5 Tips on Not Eating Out

posted in: Ruminations | 15

This post goes out to Jennifer of one of my latest favorite food blogs, Slices of Me. Jennifer asked me point-blank in an email just how I manage not eating out, every day. Of particular interest was how I maintained a social life when I couldn’t eat out with friends. So, just a few random habits I’ve picked up from winging it in this neck of the food world:

1. Buy fresh veggies often, and many different types. I go to the Farmers’ Market each Saturday to load up on whatever strikes my fancy. This will not only lead to creativity (sweet potato and pork stir-fry? Why not?!), but you’ve just inherited a perishable presence in your refrigerator, and if you have any heart for the hardworking farmers who brought you this quality produce through sweat and toil, and respect for the earth’s bounty in itself, you will — no, you must — figure out a way to cook them before they rot. (You will.)

2. Cook once, eat twice. Or three times. Or maybe even four. Meaning, invest your energy in at least two satisfying meals whenever you make the effort to cook. (Or have an alternate plan for the same ingredients.) This might sound like a no-brainer when making big pots of, say, soup, but think ahead even when you want to just have a simple a grilled chicken breast with sauteed spinach. Put a lid on your second serving and take it to work to eat for lunch. If you really have a whole lot of something, like chili (as I did recently), and can’t stomach it for a third meal in a row (yep), put a lid on it and then freeze it. Now you have a frozen TV dinner for whenever you’re in a pinch.

3. Feed your appetite to learn. If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you to check out all the food fanaticism on the Internet. But not only that, read cookbooks. Watch Jacques Pepin or whatever TV chef annoys you the least. I have a feeling a lot of people are so discouraged by their past cooking disasters that they brace themselves before pouring milk into a bowl of cereal. We all screw up to inedible results sometimes, but it all leads to a better understanding of food. Oh, and I try to read up on recipes or something cooking-related right around the time I get the hungriest (usually 5:00pm). It seems to be a good motivator.

4. Give your friends grub. You know those types who always bring cookies or cupcakes to share at work? Well, it may not always work in the office, but when you treat your good friends to any home-cooked offering, chances are, they’ll invite you for another round at their place. Then you’ll exchange recipes, talk about food, and basically encourage each other to cook a whole lot more. And if you really want to be hardcore about the communal aspect of eating in, join a supper club, or go to events like Grub. Or form club of your own — heck, who wants to form one with me?

5. Consider walks to the grocery store extra exercise, not a pain in the neck. I know the same could also be said for walking to the cute neighborhood restaurant, or the pizza place ’round the corner. Yet most people I know have a problem with walking to and from the grocery store, and not the pizza place. So basically, give yourself extra kudos when you go to the grocery store, because on top of getting the same exercise, you won’t be eating greasy pizza or other overly rich restaurant food.

So many random tips, so little time to sleep! But as long as this blog runs, there will be plenty more to come.

15 Responses

  1. Danielle

    Or form club of your own — heck, who wants to form one with me?

    I’m in! I’d form it with you! Sounds fun.

  2. cathy

    Hi Danielle: Awesome! Let’s do it. I’m thinking a once-a-month potluck club, rotating hosts. What d’you think?

  3. Emily

    Hi Cathy!
    As you know, I’m within walking distance of you (and can even get to the park on my own now :-> ) and would love to be one of the hosts for the potluck. I have a huge living room and not many Brooklynite friends to entertain!

    Email me and let me know. Fun, fun, fun!

  4. danny

    do you usually buy groceries for the whole week on those Saturdays that you go to the farmers market?

    and what do you do if the thing you cook ends up being not so edible? i run into that quite often.

  5. yulinka

    Good list!

    Danny–I think that if you have a handle on basic cooking techniques you will rarely screw up a dish. Try cooking some favorites a few times until you get them just right. Then slowly expand your repertoire. Beginner cooks who attempt to make something new and exotic every night ultimately end up not knowing how to cook anything at all.

  6. Danielle

    I think that sounds great, but unless we have enough participants that it can survive even if people have to skip it sometimes, bimonthly might work out better.

    Send me an email to scheme further?

  7. Jade


    I’am a Chinese girl living in Paris in France, and I donn’t speak well English, but i want to progress. I have known your blog by Internet.

    I like cook too, I think it’s an interesting activity in the life. If we cook, we have less time to be bored; and we move instead of sit before the computer or TV all the time; and then, of course it’s a happiness to enjoy our own good dish.

    I do chinese cooking often, but i like all things: french cheeze; spaguetti; beef steak, etc., who are rare in China. So I feel lucky that I can vary between chinese dishes and occidental dishes.

    See you!

  8. Jade

    When i was a child, we spended much time to prepare the diner of eve of Chinese New Year. All the family took part in it. But, nowadays the folk donn’t want to spend time for this, more and more peoples pass their New Year’s Eve diner in the restaurant in China and pay a higt fare fot it. This is the evolution …

  9. michelle

    We do a supper club with our church family. It’s called DinnerWithFriends. We have four couples and each month we visit a different home with everyone contributing to the meal. Then every four months we change groups. It has been a great way to really get to know our church family, aside from “good morning” on Sunday. We have all walks of life in our groups and no one cares if one month there is a seven course meal on the finest china and the next month is on someones’s patio with paper plates. I highly recommend it!

  10. Zach

    Hey there,
    Love the blog – have been following it for awhile. Your recipes are great and it’s encouraging to see someone here in NY who can avoid spending all their money on going out to eat. If you guys end up starting a club, let me know, I also live in Brooklyn.

  11. Nicole

    Great tips! I’ve been back in the states now for a week and a half and have managed to avoid eating out except for the day I got off the plane. The old me (how I was before moving to Sicily) would have already hit up several restaurants. I have had much more fun checking out local markets than I ever used to have eating out. Although I still like to go out sometimes, I really do prefer to cook my own meals most of the time. And I feel better, too!

  12. Ana

    I would love to do a pot luck thing. I love cooking for friends, but all of my friends in Manhattan find it such a drag to make it out here. Please let me know!

  13. Yvo

    I’m in for the club, but I can’t host until I move in/out (which hopefully will be next month). And I’m in Queens, so all y’all Bk people will have to trek to Forest Hills. Let me know! Ooh… so much fun!

  14. Arielle

    I do this with my friends sometimes, but none of them cook so its usually just me at the stove and them saying “that looks hard”…. I’m in NYC too so drop me a line if you’d like another member.

  15. […] She offers tips for eating in when you’d rather just eat out (or grab carry-out): 5 tips for not eating out. […]

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