Last night, Boyfriend and I were at our favorite Thai restaurant for the second night in a row (I swear they put crack in this food, the cravings rival my impulse to clean hysterically after watching an episode of Hoarders). While waiting for our dining companions, we estimated the annual cost of eating at this particular establishment if we continued to visit twice a week. The astonishing total was approximately 10% of my salary, almost 3 months worth of mortgage payments.
Thai food is becoming an expensive alternative to an actual drug habit.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of my weaknesses is eating exceptionally good food. Since my cooking skills are subpar (although I do try, and I intend to post some of my adventures in the kitchen at some point), eating out is an expense that I don’t intend to ever attempt to reduce. I will put off buying new clothes, shoes, purses (and by “put off” I obviously mean “charge to my AMEX”) in order to eat regularly at restaurants. Since embarking on my I’m-a-big-girl-now life, I have had to adapt my spending in this realm by finding deals and making my dollar go as far as possible when it comes to eating out.
Restaurant.com is a fantastic website. It offers users the chance to buy gift certificates at a fraction of the cost (think a $25 certificate for $10) at thousands of restaurants all over the country. This is a service that restaurants opt into, so not all your favorite places will be on this site, but it is worth the time to peruse what is offered. Most restaurants even have their menus available right on the site, so you can pick out and pay for the food before you even walk in the door! A word to the wise: read the fine print. Most places have restrictions on dates and times, require a minimum purchase, and gratuity is often included. With these details in mind, however, this is still a great way to get a discount on places you might already be planning on visiting.
As a rule, I am not going to spend any sort of money, discounted or not, to dine out if I am not certain I will enjoy myself and my meal. Thus I rely heavily on restaurant review websites such as yelp.com, urbanspoon.com, and tripadvisor.com (the Thai restaurant mentioned above currently has a 5/5 rating on Yelp, to give you an indication of how absolutely craveable this food is, and they even have a sticker on the door that says, “They love us on Yelp!”). Not only will you find out which dishes are the best, oftentimes you can get insider information on daily, weekly, or happy hour specials that may not be heavily advertised by the restaurant itself.
I love the neighborhood where I currently live, however the restaurant scene consists primarily of chain and fast food restaurants. Boyfriend doesn’t eat fast food, and neither of us cares for chain restaurants (where’s the creativity and individualism in a place that has hundreds of others just like it?). As leery as you may be, get out there and try those hole-in-the-wall places that hide in the shadows of the Applebee’s and TGIFriday’s (more often than not, these places get the best reviews on Yelp). Recently Neighbor Friend told us about this little Middle Eastern place in the back of a strip mall. Holy garlic, was this place amazing. The chicken wrap was to die for and an entire meal (plus lunch for the next day) for myself was under $10. It was quite a find, and when I looked it up on Yelp later on, it had 4.5/5 rating (I’m telling you, these people know what they are doing). While they may seem a little sketch, these privately-owned little places are going to have the best, usually most authentic, and oftentimes cheapest food in the area. Don’t be afraid to get out there and explore.
Now that I have gotten myself sufficiently hungry, I’m off to scrounge up some crackers I think are hiding in my desk somewhere…