This is Part One of Healthy Eating on a Budget and is about healthy, inexpensive alternatives to ordering pizza.
I completely understand the allure of ordering pizza after working all day and getting home late to a hungry family. For my gang of four it costs about $22 to order pizza and garlic bread. I'd like to think we could get away with no garlic bread but I'd just be lying to myself. There are the cheap pizzas in the city - Hot and Ready for $8 (mediums, and they advertise $5 but I haven't encountered one of those yet) - and once in a while I get a couple of those as well. Any way you look at it, it costs me about $20 to get pizza.
The problem with pizza is that for what you are getting it costs a lot. Start adding salads and anything remotely healthy and the price goes up. There are healthier alternatives to ordering pizza, that are almost as quick and easy after working all day.
Believe it or not, steak is a cheap and affordable alternative to ordering takeout. If you're vegetarian, just ignore this part. Steak is about $6.99 lb on sale in my area, and I can generally get three decent sized strip loins or rib steaks for about $8.00. For 2lbs of good steak it costs about $15. That's reasonable, and a salad can be added for the whole family for about $2.00, and I usually have potatoes at home. A quick stop at the grocery store to pick up the steak -- WARNING: stay out of any of the other aisles!! You are on a mission. Get steak, get out, otherwise cheap will turn into impulse shopping. Here's the game plan:
Pick up steak at store (see warning above), maybe a bagged salad or head of lettuce too
Start the grill or get a pan out
Put potatoes in the microwave to cook
Go change into something comfortable
Put the steaks on the grill, or into a warm pan
Either heat up veggies or put together a salad
Everything should be done at this point -- my steak routine takes about 20 minutes.
I picked steak here because I know that when I was really poor, steak was a HUGE luxury in my mind, and yet I'd still order pizza once a week so I didn't have to cook. Weird.
My next favourite budget friendly alternative to ordering pizza is pasta. I usually buy a few bags of frozen ravioli and tortellini when I do groceries to have on hand for those days I work late. This is an incredibly easy supper, and it goes together in about 10 minutes. Canned spaghetti sauce is just fine for these.
If you can resist the temptations at the grocery store, you can also buy all the 'stuff' for stir fry and throw that together very quickly at home. I don't usually advocate for pre-cooked chicken breast, but they are available, they are pretty healthy, and they are cheaper than pizza. Grab a package of pre-cooked chicken breast, a bag of fresh or frozen stir fry vegetables, and head home. You can buy the sauce too if you really need to, but it isn't really healthy or cheap. Soy sauce and garlic work great as a sauce, or you can mix together chicken bouillon in any form, soy sauce, a bit of brown sugar, and cornstarch to make a quick stir fry sauce.
I'm not totally prejudiced against pizza, honest! Once in a while it's okay to order pizza, but every week is not budget friendly. And it's not really healthy, either. If you want to make your own pizza at home that's great, it's cheap and it's got way less fat and salt than the commercial kind.