Frugal Living » 4 Ways you May be Eating your Way into Debt

4 Ways you May be Eating your Way into Debt

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Most people realize that it’s easy to get into debt by overextending themselves when purchasing a home or car that is beyond their means, though some do it anyway. However, few people realize that they can actually eat their way into significant debt.

How you may be Eating your way into Debt

4 Ways You May Be Eating Your Way Into debt

Did you know? One of the leading causes of personal debt is due to dining out regularly. Many justify the “need” to dine out frequently with various excuses such as:

  • I don’t have time to cook.
  • I’m late getting home, and my family won’t (or) can’t cook.
  • It’s easier for us to eat out.
  • It’s cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries (Seriously, people have written in believing this!)
  • I don’t know how to cook.

1 Do you dine out one or more times per week?

The average dining out checks for a family of 4 starts at $60. If you do that just 1x per week, you’ve spent $3,120 dining out in one year, which is less than we allot for our family’s entire yearly grocery budget.

Alternatives for dining out

Make your own copycat restaurant dishes and enjoy the flavors of your favorite foods at a significant reduction of the original price. For example, we adore beef wellington, and we’ve discovered a way to make it for $3.63 per person, rather than the $48 per person our local steakhouse charges.

Copycat Chilis Southwestern Eggrolls
Copycat Chilis Southwestern Eggrolls

Utilize the Slow Cooker

Meals can be prepared with very little effort. Simply measure a few ingredients into your favorite slow cooker before you head out the door to work (school, gym, where ever it is you go), and when you come home, a delicious meal will be waiting for you.

B101 bbq beer Saucy Smokies
Lil’ Smokies Party Munchies

Double the Recipe Twice Per Week

Whatever it is you’re making, whether it’s a casserole, hot dish, etc.- make it a point to double the recipe at least twice per week. While you’re enjoying dinner the first time around, the other dish is wrapped and put away into the freezer for another night. If you do this just twice per week, you will literally cut out an entire week’s worth of cooking each month. How’s that for having a night off?

double the casseroles oamc

Invest in a Digital Pressure Cooker

For the sole expense of a single meal out with the family; you can pick up a digital pressure cooker and prepare meals in under 30 minutes (from freezer to the table, no thawing!)

Grocery Budget Busters

Lunchtime is one of the biggest budget busters; often, people (think) don’t have time to make a lunch in the morning and end up snacking out of the vending machine at work (or school). If you work with several colleagues interested in eating healthier, consider starting a salad club at work. Here is a collection of hot and cold bag lunch ideas for the entire family to reduce your lunchtime expense.

dirt cheap lunch at work start a salad club
Dirt Cheap Lunch at Work: Start a Salad Club

2 Do you purchase prepackaged seasoning mixes?

We recently shared a homemade copycat Taco Bell seasoning mix on our site and received several inquiries as to “why would anyone make it when you can just buy it at the store?” A package of name brand seasoning mix is $1. It costs approximately 12¢ to make the seasoning mix from scratch at home in about 3 minutes flat.

  • Let’s look at the Math: 1 Package of (store-bought) taco seasoning mix, used just twice per month x 12 months = 24 Packages of Mix at $1 per package = $24 spent on just Taco Seasoning.

Homemade Taco Seasoning costs approximately 12¢ per package (equivalent) x 24 servings = $2.88.  $24 minus $2.88 = $21.12 savings on the grocery bill in 1 year JUST by making your own taco seasoning.

taco seasoning mix
Taco Seasoning Mix

We used to purchase a single box of Bisquick™ each week to make biscuits, pancakes, and other dishes. By making our own, we literally save over $116 per year, just for that one common grocery item.

Imagine the difference in your grocery bill if you swapped out five similar prepackaged foods per month for homemade foods. With over 2,000 homemade mix recipes in various categories here, it should be simple to swap out 5 of the most frequently purchased items on your list for significant savings each year.

3 Do you purchase portioned snacks?

Items such as 100 calorie snack packs, pre-sliced apples, mini bags of chips? These items are a significant drain on the grocery budget and can be easily packaged at home for a fraction of the cost.

  • Make Your Own 100 Calorie Snack Packs
  • If items such as chips and pretzels are routinely part of your usual grocery budget, consider purchasing large bags and repackaging them into single-serving size baggies.

Doing so will help keep the kids from eating an entire bag in one sitting and save money on those tiny bags of air containing less than a handful of chips.

bought a bag of air today funny

4 Do you insist on purchasing Name Brand items?

Most people don’t know that most store brand and brand name products are packaged in the same facility. The only difference is often a different colored label being slapped on the can.

  • When purchasing eggs, fruit, or frozen veggies, always choose generic as they’re generally up to 70% less cost for the same product. An apple is an apple, regardless of the label it carries.


  • Bumblebee packages Kirkland Signature (Costco Brand) Tuna
  • Pureology makes Kirkland Signature Shampoo

As you can see, by altering a few spending habits, the savings per year can be immense. Sometimes people comment that they don’t have “time” to make a few of these homemade mixes to save money. Here’s an alternative way of looking at it.

Time is Money (or is it?)

How much money do you make per hour? If you make $8 per hour and you’re purchasing $24 worth of taco seasoning packets per year, you are working 3 hours a year to buy prepackaged taco seasoning. Is it worth it NOW? For less than 10 minutes of your time, you could have made a year’s worth of taco seasoning.

time is money or is it the other way around
Time is Money or is it the Other Way Around. . .

Just food for thought. Thinking of sharing? Be sure to Mention @Budget101com or tag #Budget101

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In debt? You might be accidentally eating your way into debt! Here are 4 Surprising Ways you may be eating your way into debt & how to stop #DebtFree #Budget101 #Getoutofdebt #Budget #Frugal

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17 thoughts on “4 Ways you May be Eating your Way into Debt”

  1. ]not to mention all the sodium in prepackaged mixes &nvenience foods. when making mixes & generally cooking always eliminate the salt & enjoy the true flavor of food.

  2. not to mention all the sodium in prepackaged mixes & convenience foods. when making mixes & generally cooking always eliminate the salt & enjoy the true flavor of food.

  3. excellent article! my wife and i were talking last night about how to teach money management to our children. converting the numbers into something you can see/understand is important.

    for example, if we borrow dvds from the library instead of going to the video store each week, we’ll save over $100 per year. A hundred bucks… what’s that?

    5 pairs of new jeans or one more trip to see Grandma and Grandpa or, well you get the idea. Thanks again for the post.

  4. store brand is always cheaper! i have seen here in canada at superstore, their brand sour cream was more expensive than a big brand name! but for the most part, it is cheaper.

    • Store Brand is always cheaper! i have seen here in canada at superstore, their brand sour cream was more expensive than a big brand name! but for the most part, it is cheaper.

      thats no always true!

      i also live in new york state.

      • Thats no always true! I also live in New York state.

        I have lived in several states, and have found that you have to do your homework no matter where you live! Sometimes name brand items on sale are cheaper than store brand. Add to that any coupons and apps like Checkout 51, you CAN save $ if you do just a little bit of research before you shop.


  5. when you shop at a big box store take a calculator with so you can better control pricing. you also need to the price of things to make sure you are buying at a good price.

  6. i have always made an “extra” when making lasagna, chili, soup, is so nice when i am in a running late after work, to know i can just pop a meal in the oven and relax.

  7. i always try to figure grocery (packaged foods) prices by the ounce. you have to compare prices in equal quantities, even if you need to take your calculator! 🙂

  8. i’m an o.a.p. and although i’m comfortable these days it wasn’t always this way. plus, old habits die hard.

    i shop at costco for just me and mdh. we eat out often just for pleasure but at home i make big cooks and freeze meals in baggies. if i don’t feel inspired to cook after shopping i follow the method in a “big cook” recipe book.

    divide the large portions purchased at the store into recipe sized portions and freeze it with the other ingredients required to make up your dinner. you then have prepackaged instant dinners. use your slow cooker or figure out how to use your auto timer on your stove.

  9. thanks so much for this article. i’m going to try the hot/cold and lunch ideas for the whole family. our grandson lives with us and we have to provide his lunch every day during the summer for daycare.


  10. thanks for all these ideas—i have begun pre packaging my own snack bags of nuts and granola i mix up–then it is just grab and go and it really does not take that much time

  11. i like this article. it will get me started thinking of better ways to manage my food money during the week. i am horrible with buying lunch.

    i used to spend $100 on breakfast/lunch a month.

  12. Cooking at home can save you a lot of money when it comes to carb-based meals, like pasta and pizza, but the biggest savings will be on protein-based meals when you compare it to the cost of dining out or buying meal kits.

    I also find it interesting that TD Ameritrade conducted a survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults April 24 through May 4, 2020. Seventy-eight percent of consumers say that not dining out has saved them money. That’s savings of around $245 on average since the pandemic started.


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