As a self-confessed workaholic with an extremely packed schedule, I am an avid user of food delivery services. Managing five classes, an honors concentration, two jobs, and a student government role takes up the majority of my week — which is why in this “age of convenience,” I’m more than willing to invest in anything that saves me time and helps me work without interruption. If you checked my credit card statement a few months ago, it would undoubtedly be full of charges for Doordash, Seamless, and Postmates.
However, when I noticed that my checking account was draining unexpectedly quickly, I began to tabulate my monthly expenses to see if I could figure out why. Upon calculating, I was shocked — every month, I was spending upwards of $200 on food delivery alone, not even counting the times I ate out with friends, shopped, or treated myself to the occasional ice cream!
Despite my attachment to delivery, my checking account said it all: I couldn’t sustain this habit forever. While reconsidering my options for getting meals, I realized that there are several things I’m missing out on when I’m ordering food for delivery, and that there are benefits that come with scaling back.
I can practice my cooking skills while eating healthier
I’m no master chef. In the past, I’ve cited various excuses for not cooking more, such as the small counter space in my apartment, the time it takes to cook something (when I could be working instead), or the mess that I have to clean up afterwards. However, in trying to order out less, I’ve pushed myself to learn quick, nutritious meals that I can make in one container, like roasted garlic broccoli, couscous with vegetables, or whole wheat pasta. Now, cooking has become a source of joy and accomplishment, as well as a way of bettering my health. I know exactly what goes into my meals and can cut out MSG or the unhealthy amount of oils and salt that restaurants often use.
I save money
While food prices are almost always the same online as they are in the restaurant, the total cost of your order can sneak up on you: in addition to the price of the food itself, delivery services tack on several fees that rack up the final cost. Apart from tax and the delivery fee, delivery sites also charge you an “operating cost” based on your subtotal that sometimes equates to several dollars — not to mention the tip for your delivery person! All these additional charges mean that ordering a single item that costs $10 could end up totaling $16 or more. Meanwhile, every time I pick up food or make my own dishes is a chance to save at least $5. And while buying groceries and fresh produce initially seemed like a deterrent since it was a heftier upfront investment, I calculated that I could get more value out of the things I could make, especially if I found dishes that used many of the same ingredients.
I spend more time outdoors
Choosing not to order in doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing the chance to eat restaurant-quality food. I’ll occasionally place a phone order for pickup, then walk to the restaurant to get my food. Taking a walk allows me to clear my mind and take a break from the trap of working in the office, while getting a little bit of exercise and a change of environment. Working as much and for as many hours as I do means that I rarely get the chance to breathe fresh air, and ordering food for pickup grants me that chance.
I can explore my neighborhood
After walking around more, I discovered that many local restaurants do not offer delivery. Were it not for my exploration, I would never have found what are now some of my favorite places to eat. By going outside more, I’ve discovered not only potential dinner spots; but also new cafes, small (but picture-perfect) parks, and even interesting people. As a result of pushing myself to explore, I’ve grown fonder of the area where I live, and I am able to find beauty and wonder in its nooks and crannies, something I’d never be able to do while stuck inside waiting for my food to come.
Originally published on February 11, 2019.