I eat out a decent amount. Lots of people wonder how I am able to do that while keeping my waistline and bank account in shape. And, for me at least, its all about sacrificing for the greater good!
What does this mean? A couple things.
Keeping my bank account in shape: I try not to eat out more than one meal a day and more than a few meals a week. I basically eat the same thing for breakfast all the time and the same thing for lunch for the whole week. This way I can spend as little as possible at the grocery store (about $30-40/week) and maximize my eating out money to make my eat-out meals really count. Dividing that $30-40/week by 5 days means I spend about $6-8/day on BOTH breakfast and lunch (thus having more money to spend on amazing meals out a couple times a week – typically one dinner and one brunch). Here’s a sample of what I typically eat for breakfast and lunch:
- Breakfast: I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast everyday – some combination of greek yogurt (whichever brand is on sale), high fiber cereal (whatever brand is on sale), a cut-up banana (which are always cheap), and whatever other fruit is on sale for that season (fall I typically have a lot of apples, summer I typically have a lot of berries).
- Lunch: I have something that is easy to make and store for the week (so I can make it on Sunday, carry it to work on Monday and leave it in the fridge) and that is easy to prepare at work. I might make high-fiber, high-protein pasta with lots of mixed vegetables; black bean wraps with lots of other veggies and some cheese; tuna salad wraps with carrots on the side, etc.
I have no problems eating the same thing day in and day out if it means I can have a ridiculous meal and some killer cocktails a couple times a week. Sacrifice for the greater good!
The other way I help my bank account stay in shape is, when eating out, I look for restaurants that have specials and/or groupon deals. If there’s one I’ve been wanting to try I might put an alert out on those group-deal sites. Or I look for food and drink specials online. For instance, I went to La Madia today (http://www.dinelamadia.com), one of my absolute favorite up-scale pizza places in the city, and got the lunch special with a friend. You share a salad, a pizza and some cute little cookies – and its only $19 TOTAL. So with tax and tip our lunch came out to roughly $13/person. AND they run this same special Sun-Thurs after 9pm – AND its only $10 more to add two glasses of wine to it. So I look for and keep in mind specials like this so I can enjoy delicious food without going broke. I totally recommend joining the email lists of restaurants you want to try or restaurants you love because oftentimes they send out deals or free meals for birthdays (seriously, I eat for free the whole week of my birthday from these email birthday deals) and info on specials they are running. Your inbox might be full, but, hey, its all about sacrificing for the greater good!
Speaking of specials, Chicago runs a whole bunch of city-wide specials on food all the time. I always check out Restaurant Week and Chef’s Week and other special events (like the Chefs on the Grill event I mentioned in my first post) so I can try food from a whole bunch of restaurants on the cheap.
Lastly, since I don’t eat a lot, eating out with other people is ALWAYS a good idea for me. I absolutely adore specials where you can share food “small plates” style because I get to try a lot of stuff without worrying about finishing my meal or paying a ridiculous amount of money. And, whenever possible, I try to turn every eat-out meal into 2 or 3 meals by taking home leftovers to eat for lunch and/or dinner the next day. It helps that I don’t require a lot of food to live and that I don’t mind eating the same thing over and over.
Keeping my waistline in shape: I mentioned in my first post that everyone at the Joffrey has a free membership to the Chicago Athletic Clubs and that the Joffrey itself offers free classes at its location to staff. So that helps – I typically do pilates and/or yoga a few times a week.
Food-wise, while I try to keep my costs down, I also try to keep my calorie, protein and fiber intake up. If you’re worried about your health and your money like I am, get on some email lists that help by sending workout tips, advice on food, recipes, and more. I highly recommend PopSugar’s “FitSugar” edition and LearnVest. Some of the advice seems obvious and stupid at first, but I’ve found a crazy amount awesomely healthy – and cheap! – recipes (LearnVest has a lot of under $10 recipe posts) as well as information on food that I never realized (such as which fruits are highest in fiber, info about buying organic, etc.) – I will post information I find here so you can share in the awesome Internet joy!
I typically don’t eat a lot of food (just how my insides roll) so I try to pack it in so I’m getting proper nutrition. Taking daily vitamins helps and I scoured the internet for information on which vitamins are really important for someone like me (younger female) versus someone not like me (older male). Based on my research, I take a Vitamin D + Calcium + Potassium supplement, a Magnesium supplement, an Omega-3 supplement, a women’s multivitamin, and a probiotic. I have regular shipments set up through Amazon which cuts down costs a bit. Aside from vitamins I also try to get the most bang for my buck, as I mentioned above, by buying foods that are high in fiber, protein, and vitamins. Its all about spending the extra time online doing research and actually turning products around to look at the nutrition facts. I’m the person at the store that people get frustrated with because I spend 10 minutes comparing two brands of pasta. Here are my major players:
- Greek yogurt is awesome for protein (and fiber depending on the brand) and I use it not only as yogurt for breakfast, but also as a replacement for mayo, sour cream and more.
- High-fiber/High-protein versions of everything from pasta to tortillas to cereal. I spend the extra money for these versions because they’re worth it (and really not much more money).
- Fruits and vegetables are amazing. Eat them. Lots of them. And if you don’t worry about buying organic (if you do the research, it typically doesn’t matter) and buy whatever’s in season, you won’t have to spend a ton of money on them. Large bags of carrots and bunches of bananas are always cheap so I keep plenty of those on hand.
- Protein replacements for meat like black beans and canned tuna are high in protein (and sometimes fiber) and not as expensive (or unhealthy) as that beef or chicken. AND they don’t require cooking which saves me time and energy. Although every once in awhile I might get some chicken breasts to add to pasta.
- Nuts are relatively cheap (if you buy whatever’s on sale) and added to some raisins or craisins make for a healthy and yummy snack on the go. This is typically what I eat first thing in the morning when I get to work and I’m still waking up.
Those are my staples. This is how I roll.
So important ways to eat well without spending a ton of money or gaining insane amounts of weight:
- The Internet is your friend – research, research, research! And get on some email lists!
- Spend time looking at and comparing the food you buy so you are always buying what is healthiest and what is on sale.
- Decide which meals you want to eat-in and which you’d like to eat out so you can plan accordingly. Some people like to cook dinner. Some people like having an easy, no-thought lunch. Whatever you prefer, figure it out and make it happen.
- Then, make yourself a budget and STICK TO IT so you can minimize spending on eat-in meals and maximize spending money for eat-out meals.
- Exercise. Duh.
Let me know if you have any questions. And enjoy this awesome recipe for delicious (and high protein!) tuna salad:
Protein Packed Tuna Salad Pitas
High fiber/High protein tortillas
1 can tuna canned in water without salt
As much Greek yogurt as you enjoy
1/2 small onion diced (purple or red onion adds color)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Open can of tuna, drain it, and place in a bowl
Stir in Greek yogurt to the consistency you want
Add bell pepper, onion, and parsley
Salt and pepper to taste.
Spread in the tortilla and enjoy!