plus you’re less likely to order alcoholic drinks at lunch thus saving you even more money. I definitely plan on putting this into practice next week!
If you have to eat out for dinner, try to order items that contain protein, healthy fats, and fiber. This threesome is a powerhouse for your metabolism and won’t leave you hungry 30 minutes later.
Here’s a great book, called Smart Fat that I recommend on the topic about how food affects our hormones and metabolism. I have been reading it and it’s loaded with tons of great information, very educational!
4. Make a Large Batch of Chili
I know chili isn’t Italian, but it has a ton of uses. When we make a batch of large chili, we easily get 3 meals (not servings, meals!) out of it. We separate it into multiple quart freezer bowls, and take out only what we need when we need it.
With the chili, you can:
- Have a bowl of chili (duh!)
- Serve it with pasta, like a sauce. We just did this last night actually. You just use the chili like sauce and sprinkle Italian cheese on top. This is also a great way to use chili if it comes out a little on the watery/thin side. This really extends the use of the chili big time.
- Serve it over chips, like a taco salad. This works better with a bulkier chili that uses meat or lots of beans
- Use it as you would an enchilada sauce for a Mexican bake (corn tortillas, re-fried beans, cheese, meat, chili, repeat)
5. Think of How Much it will Cost to Order Fast Food and Use the Money More Productive
For my husband and I, when we are hungry and go through the Wendy’s drive thru, it usually comes out to cost $15-$18 easy. By the time we get the fries, soda, my fish sandwich, his burger, chicken sandwich and possibly a second burger (he’ll get an extra burger to “save for later…” yeah right…). It adds up fast for a quick, fast, and extremely unhealthy meal that leaves you feeling blah and with no energy left to do anything.
If you know you’re a sucker for grabbing fast food as a last resort, do some pre-planning and use the money for better things.
Here are some ideas for what you can do with that $18:
- Buy frozen pizzas to serve 4-6 people per pizza
- Purchase bulk frozen pasta like ravioli that can be used for many servings and multiple meals
- Buy an organic chicken which can be used for multiple meals like I explained above
- Buy fresh produce for healthy sandwiches on nice baguettes or rolls for a nice lunch or light dinner
Those are five ways I plan on saving money next week. I refuse to be unrealistic and think I’ll be a Miss Homemaker and do everything from scratch and save tons of money while family is in town. Just NOT going to happen, so I do what I can, and so can you!
Preparing is where it starts, and if for some reason you prepare all the right things and don’t use them.. you can use the food for later and still save on your budget regardless!