Dining Out: My Favorite Luxury

I have read more than my share of financial advice. And amid other important factors such as “earn more money” or “invest that money” is the all-important “spend less money.” In these past several lean years, I’ve gotten pretty good at cutting back costs and expenses. But one thing I can’t seem to quit is going out to eat.

It probably doesn’t help that I live in New York, a city that overflows with great restaurants of every cuisine imaginable. It also doesn’t help that my tiny NYC apartment kitchen has little space to store lots of groceries. Nor that I, as a carless individual, have to carry all my groceries home on the 10-minute walk to my apartment, rain or shine. Basically, this is a city that entices me at every turn to just give in, and go out.

When I walk by a restaurant, even if it’s mostly empty or the food they serve is not my favorite, I look at the diners inside with a touch of envy, particularly if they’re sitting at the table with their drinks but no menus. Oooh, I think, they’ve already ordered. They’re just waiting for their delicious meal to arrive. (Yeah, I guess that’s a little creepy.) And isn’t that what makes going out to eat so enjoyable? The luxurious, almost magical way that food just seems to appear in front of you, simply because you asked for it?

Don’t get me wrong; I like cooking. I’ve shared some of my favorite recipes and cooking philosophies right here on Persephone. But when you cook a meal, you’re very aware of each step of the process, from making your grocery list to picking out the right ingredients, then preparing them to perfection (making a mess of your kitchen in the process). This is part of what’s so great about cooking, but it’s also what makes it such a relief to take a break now and then.

I almost never go on vacation. I’ve trimmed my monthly bills to the bare minimum. I bargain hunt and reuse what I have until it’s worn out (and sometimes even beyond). But while I’ve been able to cut back a bit on my “restaurant budget,” it’s the one luxury I have not been able to let go of. And I don’t think I ever will.

Everyone has a treat they give themselves which is as much about the mental enjoyment as it is about the physical. Despite all the other things I’ve cut back on, or cut out, eating out is the one thing that I think I would honestly feel deprived to have to do without. I just like experiencing new food, especially the kinds of dishes I couldn’t make myself, I like the social aspect of a group meal at a lively restaurant, and I even like warming up the leftovers the next day.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Is food your favorite indulgence? If not, what’s the one thing you can’t seem to bring yourself to cut back on.

14 thoughts on “Dining Out: My Favorite Luxury”

  1. If you cut back on everything that was an “indulgence”, you wouldn’t be living – just existing. Don’t feel guilty! Juvenal once wrote that all the poor needed were “bread and circuses” – that is, staples and entertainment. He meant it satirically, but I say embrace it!

  2. Eating out is definitely my favorite indulgence, especially because my husband pretty much only likes food that can be found on an Applebee’s menu.  So when he works late, I’ll take myself out for Indian food, or Sushi, or Oysters…just bring a book, sit at the bar and drink wine.  I’ve had to cut down since quitting my job and starting school, which has been harder than I thought it would be.  I’ll be at home, making chicken salad (again) and find myself thinking about all that luscious paneer and naan and papadum…mmmm

  3. Agreeing for one hundred percent. Eating out is not only about the food but about the freedom of having nothing else to do but decide, to pick up a different atmosphere and experience other cultures through their food. I think I eat out once every 2 – 3 weeks. And the majority of the time that’s for nothing more than 50 bucks for the two of us, because good food doesn’t has to be expensive ($50 for two isn’t expensive for dinner, right?).

  4. I love eating out.  Specifically I love brunch.  I love it so much!  It is a great time where I can enjoy food, coffee and conversation (or newspaper reading and scoffing at things with Kiwi Scientist).

    Dinner out makes me slightly anxious if I’m going with relatively new friends as I’m never sure of pricing and dress codes etc.

    But brunch?  Sublime.

      1. I’ve definitely had brunch for dinner!  My partner hates eggs but we had a friend staying with us for a while and he was as big a fan of breakfast for dinner as I am!  It was awesome!

        The only issue is that you generally have to make it yourself at home.  Unless you live in North America where there are more diners that serve all day, all night breakfast (or am I just making that up?).

  5. Eating out is definitely one of my weaknesses as well. I like to cook, but there are also many evenings where I don’t feel physically up for it, and it’s so easy to give in. Plus, like you said, it’s nice having food just appear in front of you and trying things you can’t make on your own.

  6. Mine is not only eating (and drinking – I am a fan of a good brew or mixed drink at a bar) out, but in my weird insistence on treating the people around me.  I don’t always do it, and Boyfriend has done a pretty good job of matching me and making me let him pay for things sometimes, but I can’t help myself.  I just like being able to buy people food and drinks, I don’t really know why.  But that often means that a meal or night out becomes anywhere from 10-100 (or more) percent more expensive than it would be if I were just paying for me.  In an effort to cure myself of this, I’ve started planning more things at my apartment, so at least if I’m going to insist on feeding and beveraging people, it’s a little cheaper.  I still love going out, and I still do it, but I do it less, and I don’t let it be the only way for me to provide people with food/drinks.  That, and I’ve adopted a philosophy of letting people who I know make more money than me pay when they offer.  I never ask for it or explain it, but if my big brother who earns many times as much money as I do volunteers to pay for my lunch or a couple beers, I will say yes and not insist on then buying the next round or whatever, and accept it as a generous impulse from someone who knows I could use it.

  7. Eating out is definitely an indulgence I would loathe to cut back on. I spend very little on myself outside of eating out, aside from what is necessary. I’ve tried to cut back EVERYWHERE I can. And if that means I have to wear ratty-ass bras that are falling apart, SO BE IT.

    But eating out is one of the big ways the BF and I get away from it all and just spend some “us” time. We usually have a once-a-week date night dealie (and if it was too expensive one week, we just skip the next one). When we started doing it that often, it was a LOT for me, since when I was under my parents’ roof, eating out was something done at most once a MONTH (and rarely even that!). But for him, it was little compared to what he was used to.

    Going out to eat is very important for him because of its opportunities for relaxation and bonding. And I’ve come to love it as a couple-hour escape every week in which we get to talk and laugh over food we didn’t have to worry about making.

    I’m actually planning to splurge on myself for the second time in these last four months at the end of the semester in mid-May and buy a couple of those video games I’ve had my eye on. Sometimes I think I just don’t do enough for myself because I’m too worried about the money.

  8. I like eating out, but we have done a good ob of scaling it back a lot. The indulgence that I can’t get rid of is television. We have lots of channels and I don’t want to get rid of any of them. Luckily, it is not like eating out in that it costs the same no matter who uses it.

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