Cut Yourself Some Slack: Fast Food in the Meal Plan

Frozen Food Aisle

We all know it’s true: a good place to trim the budget is to eliminate eating out but I’m here to testify that being Susie Homemaker is easier said than done. If you find yourself making unplanned trips through the drive-thru each week because making dinner is inconvenient, you’re not alone. A lot of us are trying to find ways to save money and cut out unnecessary spending but there are plenty of reasons why we may find ourselves in line at the nearest fast food place on a weeknight. If you work outside the home it can be tough to find the time each day to fit it all in. Or maybe meal planning isn’t your strong suit then you probably don’t have the necessary ingredients on hand to prepare the meal you’d like to. Feel free to leave your own reason in the comments. Sister Solidarity!

I confess: years ago, when faced with the task of feeding a family, I was often out of inspiration and frustrated by mealtime so we ate at the golden arches at least twice a week. Each day I’d stand at the open fridge trying to come up with dinner on the fly and usually found myself making an unplanned trip the store to pick up extra ingredients in order to make dinner happen. What a hassle! Before I figured out how to plan ahead, shopping would consist of wandering up and down every aisle of the grocery store and throwing anything that inspired me into my cart, followed by going home, putting it all away and forgetting about most of what I’d just purchased.

In recent years I’ve learned that pre-planning our dinners each week gives me a more concrete shopping list to follow and allows me to be better prepared when it’s time to get cooking. I like having a dry erase board on the fridge to list the weekly dinners as a reminder to myself of what I had planned when I went shopping. I also plan at least one fast food night into our week in order to give myself a break. I call this approach “fast food on purpose” because it’s the unplanned dining out that kills the budget.

Fast food on purpose is easy stuff that requires little or no mixing and prep. If you already have such a meal in your pantry or freezer it’s much easier to avoid spending a Wednesday night at the local burger joint. If you like to do make-ahead meals to keep in the freezer then you’ve already got a stash of fast food ready to go. I personally don’t do many make-ahead meals so I like to take a little help from the freezer section of my grocery store. Here is a list of dinner ideas that can be prepared with pre-packaged items and save you from the drive-thru:


  • Entrees:

Chicken Burgers

  Family Pack Chicken Patties

Chimichangas

chimisenchilada sauceshredded_mexican-four-cheese

Fish & Chips

fish stickssteak friescole slaw

Fried Chicken

friedn chicken

Pizza

pizza

Chicken Parmesan with Pasta

ChickenParmagianaBarilla_Spaghetti

Chicken Nuggets

Crispy Chicken Strips

Chili Dogs

hot dog chili

Corn Dogs

corn dogs

Biscuits & Gravy

biscuitssausage gravy


  • Sides: 

Salad kits

caesar saladSouthwest salad

Pre-cut veggies & ranch dressing

veggie tray

frozen onion rings

onion rings

frozen french fries

ore_ida_fries

Macaroni & cheese

mac and cheese

Steamed microwavable veggies

mixed veg

Garlic Bread  

Instant Mashed Potatoes

Instant or microwave rice


This list is just a small sample of some of the options available in your local frozen foods section.  You can also find stir fry and casseroles, even breakfasts, all ready to cook. Planning ahead is the name of the game and even if you don’t have time to cook there are options available to put a good dinner on the table. And even if occasional pre-packaged food isn’t for you, there are options. You can try buying organic frozen foods of doing homemade freezer meals as an alternative. I personally consider this approach the lesser evil when compared with going out for a 99¢ heart attack in a sack. One thing that has helped me reach the goal of eating out less is to avoid pressure to prepare the perfect meal because for me, that’s just asking for trouble. I strive for home cooked and we do alright. 🙂 Happy meal planning!