When I was working full-time, the one area of our budget that could get quickly out of control was our dining out budget.

I would be diligent about cooking at the beginning of the semester, but from midterm to finals, it wasn’t unusual for our family to eat out several times a week.  (Of course, by eating out so much, I learned how to save as much money as possible, hence, my ebook, Mom’s Dining Out Deals.)

While there is nothing wrong with eating out, I didn’t like it when we spontaneously ate out because I had a crazy day at work or was stressed from work.  Eating out spontaneously cost us quite a bit of money.

Now, when we eat out, we carefully plan our trip such as our visit this past weekend to our favorite sushi place for my daughter’s birthday using a voucher for $30 off thanks to Double Take Deals.

If you are trying to end the dinner time scramble, there are several steps you can take:

Make a menu plan.  A menu plan can keep you focused and prepared.  You can quickly see in the morning what meat you need to take out to thaw, and when you get home at night, you don’t have to think about what is for dinner or search for a recipe.  I share my menu plan every week here at Mom’s Plans.  You can find over two years of menu plans here as a springboard for your own menu plans.

Bookmark your favorite recipes sites.  While you could spend hours scouring the Internet or old cookbooks for your favorite recipes, that is not a productive use of time.  Instead, choose a few favorites that you can go back to.  Here are some of my favorites:

-Food.com:  Hands down, my favorite recipe site is food.com.   You can choose recipes that you like and add them to an online cookbook on the site, so in future weeks, you can save time by simply accessing your cookbook and browsing recipes you have previously tried and enjoyed.

-Food on the Table.  Food on the Table does have a paid subscription service, but you can also access it for free and choose several recipes a week.   I use this service when I am looking for recipes to use the various cuts of beef we get from our yearly 1/2 side of beef purchase.  Now that we will soon be getting our meat CSA with cuts of meat I have never cooked before, I imagine I will be using Food on the Table even more.

The recipes on Food on the Table are graded with 5 stars being the best, and users can leave comments, so that can help you choose recipes.  Also, Food on the Table generates a grocery list for you based on the meals you choose.

Subscribe to a meal planning service.  If you are pressed for time and don’t even have time to find your recipes for the week and make a menu plan, consider subscribing to a meal planning service.  I subscribed to eMeals when my third child was born because I had two kids under two and I was recovering from a c-section.  The directions were straightforward so my husband could do the cooking, and the complete grocery list eMeals created each week made it simple for my husband to do the grocery shopping.

Now that I am temporarily removing gluten and other additives from my diet, I have once again subscribed to eMeals, this time to their Clean Eating Plan.  Meal planning services work very well for certain seasons of life.  Some people subscribe to them indefinitely because they save money by having a weekly plan made for them as well as a grocery list.

Nourishing our bodies is one of our most important jobs.  A person who eats a healthy diet often has more energy and feels better physically.  If you are leading a busy lifestyle, do what you must to make sure you continue to feed your family healthy foods that nourish.

Photo courtesy of comprock via Flickr.

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