Picking up pizza or Chinese food after a long day may seem like a fast and easy detour from cooking at home, but it doesn’t come cheap.
A new survey from CouponCodes4u.com found that the average American spends $900 a year on takeout.
More than a third opt for takeout on a weekly basis, and 9% have food delivered every single day.
Reasoning varies. About a third said they didn’t have time to cook, and another quarter said they simply don’t know how.
No matter your reasons or frequency for opting for takeout, it’s easy to cut costs. You may even expand your cooking repertoire in the process.
7 tricks to try:
Join the email club.
Members routinely get coupons for their dine-in or take-away purchases.
Seamless, Yelp and other sites offering delivery also often send deals to users who sign up to receive emails.
Delivery minimums can lead to a full fridge.
“I always keep leftovers in mind when I go out to eat, as I tend not to eat anything in one sitting.,” says Amber Shehan of SwampPixieHerbal.com.
Pizza and pasta reheat well, and vegetables can easily be repurposed for bruschetta or a pita wrap.
Ask yourself: Do you really want a particular food, or just some of its attributes?
Stephanie Mansour, CEO of Step It Up with Steph, says a sweet potato makes a great sub for French fries – just cut it in half and microwave for five minutes.
In the mood for a slice of pizza? “Make some quinoa pasta with marinara sauce and slice up some green peppers,” she says.
Order in ingredients.
New chef delivery services are often cheaper than a restaurant–although they’re pricier than a trip to the supermarket.
Stick to entrees.
“Just buy takeout entrees — whether it’s chicken parmigiana or burgers or grilled sea bass,” says April Masini of AskApril.com.
Skip overpriced salads, side dishes and desserts in favor of those you make yourself. Or at least, those you pick up elsewhere.
It’s cheaper to pick up a cupcake from a local bakery, or a pint of ice cream at the convenience store, she says.
Pick up gift cards.
Check sites like GiftCardGranny.com for secondhand gift cards.
They often sell for up to 30% less than face value, giving you extra cash for ordering.
Learn your favorites.
If takeout is a crutch for inexperience, learn to make your favorites at home.
That’s what self-proclaimed “Chinese food junkie” Natasha Carmon of Louisville, Ky., did, learning to make stir-fry chicken and beef tips, and crab Rangoon.
“My at-home version of Chinese food is healthier and saves me money,” she says. Plus, she can prepare and freeze extra for fast prep on days when the takeout menus beckon.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.