Ask the Readers: How Often Do You Cook at Home?

By Ashley Jacobs on 28 October 2014 85 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Guest, Susan, and Carmen for winning this week's contest!

One of the best ways to save money on food is to cook meals at home, but not all of us have the time (or skill) to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the daily.

How often do you cook at home? What are your go-to dishes when you don't have a lot of time or energy to prepare a meal? What tips do you have for someone who wants to start cooking more?

Tell us how often you cook at home and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture
Guest

I cook almost every night. Eating out is generally just a special occasion thing. I also pack my lunch, so I guess that counts as cooking. My go to is stir fry. I usually have all the ingredients and it is quick.

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Julie Wood

I cook at home all the time! I make a meal and make sure to make a lot to have leftovers for at least 3 days. I make a lot of casseroles with chicken. I do not want to cook every day. It is time consuming. But I love Crock Pot Meals because they are easy to make and I use two Crock Pots because I am cooking for 4 people, and I need leftovers. Making a lot of dinners at once and eating the leftovers really will save you a lot of time!

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Emily

Pretty much every night! (Okay, last night we had take out chicken...) But I honestly think eating at home about 90% of the time is the best way we save money. And we eat so well!

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Elena

I cook every day. My go to quick meal is pasta with marinara sauce

Guest's picture

We've been making it a point to cook all but three meals a week at home. I do most of the bigger recipes and PiC has some go-tos. We get up to three passes on the the weekend starting Friday night to do take out or eat out, and I'm happy to say we're not regularly using all of those either. It's a treat not to have to worry about cooking every single meal but we do quite a lot so we know we're eating more healthy foods for less. We also do better when we are mindful about buying fresh produce!

Guest's picture

Lately I've been trying to cook more, about 3-4x a week, but I would love to eventually cook almost every day. It's just hard living in NYC where there's so much good food to be had and you have to lug around your groceries.

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Kendra

On average, I'd say 6-8.

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Darcy

We make all our meals these days!

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Ernest S.

We try to cook at least four nights a week. We usually have a night where we eat with our parents, and two nights where we dine out.

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jeff

My family eats most of our meals at home. Maybe 5 lunches and perhaps a "date night" dinner during the month.

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ID

Breakfast every day, lunch and dinner two times a week maximum.

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Guest

Cook most meals at home with fresh ingredients from the vegetable garden

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Mary Happymommy

I cook at home during the week but go out to eat on weekends.

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Rachel

We cook just about every dinner at home. My tips: plan the week's meals in advance, make a grocery list, and only grocery shop once per week. I also sometimes do prep for the week's meals on Sunday afternoon -- chop veggies, assemble sauces, etc. This helps a lot during the week! For nights we have something going on, I do something simple like tacos, BLTs, or quesadillas.

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Tina in NJ

I cook at home about six days out of seven. Of course, this includes casseroles and leftovers from the freezer and things like canned soup. Still, we try to keep eating out and take out to once a week. A weekly menu, while not set in stone, helps a lot. So does a large freezer.

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Margaret

DH and I eat at home 9 times out of 10 and I pack leftovers for lunch most work days. We aren't perfect and when overtime for both of us coincides or when one of us is ill we may eat out more often or order in Won Ton soup.

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Amanda Fletcher

Every day...unless I can bribe one of my kids to do it. :)

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Selene Montgomery

I cook 3 out of 7 night per week, and usually some leftovers for another meal.

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Olivia

I cook almost every night with the exception of Saturdays. Saturday is our family bookclub where we gather at my parents' home for dinner, book discussions and late night fun! I am a stay at home mom and although busy with 6 kids, a husband and a home to care for, I feel it is a nice tradition to have a home cooked meal around the dining room table for our family. Of course, ordering pizza every once in awhile is perfectly acceptable and a much needed break sometimes.

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Gina

I cook everyday. If I'm in a hurry I just cook steak which only takes a few minutes. I do bulk cooking on weekends to last the week.

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Megan

Every day!

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Guest

I cook dinner about five times a week and take leftovers for lunch! It's much more cost effective than eating out and I can make healthier versions of my favorite things.

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Kristi

I cook at home about 80% of the time, grabbing something out once or twice a week. Meals are pretty consistent which helps when watching calories and portion size. Small egg/half tortilla wrap first in morning for protein and fiber, then small bowl of oatmeal a little later. Lunch is usually turkey or salmon patty with lots and lots of greens, sautéed. Dinner is often whole grain pasta with veggies either steamed in microwave or roasted, in a simple butter and yeast flakes sauce. Favorite snack: popcorn with sriracha.

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Guest

My family cooks almost all the time - it's so much cheaper and often tastier. Plus I enjoy cooking!

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Catseye

I cook at home about twice a week. I make something that I can get several meals from like chicken and black bean burritos and chili. I also make a lot of sandwiches, especially when it's hot outside.

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Kari

We have every meal at home except one or two a week out. I used to hate the idea of a menu plan, but it gets me to cook every night without making the same thing too much.

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Liz

5-6 times a week

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Matt

Around three or four times per week.

Donna Freedman's picture

We cook just about every night. I could count on one hand the number of times we had dinner out in the past year -- and a couple of those times were the kosher-dog-and-soda dinner for $1.50 at Costco on the way to a show.
My partner likes cooking more than I do, so I will not get in his way. ;-) But I'm OK in the kitchen myself, and we cook because:
1. We like the peace and quiet of being in our own home, and
2. We know how much food costs and it drives us nuts to pay top dollar for a meal we could have done at home for very little money. That cash has better places to go in our budget.

Guest's picture
Guest

I cook on most Sundays and Tuesdays. Because I have an extra job and work late on Mondays, I try to cook the day before so I won't go out to eat and will have leftovers. Cooking twice a week works well since dinners last 2-4 days. On some days, I choose meatless options to save even more.

Guest's picture
Guest

I cook on most Sundays and Tuesdays. Because I have an extra job and work late on Mondays, I try to cook the day before so I won't go out to eat and will have leftovers. Cooking twice a week works well since dinners last 2-4 days. On some days, I choose meatless options to save even more.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

I never cook at home, but my husband cooks at home 4-5 times a week. We eat with my parents once a week, and we have one or two dinners of take out.

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Katie

Every couple of days I cook a giant meal, then I live off of the scraps from that for a few days. It is easier that way.

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Nicole

I cook at home almost everyday for my family, friends, and guests. I love to be in the kitchen.

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Liisa

Pretty much every night. We only go out to eat once or maybe twice a month with a coupon, and every now and then if my husband has a meeting during the dinner hour (they often feed him dinner) I'll just throw together something cold for myself. I also have a very restricted diet because of health issues, so that makes it necessary to cook nearly every meal anyway.

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Jennifer

I cook at home about 80% of the time. On weekends is usually when we eat out. Week nights rarely unless I'm sick or something. I make my husband's lunches he takes to work to eat and I make my own at home for myself (housewife). Some of my go to dishes are stir fry, fish (sauté, bake, or in parchment paper), and curry. Easy dishes for when I'm tired my favorite is pasta aglio olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) - it's cheap, easy and sooo good!! Make pasta and sauté garlic in olive oil, mix with pasta and season salt and pepper; top with a little parmesian grated. Another is baked potato; also cheap and easy. For those new to cooking I recommend thinking seasonally (what's good in cold weather?) and using YouTube to help you learn how to cook - it's free and visual. Above all be brave enough to try new things; a world of cuisine awaits.

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Jennifer

I cook at home about 80% of the time. On weekends is usually when we eat out. Week nights rarely unless I'm sick or something. I make my husband's lunches he takes to work to eat and I make my own at home for myself (housewife). Some of my go to dishes are stir fry, fish (sauté, bake, or in parchment paper), and curry. Easy dishes for when I'm tired my favorite is pasta aglio olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil) - it's cheap, easy and sooo good!! Make pasta and sauté garlic in olive oil, mix with pasta and season salt and pepper; top with a little parmesian grated. Another is baked potato; also cheap and easy. For those new to cooking I recommend thinking seasonally (what's good in cold weather?) and using YouTube to help you learn how to cook - it's free and visual. Above all be brave enough to try new things; a world of cuisine awaits.

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Mee

I made a deal with myself to cook dinner every weeknight for my family. This was after years of take out 2-3 times during the work week which I justified by the fact that I was a working mom with two young kids and my husband gets home after dinner time most days. It was tough going at first but once I got into a habit, it didn't feel like a burden anymore. Now I easily can get through an entire week (including weekends!) without takeout. We're not talking fancy meals every night but I've learned to stock certain staples so that even if all I can whip up is something super simple and basic, it's still better for us health-wise and money-wise to cook. Take-out is now a genuine splurge we enjoy from time to time rather than an immediate go to for those busy days.

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Suz_Glo

We cook or otherwise make our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at home 90% of the week. For me it's easier, cheaper and healthier -- a win-win-win! I think we average one lunch and one dinner out per week.

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cherie

I cook most meals, most days. Instant meals would generally be pasta with meatballs from the freezer [usually homemade - though someone just trying to stop the takeout machine could buy them - trader joes has good ones] or a meatloaf that I churn out in batches of 6-8 on a planned day and freeze. Fried rice is good if you have leftovers and leftover rice LOL - quick and cleans out the fridge.

I also make a lot of baked items that go in the freezer - just put away a few batches of flash frozen bacon pancakes that will toast into easy breakfasts - english muffins, waffles and muffins are good too - if you make enough to last a while and do this once a week you'll wind up with a good variety - breakfast sammies can be premade this way as well - my kids won't eat them though ;)

Best advice I can give is that if there's something you eat regularly by choice [not panic mode necessity] then learn to make it, make a lot and freeze it - then add another favorite to the rotation - it will give you an easy meal when you need it - pasta sauce is a good choice, soups too, ground beef dishes freeze well and reheat easily [for less people you can freeze a meatloaf sliced and just defrost as needed]

I'm less impressed with frozen cooked chicken - I often cook a tray of some sort of chicken and just leave it in the fridge - can be reheated, shredded to use in a million ways - soups, enchiladas/tacos, salads etc. But then I have a teenaged boy and food never goes to waste in there . . .

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Christie

Almost every single day! With the exception of traveling, I cook at home 6 days a week-- the other day is a make-it-yourself or leftover day. We rarely go out to eat, my kids actually would rather I cook for them and stay home than going out. What can I say? I'm a good cook!

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Amber

It is a rare night we eat out. I batch cook every Sunday, and sometimes Saturday afternoons to make a couple dinners and my husband and my lunches for the week. During the week we usually have a crockpot meal on Wednesdays and quick to put together meals Thursdays and Fridays. I make a tentative meal plan and shopping list before I grocery shop every Saturday. I grow a big garden in the summer and a small garden in the fall. I grow at least 2-3 herbs inside all year around. We budget 150 dollars a month for food and we usually come in under that number. I am a dietitian, so that amount includes lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. About 10% of our purchases are processed foods that are boxed or canned (coconut milk, tomato paste) With such a small food budget, it is almost impossible to stay within our budget and eat out at fast food or a restaurant.

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Molly

I make almost all my meals at home. I also keep a grocery supply at work so I can make quick meals there. I tend to make simple, quick foods like grilled cheese or soup but once or twice a week I will make something more involved and eat the leftovers for a few days. A great first step if you do want to start cooking more is to keep groceries you like in your home. Start with simple things so you can throw together a sandwich or make some pasta when you start getting hungry.

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Jennie

I never used to cook at home despite a love of cooking. Because I was always preparing food for just myself, it always seemed 'easier' to order in, hit up Carrabba's car side service, or sneak in a fast food meal on my way home. Then I began noticing how much money my lazy habit was depleting me of, and I do not earn a substantial salary as an administrative assistant to begin with. I was not actually committed to addressing my problem until I happened upon a garage sale in my neighborhood with my Mother one Saturday morning. I approached a table filled with books, and, upon closer inspection, realized that the majority were in fact cookbooks. And one pile of magazine-like cookbooks looked remarkably like something I knew instantly that I needed to have. They were how-to's for both beginner and advanced chef's who were trying to perfect by simplifying rather than perfecting by cramming a recipe full of unnecessary (and expensive) ingredients. So, I purchased three seasons worth of these how-to's, bundled and tied together in date order with twine, for $1. BEST $1 I HAVE EVER SPENT! Now I cook these tried and true (and in most every case) economical recipes seven nights each week, taking leftovers for lunch to work the following day, or food-saving and freezing them for later. Since February of 2014, around the time I became fully committed, I have run my budget numbers based on old bank statements versus what I am spending now, and have found a savings to myself of $1,848. That is counting what I was spending out as well as what I spend weekly on pre-arranged groceries based on the recipes. And I almost never go out for lunch anymore except when I join co-workers for a birthday or other celebration. Spending on food and beverage anymore, hurts my head as much as it hurts my wallet!

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Elisabeth3123

I cook twice a day for our 5-personn family, so I produce 70 meals/week !

Guest's picture

I cook 5 times a week. I'd do it more but my husband finds it a real treat to order carry out on the nights I work late and once on the weekend.

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Sue

We cook most of our meals at home. We are vegan and now eating clean so it is hard to find anyplace to eat out. A good side effect from eating this way is that it is so much cheaper. Processed food is more expensive than fresh veggies from the farmers market.

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Karen L. @love2lovemykids

I cook at home several times a week, but we do go out to eat on a regular basis.

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Betty

Usually I cook at home seven days a week. Some nights it's not a great dinner, but cooked by me none the less. Breakfast I make over night oatmeal, and I pack lunch for my husband and I everyday. We will eat out for special occasions sometimes.

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Guest

I cook almost every day. Eating out is just a special occasion thing usually with a coupon/Groupon. I also pack my lunch 4 days a week.

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Monique

I cook at home almost every day. My go-to meal is a bean soup, but quiches are also easy too. I highly recommend a slow cooker for easy, hands off recipes and also lookin online for all sorts of interesting yet simple recipes.

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An G

We cook almost all our meals at home. Maybe go out once or twice a month

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arleneinaz

We try to cook at home for most meals, but I would say we make it out to eat about once a week. Using the crock pot helps a lot, and my go to recipe is pulled meat...cook pork or beef or chicken breasts in the crockpot with a bottle of barbecue sauce all day. When I get home, I shred the meat and add more sauce. Serve on buns with a side and you've got a great meal that lends itself well to leftovers, too.

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KelR1

When I'm in the groove of being good I cook at home every night. When I fall off the wagon (dining out is my worst spending habit) I might only cook at home 2 nights a week. I'm trying to be more consistent, but I'm not a very good cook.

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Bekki

Someone in the house cooks 5 nights a week. I personally cook maybe 2 nights a week.

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Robynn

I cook every meal at home, except for maybe 5x a month we get lunch out. I shop once a week and try to buy a new ingredient each time, so I can have fun with cooking and so we don't get bored with the same meals. I like to prep things ahead of time, so I do a lot of crock pot cooking. I prep at night, and in the morning it goes in the pot, then I don't have to worry about it all day.

Guest's picture
Guest

I cook at home as often as I can! I make breakfast at home 6 days at week usually, buy lunch at work 1-2 times per week, and then make dinner probably 5 nights per week. I give my boyfriend and I one date night where we go out for dinner, then I usually grab dinner with a friend one day a week after work! I try to make it a special occasion thing as much as I can. So much cheaper and healthier!

Guest's picture
Guest

I usually pick one day a week and cook a few things that day that I hope will last for a while! Soup is one of my favorites. You can pack it full of healthy vegetables and beans, make a ton at once, and freeze it if you have leftovers.

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Susan Smith

I cook at home about 90% of the time. We go out to eat once on the weekend.

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Laura J

I cook at home 7 days a week for the most part!!! We do not eat out hardly ever, sometimes we will get take out or order a pizza, but that is about once a month maybe.

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michelle ledbetter

I cook every day, three meals a day with the exception of Saturday night.

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Dee Dee

We cook almost everynight and on weekends breakfast and lunch is cooked too. I pack my lunch everyday for work.
Dining out is about once a month, we like Thai food.

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BRB

3 or so times a week during the evening and usually breakfast at home every day.

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Ronda

I cook almost every night. We are on a tight budget for food. So eating out with a family of 6 rarely happens for us!

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Lynda

we try to cook at home 5 weekdays a week

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Beth

We cook at home almost everyday, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We average about 1 dinner out per month and my husband grabs lunch out 1-2 times per month.

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Diane

We usually cook at home at least 5 nights a week. Actually, my boyfriend cooks about 5 nights a week~ We tend to eat out a couple of times on the weekend. Friday is our Pizza Date Night.

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momkeywest

I'm a senior and retired. I love to cook and usually make our dinners every evening. We like to go out for breakfast or lunch once a week.

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Louly

I just had my kitchen remodeled so I cook almost every night. With extra counter space, it's a joy!

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Mary

I cook at home daily! Sometimes my hubby take us out for dinner on Saturdays or Fridays. (When the paycheck and our budget allows us to have that break). I'm currently saving for "emergency funds" and vacations so that's why I'm making that huge effort! I like getting variety at the grocery store so my family will have variety on the table everyday! I have a meal plan I changed every Sunday and I got everyone's ideas to make it more fun for them! Breakfast, Lunch (including the hub's) and Dinner are all by me on a daily basis except today that I'm sick and my husband cooked for me :)

Guest's picture
Guest

How often do you cook at home?
A: I cook approximately 36 times per month. Dinners every night, breakfasts on weekends.

What are your go-to dishes when you don't have a lot of time or energy to prepare a meal?
A: Salmon burgers or Mac-n-cheese (Annie's) with canned salmon or other meat (usually game) & sauteed vegies

What tips do you have for someone who wants to start cooking more?
A: Each week develop a simple menu with meat, vegetables and starch. Then shop for those meals. It doesn't have to be fancy. Knowing what you are going to cook ahead of time and having the ingredients ready is hugely helpful. Always have pasta, rice, quinoa, etc, and potatoes on hand. Always have frozen chicken pieces and some frozen vegies on hand. I like having frozen chicken and fish on hand, thaw out night before. A lot of it can be cooked semi-frozen. Left overs are used for lunches.

Guest's picture
Guest

I cook every meal at home, twice a day, seven days a week. My wife has been out of state for over a year now to care for her elderly parents, so I have to round up recipes and dive into preparing my own meals. So far so good.

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Karin

We cook at home everyday and also take our lunches. Occasionally, we will go for dinner with my in-laws when they want to try out a new place.

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BR

I cook a lot of meals at home! I do eat out 3-5 times a week, depending on how busy things get or how much I want to treat myself. I'm trying to cut back on both my grocery spending and my restaurant spending though. This week, I have a 7-day meal plan all mapped out-- 7 quick breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I'll be shopping on Sunday and eating delicious, cheap food all week!

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Caroline

Almost every night. I like knowing what's going in the food. I pack my lunch and have frozen marinated meat in the freezer just in case. I eat out three times a week at most.

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homeschool mom

Every day! LOL My Homeschooled teen wants to be a chef so he cooks for us. When I cook, I like to do some prep work in advance like brown 10 lbs of hamburger up into 1 lb bag & freeze for quick meals. We rarely eat out but love to snack when out shopping. Last night we took advantage of Burger Kings 10 piece chicken nuggets for $1.49. Not a bad deal for on the run.

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Amanda Sakovitz

I cook at home almost every night

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Carmen

Myself? Only once or twice a week. But my husband does most of the cooking - and it's rare for us to eat out (once or twice a month max)

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Marcia

I cook every day and I try to remember what sides I made with a main dish so there is not too much repetition. Sometimes I wish someone would treat me to dinner!

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Christina

I try to cook at home most days, and bring lunch from the leftovers or something I made at home, but I am not as good at resisting going out as I like, weekends especially I tend to grab something out when running errands.

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Emily

Eat at home? Heck yes! I'd have to say 95% of our meals come from my kitchen. As for my go-to quick meal, fried rice is ruling the kingdom right now. Some pre-shredded cruciferous veg (think rainbow slaw), frozen peas, leftover plain rice, some protein (or not), a slurry of chili garlic paste/sesame oil/soy sauce/a bit of sugar, a beaten egg, and you have an amazing, filling, kid-approved-for-school-lunch dish! Yum!!

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SerenityNow

Almost every night. Cooking a nice meal is my favorite way to unwind after work!

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Guest

About 4 times a week

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Happy Love

We cook at home almost every night, but we do often use boxed starter kits, jarred sauces, and/or frozen veggies to save on time and personal energy.

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Thomas Murphy

I cook at home 5 night a week.