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Buy This, Not That

Jul 10, 2023 06:00AM ● By Nikki Ducas

It’s the dog days of summer and the kids are out of school. You are running them here, there and everywhere to keep them active, off electronics and hopefully happy. Like most moms, I start the week with every intention of packing food to eat while out and about but the same old, same old gets boring and I turn into the drive-thru.

But the drive-thru gives me guilt. It is expensive and time intensive, plus the meal options are generally not the healthiest to eat and the garbage it creates is bad for the environment.

If you know me in real life or have been following my money columns for the past 10 years, you know how much I abhor wasting money and more importantly time.

Let’s put into perspective why I cook versus ordering takeout.

For breakfast, I made a cup of regular coffee with creamer (juice or milk for the kids), a croissant with preserves and a kiwi (the kids have yogurt). It took me three minutes to make coffee, cut the croissant, toast it and stuff it with a tablespoon of jam. Cost $2 vs. $8.

For lunch, I made a ham and cheese sandwich with mustard, lettuce and tomato on a bulky roll with a side of chips, a pickle, an apple and a piece of chocolate for dessert. It only took seven minutes from taking the ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry to clean up. Cost $3.50 versus $12. (The cost for the kids’ lunches is even less since they have wheat bread and peanut butter and jelly or cheese and pepperoni.)

For dinner, I made pepperoni chicken with marinara sauce, spaghetti and vegetables. This is a 30-minute meal from prep time, to sitting down to eat, to clean up. This recipe is a healthier alternative and a crowd pleaser in my house. I buy a five-pound bag of frozen vegetables at my shopper's club for $7 (lasts our family of four about 10 meals) and pasta is always an inexpensive meal expander especially when feeding my teen and tween. Cost $4.50 versus $20.

Total cost for the meals above is $10, but keep in mind that the cost of $10 a day is for one person. My savings for meal prep and avoiding the drive-thru/takeout is $10 versus $40 a day per person and does not include tips. For my family of four, I could be spending an outrageous $1,120 a week at the drive-thru versus my $280 weekly grocery haul.

I keep it real with my teen. While in the car, he is always asking to stop for a $5 fast-food chicken sandwich as a snack. He was shocked when I told him if he got one a day it would cost us $1,825 a year!

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