I saved more money this month. And putting it toward important things like paying off debt, making memories with your family, or even just growing your investments isn't as hard as you might think. Pizza may have just saved my finances.

A few weeks ago, my husband, daughter, and I were out and about. We often do these “family drives” where we just get in the car and head out in one direction or another simply to be together. We talk, play road trip games, and sometimes look for treasures. I did gasp at the gas pump because here in Upstate NY, we've officially hit $3.99/gallon for the cheap stuff. But I digress.

This particular time, we got craving pizza for dinner. We didn't want to cook and hadn't really prepared anything, so it was about trying to find a decent pizza restaurant. He's a “pizza snob” and is pretty picky about what he considers to be decent pizza.

I decided to choose this restaurant that we've only ever ordered takeout from maybe once before. He questioned my sanity because they're not known to be inexpensive, but I thought, “It's pizza. How expensive could they make it?”

That was so not the right money mindset when you're trying to work a budget.

For nothing but an iced tea, two glasses of water, and three personal-sized pizzas… we left the place having spent over $70.

Let that sink in for a moment. No appetizers, only one chargeable beverage, and three pieces of thin, extra-crispy bread with some sauce and a small amount of cheese. $70.

For comparison's sake, I want to look at the fact that from a “pizza joint,” we could've grabbed two large slices each with each of our own non-water beverages for less than $20.

Heck. We could've ordered a whole pizza and had it delivered to the house, drank our own beverages, and even tipped the driver for less than $25.

Also, for comparison's sake, I want to share that yesterday, I made homemade pizza that was enough for four (kiddo had a friend spend the night) right here at home for a grand total of $11. And I've done it for much less than that when making my own dough instead of buying it pre-made.

Eating out is always savings-prohibitive. And rarely worth the cost.

Sure, when you eat out at a restaurant, you know you're going to pay more, but this was a little fecking excessive. Especially because their “wood-fired” pizza came out tasting like crap because the bottom was covered in black ashes, the top bubbles were black and tasted disgusting, and each one barely had enough cheese even to be considered pizza. The menu didn't even list it as “cheese pizza” – they got bougie with it and called it by the Italian name Margherita. You might be thinking, “Well then, duh, it was $70!” And you'd be right. And that's the problem.

Most restaurants today are still trying to come back from the damage done by the pandemic. I get it. I tip feverishly and generously to help servers make up for the time lost to curbside pickup. Once we even became comfortable with ordering food (which wasn't until well into the end of 2021), we did it often to help make up for that loss.

But let's face it — there's no reasonable excuse for $70. Bougie or not. The pizza wasn't that great; we felt rushed and a little out of place, and sitting outside on the patio resulted in a near-instant headache for all of us because of the volume. Why do people talk louder outside?

If you want to be able to say, “I saved more money!” then you need to rethink your choices.

If you want to save money, one effective strategy is to reduce eating out. Cooking meals at home allows you to control ingredients, portion sizes, and expenses. By preparing your own food, you can explore new recipes, meet dietary needs, and indulge in comfort foods without breaking the bank. Involving loved ones can make it a fun activity, and meal prepping and utilizing discounts can further maximize savings. Embrace the joy of cooking and watch your savings grow while enjoying delicious homemade meals.

  • Takeout for Chinese is around $50.
  • For Japanese (because this mama loves sushi) is around $65.
  • For burgers/chicken tenders from a mom-and-pop restaurant, the bill runs around $35.
  • Fast food for three? Easy $30+.

That's quite literally almost a mortgage payment every month, were we to do that 4x a week. A MORTGAGE PAYMENT!

It's possible that not everyone would find it practical to use the money for a monthly payment on two brand-new cars, but in some places, that amount could get you some beauties. My daughter and I recently booked a last-minute, 5-day vacation that ended up costing us $4,000 just to reserve everything, and that doesn't even include expenses for food and shopping while we're there. However, if you could manage to save an extra $760 or more each month, it could make a significant impact on your debt payoff.

What financial goals do you think you could achieve with that kind of savings?

How to be frugal in the kitchen without sacrificing time?

So, you're going to have to get used to planning things out a bit. Here are some quick ideas on how:

  • Meal planning: Plan your meals and create a shopping list based on the ingredients you already have. This will help you avoid unnecessary purchases and reduce food waste. Plus, you can buy ingredients instead of processed crap.
  • Batch cooking and meal prepping: Prepare larger quantities of food and portion them out into individual servings. It's SO nice to even just buy ground beef in bulk, season it, form it into patties, and freeze them. Works out to about $1.80 per hamburger when making 12 patties from a 3.5lb package of ground beef. This saves time during busy weekdays and prevents the temptation of ordering takeout.
  • Embrace leftovers: Get creative with leftovers and transform them into new meals. For example, leftover roasted chicken can be turned into tacos, chicken and biscuits, casseroles, sandwiches, or added to a salad.
  • Cook from scratch: Instead of relying on pre-packaged or convenience foods, cook meals from scratch using basic ingredients. This saved more money on every occasion. Plus, it gave me control over the quality of the ingredients.
  • Use cheaper proteins: Incorporate more budget-friendly protein sources like legumes, eggs, and tofu where possible. They are nutritious alternatives to meats and contain way less fat and cholesterol. One of my favorite things to do is make tacos with half the beef and some black beans instead. I still get the canned ones, but I aim to work with dried beans someday to save on sodium and have a fresher taste.
  • Shop in bulk: Purchase pantry staples like grains, beans, and spices in bulk, or at least in the larger packages (10lb. bag of flour instead of a 3lb. bag, the large canister of garlic powder versus the smaller ones, etc.). Buying in larger amounts saved more money in the long run, and we go through so many of these basics so fast.
  • Utilize sales and discounts: Keep an eye out for sales and discounts on groceries. Plan your meals around the discounted items to maximize savings. Learn what the bottom-line price is when a store sells something, and then wait and stock up if you can.
  • Compare prices and brands: Before making a purchase, compare prices and brands to find the best deals. Store brands or generic options are often more affordable without sacrificing quality.
  • Minimize food waste: Store leftovers properly, learn portion control, and find creative ways to use scraps and peels. This will help you make the most out of your ingredients and reduce waste.

You might also enjoy reading: Consumer Culture: De-Influencing and The Cost of Waste

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