Are you eating your way into debt?

We gotta eat! That’s a fact. But how we handle this expense can make the difference between money in the bank or drowning in debt.

Cooking at home is the best way to save on food costs. But we get so busy with everyone going different directions, work, school, sports, and activities. Our crazy lives make it hard to cook a meal at home.

So, what happens? We cave to convenience and dash through the drive-thru or procure a pizza, even if it means pulling out the credit cards. Because you gotta eat, right?

Look through your accounts and receipts and add up how much you’re spending on dining out. Then challenge yourself to go one month without any unplanned restaurant meals.

Now, I’m not talking about going out for an occasion or a nice meal on the weekend. There’s a big difference between enjoying an evening out and dropping cash at a restaurant simply because you didn’t plan well.

Regarding our hectic lives and making time to cook, I’ve heard every excuse and I have a solution for every one of them.

I don’t have time. In the time it takes to go to a restaurant and wait for your food, you can easily make a meal at home. Collect meal ideas that take 15 minutes or less and keep ingredients on hand, like soup and sandwich, quesadillas, spaghetti, French bread pizzas, or breakfast for dinner. A rotisserie chicken, loaf of French bread and bag of salad is so much better than a bag o’burgers.

No time between activities. Take food with you. Pack a cooler with sandwiches, fruit and a cookie. Put hot dogs in a thermos with boiling water and serve with buns and condiments.

I’m busiest at dinnertime. Use your crockpot to make dinner in the morning or the night before. Use your weekends to prepare ahead. Cook a bunch of chicken or ground beef to keep on hand for busy days.

I can’t cook! So, learn! Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated. Anyone can make sandwiches, pancakes, hot dogs or open a can. If you can boil water you can make pasta. Most foods have instructions right on the label, you’re reading this newspaper, right?

I hate to clean up after cooking. I feel your pain, no one loves doing dishes. But dirty dishes cause debt when it’s easier to go out than face your kitchen. So, choose recipes that use only one pan. Line baking sheets with foil for easy cleaning. Use paper plates. Fill a sink with hot soapy water and clean as you cook. Make after-dinner cleanup a family activity.

Just for fun, set a timer to see how long it takes to clean up after dinner. For most people, it’s less than 10 minutes. That’s less time than you’d spend waiting in the drive-thru.

Challenge yourself to one restaurant-free month. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Frugal fodder contributed by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! Join us on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom