We're spending a ridiculous amount of money when we order food online, but healthier alternatives like grocery delivery can help break the takeout cycle

By Rachael Schultz
Corbis Images

Anyone looking to clean up their diet knows that cooking is key. But the weekly Hunger Games at the grocery store, late night at works, and knowing about that ridiculously delicious risotto the Italian restaurant down the street all leave you with a heck of a lot easier option: ordering delivery.

We're becoming pretty reliant on this convenience-and we're paying a pretty penny for it. A new survey conducted, weirdly enough, by the turkey company Butterball, revealed that Americans each spend an average of $1,100 on takeout each year. That's roughly $21 a week-or the entire plane fare to that exotic destination you really want to take but can't seem to afford.

Butterball surveyed 1,000 people and found that one in four people order delivery at least once a week. Their excuses? Laziness, of course, was one of the top reasons. But tiredness and irresistible cravings-which we can all relate to-were the top reasons for indulging in order-in.

But you're not just wasting money on the delivery itself: More than eight in 10 people surveyed said they get takeout even when they have a fully stocked fridge, which means you're continually pushing the lifespan of your fresh produce and very likely having to toss unused rotten vegetables at the end of the week. This guilty habit may be part of the reason why Americans admit to throwing out roughly $640 of food each year, according to a recent survey by the American Chemistry Council. (Find out 6 Ways to Save Money On (and Stop Wasting!) Groceries.)

Even more than the money we're wasting having food delivered, though, is the cost of convenience to our health. A study published in Public Health Nutrition last year found that the more meals people cooked at home, the less calories they consumed and the healthier their diet was overall.

Look, we totally get it-sometimes you come home too exhausted to put in any more effort than pressing three buttons on your smartphone. Or you simply get a hankering for Indian food that you just can't shake. And with the advent of services like Seamless and GrubHub, it's easier than ever to satisfy that whim with tikka masala and naan dropped of at your door within the hour.

But if you want to save some cash and stick to your healthy eating plan, try these three tips to break the takeout cycle.

1. Get groceries delivered. If you skip shopping on the weekend, that empty fridge is going to encourage you to look at takeout menus come Monday night. But you can order more than just takeout online. In major cities, you can take advantage of grocery delivery services like FreshDirect and Peapod, but even major chains like Safeway and Whole Foods will deliver your entire supermarket list to your door for a small fee (that's probably still cheaper than your Seamless bill).

2. Pick simpler recipes. Cooking doesn't have to be a total time suck. If you grocery shop for quick recipes, you won't feel overwhelmed by the effort it takes to make dinner. Try one of these 10 Healthy Recipes You Can Make In the Time It Takes to Pre-Heat the Oven or 9 Microwave Recipes That'll Save You Time.

3. If you're going to order in, choose wisely for your waistline. Most delivery platforms like Seamless or GrubHub have the option of "healthy" under types of cuisines. It'll remove all the pizza and burger options and leave you with only guilt-free fare for when you just can't bring yourself to cook. Plus, stick to these other 7 Tips for Ordering Healthy Takeout Online.

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