The economy sucks; we all know this. Everything costs more than it used to, but few of us are making more money than we used to. We want to have fun with our friends, but that usually involves spending money. When times are a little tighter than normal, we feel the need to cut back.
Like everyone else, I've been cutting back, too. Aside from my "survival bills" (like electricity, medical stuff, food, and internet--I tried to live without internet for a month, then caved in, because really, I can't sacrifice my access to Netflix), my only entertainment/frivolous spending is on Netflix, shopping for clothes and household goods, and going out to eat with my friends.
I cut back on my entertainment spending. I opted to cut back to Netflix streaming only, when they raised the fees for the DVD-and-streaming plans. I shopped less; when I did, I shopped more often at thrift stores. (I basically never buy any fashion item full price, except for shoes and very cheap costume jewelry, so "shopping less often" was my only real way of cutting back.) I stopped going out to bars and clubs, thereby cutting out the temptation to buy awful bar food.
I couldn't quite give up the going out to eat at nice restaurants with my friends, though. That is my main method of socializing. How can I give that up? Even though eating out costs a lot, both in money and in the amount of sodium and unnecessary calories I consume, I like it a lot.
Last week, after I went out to eat sushi and udon with a friend and somehow gained two pounds overnight from eating half a bowl of soup and four sushi rolls (sodium! you dastardly bastard!), I decided no, this cannot continue.
When the same friend asked if I wanted to go eat on Thursday, I said, "I'd rather not go out to eat, but why don't you come over and I'll make some fish with sweet potatoes?" She was okay with that.
I baked the tilapia with dill, s + p, and butter, sauteed spinach and roasted garlic, roasted mushrooms with garlic and a bit of butter, and roasted some sweet potato "fries." Lemon was on the side for the mushrooms and fish. The plate was covered in white, green, brown, and orange. My mother always says that a colorful plate is a healthy plate; I'm going to add that a colorful plate is an extra-delicious plate.
That meal, along with the spinach and Comte strata I made on Saturday for the weekly brunch that my friend M. and I usually eat at a restaurant (where the meal would be upwards of 1000 calories, unlike the 600 of my sumptuous, cheesy strata, which could actually be cut up into 6 servings or more, if you were to add more spinach and some fruit on the side, to lighten things up), was better than a restaurant meal. They were so satisfying and so affordable. The costs of both meals, for the entire amount of food I cooked, were less than the cost of one serving at a restaurant and I am pretty sure they were both less fatty and salty than restaurant food. All my ingredients were fresh.
Plus, at home, the atmosphere is better for having catching-up conversation with the girls. At home, you can sit as long as you like and make as much noise as you want, unlike at restaurants, where they frown upon such things. Also, for the strata and iced coffee brunch, we sat on my shared balcony and enjoyed the breezes. At a restaurant, the balcony is the most coveted place to eat on a cool autumn day--we would not have been able to get a seat and we would have had to shout over others to be heard, unlike on my balcony, where I provided the seats and the only sounds were of cars and bikes passing by.
Finally, I really like hearing how my food tastes good.
I am going to make this entertaining at home a regular thing. It's a no-brainer. I get to try out new recipes that I would feel silly making just for myself, and I get to spend time with my friends without any of us worrying about how much we're spending. All I need to do is get crafting nights scheduled and I will be set for my sedate, adult nightlife!