I am making a valiant attempt at saving money. This task is proving difficult as most things cost money and most fun things cost lots of money (oh reader, get your sick mind out of the gutter…).
I discovered that the quickest way to purge my wallet/bank account is noshing out at a restaurant and/or a night full of bar hopping.
Look, I enjoy eating delicious, decadent food, as oppose to my typical dinner of hot pockets, and, like any 20-something girl running from responsibility, I do love a night on the town. But on an evening out, I can drop anywhere from $40 to $100 in a sitting. Whether it’s the appetizer, entrée, dessert, or a gaggle of drinks, I lose sight of cost as I partake in my bacchanalian activities. When presented with the bill, the only thing more difficult than digesting the price is calculating the tip. The more I drink, the worse I get at math (which is already pretty bad in sober moments) and I tend to error on the side of generosity so as not to appear like a cheap asshole (which only makes me a poor martyr).
For one night of fun, I’m left with triple the calories, triple the credit card statement, and triple the loss of functionality for the next day. A plan of action was necessary.
First, a severe reduction in nights out. Currently, I spend approximately two nights a month at a bar or restaurant, and if my
sugar daddy boyfriend is present, he pays half, if not all. His salary is more than double mine. Plus he thinks I’m cute, so he doesn’t mind so much (got him tricked, don’t I?).
Second, pay ONLY in cash. My boyfriend recommended this idea and I couldn’t believe it, but it works. To keep both drinking and monetary exchanges under control, I go out with a set amount of cash. When the money goes away, so do I. I see, tangibly, my money leaving my hand for an overpriced beer and I realize where that money could have gone, like to a 12-pack of beer at the grocery store instead.
Third, cook at home. I know I mentioned that I excel at microwaving a hot pocket and, at 5 for $10, how can one go wrong? But in all seriousness, cooking can be fun and it’s even more fun when you cook for someone else, allowing the microwave a few evenings of deserved rest a week.
When my boyfriend and I first started dating, he was soooo nervous around me and I was still in my crazy, indulgent phase. The result was that we invested a lot of cash into alcohol, grub, and Advil. A few post-date hungover workdays later, we decided to stop this pattern. I believe that’s really when we began to like each other. Awwwww…
Date nights metamorphosized into cooking nights. With this switch, I discovered I really enjoyed cooking, and although I’m not the best cook, I had fun giving it the old college try. Lord knows I didn’t cook in college. (Yeah, hot pockets!)
I don’t own or use many spices because they are expensive and I don’t know how to cook with them appropriately. If I had a spice rack I would use it as a cooking status symbol so when friends came over they would be like, “you cook?” and I would be like, “doesn’t everybody?”
I also don’t follow recipes because I feel creatively stifled but more because I can’t be bothered to follow directions. It ends up being a lot of trial and error and eating things that taste un-good.
Still, I’ve managed some awesome Gingermermaid-exclusive recipes that require zero measuring and a lot of tossing what contents are in my fridge and cupboards into a pot. This has resulted in what my boyfriend and I have dubbed the “pasta stuff.”
- Whole grain noodles (because they are the healthiest and we like the curly ones because they are fun to eat and play with)
- Canned tuna or chicken (I’m scared of chicken not in a can, and I don’t want to talk about it)
- Sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil
- Sometimes lime juice because it sizzles and I like the sound
- Brocolli, asparagus, or spinach (if any available in the kitchen at time of preparation)
- Parmesan cheese (not real because I’m on a budget)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- More olive oil
Basically, we stir it all up and don’t measure anything. It tastes lovely every time.
Together, my boy and I have come up with some pretty interesting, and tasty, concoctions, as well as a slew of duds. But my favorite dinner exposition so far has been a traditional take on the classic: taco night.
I remember taco night as a kid in my house. It was my sister’s favorite meal and, at the time, she was a vegetarian (silly girl) and she always had her pan of fake meat while the rest of us had the real stuff (moo). My parents laid out this nice buffet-style spread of toppings, including soft shell and hard shells, spicy and non-spicy salsa, sour cream (when requested by the youngest daughter), shredded cheese, various vegetables, and refried beans. Taco night wasn’t just taco night, it was also “eat an uncanny amount of tacos” night. I liked tacos enough, but for me, it never a requested favorite. However, I was an avid participant in “eat an uncanny amount of tacos” when it was presented.
In the past 28 years, I had never prepared tacos. It’s a big to-do. But this past weekend, the little wanna-be chef with a sense of nostalgia peeked through and I exclaimed to my cat, “taco night!” And it was so.
The boyfriend and I had to make a special excursion to the store to gather all proper “nom noms” for the evening, and the excitement was swirling inside of me, which could actually have been hunger.
Tacos, as far as home cooking is concerned, are a pricier stay-in dinner. There are the toppings, the meat, the extras, and it all adds up. Plus, if this was going to be carried out in the traditional “uncanny amount of taco consumption” way of life I grew up with, supplies were needed.
I made the guac from scratch, because it tastes better with a dash of blood, sweat, and tears mashed in with the avocados, and the rest was simple: I chopped some onions and tomatoes, mixed in some seasoning with the meat, and created a fixing table with shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, tabasco sauce, warm tortilla shells, sun chips, black beans, the homemade gauc, and spinach.
It. Was. Awesome.
My shortfall in this undertaking wasn’t the cooking, it was the eating. I can’t properly fill a taco to save my life. I get too excited and overburden the tortilla with all too much of each fixing so that it is an impossible feat to fold and eat. Thank goodness my boyfriend is blinded by love, because me and that taco had a delicious time, but it wasn’t pretty.
The total cost of taco night was approximately $34 for all supplies. I still have extra items leftover, like onions, garlic, salsa, sour cream, etc, that can be used in other recipes I will manifest, and we did have leftovers for lunch the next day. That was a total of four meals, two for me and two for the boyfriend, which costs roughly $8.50 each. The rest of the extras will be incorporated here and there, like in an omlette or something, and not wasted—I’m on a budget, after all.
Amidst my thriftiness I’ve made a discovery of my culinary “talents” and there are many new recipes awaiting the carelessness of my cooking methods. Groceries still get expensive, but it’s fun and still cheaper than going out, my boyfriend makes an excellent sous chef and guinea pig, and I don’t have to figure out a tip.