Being a parent is an exhausting job. Between washing clothes, planning a meal, school runs, sports practice, appointments and various emotional trials and tribulations you’ve had it. Many parents will agree it’s the meal component that’s most stressful, expensive and time consuming part.

We’ve all been in a situation where it’s lunchtime and we’ve realised we’re not at home and forgot to get some meat out to defrost for dinner. It’s takeaways again tonight. Other times we’re just too tired, or home too late to cook. No harm in ordering something in is there?

Takeaways are a time friendly option however the cost of eating this way can soon mount. Australians spend over $7 billion each year on fast foods – around $310 per person or over $1200 for a family of four. 3.3 million fast food meals are purchased every day averaging out at around 50 meals per year. Chances are if you’re family has fast food regularly your takeaway bill will be closer to $2000-$3000 per annum.

So, what are your options if you want to stick to a budget and time is of the essence?

Eggs Are Ok. It’s tempting to get caught up in creating something delicious, nutritious, and pleasing to everyone, but that’s often at odds with cooking quickly. Eggs in this respect are a godsend. A quick omelette or fritatta can be knocked up with very little effort. The Egg Corporation has many recipes on their website but this one seems like it would be a general crowd pleaser, and ready in 10 minutes.

15 Minute Meals. Sometimes the time barrier to preparing dinner is more psychological than real. Thanks to Jamie Oliver and a host of celebrity cookbooks the time it takes to choose a fast food restaurant, drive there and return can be equal to the time spent preparing a simple dinner for four- and with the average family takeaway running to over $30 you know you can beat the budget with this option.

Invest in a slow cooker. A close second to the wheel in terms of world’s greatest inventions the slow cooker can be filled in around ten minutes in the morning and voila!.. you return home to a hearty dinner that will satisfy a football team.

Go Vegetarian. Don’t cringe meat lovers! This is not a lifestyle choice, just a cost and convenience one you can resort to at a moment’s notice if pushed. If you do get caught without any meat to cook there is a host of vegetarian options that can be prepared for next to nothing in no time at all using ingredients in the pantry – and some of them even taste like they have meat! This is a good vegetarian meal recipe resource.

Pre-Packed Dinners. All the main supermarkets have them and they are an ideal pick up on the way home from work. They have advanced considerably in recent years and the better ones taste like a home cooked meal. The real surprise is they can be as cheap as preparing yourself – Aldi offer one option that gives you four dinners for around $10.

Delivered Prepared Meals. Websites like Marley Spoon and Lite n Easy can deliver prepared meals, or just the ingredients of the meal you choose so you can do the rest.

Restaurant Delivery. Getting a little pricier now but thanks to home delivery, particularly the recent arrival of Uber Eats, there is a chain of restaurants just waiting for your call. Many of the options are comparable to takeaway but will generally be a healthier alternative.

A family of four will spend around $250-$350 per week on groceries. Sadly, around one third of this food is not used and thrown out. The real cost of takeaways isn’t the expense of buying but the food at home that never gets eaten. Do your budget a favour and revisit the choices you can make for a quick and easy meal your family will enjoy. Their health will thank you for it.

If you’re trying to identify a savings goal, or methods you can use to save, you don’t need to do it alone. A financial adviser (or planner) spends their days identifying and presenting opportunities to their clients. Our simple, quick, free service will connect you to the best independent financial advisers, based on your needs. Click here to get started.

The information in this article is general in nature and does not take into consideration your personal situation or circumstances. You should consider whether the information contained in this article is suitable to your needs and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser or other finance professional.

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