Food Money Saving Tips

10 Ways to Save Money on Takeout Food

10 Ways to Save Money on Takeout Food
Written by Oana Schneider

Prior to the birth of the Internet, getting takeout food from restaurants or calling for delivery was the normal thing to do if you’re hungry but would not like to prepare home cooked dishes.

Today, all you have to do is go online or call a restaurant which offers delivery services and you can have your favorite dishes delivered straight to your doorstep – without having to lift a finger. The problem is that if you rely on takeout or delivery food too much, you are not doing your personal budget any favors. Takeout food may be mightily convenient, but you are paying extra for such convenience. If takeout food has become a big part of your everyday life, how can you actually save money on it? That is what we will find more about here.

Quick Statistics About Takeout Food

First, let’s take a look at a few figures. How much do Americans really spend on takeout food, and how often do they order in? Here are a few key statistics from Statista.com:

  1. For July 2013, 46% of males and females order food once a month or more often for delivery. Meanwhile, 75% males and 71% females order takeout food once a month or more often.
  2. For 2014, here are the reasons why people order from restaurants online, with millenials as the main respondents:
    • 83% – It’s easier to order.
    • 79% – The order is more accurate. 
    • 78% – They don’t have to wait, it’s ready.
    • 73% – I can easily reorder my favorite or have a customized order.
    • 67% – I can prepay online using my credit card.
  3. For the baby boomers, convenience is the number one reason for their ordering from restaurants online.
  4. For 2014, those who think that takeout food is essential to their way of life by age group is as follows:
    • 18 to 34 years old – 38%
    • 35 to 44 years old – 39%
    • 45 to 54 years old – 40%
    • 55 to 64 years old – 28%
    • 65 years and up – 29%

10 Ways to Save Money on Takeout Food

As you can see from the above list, the number one reason why people rely on takeout food is the ease by which they can place their orders, and the utmost convenience that they enjoy. If you’re part of the population who orders takeout food once a month or more, how can you save money on it? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Realize that cooking at home is cheaper than takeout food.

The number one way to save money on takeout food is to actually stop paying for takeout food. You need to realize that cooking at home is a lot cheaper than getting takeout, simply because restaurants and fastfood or pizza joints need to pay for overhead expenses on top of the ingredients used to cook whatever dish it is you’re enjoying. Surveys show that if you rely on takeout food for your daily lunch, you can spend up to $3,000 per year. For daily dinners, this amount could double.

When you think about saving this much money on an annual basis, you will definitely put paying for takeout at the back burner. Aside from saving money, you can also eliminate food wastage if you rely on good old home cooked meals for your daily nourishment.

2. Know how to make the food items that you usually order to go – right in the comfort of your own home.

Whether you prefer Chinese takeout or pizza delivery, there are ways for you to make these comfort, easy food right in the comfort of your own home. Look for recipes which require no more than ten ingredients. The time that it would take for these dishes to cook should be the time that it takes for delivery to arrive. The bonus is that you’ll get to eat healthier meals and you can control portions. You can even have leftovers for lunch the next day.

3. Use a slow cooker.

If you dislike the effort that it takes to prepare home cooked dishes, invest in a slow cooker. There are plenty of recipes that you can make which simply involve throwing all the ingredients inside the slow cooker, and letting the equipment do all the work. You can have pot roast with veggies, pub corned beef, banana spice cake, beef and beans – the variety of non-takeout recipes that you can enjoy are practically endless!

4. Throw away your takeout menus.

The best way to avoid temptation is to steer clear of it in the first place. If you have an entire menu of your favorite takeout place near the telephone, throw it away or hide it somewhere inaccessible. This way, you won’t be tempted to simply order in when you don’t feel like cooking.

5. Stock up on convenient food items.

Next, stock up on convenient food items that you can include in your recipes to save time – and without having to put in too much work. Some examples are dried foods, canned goods, frozen foods, cold cuts, commercially-prepared dried goods and out-of-the-box or straight-from-the-store food items.

6. Make Sloppy Joes ahead of time.

Instead of relying on burger joints for your comfort food fix, make them ahead of time. Sloppy Joes, for example, can be made ahead of time. Follow your recipe and leave the mixture simmering in a crockpot. Pour some onto a thermos for an easy, on-the-run meal or simply heat it up from a jar. If you’re in the mood for burgers and fries, you can make the patties ahead of time and simply grill or fry them when needed. For deli sandwiches, make sure that you have a supply of bread, cold cuts and condiments so that you can prepare whatever you need in an instant.

7. Make your own loaded nachos.

The cost per serving of hearty nachos is about $1.50 when you make your own. They’re the perfect party appetizer or snacks while watching a big game. Instead of buying them, making your own will save you a lot of money in the long run, and you can add all your favorite stuff without having to pick them out of the dip or the sauce.

8. Make your own oven fried chicken.

With a cost per serving of less than $3, oven fried chicken is actually cheaper homemade. Use fresh breadcrumbs instead of panko, and follow a recipe that is almost similar from what you will enjoy out of the bucket. What’s good about taking this route is that you can choose the leaner cuts of chicken and pay attention to portion control because it’s up to you to decide how much to serve your family. 

9. Make your own milkshakes.

If you already keep your pantry well-stocked, anyway, you don’t have to rely on takeout milkshakes. All you have to do is whip up your own using the blender that you have at home. It will cost you less than $1 to enjoy a glass of refreshing milkshake. If you want some variety, look for milkshake recipes with cookies and cream, mint chip, coffee ice cream or chocolate. You can even take the healthier route of blending in berries or other healthy fruits with your milkshake to cool you off during hot summer days, while giving you a cheaper way to quench your thirst, too.

10. Know which food items are cheaper to order in than make at home.

Finally, know which food items are cheaper to order in or get for takeout, than make at home. Let’s take spicy tuna rolls as an example. When you order this item from a delivery place, you need to spend only $7 to $10 for a few pieces. But when you make them at home, they’re actually more expensive – with the price ranging from $15 to $18.

If you’re in the mood for some Greek food, lamb souvlaki will cost only around $12 to order but if you will make them yourself, it will set you back around $15 – and you’re not really sure if it will taste the same. A steak burrito costs only $10 to order, but more to make. Even pizza is cheaper to order in. Making one at home will cost you more than $20 but one order is only about $10 to $12.

If there really is no way for you to completely say no to takeout food, there is no harm in enjoying convenience every once in a while. But when you consider the costs that you are racking up, you will definitely think twice about getting delivery or takeout food on a regular basis. With plenty of home cooked alternatives out there, you can feed your family on the cheap and a lot more healthily – without having to constantly rely on takeout or deliver menus.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

15 Comments

  • I enjoy cooking, but occasionally, I do order takeout food, or delivery. Another way not listed, is to order with friends or extended family, that way you can save on delivery charges, as well as ordering a variety of dishes that people can share, since there are usually leftovers. I particularly like #10, because sometimes it is cheaper to order takeout, or even buy from the the deli or bakery section of the grocery store, rather than buying all the ingredients needed to make particular dishes at home.

  • Take out food is not only expensive but is unhealthy too. Some men love cooking, but I simply don’t like to cook myself. Fortunately, my wife cooks for me. But, when she’s not in the mood, I take her out to a restaurant. I, sometimes, help her with dish washing and she appreciates my help.

    • Takeout isn’t necessarily unhealthy, though. You can find plenty of healthy restaurants and locations that provide takeout or delivery services. The fast food and restaurant industries are moving toward healthier options today, and that’s only going to benefit consumers and their waistlines moving forward.

  • It is incredibly sad that many people depend on takeout food as they have no idea how to cook. There should be a program to help people learn cooking and be able to support themselves. Takeout is so unhealthy, and that’s not even counting the price. This is a nice post about how people who don’t know much about cooking can get ideas on how to eat cheaper.

    • I completely agree with you. I was shocked to find out how many of my kids’ friends always go to a fast food drive-thru for their meals. It’s so unhealthy to do this when you can easily cook your own meals at home. It really isn’t that difficult to do and I make sure I teach my kids these skills so they aren’t so dependent on takeout food.

      Not only does this article mention some great ideas, there’s also a lot of other great ones if you just do a little searching on the Internet. Unfortunately, most people are just too lazy and are willing to sacrifice their health in order to save a bit of time. It’s sad.

  • I’m glad I taught myself how to cook, so I’ll never have to rely on takeout food. Especially because I live in a place where food costs are higher than average. Though 10 is an interesting point. I’ll have to research if there are any dishes I’m interested in trying that are cheaper to order in rather than cook, because I’d probably enjoy those as an occasional treat.

  • I have a large family.With growing boys and girls. And eating out as much as I would like to, it would mean that a huge chunk of my hubby’s pay should go the one luxury meal. And then, feel guilty the next day for the waste of money. We could have spent the money for the week’s supply of raw meats and vegies to cook. Besides, I’ve kinda’ got use to cooking big pots of soups and meat dishes for my family.

    We can’t afford to be wasteful.

  • I’m guilty of ordering takeout more often than I would like – it’s usually if I’ve had one of those long days and cooking seems like a huge task. I’m getting better about cooking at home, even when tired, though. I like the idea of making food ahead of time, as mentioned with the Sloppy Joes. I’ve tried that with tacos and sloppy joes and even chicken, and it works out pretty well.

    I would save a fortune on milkshakes if I started making them at home! My daughter LOVES milkshakes, and begs for one several times a week. I’m going to go look up some good recipes and see what I can find.

    We order thai more than anything else, when we order out. I’ve tried making it at home and while I’ll give myself credit for trying, it’s definitely better from the restaurant (and a bit cheaper to order).

  • In our household we are guilty of doing these things, both me and my wife and kids often order things that aren’t worth the money. I can see that the article focuses a lot on “make your own”, I think that this is a great idea for people to save money when it comes to take-out food. You can clearly conclude after reading the entire article that by cooking at home, it saves a lot of money monthly than ordering food. It is quite shocking to be honest, because I thought about how much money you could actually save and instead you can use them for more valuable things. Me and my wife would rather cook at home and save that amount of money and give it to our kids, it’s a great article with real meaning. Thank you for the help Oana Schneider, great article.

  • There are many reasons why we don’t order out. One of them is the fact that the food just is not as good as a home cooked meal. Another reason is that it is expensive and you really don’t know what you are getting. You have no idea how long the meat has been sitting out or how it has been prepared and you could end up extremely sick even after paying an arm and a leg to eat out. I enjoy cooking so I don’t mind making home cooked meals for my family. These are all great tips on how to save money and eat at home instead of eating takeout food. Throwing away the menus and the numbers is a great start!

  • Takeout doesn’t have to be expensive or unhealthy. It’s almost going to cost slightly more than home-cooked meals by virtue of it being prepared by someone else. Still, I can find dozens of local, healthy, and affordable options where I’m at, so I’m luckier than most people. I don’t have to settle for unhealthy takeout, and the places I order from can beat most people in the home kitchen.

  • Generally, I like to cook, but sometimes, I just feel too stressed, tired, or busy, or I’ve run out of food in the house, and I would need to go buy more groceries to cook. I do realize that take-out probably takes a large chunk out of my monthly budget, but I feel its convenience more than makes up for it. I always feel inspired to learn how to make the food items that I order in, so I can really relate to what you wrote in this post! I love nachos and milkshakes, and I always make them myself whenever I can, but I try not to eat too much of these junk foods, when a home-cooked meal is so much healthier for me and my family. Like some of the other people here, I too think the last point that you make is very fascinating, because I always thought everything was absolutely less expensive to make at home. One thing I have to keep in mind, though, is if a homemade meal is worth being more expensive, because I know exactly what ingredients go into my food. Even though ordering out may be less expensive for some food items, I feel better knowing the details of what my food is made of. I really like all of these tips; they’re sure to help me save more than just a few dollars every month!

  • It is true most of the stuff at takeout can be made at home. I’ve come across good videos on Youtube before on how to make milkshakes. My boyfriend recreates some of the food he has learned at jobs over the years and it always taste exact! Its a good habit to get into cooking at home instead of take out.

  • Essentially yes, the only way to truly save money on takeout food is to try the recipes in the comfort of your own home. But unless people have a family to feed, do people really have the time or energy these days to prepare meals when they are so busy in their daily schedule? That’s an aspect as to why takeout food is popular. And of course the meals are not gonna come off the same as the takeout food when rustled up at home, but if there’s time to do it, give it a shot anyway.

  • I actually can’t remember the last time I ordered a takeaway. I just cannot justify spending £10.00 on a meal for one person, when I can cook something much better for less than half of the price. If I am staying at home on a Friday or Saturday night, which is the only time I would order in, I would rather make something home-cooked and buy a bottle of wine to enjoy.

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