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.