Teaching Your Family to Eat at Home More

For every family there are nights when the kids have after-school activities, or you have a late meeting, for us many soccer games, only to get home late, with an empty fridge, and hungry stomachs that are screaming for food.

Are you prepared or do you eat out?

With some easy planning, and very little cooking times, thank goodness we don’t have to run to a restaurant to eat out every night. Can you imagine the food bill for the month? I don’t know how families do it. And for us, in this stage of life, we save most the eating out for “date nights” for my husband and me. The kids do well making their own dinners anyway, and they like to be creative in the kitchen.

It’s true, as the times we’ve asked our kids to come, they say they’d rather make a nutritious meal at home! I never thought I’d hear those words, so I guess our hard work of “controlling” what goes into each dish, and our teens listening, has paid off.

How to Avoid Eating Out:

1. In the morning, or even the prior weekend, think ahead to what dinner will be and either use the slow cooker, or take meat (or food items) out of the freezer.

2. Prep in advance. Choose a day where you can cook extra foods, or get meals ready for the week.

3. Make extra when you cook; try to get 2-3 meals out of one larger recipe. IE, cook two whole chickens, eat one for dinner, use the other and leftovers for chicken soup with pasta and enchiladas (adding rice and beans).

4. Take advantage of your freezer. Learn which foods freeze well and which don’t.

5. Always keep your pantry stocked. Keep a list in the pantry of food items/dishes to cook using pantry items. Show your kids!

When you save money, and you eat healthy (knowing what you’re putting in), it feels good to be good stewards of our finances and bodies, doesn’t it?

And now that my kids are all teens, one almost 20, I can give myself a little pat on the shoulder (good Mom!) knowing I’ve taught my kids well.

Not perfectly, but well.

What’s your struggle with eating out, or are you disciplined when it comes to home-cooked meals?

23 comments on “Teaching Your Family to Eat at Home More”

  1. We used to eat out alot but no longer do so. Partly because I was working on losing weight, partly because I didn’t want to spend the money for lousy food when it’d cost me less than half to make something tasty at home, and partly because of watching an excessive amount of “restaurant makeover” shows on TV. Every restaurant kitchen they show is filty with mice all over the place! It has completely turned me off to eating out.

    I bought a few issues of Cooking Light magazine and made alot of recipes from them. I decided that even if the kids didn’t eat completely healthy every night, we’d do “restaurant night” at least one night a week. The plan was to spend money on the best and freshest ingredients and to try something we’d never had before. We’ve been doing it for almost 2 months now and my kids love it!

  2. Pingback: In It Together {helpful links for raising teens/tweens}

  3. We have a yo-yo method with this one. Planning is the key. When we don’t have a plan our methods fall apart. Recently we have started “making extras”. We find that each time we make a meal there is just a little bit extra. Every other meal we will freeze the extras. This way we don’t have a weeks worth of leftovers that tend to bore us.

    Then when the groceries are getting a little low we reach into the freezer and pull out something. Now this method tends to leave us with a dinner table with a buffet style menu. There is a little of this and a little of that, added to the veggies in the fridge. Sometimes the flavors go together…sometimes not so much. The kids like it because if there is a little left over of something they really didn’t care for…the parents eat it.

    On busy days we also try to pack a picnic…the cooler is a life saver. Sometimes it won’t fill our stomach, but it gets us past the drive thru and back home before tempers fall apart.

  4. We rarely eat out mainly because we just prefer home cooked, know what you’re eating meals, but also the cost involved. We will go out on occasion or grab something quick, but like you I try to plan ahead to have meals ready when we get home from games/practices and when we have tournaments or more than one game a day I try to always pack food with us…sandwiches, fruit, nuts, granola bars, etc..we may go out for one meal with the team but we don’t eat every meal out. Yikes.

  5. With an empty nest, there’s only the two of us now, but we still try to eat at home more than we eat out. We don’t always succeed, but thankfully we both enjoy cooking.

    Patting yourself on the back is in order. :)

  6. I plan out our meals for the upcoming week on Saturday morning while looking at the calendar so I know who’s on first and what’s on second each night :-) I usually make something big on the weekend and either have planned leftovers during the week, or, if it’s a rare calm week, throw the leftovers in the freezer for crazy time. This works well. My DH and I also trade off one night a week where I will take a son to lessons while DH cooks dinner. Every Wednesday is a “fend for yourself” night. The kids can have peanut butter sandwiches, leftovers, cereal, or whatever they can find. DH and I do our own thing.

    Two nights a month, DH takes our younger son for lessons – they have to leave about 4:45 and don’t get back until 7 p.m. On those nights, I send DS with a sandwich to eat in the car, and DH eats whatever I’ve made when he returns.

    Once in a blue moon on a busy night I will plan for Five Guys. It’s rare, so it’s a great treat.

    I find it’s all about the planning. As long as things are on the calendar I do okay. If something unexpected crops up on the schedule, I struggle. However, I’ve been keeping extra packages of Trader Joe’s soup in the pantry, and I always have frozen homemade rolls in the pantry. I put those to use in real emergencies.

  7. Surprisingly, my family and I are really disciplined in eating all of our meals at home!!! It’s partly out of necessity, it’s more economical. It’s also because we believe that eating “real food” is the best for our bodies…so yeah, it takes more time in the kitchen…for sure…but you know what? It’s also created more time to spend together, because we’re hanging out in the kitchen and talking while we’re preparing meals :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  8. I struggle with it so badly! It is just my husband and me and we eat out almost every night! My problem is forgetting to get something out or doing so and not feeling like eating what I pulled out of the freezer. We live 5 minutes (if that) away from many restaurants. So it is really easy to go get something. I would love to start cooking at home more! It’s just getting that umph to do so. I think I’ll start actually making some of those recipes I have pinned on my Pinterest board! :)

  9. We eat out 3-5 days a week. It’s our guilty pleasure. We use it as an excuse when my daughter has an activity to just eat out instead of cooking. We don’t do fast food for dinner so at least we’re not eating too unhealthy but too many dinners out can be tough on the budget. We are trying to be better at cooking at home. We even bought some new cookbooks to inspire us. I love to cook as long as it’s something new. :)

  10. Our boys are just starting out in school so our schedule is still pretty easy… But I’m trying hard to establish good habits now so when we are in that season, not much has to change :-) I often double a recipe and freeze half, right now I use those frozen meals on nights I have meetings, then I don’t have but a few dishes to clean before I leave the house. I menu plan every week and choose crock pot meals on busier nights and meals that take a bit of preparation on nights when I’m home in the afternoon and have the time. I think that’s been my biggest learning curve, plan your meals for when you’re most likely to have the time to cook. Eating out as a family is truly limited to once or twice a month, it’s a treat. It’s better for our budget, waistlines and time!

  11. Hi Sandi,

    Man, I agree with you!!! We are a missionary family and we just can’t afford going out to eat anymore. We even have a hard time findind places to eat that you don’t have to pay a fortune for a heathy meal. We too like to eat at home most of the times. I use my crock pot a lot and try to encourage other to do the same.
    We do have a big kitchen in the community where we live, but even having to pay $2 a meal, at the end of the month it adds up a lot and we find ourselves not eating healthy at all. That ends up reflecting in our health.

    So, thank you for your encouragement and for the tips. I will definately try to think even more ahead that what I already do and enjoy our family times more.


  12. Another thing that works good is the fuzzy logic programmable rice cookers. We have one and I can get it ready in the morning and set the timer – supper is ready! Add a salad or carrot sticks and you are set. I often do rice and beans, seasoned rice and chicken (chicken is either put in later in the day, or is warmed up in the microwave and mixed in at the end.) And there are many more options.

    I also have been known to make the main dish in a Le Creuset, put rice in the rice cooker on program, then run to pick people off while the oven is turned off and the Le Creuset keeps things warm.

  13. With my husband in grad school and me getting to stay home with our baby, it just wouldn’t work to eat out much. Those meals are definitely the exception. On Monday our kitchen sink went from a slow drain to a near no-drain, despite plunging, snaking and Drano, and the husband declared that we were eating out so we didn’t have to worry about dishes. So out we went, and we were both so disappointed by dinner. I remembered why we are okay with eating at home so often. We save so much money and eat better.

    Any extra money went to the plumber today to fix the sink. It’s a good thing, too, since we’re having friends over tomorrow for dinner. (Thanks for the constant nudges to open up our small home and stop comparing what I don’t have to what others have.) I’d rather have a functioning sink and a the ability to eat at home and clean up than eating out.

  14. Crockpotting and freezing extras is the key to me always having something ready for dinner and last minute entertaining) anything from spinach dip to mashed potatoes). Disposable tin pans in all sizes and ziplock bags help keep my freezer somewhat organized and makes thawing and reheating really simple. I always write the reheating instructions on the containers so my husband can ‘cook’ dinner sometimes too. I love helpful posts like that that encourage eating at home!

  15. Something I have found that helps me plan our family meals is that I have made a Word document listing out all the main dishes we eat in the fall/winter and all the main dishes we like to eat in the spring/summer. I have a notations by them telling which website the recipe came from or if it is my recipe box just in case hubs is cooking or if I just can’t remember. It makes meal planning so much easier for us.

  16. Our family is very involved in sports, so from the very beginning I would put picnic on the menu board for the nights we were out at games. I still pack picnics and the kids will ask me to pack extras for friends. It does take a bit of prep work…but it is way less expensive and much healthier. Our local restaurant supply store saves me from having too many dishes to clean after the games!!

  17. Oh my, there are times when I acutally think you are listening in on our conversations…… Our kids are grown, married and on their own so we cannot use them as an excuse. My wife and I eat out at least 4 days per week, and it is just because of convenience. Our pantry is FULL, our freezer is FULL, and yet we eat out. It does raise havoc with our budget, and every week week we say, next week we are going to plan better…… and so it goes. We will be taking this task on again tonite when we eat at chez Chipley…… as in at HOME…. thanks for reminding us all that with a little planning we can have amazing meals, keep within our budget and enjoy each others company!
    Curtis & Sherrie

  18. Hi Sandy,

    I’m with you…eating out regularly can be hard on the budget! Those meals out are best reserved for date night or the occasional family dinner.

    I try to do as you shared and prepare in advance. With activities and what not, sometimes we eat dinner at different times. Generally, we eat dinner together as a family but there are two nights when my son has an activity right around the dinner hour. I’ll feed my husband first and keep him company. Then, when my son arrives home, I’ll feed him, and both my husband and I will keep him company. Often we’ll have a cup of tea or something like that. We like the family time and encourage conversation to hear about each others day and also give our son plenty of time to chat about what is on his mind/needs help with/etc. I think this is so important – – – for kids to feel that their parents are really present in their lives. That’s what makes family meal time so special.

    From a food perspective, I find soups or braised foods great for these nights when dinner is served to different family members at multiple times. Both types of meals are foods are easy to prepare and easy to keep warm…either in a crock-pot or on the stove/in the oven. Adding some bread and a salad can take no time at all.

    Also – sometimes, if we all wind up eating quite late, I like to be a little unconventional and make dinner one of two ways…either as breakfast or as a tea time sort of meal. The tea time is the most fun because I just bring some things out of the pantry and fridge laying everything out on the table for my family to help themselves. Usually I’ll have an assortment of crackers, cheeses, olives, cold cuts or left over cold meat, bread – with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, cornichons (gherkin style pickles) and bread & butter pickles, maybe some hummus or other type of dip, and a few condiments like mustard, mayo, etc….and, if I have it – maybe some pesto. I’ll put on a pot of tea and round up a little something sweet for dessert – can even just be some store bought chocolates – and that’s it. It’s very informal but we really enjoy it. And it doesn’t require any cooking at all – that’s the best part! But it does require – – – like you shared – – – keeping the pantry well stocked.

    You have done a great job with your kids and definitely deserve a huge pat on the shoulder! :-) I love reading about how they want to cook healthy! Yes indeed, good job Mama!!!

    Have a great day.


  19. We are blessed that my husband is able to come home a little early on the evenings that the kids have activities, so we can eat early together. On the nights we had back to back baseball games, I would pack a picnic which is always fun.

  20. This is not only true for busy evenings, but also for Sunday dinner. People wonder how do I cook dinner every Sunday, after all of the church responsibilities I have. Well, just plan ahead…. When we return from church my main dish is cooked and sometime the salad is done. I just make a vegetable and maybe mashed potatoes and have a nice Sunday dinner.

  21. Confessions of a Fast Food Mom here! Last year my goal was to make fast food the exception instead of the rule. I take an hour or so (usually on Sunday) to prep that week’s meals as much as possible. For example, all the ingredients for a crock pot meal go into a gallon size zip-lock bag and into the fridge. Then all I have to do on my way out the door for work is dump the contents in the crock pot and set it on low. That, and having an arsenal of “quick fix” meals ready on hand helps too. I do need to work on the pantry list. It’s in my head, but things get missed that way.

  22. Those days are over for me, trying to feed a family before lessons. But when I was raising my family I always made sure that things were planned out for the week ahead. Sundays was kitchen day where I would make a stew, a lasagne, a soup – something that could be reheated quickly. In the warmer weather, it was some grilled meat and a salad. And there was always the slow cooker. Keeping on a budget and keeping the family eating at home can be done with some forethought and planning. Can’t tell you how many mornings I filled that crock pot at 6:30 AM before heading out to work for the day.

  23. I was having a mini-meltdown this week over the fact that my kids had something scheduled 4 out of the 5 weeknights – going in some cases until almost 7. And, since they’re too young to be carting themselves around – i’m doing it and it started to seriously stress me out. We do the rotisserie chicken thing – grabbing 2, usually turning one into a chicken and rice casserole and the other into soup or something – and we use the crockpot – but i still feel like i’m doing the same thing over and over again (Regardless of how many different things i pin on Pinterest!) I would love some other ideas!! XO-Sheri

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *