By far, one of the best things we have done for our family’s budget (not to mention our health!) is reduce fast food. We didn’t set out to eliminate fast food, it just happened as a side effect of our attempts to cut fuel expenses.
When gas jumped over $4 per gallon a few years ago, we kicked our frugal tendencies in to high gear in an effort to both afford the gas we needed for our daily lives & find ways to increase fuel efficiency.
The first thing we did was eliminate drive thrus—no more idling in line at the bank, pharmacy or fast food restaurants. It didn’t mean we could no longer cash checks, pickup meds or order a cheeseburger & fries, but it forced me to stop and think. How badly did I want that value meal—enough to park, juggle 3 kids and walk in to get it?
Usually not—especially when you know it isn’t going to be as good as they make it look in their advertising. It’s even less appealing when you think about how unhealthy it truly is. It’s just so ingrained in American culture. So, how do we break the habit?
- Plan errands away from meal times to reduce the chances of “just grabbing something” along the way.
- Keep healthy snacks, like granola bars or trail mix, in the car to curb hunger until you get home.
- Pack a lunch for work or start a lunch co-op.
- Keep freezer meals on hand for busy evenings or last minute plans.
- Stop by the grocery deli for a roasted chicken & veggies, if you really need an instant meal. It’s less expensive and a lot better for you.
Take a good, long look at your expenses for a month to see exactly what you’re spending on fast food. We didn’t think we spent much and were surprised to see over $100 going to drive thrus each month. Our first step was to establish a specific budget for it—once it was gone, that was it until the next month.
We started by lowering it to $50, then $25. We’ve mostly eliminated fast food by now, but we will detour to Sonic when we travel (the hubby is addicted to Cherry Limeade) or stop at Chick-Fil-A and Steak ‘n Shake now & then. It’s all about finding the right balance for your budget.