If you want a restaurant to be open when we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, be a patron.
Get takeout, order delivery.
But also, stay on budget because we don’t know how long this will go on and how it will affect each of us economically.
I’m in no way an expert on budgeting, but what this season has pushed me to do is adjust to eating at restaurants even more often than usual, but making each visit really last at home.
Here are some habits I’ve adopted in order to keep going to Dallas restaurants.
Save for Leftovers
This one’s obvious. Consider how much of your food you really need out of all that you order. After you take something home, sanitize the exterior and put a serving on a plate, go ahead and save the rest in your own container. But before all that, ask someone at the restaurant the best way to reheat something. As I write this, I'm having my third meal out of a pasta dish at Parigi.
I never thought I’d really eat leftover sandwiches, but a quick broil has been a game-changer for this. And sometimes, leftovers are even better than the fresh dish.
Also consider what can be frozen: A lot can. I recently got scones from Katherine Clapner — I couldn’t resist them, even though they came six to an order. Per her direction, I froze the rest for a future time I need something so delicious.
Share with Others
I didn’t eat and freeze all of those scones. Some of them, I gave to others. Not really gave, but bartered. We had a story on this recently — and it’s a great way to get something you really need with whatever you have on hand. Sometimes, you can really win at this: Last weekend I traded a jar of preserves for pan-fried steamed buns, which was good for two meals.
There are also meal deals going on at restaurants you can get, and you don’t need to be too worried about them saying they’ll serve four people if you’re in a two-person household. Save the rest, or drop a couple of plates on someone's porch. They can always do the same for you later.
Order Part of the Meal
This is my new favorite thing to do as my budget becomes stricter: You don’t have to get 100% of your meal from a restaurant.
For example, when making steak a while back, I ran to Mot Hai Ba for garlic noodles — it paired well, and there were leftovers. Last week, I got Red Stix Asian Street Food’s duck fat-fried rice, a bowl I could’ve easily eaten in one sitting for an entree. Instead, I paired it with protein (steak again), and it lasted three meals with that approach. And it was far better than any side I would’ve made for that meal, too.
Sure, it’s not the same as getting an appetizer and main, but you’re still showing up, paying a few dollars and providing another opportunity to give someone in a restaurant a much-needed tip.
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Now more than ever is the time to start adopting the method of waste not. Take a look at what’s in your fridge and consider what you can do with it. If you have mushrooms that are about to go bad, maybe you can throw them in a quiche. If you order a pizza from your favorite place in town and get fewer toppings, maybe there’s something you already have that you can throw on top of it. If you have extra protein from a meal you ordered, an easy route is making nachos or quesadillas. Suddenly, $18 you spent on an entree is more like a dinner for under $10.
Getting takeout for one is not the same as sitting at a table with three others and drinking along a multicourse meal. Of course, if you can easily afford all the food, by all means, buy all you can. If you're watching every dollar and still want to support just a bit, you can.
Showing up to a place with your support matters. And we all have to do what we can right now.