Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My New Take-Out Menu

Restaurant meals are my downfall. From the quick pizza slice to the full-course meal, take-out and eat-out treats consume a large share of my extra dollars. I've made peace with my fondness for elegant sit-down meals, and I have different strategies for saving money while dining well.

But I'm taking action against mindless convenience meals driven by lack of time or energy. As such, I've redefined my concept of take-out food by opting to frugally take-out frozen food items from my freezer. This menu includes prepared and boxed frozen snacks and soups from the grocery store.

This heat-and-go menu costs more than DIY meals from scratch. But when I am in a hurry, spending $2 to $3 on a frozen entree is a lot cheaper than the $5 to $10 tab for a tuna fish sandwich and soup.

Teri Gault of the Grocery Game stressed the money-saving benefits of frozen foods when I interviewed her for a newspaper column. She pointed out that a family of four might spend $10 on four frozen meals ($2.50 x 4) versus about $30 to $50 at a restaurant.

Caution: Not all frozen food items are a bargain. Here are our numbers from a recent shopping trip:

Good Deals:

Potato & Cheese Dumplings $2.29 (about 57 cents a serving)
Toaster Pizza Pockets $3.49 (about 58 cents a serving)
Frozen Vegetable Soup $2.19 (about $1.10 a serving)

Not Good Deals:

Mexican Casserole $4.59 for a single serving.
Gourmet Pot Pie $2.69 for a single serving.



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