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Nov 27, 2012 08:26 PM

Kicking the eating out/getting take out too much habit

As I was planning my birthday meal out I realized that I could not be as generous with myself as I have in past years because my checking account was kind of low. I checked my past purchases and though it came as no surprise I was dismayed to see that I eat out and do take out too often. Yeah, my job tends to suck the life out of me, but I work pretty normal hours, I have several grocery stores to choose from and I am a pretty good cook. One week there were two transactions to the food delivery service, a transaction for Chinese take out and a pizza transaction. I am a bad, bad girl. The total of those four transactions could have bought me a dinner at a really good restaurant that included a glass of wine or a libation. I also have a wine club membership, but somehow a bottle of wine manages to make its way into my grocery cart once a week (but that is for another post).

So my question to you is if you have been in my shoes what have you done to curb or break the eat out/take out habit?

So far when I get the urge to order out or go out I remind myself: It is unhealthy, too much money, I can make it better for less, I have a small fridge and to go containers take up too much room, use the range before I forget how to, wait another 1/2 hour and then I will be too hungry to wait and be forced to make something. I know some of these are silly but they work. Thanks

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  1. - I like to cook.

    - if I cook more there's more reason to post on the Home Cooking Board. Win win!

    - Cooking burns more calories, which means I get to eat more.

    - I never get carded when I decide to have an adult beverage with my meal.

    - Nothing like eating in my pajamas (or naked for that matter).

    - I don't get funny looks when I lick my plate clean.

    - if I get a food coma the bed is, like, right there!

    5 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Funny, I never get food comas from food I cook. But I like the "burning more calories" point. Gotta remember that one. Unfortunately, my cooking-while-wine-swilling may cancel out that benefit.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          What a fun list, ips.
          I'll add: I get to pick the background music, the dining companion never bugs me, no over perfumed or screaming diners around me and I can take my time eating.

          Dh & I cut back on the take away when we started to focus on other hobbies we enjoy equally well like outdoor sports, travel and live performances. We still enjoy a great meal traveling out of someone else's kitchen but that also can include supper clubs, potlucks with friends and picnics.

          1. re: HillJ

            And to add a couple of more to "our" list ...

            - not having to worry about "ugly people"

            - not having to worry about "horrible hacking coughers" seated next to you.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              ROFL..absolutely...don't worry, be happy!

        2. As a single girl, I find that one of the major obstacles in regards to cooking for myself is the whole "single serving" hurdle.

          How I've best managed this, is that one night/afternoon during the weekend I cook a huge amount of food that serves me for both for lunches during the week as well as easy to put together dinners.

          First - the more I bring my own lunch to work as much as possible, then that's an extra take away dinner on a lazy night. I am helped by this because the 'eating out' options by work are all pretty meh - so no matter how monotonous my lunch - eating out is basically as repetitive.

          Second - I make a variety of cooked/raw prepared items that I can mix and match for dinner. A large batch of roasted mixed veggies, a large raw salad that can be preserved/kept good all week with lemon juice (a mix of shredded cabbage, root veggies, etc.), and then some kind of sauce/stew. This way, all I need to do during the week is cook some couscous or pasta, and then mix about with my other prepared items. Or, I can add more fragile veggies to the raw salad, some roasted veggies and some protein - and have dinner without cooking.

          Also what this does, is if I'm thinking of the food at home and not feeling excited is that I can say that I'll pick up an interesting cheese or meat or small prepared item to sprouse things up. Which still ends up being cheaper than full take away.

          I know I won't cook every night of the week - and also cooking a single serving size is always a bit trickier than cooking a large batch and then dividing out servings. So this is my method.

          4 Replies
          1. re: cresyd

            Yes I like your mix and match system. In addition to roasted veggies, caramelized onions, jarred sundried tomatoes or homemade oven roasted (which can be frozen and then defrosted in the microwave as needed), and canned beans are good items to keep around for mix and match pastas & salads - and don't forget omelettes. Eggs keep for weeks and make a great hot fast dinner for one. Boiled eggs. Crackers and cheese for dinner once in a while.
            Have you considered a crockpot? There are some decent recipes around. The idea would be that you do the prep when you have energy. Once you turn it on and leave the house there's no turning back and it's nice to know you are coming home to a hot meal, no prep and very little clean up. Then you have leftovers for the freezer too.

            1. re: julesrules

              I forgot about the omelette/scramble option. Add a salad/veggies/fruit/toast/etc, and you're set.

              That's a great one - also anything that can essentially be a "one pot/pan" meal meals that there are less dishes to bother with. I really like mixing things into couscous as another way to do a one pot meal.

              Personally, the greatest way to avoid getting take out during the week (for me) has been to figure out what prevents me from cooking is wanting something that will be ready fast and with minimal clean-up. I don't require variety as much, so for me making things as simple as possible helps.

              1. re: julesrules

                Eggs are a lifesaver. In addition to omelettes, frittatas are consistently delicious and can use up essentially any leftover. And a fried egg on top of any veg or veg combo is a great healthy, sustaining dish. Canned beans, or (even better) cooked dried beans that have been frozen are also super helpful. Can be a soup, a tex-mex deal, a salad, a side, a breakfast/breakfast-as-dinner, or whatever.

                1. re: ErnieD

                  Yup - it is also an excellent way of stretching leftovers. If you have leftover anything that's not quite enough for a full mean.

                  Another egg dish that hasn't quite caught on in the US in a widespread way is shakshuka. Originally a Tunisian/North African dish, it can be played around with quite easily at home by basically having any chunky tomato sauce of your chioce where an egg or two is poached in the sauce. Traditionally the sauce is made quite spicy - but you can play with that as you like going with North African flavors or really as a base for any leftover veggies, cheeses, meats you have laying about.

            2. I hate to waste food, so I buy a lot of food, 3 or 4 meals worth that doesn't limit me to a specific menu but forces me to make food. It helps that I have a partner that when I am really tired will make dinner once or twice a week.

              Other then that, I always have frozen rice and frozen portioned meat in the freezer so always can throw a meal together quickly for really lazy days. Have instant ramen on hand and frozen udon, as well as dry pasta for quick and easy backup meals. Ramen is not so healthy, but its a lot cheaper then ordering an unhealthy pizza to be delivered on exceedingly lazy days.

              1. I suspect you already know that the answer is to cook delicious meals for yourself more often. They then become the norm and you can regard the occasional takeaway as a treat.

                Look out for a good cookbook that specialises in meals for singles. There's bound to be one in print wherever you are in the world.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters

                  What helps me is having some favorite but easy meals that I can cook better myself. And I am adding new ones all the time.
                  I think it all started with mashed potatoes from scratch which are really not all that much work if you keep the other stuff easy, like leftover baked chicken and frozen peas to just nuke.
                  For a couple of years now I have been enjoying baked brie as a cold weather meal with sliced oranges and or apples. I really like this as there are usually leftover pieces of baked brie Makes getting up on a cold morning easier!
                  I like adding some avocado slices as a topping to good quality frozen pizza right before I eat it. When I do eat out I'm not shy about asking for to go containers. It helps with the expense if I can play with the leftovers. For example I had the nerve to ask for a to go container for about five ounces of potato with sausage soup that I couldn't finish. I used the leftover soup as a base for a bit of creamed chipped beef. It turned out delicious.
                  I feel lucky that I know how to cook and I do enjoy it but sometimes I need a break. There are some very inexpensive options out there. I like the toasted turkey provolone sandwich on a torta roll from my costco food court. It is only four dollars and very good and big.

                2. Having a meal planned ahead of time is critical to me. I can work some really obnoxious hours (12+) and if I don't have it planned ahead of time, there's a good chance a) I won't eat or b) eat out. If I know what's on the menu, I'll come home, get everything prepped and won't be scrambling for dinner.