The Best New-Parent Money Tip? Budget for Takeout

An overlooked but all-important new baby budget item? Takeout. Skipping cooking during the newborn phase spares stressed parents hassle, heartache, and going "hangry." 

An image of a couple eating takeout food.
Photo: Getty Images.

Before having a baby, you do a significant amount of planning for the arrival of that new family member. You set up the nursery, get it stocked with diapers and wipes ahead of time, and come up with a birth plan. Many people, wisely, budget for their new baby, too—sometimes years in advance of trying to get pregnant.

Something that's easy to forget about entirely in all this fuss about the newborn? Feeding the non-babies in the household. After all, as Samantha Ettus, best-selling author of The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Success and Satisfaction previously told Parents, "we live in an age of overparenting—we treat it as an Olympic sport."

And yet it's absolutely crucial that new parents care for themselves in order to have the energy to care for their new baby—and that includes the obvious, but often forgotten: Dinner for the grownups. Which is why, along with all the other planning and budgeting you do, the one budget item far too many new parents set aside, but shouldn't, is planning for takeout during the newborn phase. This one hack will save you hassle, heartache, and "hanger" meltdowns.

Why not just cook?

Maybe a helpful friend or neighbor set up a meal train for you. Fabulous! Eventually, though, even with the greatest support system in the world, the visitors are going to dry up, the in-laws are going to fly home (yay), and you're going to be in charge of your own care and feeding again.

Babies are a lot of work, not to mention if this isn't your first kid. Even if you breastfeed and don't have other kids or adults to care for in your home, you're still going to need to eat once in a while if you want to survive the newborn phase. Many babies demand significant amounts of attention, and even a chill baby needs to be held often. Give up the illusion that you will be cooking healthy, hearty meals one-handed. You're amazing, but (almost) no one is a perfect multitasker—and it's not necessarily safe. Order takeout to avoid burning your house down.

Planning your meals

If you have one, you can use the meal train schedule to put in your own meal-planning ideas. For example, if your great-aunt is making a casserole on Monday, you can assume there will be leftovers on Tuesday, and you can schedule ordering takeout on Wednesday all on the same meal train app. You can keep your food-planning organized and avoid over-shopping or letting things go bad in the fridge. Because takeout is often larger portions, ordering a meal for dinner can often lead to varying amounts of leftovers the next day.

Erica Silverstein, a writer and mom of two in Northern Virginia, advises planning ahead by pre-buying yourself gift cards to restaurants that do takeout. That way, when you're too sleep-deprived or frazzled to think of what to eat, you have them on hand in the junk drawer "so you don't have to think—just pull one out and order." You can also keep restaurant or delivery app gift cards on hand for last-minute baby-shower (or anytime) gifts.

Register for it

If this baby is your first, and maybe even if it's your fifth, you may have created a registry with all the items you could possibly want, including diapers, butt paste, and breast pads. But, did you register for food for the grownups? Consider a non-traditional registry, which can include a line item or section where well-wishers can give you money or gift cards for the purposes of feeding yourself postpartum.

If you have a shower, instead of asking for stuff, ask for takeout gift cards. Maybe you'll need to go out and buy your own bassinet, but you knew the one you wanted anyway. Why not ask your guests to bring you a gift card from their favorite restaurant that offers takeout? You'll get food and maybe even try a new cuisine.

Change your attitude

Think of getting takeout as supporting a local business. If you order wisely, you may end up with a healthier, more well-rounded meal than if you'd tried to stress-cook it yourself. You can also try more types of cuisine and may discover some new favorite dishes to try cooking on your own when you're up for it.

Another way to look at food as you plan financially for a baby? Give yourself more leeway around mealtimes with takeout. "The biggest thing for me was just total flexibility and letting go of rigid ideas about when mealtime is...and just accepting that the adults in the house simply need to eat when we're hungry and go on about our lives," says Emily F. Popek, a mom to a nine-year old in Oneonta, New York.

Eating when you're hungry sounds so easy but, when you don't know what to cook, that's easier said than done. If you have a parenting partner who is working or not at home, try to work on communication around mealtimes so that everyone feels happy and taken care of, even if family dinner goes on pause for a season.

Make it special

If only one parent is home with the baby all day, that person is also often in charge of meal planning and prep. Getting takeout is your opportunity to take some work off your sleepy shoulders. You can make a date of it: Plate the takeout on your wedding china and enjoy each other's company without the time-suck of cooking and the looming kitchen mess that accompanies multi-step meals. Choose foods that are easy to eat one-handed, in case your bundle of joy wants to be present for the meal—and savor your time together.

Making your life easier with a newborn is all about time and effort management. By budgeting for takeout, the stress around mealtimes is one less thing on your plate.

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