Summer usually means more freedom for millennials: free from stress, studying, and for some, even working.
But not everything is free — certainly not the restaurant, take-out, and coffee bills that seem to plague millennials more than any other generation, and it’s something that many of these young adults are struggling with.
A study by Bankrate.com found that the average millennial eats out five times a week — a habit that’s killing their savings accounts.
While it’s unrealistic to avoid eating out altogether (admit it, a splurge here and there is nice), there are ways millennials can save money on food to avoid breaking their already fragile piggy banks.
Here are a few:
- Take advantage of that restaurant to-go box.
It happens to the best of us — far too often we go out to a restaurant and go so overboard with the appetizers that by the time our dinner arrives, our stomachs are silently screaming “please, no more!”
But rather than watch in defeat as the waiter takes away your basically untouched entree, request a to-go box and stick your leftover dinner in the fridge for lunch or dinner the next day. Not only will it save you the trouble of having to think about what to eat tomorrow, it’ll also save you a meal’s worth of money.
If you don’t feel like eating the exact same meal you had yesterday, there’s always a way to jazz up your leftovers.
- Set up a money jar system.
It’s easy to forget how much money you’re spending when you avoid looking at your bank account.
You can make things a bit more transparent by dividing up your money and setting aside the exact amount of cash you want to allocate to food for the month, week, or however you choose to do it. If the jar runs out before it’s supposed to, you’ll know that it’s time for you to start re-thinking your food budget plan.
Financial planners say you should be spending about 10 percent of your monthly net pay on food and other going-out expenses. You can use this number to determine exactly how much money should be going in your “spending jar.”
- If you do order take-out, try to pick it up.
Of course, it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas and have the food come right to your door, but it’s also costing you a lot of extra money — especially if you’re ordering for just yourself.
Restaurants usually have a minimum amount that customers need to meet in order to qualify for delivery, and often times this minimum is more than what your food actually costs, resulting in you spending extra money just for the sake of convenience. What’s more, you’ll end up giving up about another $5 to tip the delivery person.
Delivery is sometimes necessary, but if you can find the energy to walk or drive to pick up your food, you’ll thank yourself later.
- Cook at home (or at least try).
Millennials aren’t known for their chef skills, but now is a better time than ever to start. Cooking doesn’t have to be super complicated or take hours, but it can save you a ton of money when it replaces eating out a few days a week.
Here are some of our favorite recipes that even the most inexperienced cooks can master:
15-Minute Creamy Tomato Soup
This delicious and easy soup takes only 15 minutes to make, and most of the ingredients will be sitting in your pantry, saving you time and money. It’s versatile, too — pair it with a classic grilled cheese for lunch, or toast up some bread and make it your dinner. Get the recipe.
Beans and Greens
Pasta is a simple go-to after a long day, and you can’t go wrong when pairing it with Parmesan cheese, lemon, basil, spices, and some nutritious beans. Not only is it tasty, it’ll make a big portion, so you can have this hearty meal for multiple dinners. Get the recipe.
Wilted Greens with Balsamic Fried Eggs
Fried eggs aren’t just for breakfast — they actually make for a great dinner alongside some flavorful greens. This recipe gets creative by adding some tangy balsamic vinaigrette, but it’s simple enough to add your own personal touch to this meal. Get our Wilted Greens with Balsamic Fried Eggs recipe.
Chicken Sloppy Joes
Chicken sloppy joes are easier than you think. Besides the ground chicken and the buns, you probably have the rest of the ingredients (mostly spices) lying around your kitchen. You can swap out the chicken for any other meat, or even make vegan/vegetarian sloppy joes with beans or tempeh. Get our Chicken Sloppy Joes recipe.
— Head photo: Blackberry Babe.