People outsource all sorts of things. You probably take your clothes to a dry cleaner. You drop your car off to have the oil changed. You pay FedEx to send a package rather than driving it there yourself. We all love outsourcing tasks that are too difficult or we don’t have the skill set to do ourselves…it’s a natural and normal part of life.
But one task you shouldn’t ever outsource is your food. That’s right. You should shop for and prepare your own meals. At home. Instead of paying a restaurant to do it for you. You could be like me, even and say you hate restaurants. Why? There are several reasons to prepare your own food:
- The alternative is hideously expensive…why are you paying upwards of 70% more to have someone else prepare and bring you your food? All you need is an hour twice a week to trek to your local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or local healthy grocery. Once the groceries are in your house, they’re easy to prepare and consume. Even buying exotic, expensive ingredients is still way less expensive than eating out. But you don’t even need fancy schmancy stuff to make simple, delicious vegan meals. Think lentils and rice, potatoes and vegetables. Stick to the basics and save a ton of money, which you can use to retire early. If you think, heck, I make enough money, I can afford to eat out all I want. No, you can’t. Okay, if you’re saving 90% of your income, then fine, eat out all you want. I’m guessing most people are saving less than 10% of their income and still have car payments, credit card payments and a house payment.
- It saves you time…your rationale for eating out is that it saves you time, but little do you know it really doesn’t. Think about it. You have to drive to the restaurant, find parking, wait to be seated, wait to give the server your order, wait for the food, wait for the bill, wait for them to run your card, then drive home. That all takes time and should be factored in to the equation. Convenience is so often sited for eating out when it’s clearly not that convenient at all. How many times have you had to wait longer than you thought for a table, or try to find another restaurant when the line was too long at the one your originally selected? I was recently at a restaurant (against my will, trust me) and we waited at least 10 minutes just for the server to bring our bill, after we waited forever for everything else. Of course it’s not the restaurant or server’s fault (they were busy), but still, why bother with that? Remember, at home you don’t get a bill!
- Your kitchen is under your control…if you’ve never worked in a kitchen, you might be surprised at how food is prepared in one. It’s prepared with more oil, salt, sugar and fat than you would ever use at home. I was once in line at a Mexican restaurant and requested sautéed vegetables with my burrito. I watched them dump a few handfuls of peppers, onions and potatoes into a pan and then casually add what looked like half a gallon of oil into the pan. Yikes! It’s not pretty, but it’s why restaurant food tends to taste pretty dang good…they’re cooking in a way that appeals to most people – and that means more of everything. Eating at home means you get to decide how much salt (none would be good), sugar and fat gets added. Everything is tailored to your tastes and desires, not local Joe at the next table that eats 5k mg of sodium a day and has killed off the majority of his taste buds eating chicken wings and nachos.
- You’ll learn some valuable cooking skills…I’m not saying you need to whip out creme brûlées a la Martha Stewart, but I do believe everyone should be able to prepare rice, cook potatoes, sauté vegetables and conjure up a few basic soup recipes like, I don’t know, split pea (my favorite) and coconut curry lentil. Besides, cooking is actually kind of fun, and if you keep it simple (which I highly recommend), you’ll spend less than an hour on most everything. Which is probably still much less time than it takes to eat out.
- You have much more control over your environment…weight loss experts attribute the number one reason for success or failure on a diet to…(drumroll, please)…their environment. If you’re out at a restaurant and see french fries on the menu, you’ll have to use your willpower to order a side salad instead. At home, you’re not likely to have french fries as an option, simply because they’re too time consuming to make. You’re much more likely to eat healthy when healthy food is all you bought at the store and all you have in your home. But eating somewhere like the Cheesecake Factory, with their seemingly endless entrees (have you seen the size of their menu?) and gazillion desserts (what is peppermint bark cheesecake?) will most likely result in you ordering something you would never prepare at home. Don’t rely on willpower to help you win that fight. Just choose not to go there and you’ll easily win that battle.
It’s true that Tim Ferriss sold more than a few copies of his book The 4- Hour Workweek by encouraging the outsourcing of pretty much everything. However, food preparation is much too important to trust to, well, anyone. Outsource your dry cleaning, your car repairs and your heart surgery, but don’t outsource your food. Make it yourself. Stay away from restaurants.
I once read that the best rationale for managing your own money is that no one cares more about your money than you do. I think that applies as much to food preparation and your own health as it does to investing. No one cares about your health more than you do. So manage it yourself. Don’t relay up on restaurants to do it for you.