To save money, stop eating out

BALA CYNWYD, Pa. - October 3, 2008

The average adult spends $1078 a year in restaurants.

The key to breaking the dining-out habit is planning ahead. Start with smart grocery shopping.

Blaine Bringhurst, Vice President of Merchandising for Acme Markets, suggests starting with the weekly supermarket circular. By seeing what items are on sale, and then planning a weekly menu around those items, you'll have what you need in the house, and save money.

To help you, each week in the weekly sales section here on the Saving With 6 abc page, we run down some of the biggest deals local supermarkets are offering.

Also, to make meal preparation as quick and easy as going to the drive-thru, Bringhurst suggests keeping the following items on hand all the time:

Pasta and rice

Canned vegetables

Prepared sauces

and protein -- like hamburger and chicken breasts

They're quick to throw together into dishes like fettucine alfredo with chicken and peas or spaghetti with meat sauce.

One more tip, when you do cook, make extra.That way, you'll have leftovers that you can use for lunch the next day or a quick meal later in the week.

If you really don't have time to cook, prepared foods from the grocery store are still less than expensive than dining out. Most stores sell hot rotisserie chickens and other entrees that can feed a family of four for around ten dollars. Add some fresh fruit or vegetables for a quick, nutritious -- and less expensive -- meal.

The website The Bargainist also suggests planning alternatives to expensive dinners for get-togethers with friends. For example, chat over coffee or watch a DVD.

If you take advantage of these tips, you could have money left over to go out to a restaurant when you want to splurge for a special occasion.

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