How to start drinking less at home
If you think you might have fallen into the habit of drinking more at home during the pandemic, we’ve got some great tips to help you cut down.
8th February 2022
How to reduce drinking
Unit and calorie calculator
If you regularly drink at home, it's sometimes easy to slip into bad habits. This has been particularly true over the last couple of years, with 24% of drinkers in 2021 reporting drinking at home alone at least once a week in the last year.1 It can be hard to keep track of your drinking in a home environment. If you think you might be drinking more, it could be time to cut down.
Benefits of drinking less
Drinking more than 14 units a week on a regular basis can increase your risk of serious long-term health problems, including seven types of cancer, heart and liver disease. If you’re unsure of how much you’re drinking, you could do the Drinkaware Drinking Check, a quick self-assessment which takes just a couple of minutes. You can also use our unit and calorie calculator to show you exactly how many units are in a drink.
To keep any health risks from drinking to a minimum the best thing you can do is stop or reduce your drinking. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines recommend that it’s best to drink no more than 14 units a week spread evenly through the week, including several drink-free days with no bingeing. If you're wondering what 14 units really looks like, it's roughly around six pints of average strength beer or six 175ml glasses of average strength wine.
Tips to drink less at home
Deciding you want to cut down your drinking is a great way to start looking after your health. But like most of us, this might mean you need to make some practical changes to help you reach your goal. Here are some ideas to help get you started on the right foot.
- Measure, measure, measure. It’s so easy to underestimate how much we’re drinking at home. If you choose to have a drink, measure it out with a unit measuring cup, they don’t take up any room and are easy to use.
- Remove temptation. Try to get out of the habit of automatically re-stocking to cut back on the alcohol you have in your home and put any drinks you might have out of view. Just storing it in a different cupboard instead of an open shelf can help. If you usually drink chilled wine or beer, don’t keep it chilling in the fridge. Instead, put it in just before you actually want it.
- Manage what you buy. If you choose to drink, decide in advance how much you intend to drink each week and stick to it. If you have a regular online shop, be sure to edit your order rather than just reordering the same items from previous weeks. And, don't be swayed by any special offers that can make you buy more alcohol than you intended to.
- Get others on board. If you live with a partner or housemate, you might find it much easier to cut down together. If they don’t want to make a change, it’s still worth talking to them about how to support you. You could also ask them not to offer you a drink when they have one, and stress that it's important to you to cut down and you’d love their support.
- Take drink-free days. Always aim to have several drink-free days every week where you don’t drink at all. Start with what you feel is realistic, and gradually increase it.
- Experiment with alternatives. Whether it’s different teas, sparkling water, non-alcoholic beers and wines, fruit cordials or a mocktail – explore some different non-alcoholic options. Once you’ve found some you like, stock up!
- Keep hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day. This will stop you using alcohol as a way to quench your thirst. When you feel like having an alcoholic drink at home, have a glass of water, soft drink or one of your alcohol-free options.
- Delay your drinking. The earlier you start drinking, the more you’re likely to drink. If it’s a day that you’re planning to have a drink, set yourself a time that’s later than normal, and don’t drink until that specific event, for example with your dinner, and not before it or while cooking it.
- Change up your routine. Thinking about your drinking triggers can help you plan ahead to combat them. If you normally reach for a beer while you’re watching TV, make sure you have some alcohol-free drinks and tasty snacks on the ready instead.
- Keep busy. If you’re used to sitting down with a drink in the evening, you’re less likely to miss it if you distract yourself with other activities. It can be something completely different, like trying a new exercise class or starting a new hobby. Even just planning a phone catch-up with a friend one night, or a relaxing bath, can work wonders to help you switch up your routine.
Make lasting changes
If you’re finding it hard to stay on track, keep yourself motivated by regularly reminding yourself of your initial goal. You may find it helpful to use the MyDrinkaware App to reduce your drinking and check your progress. You can also use the free app to track your sleep, set goals and assign drink-free days.
Remember to make changes that feel achievable and realistic, and you’re more likely to keep them up. That might mean just having a small glass of wine in the evening instead of a large one, or an extra drink-free day each week. Breaking those habits can be hard at first but sticking to it will mean you’ve made lasting changes that will benefit you and your health in the short and long-term.
Find out more
- Pearson A., & Slater, E. (2021, October). Drinking through the pandemic. Drinkaware Monitor 2021. PS Research and Drinkaware. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/media/c5fjnwjo/drinkaware-monitor-2021-research-report-final.pdf