The Take Out Trap

The Take Out Trap - photo by lilechka75

You’ve had a long day of work and errands. It is already 6:30 (how the heck is it already 6:30?!?) and you have been starving since 3:00. You realize you forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer so you have to stop at the store and buy something to make for dinner. As you approach the store you pass your favorite pizza joint and then Boston Market and then you start to think “maybe I should just pick something up, we can eat right when we get home and I can finally get to bed at a decent hour.” You pull into your second favorite pizza joint and splurge on a $50 dinner you know everyone will enjoy.

This is a situation we have all been in 1,000 times. Sometimes it’s stopping for pizza at the end of a hectic day and sometimes it’s ordering Seamless because it’s raining or cold or you just have to finish watching the season finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And look, getting take out or delivery once in awhile is fine. It’s a fun treat and it should be enjoyed. But you have to be careful it doesn’t become a habit because relying on take-out food is a trap. It’s bad for your body, your soul, and your wallet.

Modern America is currently in the peak of take-out options. You can push a few buttons on your phone and have anything you desire delivered within 30 minutes. It’s not just pizza and Chinese. You can have sushi, barbecue, sandwiches, Thai, burgers, fully prepared family style dinners…whatever you can dream of can be at your door. You could order a different take-out restaurant every day of the week and never get sick of it. It is wonderful to have so many options, but it is also problematic.

Take-out food is almost never going to be as healthy as food you prepare yourself. Even the healthier options will likely have some added oil or ingredients you wouldn’t use at home. And it’s so tempting to just tap and add a side of garlic knots to your salad. Shopping for and preparing your own food also gives you a sense of satisfaction. You’re nourishing yourself and making active choices over what goes into your body.

But the biggest problem with take-out may be the cost. Even if you have the discipline to get the healthiest options, the price of the food can be staggering. After a period where I was testing recipes for Eating in the Middle, I was so burnt out on cooking that I started ordering delivery every day. After about a month I remember looking through my Seamless order history. Even though I was ordering mostly healthy stuff like salads, grilled salmon, steamed dishes from Chinese restaurants, and cucumber wrapped sushi, I had spent over $600 for a month’s worth of dinners. Ordering in every night just isn’t sustainable.

The best way to avoid the take-out trap is to prepare. Make a shopping list of things you will need for the whole week and find some time to shop and prep. Meal prep is key. On days when you don’t have much time, have some QUICK healthy options on hand, or use your slow cooker in the morning, or plan for something you can make with leftovers. Save the take-out for special occasions and make it a treat, not the norm.

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11 thoughts on “The Take Out Trap

  1. Mary // Chattavore

    I can so relate to this, Andie! I am a great meal planner and shopper…I always have 6-7 meals planned every week and my refrigerator is fully stocked. But…I’ll forget to take something out of the freezer. Or I’ll just not be in the mood to cook. I work full-time and blog at night, so I’m always tired. It’s easy to find an excuse. But I’m overweight for the first time in my adult life and really need to save $$$ so I’m determined to do better. I just have to!

    Reply
  2. Hanro

    Hi Andie, I concur.

    It’s a very slippery slope because fast food tastes so damn good with all the added fast, sugar and salt. I recently fell into this pleasure trap and it’s hard AF to go back to healthy food. You have to (have to) tell yourself: ok cool, I’m only having this once a week or whatever.

    Kudos to anyone that comes on a Friday night :)

    Cheers
    Hanro

    Reply
  3. Hanro

    Hi Andie, I concur.

    It’s a very slippery slope because fast food tastes so damn good with all the added fat, sugar and salt. I recently fell into this pleasure trap and it’s hard AF to go back to healthy food. You have to (have to) tell yourself: ok cool, I’m only having this once a week or whatever.

    Kudos to anyone that cooks on a Friday night :)

    Cheers
    Hanro

    Reply
    1. jennifer

      PS I try, and I force myself as much as possible, but I just don’t enjoy it. And when I get stuck at work late (which is often) and get home at 8 pm, the last thing I want to do is whip up dinner Sometimes take-out is the best option so I don’t eat 500 snacks.

      Reply
  4. Cassie Schelldorf

    This is SO true. I prep every Sunday and if I don’t, my whole week has gone to hell. I’ve recently taken a new job at work that is incredibly demanding and meal prep is key for me. I won’t negotiate. I started using the Crockpot more to off-set the time it takes to prep/cook healthy meals. The new Skinnytaste cookbook is great for that. This week was particularly Hellish at work. I didn’t eat out once. I was so grateful to have a stocked fridge of quick/healthy meals that I knew would fuel me through a demanding 8-9-10-11 hour day.

    Reply
  5. Savvy

    Thanks for the reminder that with ‘easy’ comes a very HIGH cost!! My health, to say nothing of my wallter!! I’m already @ highest weight ever!! So it’s a NEW ME for the spring!!

    Reply
  6. Judy

    First of all bravo SAVVY. I will cheer you on. I will be working at it with you.

    Great post Andie and one we all need to hear and consider.

    I love cooking a big batch and freezing certain foods that handle that well. Also, if I need to go to family in WA state due to my mom not being well, I have some things that are easy for my husband to pull, thaw and warm up. So it works for me in more than one way. I don’t have to worry he is eating out every night getting all that sugar, MSG and what all from fast food and restaurants.

    Now I like to go out once in awhile but I would rather eat food I know how it was prepared, that it was handled with clean hands and clean pans and bowls.

    It can be expensive grocery shopping too and the one thing that will save me from over spending every time is eating before I go. If I am satisfied then I am not lured by all the snack stuff. The other thing that helps me is taking 2-3 hours on the weekend and prepping for the week.

    Reply
  7. Lynnette

    My mouth is salivating, that burger looks freaking awesome!! Haha
    Great post, eating out can be so addicting but we need to keep it for occasions rather then on the regular. I was shocked one month looking back at the cost of eating out regularly. Home made is alot better for our health.

    Reply
  8. Bonnie

    I love this post Andie. We’ve recently started watching our budget more closely and it is incredible how much we can spend eating out here and there. I’ve also started prepping meals/food for the week on Sunday and it really helps me to stay on track.
    Yesterday I was tired and not feeling well and really wanted junk food but knowing the work I had put into preparing my mason jar salad for lunch kept me on track :) and once I had a good healthy lunch It made it easier the rest of the day.

    Reply

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