Ordering food is tempting, especially when you’re trying to minimize contact with human beings during a pandemic but you’re stuck at home bored of the same-old, same-old.
Do you wonder how you can enjoy restaurant food and support your local businesses AND not blow your entire paycheck OR waste food that seemed so exciting when you first took it out of that to-go box?
Here are a few good tricks for keeping it thrifty when ordering take-out.
Be realistic about portions.
Most people wildly over estimate the amount they’re going to eat when ordering food to go. Be honest: was there ever a time when restaurant food didn’t go to waste? Think of all those times you were cleaning out the fridge and you found old Styrofoam boxes of soggy French fries shoved in the back next to things like a questionable, tipped-over bottle of Thousand Island dressing. You can save a lot by cutting the order down by a third, and you likely won’t even miss it. So if you normally spend $30 on takeout for your family, shoot for $20 today.
Share a meal.
You can easily forgo that pricy yet fairly ordinary kids’ meal. No offense to any restaurant owners, but the $10 on a mac ‘n cheese kids’ meal can be better spent. Get creative with your order. Forget the kids’ menu. Two steak dinners with sides leaves plenty to go around for a family of four, and you can even add in a container of soup for everyone to enjoy.
Only order what you’re really craving.
Do you ever wish for a night of eating ONLY appetizers? What’s stopping you? By no means are you under some obligation to always order a full dinner. Make it a dumpling dinner for the whole family… or how about nacho night?
Stretch those leftovers.
Restaurant food is one of the tastiest ways to bring boring old leftovers to life. The remains of your burger from yesterday’s diner meal pairs well with a jar of tomato sauce for tonight’s culinary masterpiece. Crumble it up, add a sprinkle of cheese and put some pasta on to boil. Not bad! You can even do things like add a can of beans to leftovers. Say you have some sausage and peppers laying around. Toss in a can of cannellini beans and pour over rice or pasta. Delish, as Rachael Ray would say.
Sub in your own sides.
Sometimes you just can’t spring for that side of soup or salad. When it comes to your total bill, add-on items really do add up. But how hard is it to grab some lettuce from your fridge and set that out with a nice order of fried chicken from the take-out place down the street? Or what about slicing up avocado that you found in the crisper, to pair up with a few basic, take-out sushi rolls (instead of splurging on the $50+ sushi boat for two?)
Mix and match.
What if you have a bunch of boring old chicken sitting around at home? You could put in an order for broccoli with garlic sauce (cheaper than ordering a meal that includes protein!) from the Chinese place, and suddenly you’re feasting like kings! Or… order some hot vegetable soup from around the corner but add in the chicken to stretch the meal.
The point is that when it comes to ordering from your favorite restaurants, you can certainly find ways to keep the spending to a minimum while being frugal AND selective. There’s always a workaround or a shortcut to be found. Keep it creative, and when you order from your local food establishments, be sure to think out of the takeout box.