Monday, September 17, 2007

Breaking the Habit of Eating Out Through Menu Planning

Now that the sticker shock of taking on a new debt by buying a car has taken hold, I have been looking at my debt reduction plan, expenses, and potential avenues for additional income to help keep me on my path to debt repayment.

I don't have to spend hours crunching numbers in order to figure out that I can easily spend less on my food budget with a little planning. I was easily spending $400+ per month on dining out. That's about $250 per month added to my credit card since I typically would only budget $200 for all food. I can say that this lifestyle ended about 6 months ago, but there is still room for improvement.

Taking the time to plan a menu will help to not only stick with my budget, but also cut back on the amount of food that goes bad before I have a chance to eat it. For instance, I know that tomorrow I will need to cook some chicken breasts for dinner so that I can use the leftover to make a sandwich for lunch on Wednesday. I took two out of the freezer and put them in the fridge last night so they will thaw in time. When I sat down to make out a menu this last weekend I looked for ideas that would incorporate the chicken and came up with a few ideas including:
  • Chicken Quesadillas - sliced chicken and cheese grilled in a tortilla with salsa and sour cream.
  • Chicken and Couscous - sliced chicken cooked with couscous, broth, broccoli, and mushrooms. It also makes for great leftovers for lunch
  • Chicken Bento - cooked rice with sliced chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and teriyaki sauce.
  • Chicken and Sun dried Tomato Pasta - sliced chicken with mushrooms, sun dried and fresh tomatoes, peas, Parmesan, and a touch of white sauce (butter, wine, cream or sour cream)

None of these ideas take a lot of time or energy to make. Having precooked chicken breast is a great staple to use for throwing together simple and healthy menus. Make sure that you make extra to freeze for later meals or take for lunch.

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