I stopped eating out and started saving money

It's often easiest to grab the phone and dial for takeout, but the result is rarely in your favor

When it comes to cooking, most of my weeks start and end the same: I tell myself I should cook food for the week; I deliberately choose not to and eat out instead; I brew intense and passionate feelings of self-hatred for not cooking; consequently, I am completely unmotivated to cook, and I eat out again.

The cycle never ends.

In a typical week, I grocery shop on Sunday night. I wander to the grocery store with a picture-perfect list of the ingredients I need for the week’s meal prep — mostly produce and meats to make with rice and noodles. 

The beginning of the week holds refreshing feelings of motivation and proactivity. It feels like I'm off to a good start, and my legacy as a meal prep superhero will soon be carved into stone.

However, by the time I get home and unload my groceries, I’m already depleted of energy, and the impulse to reach for the phone and order takeout arrives once again. And after one hit of takeout food, I just can’t quit it for the week. 

My 20th birthday brought a much-needed change in the form of a wonderful gift from my mother: a steel wok. My roommate and I had talked for a few months about our need for a wok, and my mother’s timing could not have been better, though I was initially reluctant to use it. 

The process of using the wok seemed so excessively laborious, and the thought of going through that entire process every time I cooked was daunting. Upon using it for the first time, however, I found that a focus on simple creations provides a valuable solution to the quintessential eating out problem. 

I started making sautéed broccoli, fried rice and stir-fry — my takeout favorites — by myself at home. I found that the preparation was minimal, and the end product wasn’t half bad. 

My food was filling and surprisingly delicious considering how cheap the ingredients were. Though my home cooking isn’t near what you’d find in a restaurant, it’s better than cold leftovers and watching my bank account deplete with every white takeout carton.

Simple recipes have brought me to become more interested in food — I can’t help but spend most of my free time watching cooking videos to prime ideas for my next recipes. 

Though I still eat out, and every time I do I contribute to that same repetitive cycle of melodramatic self-hatred, I at least look forward to the time spent cooking at home. The kitchen has ceased to be a place of anxiety and self-dislike and more of a home.

I enjoy the brief periods of time I spend in the kitchen however often or rare they may appear. My stove, oven and prep area have become beacons of dynamic solitude amongst the mind-numbing chaos of modern life, and I find myself flocking to them when I am having a difficult time. 

The kitchen makes my home feel comforting and loving, and I enjoy nothing more than cooking a beef noodle soup or a quick fried rice dish in the few fleeting, wondrous moments I have in its welcoming space. In an evermore distant society, we rely on these beautiful moments of personal experience for our own fulfillment, and there are few better places to start than mastering the beautiful art of cooking for one.  

The craft of cooking basic recipes is a simple and easy-to-pick-up skill for most anyone’s life — as daunting as the task may seem. Picking up a few vegetables from the store instead of eating out is a simple step towards cutting costs, eating healthfully and leading a more fulfilling and wonderfully delicious life.  

 Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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