To Eat Out or Not to Eat Out|You don’t have to give up all restaurant meals during the recession

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reading many, many food articles has made me realize that there is a huge difference in eating out meals to cooking nearly every meal in your own kitchen. Here are some suggestions that may help you.

• When you eat out, get a vegetable plate or something reasonably healthful, but don’t get something that you can fix easily at home such as pizza or spaghetti.

• Have a light dinner (salad, soup and/or sandwich) on the days you eat lunches out. This is relatively inexpensive to prepare at home and very easy to make. You’ll also save on your energy bill by cooking and washing dishes less.

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• Eat at home even if you don’t cook at home. Develop the habit of sitting down sometime before 8 p.m. to enjoy a meal. And it’s easier to split a large restaurant meal or Chinese take-out when eaten at home.

• Snack a little before dinner. This won’t ruin your dinner and might help you have the energy to cook.

• Look for prepared foods from retail caterers; you’ll get a home-cooked meal at less than restaurant prices and reinforce the fun of eating at home.

• Take a cooking class. You can learn to purchase substitutions for unusual, budget-busting ingredients.

• Try new recipes on the weekends. If a recipe takes a while, start around 4 p.m. and you should be fine. You will reduce food costs and bridge the gap from restaurant meals to daily home-cooking..

• Keep a few good ingredients on hand; it can make cooking at home a bit easier. Buy big containers of your favorite foods at Sam’s. That’s a good start to a bunch of different meals. Invest in a copy of one of the Top Secret Recipes books.

• Something frozen from your favorite grocery can do in a pinch and costs a lot less than restaurant food. Besides that, some of the foods are the same restaurants use. Keep some frozen chicken fingers on hand for “lazy” dinner nights, although it turns out grilled cheese with tomato soup is also pretty easy, as well as the occasional snack-tray dinner.

• Another tip is to either split an entrée with someone when you go out, or to ask for a take-home container to be delivered with your meal. Restaurant portions are huge, expensive and generally not altogether healthy (lots of butter and exotic oils), so splitting it between two meals is a great way to minimize the damage.  

More tips

If you can take the time, home-cooked meals are easy. Check sites like or Martha Stewart for recipes.

• Buy some veggies for salad and lo-cal dressing at discount stores

• Make cheap hotdogs with Italian sausage or kielbasa, and with an onion to mix into the Mac and Cheese, you’ve got a semi-nutritious meal for about $1.50 per person.

• Buy meat when it’s on sale and freeze it to make an inexpensive Beef Stroganoff.

• It’s especially easy to make your own nutritious soups and stews from scratch — basically it involves searing meat (beef, pork, fish, hamburger or sausage) in a tiny amount of oil, sautéing an onion into it, adding some water with chicken or beef bouillon cubes (or stock) and then throwing in whatever veggies suit your fancy along with some herbs like Italian seasoning or cumin.


Contact Laurin Stamm at