Every other Monday, I answer reader questions. If you’ve got a question for me, leave it in the comments, or email me, and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post.
First up this week, a question from an Alaskan reader about takeout date nights.
I stumbled on your blog a week or so ago because recently I became a stay at home mom again. This is the best option for my family. I’ve read about you doing a takeout date night for around $20, and if you don’t mind me asking what usually do you eat for takeout? We live in Alaska so I know there will be a large pricing difference, but i would like to try to keep it close to what you do. Any input would be great!
First, welcome! Always glad to have some new faces around here.
Since I wrote that post, two of our kids have become teenagers, which means that we sometimes actually go out for a date night.
(Having teenagers is seriously awesome.)
But, we do still opt for a takeout night sometimes because a certain small girl here doesn’t like us to be gone too much.
Anyway, here in the lower 48 at least, it’s pretty easy for us to stick with a $20 budget without resorting to super cheap fast food.
A few of our staple meals:
- burgers and a medium fry to share from Five Guys
- sandwiches from somewhere like Panera Bread or Atlanta Bread Company
- two meals from Chipotle
- seafood sandwiches from a local seafood shop
Hmm. It would seem that sandwiches are the theme for our cheap takeout nights, except when we do Chipotle.
So. Eat sandwiches, and save money.
(If you are gluten-free or eat low-carb, you could opt for things like a lettuce-wrapped burger, or order a salad instead of a sandwich.)
Also, ordering only the main dish and providing drinks/desserts at home really helps us to stay within our budget.
I’ve been following your blog for several years now, and love reading it every few days!
My question is, do you have any good lunch solutions for two working adults who have somewhat unpredictable lunch schedules?
I do the grocery shopping for my husband and myself, and it seems like we often have issues with not having the right amount of food at home for lunches. A lot of it has to do with the fact that our lunch schedules vary a lot because of work lunches that come up at the last minute, but I hate that it seems like the weeks that I plan for us to make sandwiches with lunch meat, we end up having several lunches at work and never end up making the sandwiches and throw away the meat (and often the bread, too) because it’s gone bad. Then, inevitably when I do not buy lunch meat, we end up eating lots of meals at home and don’t have much (if anything, it seems like) to choose from. We both also like to have leftovers for lunch, which normally ends up being easier for us to grab, so they get eaten first.
Is there a way to preserve bread and lunch meat/cheese so that we can use them as needed, rather than buy them and have to throw them out? Or do you have any suggestions for good lunch items that are easy to store in case we don’t need them immediately? Thanks so much!
When I read your question, my first thought was that the freezer could really be your friend here. Bread/sandwich buns can easily be frozen and thawed only when needed. That way your bread at least wouldn’t go to waste.
(If you buy your buns or bread straight from the grocery store bakery, place them in a sturdier bag for freezing. The clear thin bags from in-store supermarket bakeries tend to fall apart in the freezer for some reason.)
My other freezer thought: On weeks when you have a lot of leftovers and need to use up lunch meat, try freezing some portions of your leftovers. That way you can eat the lunch meat you have while storing up some frozen lunches for future weeks.
Another idea: If you buy lunch meat and notice that you haven’t used it toward the end of the week, maybe scratch your meal plan for a night and make panini sandwiches (lunch meat is great in those and you’d use your cheese as well!).
Or have a big green dinner salad with the lunch meat, adding hard-boiled eggs, cubed cheese, and croutons to make it a meal.
Lastly, could you keep some easy-to-prepare lunch items on hand for weeks when you don’t have lunch meat in the house? It sounds like you are maybe actually at your house at lunchtime at least part-time, so could you cook up some simple spaghetti for lunch? Or put together a tuna salad? (which mostly relies on pantry ingredients plus a few fridge staples.)
Readers, the question-askers always love to have more input, so share your advice in the comments!
Any good $20 takeout date ideas? And how would you handle the lunch meat issue?