Written by Spotloan

It may not hurt to pick up the occasional easy dinner on a Monday night after a long workday or make a quick trip to the drive-thru on a Saturday between errands and tee-ball games, but what happens when it goes beyond the occasional? 

Despite rising menu prices and declining customer satisfaction scores, the average American spends $1,200 on fast food annually. And for the average American family, fast food spending accounts for roughly 10% of the household income. 

The myth that fast food is budget-friendly has since been busted. Fast food may be a costly convenience, but it also happens to be easy enough to avoid. By stocking up on make and take meals at home, you can save yourself time and money when you’re on the go.

What to Look for in Fast Food Alternatives 

Fast food alternatives should be (mostly) nutritious, easy to make, and portable. Portability is important when you’re running between meetings, only have time for a quick lunch, or have to eat in the car before soccer practice starts. 

Hand-helds are ideal. This way, you don’t have to worry about packing utensils to bring along, what to do with them if they’re dropped, or how to balance a bowl of something hot in your lap while you’re in the drivers’ seat. After all, your first priority when driving a motorized vehicle is to get from point A to point B safely. So, never select a make and take item that will jeopardize your driving safety.

Fast food alternatives should also make use of versatile ingredients to lower the per-serving cost and cut down on food waste. These types of meals are better for us, our budgets, and the environment, too. It’s a win all-around. 

Think full meals, conveniently packaged, that don’t require reheating. You may already have some in mind based on what you’ve got at home. But we’ve got some suggestions to add to your list, and we’ll go through those next. 

Meal Prepping Tips 

Most family meals include some combination of protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, and similar items. While it might take a bit of upfront work to prep and pack some make and take meals, it won’t be long before you see that it’s worth the extra effort. 

You can prepare a week’s worth of make and take meals during an afternoon off and store them in the fridge until you need them. If you have extra time and you’d like to prepare further ahead, double your recipes and freeze what you won’t use in the next five days. 

Choose recipes and serving sizes according to the number of people you’re feeding, as well as the number of meals you’ll be eating away from home during the week. If you dedicate one weekend day and recruit a family member or two to create an assembly line, you can stock the fridge and freezer with a month’s worth of meals everyone can grab and go when they need to. 

Our Favorite Make and Take Recipes 

Making our meals at home is the best way for us to stay healthy and save money. This can look like many different things. Whenever you’re ready for something new, a quick Google or Pinterest search will give you everything you need. 

For now, here are some of our favorite fast food alternative make and take meals:

These are easy and affordable recipes to get started with when you’re looking to eat out less and cook at home more

Storing Your Meals Post-Prep

If you’re freezing your meals, there are a few things to remember. The first is that they should be cooled to room temperature before going in the freezer so they won’t collect freezer burn. Loosely covering the container with plastic wrap before placing the lid on can also help this. 

For single portions rather than family meals, wrap the individual items in tinfoil before tucking them together in a large Ziploc bag and labeling it with the meal’s name and the date it was made.