Dining out at restaurants is expensive. Like really expensive. Even if you go with “cheap” options like fast food, you are still spending at least 99 cents on a drink that costs less than a penny to make (about five-thousandths of a cent, to be exact). If you opt for more expensive offerings at dine-in restaurants, you can easily drop ten or twenty bucks (or more – especially if you order alcoholic beverages – more on that later).
The best way to save money on eating out is by… eating at home! Surprise! No really, wait, there’s more to this strategy.
I found that by buying better ingredients and food products at the grocery store, I was more excited to eat at home. For example, I used to buy sliced Swiss cheese in ridiculous quantities from Costco to make sandwiches with. It was rather boring. Then one day I went to their dedicated cheese aisle and saw what I had been missing out on. I nervously bought a nice wheel of legit Swiss cheese, fearful that the other shoppers in line would view me as a stuck-up, bourgeois numbnut. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.
It was more expensive, but oh boy what a difference it made in my sandwiches.
Since then I’ve been experimenting with the different cheeses in the Costco cheese aisle and it has been AWESOME. I have been pretty hooked on the smoked gouda for a while, but recently I decided to try out this new Ford Farm Coastal “rugged mature English cheddar,” which for some reason has these calcium crystals embedded within the cheese that are freakin’ delicious.
Bacon is another magical ingredient. No joke. Sometimes I just throw some bacon on the skillet (it literally takes five minutes), eat it (duh), and then use the bacon grease later to fry some onions and and vegetables for dinner. You can pretty much add bacon to anything and it will taste better.
If the idea of cooking is off-putting, you can also just purchase some nice, higher-end ready-made or easy-to-make meals. Sometimes when I don’t feel like inventing a dish to cook, I just let America’s thriving packaged-food industry do it for me. No shame in that. Stores like Costco and Trader Joe’s have all kinds of these goodies. Ravioli, chicken pot pies, lasagna, and so on.
Your grocery bill might go up a little, but it is still way cheaper than eating out all the time. It is healthier too (even if you eat bacon), since restaurants by and large are loading you up on the two worst-for-you ingredients in the Western diet: sugars and starches. Incidentally, these two ingredients also happen to cost restaurants the least amount of money. Haha! What a concept!
And if you’re down to party at home, don’t drink alcohol at restaurants or bars. I invested in a few bottles of decent, sale-priced bar staples – vodka, gin, vermouth, bourbon – stuff you can make a variety of drinks with. So now if I want to entertain guests, or Yoselin from 6 Mono Media, I can do it right from home at a fraction of the price! Or, on other days, I can just sit on the sofa, crank up a movie, and chill with a G&T in hand like a lonely alcoholic.
Give it a shot – this week when you stop at the grocery store, get some fancy food from the specialty aisle and see if it doesn’t help you steer you towards your fridge instead of the drive-through the next time you get hungry.
Are there any other ingredients from the market that you recommend to make your in-home meals tastier? Let me know!