We try to avoid eating out if at all possible. I’ll share why we do it and how we do it!
First, why do we try to avoid eating out?
- The cost. For our large family, eating out, even at a fast-food restaurant, can cost $60+. It just doesn’t feel worth it to drop that much money for one meal.
- The mess. Maybe it sounds silly, but with six littles, all the wrappers, dips and drippy burgers are a huge hassle. Also, can you imagine what it would look like if we took alllll of our babies to a restaurant? I’m not sure there are enough high chairs in any facility to accommodate us, ha.
- The gut. We know occasional eating out won’t hurt us since we try to eat well at home. But eating out frequently makes our bellies bloat. :)
- The treat. We like to keep restaurant food as a special treat for our family. So when we do go out or grab fast food on a road trip, it’s super fun for all of us!
When do we eat out?
Here are some examples of times we enjoy restaurant food:
- Matt and I occasionally go out for a meal and have adult conversation. Yes, we often talk about the kids when we’re out. There are ten of them; how can we not?
- Our teen/adult kids grab food with their friends, of course. Malachi has the McDonald’s app so he finds reasons all the time to “get a good deal on McD’s.” It’s his hard earned money, so… ;)
- When we are on a road trip, I usually pack food for our first meal or two (see details below). But after that runs out, we do something like grab a bunch of nuggets and fries for everyone to share in the van or at a park.
- Matt’s folks give us a sweet gift at Christmastime to use for a meal out with our family. We save this to use when all of our kids are together, and it is such a fun treat!
- Sometimes we order pizza if we find good deals. We do this sometimes when all of us are together so we can enjoy our family time. Or we might do it sometime if Matt is out of town and we want a special pizza/movie night to help us miss Daddy a little less.
- We have a traditional “Back to School” meal at our local Runza. We’ve been doing this since our big boys were little – back when they earned free kids meals from the library during the summer reading program! While there are no more free kids meals, we have had fun treating our family to a Runza meal right before we all settle into a new school year. (This year we just did a big to-go order because again, can you imagine taking this crew into find seating? And ketchup? Oy.)
What We Eat Instead
Just because we almost never eat out doesn’t mean we don’t have fun treats at home. Also, as much as I love cooking, I need breaks too! Here are some our tricks. Maybe you can steal some of these ideas for your family!
- We kind of like that we can get a couple of cartons of ice cream at the store for $3 each – spending $6 total for our entire family to have ice cream – instead of spending $40 for everyone to get a cup or cone.
- When I grocery shop, I intentionally buy convenience foods that I can make on days I don’t have time to cook. I’ll share some ideas below!
- We pack food to take to ball games and on road trips. This saves money, but honestly, I most appreciate that it helps us avoid messes and hassles. I have all of our food in a big cooler bag, we spread out on a blanket, and we eat. Yes, I have to do prep-work at home before we leave. But I find that this is SO MUCH EASIER than messing with a drive-thru or trekking back and forth to a concession stand with so many little ones. Here are some great ideas of different foods I’ve packed for us to eat at games and on the road.
Convenience Foods I Buy to Feed Our Family Instead of Eating Out
While shopping, I sometimes hesitate about a boxed/prepared item because it costs more than homemade food. But then I consider the comparison to how much it costs for our family to eat out.
For instance, spending $15 for a package of really tasty frozen tostadas at Costco feels like a big splurge to me. But then I remember that I’ll have them in the freezer to use on an extra busy night. So the $15 convenience food suddenly turns into a money-saver compared to the $40 I’d pay for ordering pizza.
With that in mind, now when I’m at Costco or Sam’s I pick up four or five ready-to-warm up items to keep in our freezer on our “no time to cook” or “don’t feel like cooking” nights. Here are some examples:
Costco frozen pizza for the win. Am I right?
Five Cheese Tortelloni
Our entire family loves these and they cook in just a few minutes. I dump sauce into a pan to warm and eat with them. We eat whatever veggie and fruit we have ready to grab. It’s such a fast meal!
Our kids love these! I often put them in a crockpot with barbecue sauce to warm all afternoon for a fast meal at night. Or I’ll cook some to eat with spaghetti, which the kids think is fancy. ;)
We get this at Sam’s, heat it in our air fryer, and serve it with packages of quinoa/rice we get at Costco. Eat it with salad or leftover veggies, and our meal is fast and fun!
French Fry Friday
Often on Friday nights I make nuggets and fries in our Air Fryer and we put in a movie for the kids. They LOVE this!
I think the main key for me is to always keep our meals simple. If I regularly made complicated meals, I’d burn out quickly and want to resort to take-out. But Simple Meals and easy recipes help keep me sane in the kitchen as I feed our large crew!
When do you like to eat out as a family? What are some of your tricks for eating at home more often?
My two favorites are turkey burgers and steak subs ??
LOVE this post. Comes at the perfect time. We’ve really been trying to eat out a lot less than we used to mainly because of the cost. I’m finally allowing myself to splurge on a $12 bag of shrimp to make easy, yummy fried rice , or an $18 pack of steaks that’s on sale. It’s still so much better than the $50+ it would cost to eat out, just like you said!! I
I’d love to know what kind of air fryer you have! Ours doesn’t have nearly enough capacity to feed or family, so I end up using the oven, but I am not a fan of that in the summer.
Jen F says
I second the request to hear more about your air fryer. I have been looking at air fryer/toaster oven combos recently, but am hesitant to buy w/out hearing from someone w/ a personal recommendation.