Eating Out: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

I think it is safe to say we Millennials are tired of being told it is our Starbz and avocado toast keeping us poor. While going out to brunch every weekend may be excessive, it's not unreasonable to want to enjoy a restaurant with your best Judys every now and then. I've hesitated writing on this topic because, honestly, the simplest solution to saving money is to not order out. But it doesn't feel like helpful advice. Therefore! This week I'll focus on tips to create a better balance of cooking/ordering food.

Tip no. One - Stretch it out!

This trick is for my fellow Mexican food lovers out there -- but really it's good for any takeout place. I love a burrito bowl with chips, salsa, and a soda. First, ditch the soda and purchase Crystal light. That way you'll have the benefit of a flavored beverage (yum!) without spending the $2.50+ on a bottle of soda. Which, btw, you should definitely be recycling.

I used to eat (and on tough days still do) the entire bowl and bag of chips in one sitting. Truthfully, that's too much food for me and my waistline. Now I'll take a portion out of the burrito bowl and can always go back for more if I'm still hungiez. In the past I would justify eating the remainder of the bowl because there wasn't enough for a full meal the next day. This is where creativity comes in! I can easily cook some yellow rice the next day, throw in the leftovers and salsa I didn't eat the night before, and stretch that $14 meal into 2. Yeah I'm still spending money, but it doesn't make me feel as guilty for spending. I spent but I also stretched.

Tip No. Two - Plan B

"But, Wes," you say, "I don't always want to cook and that's when I get into trouble." I hear you. These days cooking seems alright because I'm home all the time anyways. But even during quarantine there are days when cooking a gorgeous meal for myself is just not in the stars. This is why I usually have a Plan B stored in the freezer.

It can be a frozen pizza, hot pockets, TJ's chicken marsala, lean cuisine; the sky is the limit! But having a back-up that cost you around $5-7 in the grocery store will mean you have a great option for those days when you lack the will to cook but you know you'll regret ordering from a restaurant. Sometimes the best way to save money is preparing for the bad day ahead of time.

Tip No. Three - Say Bye-Bye to UberEats

I get it. We live in the 21st century and so why not enjoy the convenience of this time? Because it's blowing your money, that's why! Tough love time: Food/meal delivery services are a waste of your money. I hear all kinds of validation for them, but the truth is you are spending way more money on this than you realize.

It's one thing to order from a pizza place you love to celebrate a new job or paying off a credit card (yay!) but outside of the occasional delivery fee JUST SAY NO. Get off your hiney and pick up the food in person. Better yet -- learn how to make it yourself. I promise you will not burn your kitchen down...though I've certainly tried. Make a commitment to not order delivery for two weeks and see how you do! I'd wager you cook more and order less out of sheer convenience. And your checking account will thank you.

Tip No. Four - Make Like Meryl Streep and Julia Childs Yourself

Okay, okay...we can't all be incredible chefs like! But I bet there are a few items of your own creation you already enjoy eating. Imagine what you would cook for a dinner party (just don't cook as much...unless you love leftovers). If not, experiment! Think of your favorite childhood church meal or what Granny used to cook and attempt to replicate that.

I genuinely don't mind leftovers, but I know for a fact certain things will stay in the fridge until they grow mold because it wasn't cooked well. Instead of berating myself, I grab the leftovers, turn up my nose, throw them in the trash, and make a mental note to not use that recipe again.

When you enjoy your own cooking you have all the power. So learn to cook three meals and mix 'n match. The other tip (bonus!) from my own experience is that boxed rice mixes go with just about anything. Lately I've teetered between meatloaf, ham sandwiches, and chicken thighs. Three tasty foods with recipes I've "mastered" for my own taste buds and seasoned rice pilaf goes with all three. I also cook green beans constantly, but that's because it's one of the few green things my picky self will eat.

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