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Editor's column - Gabe's Gripes

Saving a buck by eating out

June 27, 2012 - I may be beating this dead horse into a fine paste, but I am not a wealthy man.

I am not poverty stricken by any means, but I must watch what I buy and when I buy it if I do not want an awkward moment in the leaser's office at the end of the month. Because of this, I have learned one easy way to keep the bills down - eating in. I learned to cook and am particularly proud of my chicken sauteing skills. Pasta is cheap and filling while a simple breakfast of eggs and toast is easy on the wallet and nutritious to boot.

But life grows stale with routine and dishes are never fun to clean. Cooking takes time and sometimes, when you and a friend are having fun, hunger can sneak up. It reeks of laziness, but sometimes you want to eat now and not have to worry about clean up.

But how do you go out and avoid the large bills? There is a way and it doesn't involve fast food joints or takeout.

It's no secret that there is an overeating problem here in the United State - we rank number five on the overweight percentage in the world with roughly 60 percent of the population simply weighing too much for their size. As anyone who has travelled abroad can attest - portions in other countries are often smaller. Deprecating value certainly, but one of the end results is eating what you need instead of what you want.

Try to figure out, next time you're out, if a dinner for one can serve two. I often, if not always, have leftovers. Leftovers are great, but if you have leftovers means there was too much food. Perhaps one appetizer and one main course is enough for two people.

Putting this into practice recently I have had the pleasure to enjoy two person meals at a number of restaurants I would otherwise not be able to afford on a regular basis. Our very own Kruse and Muer served me and a friend whitefish, free bread and water - the entire meal with tip was $22. Golden Eagle in Rochester, one of my favorite restaurants in the area, brought to the table mussels, beer, bread and a steak dinner. Thanks to coupons and going on the right night the dinner came to $25, again with tip.

I realize that these "tips" make me sound very cheap, stingy and unpleasant. While this is irrefutably true, these economic times have hit hard and some restaurants have even gone out of business with more and more people eating in. It's simply not enough to offer food now - there has to be deals or uniqueness to attract a crowd.

At the end of the day going out is a pleasant experience and socio-economic standing should not bar people from having a good time out with people they care about. Getting creative with ordering and pursuing deals offers this without breaking the bank or making the buyer feel bad about spending money.

That bill looks a lot friendlier when it's pushing $20 instead of $40 and if you're hungry later there are always small snacks at home.

Just don't try this out on a first date.

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