10 Reasons Why I’d Rather Have You Over for Dinner Than Go Out to a Restaurant

Hello, duckling! Long time, no see. Of course, I’d love to have dinner with you and catch up, but to be honest, I’m not feeling inspired to go out to eat tonight. Why don’t you come over to my place instead? It might be a little out of your way, but I think I can make it worth your while, as well as mine. Need some convincing?

1. It’s cheaper
Does this part even need to be said? I’ll get it out of the way. Even if you buy a bottle of wine on your way over (you shouldn’t have! but let’s get this puppy opened up), you are obviously coming out way ahead here. But, generally, so am I. Making dinner for two (or three, or four), is still less expensive than a comparable dinner for one in a restaurant. That spinach and feta frittata that goes for $12 a slice at the local bruncherie? It’ll feed all of us for under $10, and that is with the expensive cage-free eggs. Some economists might argue that the time I put into shopping, cooking and cleaning up afterward represents opportunity cost, and that if I value my time at $20 per hour, then an hour of cooking equals $20 spent in a restaurant. To which I would respond that I am not making money every single moment of the day, nor would I want to.

 

2. Knowing your food
New York restaurants now earn letter grades from the Department of Health, but what does that “B” in the window really mean? I can guarantee a strict adherence to the five-second rule in my kitchen. (Note: I am not serving you food that was dropped on my floor for even a millisecond, I promise. Just a little piece of cauliflower fell on the floor, but I threw it away because I knew you were coming over.) I can also guarantee that the soup does not count chicken broth among its ingredients, and that everything that should be fresh, is. I can also guarantee that the person stirring the soup was not feeling a little flu-ey, but came in anyway to avoid getting her pay docked.

 

3. Atmosphere
When you come over, we won’t be forced to listen to any loud, boring conversations at adjacent tables, nor will they be drowned out by blaring techno. We will admire each other’s familiar faces by the glow of candlelight in brass candlesticks that I inherited from my grandparents, listening to music that I picked out with you in mind. We won’t suffer cold drafts whenever the door opens.

 

4. Miss Boris Karloff
My cat is more social than most, and doesn’t love being left alone all night. I don’t love leaving her alone all night, either. And she misses you! Remember the last time you came over and she sniffed your hand, then sort of walked against you so it was like you were petting her with your leg? That means she likes you.

 

5. My cooking
Cooking may be a daily chore, but it is the best chore there is. What other necessary daily task stimulates all five senses, fires creativity, builds problem-solving skills and ends in something delicious? I’m not up for tackling every dish in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but my mac and cheese is better than you’ll get in 90 percent of restaurants, and if I drizzle truffle oil on top, that number approaches 99 percent. I glaze over when the waiter goes into the specials, but I love telling you about what’s on your plate. Like the chili? The secret ingredient is… a secret. I’ll tell you the next time you’re over. But if you like the cornbread on the side, you might be interested to know that I mixed shredded Gruyère into the batter.

 

6. Check anxiety
I recently realized that my life can be very neatly divided into two parts. First came the part where you and I would go out to dinner with all our friends, throw in for the check, and invariably run short. Then we would all begrudgingly pony up a few dollars more, except for that one person convinced that because the menu listed the salad as $7, $7 was exactly his or her share of the check. One night, when we were counting up the money for the check, we realized: We were set. Everyone had accounted for tax and a decent tip, and no one was expecting change. And life became less complicated. However, I still have residual check anxiety. Am I going to pay? Are you going to pay? Are we going to split the check down the middle? Are we going to pay according to what we ate? Did somebody treat last time? Let’s just take cash out of the equation altogether.

 

7. Leftovers
Yes, they will wrap up the food for us at a restaurant, but what if we haven’t really been planning on it from the beginning? Is it really worth it to take home a couple of forkfuls? Sometimes that giant plate of food really would have lasted through lunch tomorrow, but something happens to the leftovers on the way home, or I forget to put them in the fridge for the next day. I want leftovers when I want them, in the amounts I want them, with little to no effort on the part of my tired brain. You are also more than welcome to take home as much as you want! Unfortunately, you will not be relieved of the schlepping and forgetfulness that plagues plans to take home a doggie bag from anywhere, even my apartment.

 

8. Time flexibility—front end
You and I don’t often make plans at restaurants that require reservations, but we do aim to get to the restaurant at roughly the same time. But what if one of us gets stuck at work? The other one is left hanging around, trying to not get too drunk at the bar, or finagling a slot on “the list” despite the fact that our entire party is not ready to be seated. When you come over, all time concerns basically melt away. If I’m running behind, you can drag a chair into the kitchen and chat with me as I cook. If you text me to say you’ll be on the late side, I can turn everything down to a simmer and stream sitcoms while I wait.

 

9. Time flexibility—back end
I don’t need to turn over this table, and you brought this wine (thanks again, by the way), so we might as well finish it and get silly while we watch baby elephant videos on YouTube. We can even digest dinner for a bit before we start thinking about dessert.

 

10. I like nourishing people
You’re my friend—it makes me happy to make you happy. A relaxed evening, tasty food, perhaps even some feline company—what could be more nourishing than that, for body and soul? It’s well worth doing a few dishes afterwards.

 

Elise Nussbaum lives in Jersey City with a husband and a cat.

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44 Comments / Post A Comment

I posted this to my Facebook feed before I even finished reading, I agree that hard. I hope everyone comes over for dinner now.

joyballz (#2,000)

Anyone else having menu anxiety thinking about this?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@joyballz I always enjoy my own cooking, but I worry it’s not good enough for anyone else (except my bf, because he’ll take what he can get).

joyballz (#2,000)

@bgprincipessa EXACTLY! I’m perfectly happy mashing up an avocado with some garlic salt and lime juice and calling it a pasta sauce or eating 3 different types of bread product for dinner. I’d have to step it up to host and it sounds great, but I get a little worried about pleasing everyone.

Catface (#1,106)

@joyballz If you’re my friend and you invite me over to dinner and serve me nachos, then those nachos are going to be delicious. Don’t be anxious, just trust and invite. (Also: wine heals all wounds.)

joyballz (#2,000)

@Catface Good point. I’ve never felt weird about ANYTHING that my friend’s have served so I should just drink more wine and go with it. I like this plan.

@joyballz I’m pretty sure I have had that exact meal at a friend’s house, but he chopped up tomatoes into the avocado pasta sauce and I think mixed some milk in too. And at various other friends’ houses I’ve had tongue tacos and pizza with peaches and pickles on it. I love seeing what my friends eat, even if it isn’t always to my taste.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Catface Great advice. I’ll take that to heart.
@joyballz – with pasta?!! I mean, avocado makes everything better, so I guess I should try it.
@MilesofMountains – and milk??!!! WHAT are you guys telling me? tongue tacos?

EM (#1,012)

@joyballz When in doubt, mac and cheese with truffle oil! If your friends don’t like mac and cheese you should probably throw them away and get new friends.

joyballz (#2,000)

@bgprincipessa I modify this recipe: http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2012/08/creamy-avocado-pasta.html

basically I mash the avocado with some lime or lemon juice, garlic salt some olive oil and then this weird mustard sauce I got from trader joe’s. it’s DELISH. but not super pretty.

joyballz (#2,000)

@Michelle cooking mac n cheese is my secret fear. well, not anymore. I’m afraid I’ll mess it up and feel like a failure because seriously how can someone mess up cheese+pasta?

I’ve also messed up easy mac before so that may be where this is stemming from. Care to share a relatively foolproof recipe?

@joyballz This general method (http://budgetbytes.blogspot.ca/2012/06/miracle-mac-n-cheese-342-recipe-086.html) works very nicely. I hate messing with thickening sauces so I find this the easiest way. There is the danger of burning it, which I almost did once, but rescued it before any damage was done.

joyballz (#2,000)

@This is my new user name Thanks!! I love budgetbytes so I’m feeling more confident now. Maybe you’ll see “mac n cheese” ingredients in my friday estimate…

EM (#1,012)

@joyballz We usually use this Cooking For Engineers recipe, becuase we’re nerds: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/recipe/230/Macaroni-and-Cheese-Bake

You end up with like two big casserole dishes, so it’s good to cut in half. We usually substitute the cheeses (any combination is good, but we do cheddar + gouda/edam + mozza usually), use panko instead of making our own breadcrumbs. Also you can’t go wrong throwing in some bacon and chopped broccoli/mushrooms/fresh peas.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@joyballz !!! I have all those ingredients. As long as my avocado is ripe, making that tonight. Thanks!

joyballz (#2,000)

@bgprincipessa good luck! added rec: I prefer bowtie pasta because they suck up the avocado the best.

amglory89 (#3,588)

@Michelle This. Really. Everyone likes mac and cheese.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@amglory89 I’m lactose intolerant. *throws self away*

amglory89 (#3,588)

@TARDIStime Im so sorry for your loss. I also make a really good sausage and red pepper bow tie dish without an lactose!

kellyography (#250)

I would love to have people over for dinner. It is actually kind of a dream of mine. Unfortunately, I live with three other people and no dining area, and I can’t really cook at all. Not all dreams come true. But I loved this!

joyballz (#2,000)

@kellyography I can’t remember if this was linked here, or hairpin or the one other site I read, but: http://www.brit.co/microwave-brunch/

And to echo what @catface said: mimosas heal all wounds.

lapgiraffe (#1,336)

Ehhhhh, I don’t know, this whole thing rubbed me the wrong way. Who needs multiple reasons, much less ten, to dine at home with friends? Is there not a place for both dining out and dining in? And I’m really sick of it being a given that cooking at home is 100%, all the time, guaranteed to be the cheaper option. That’s great you can scrap together some quiche or chile on the cheap, but why are you comparing it to a dinner out which is probably not to a place specializing in quiche or chili. I invite friends over for casual dinner, which is more likely to be cheaper than the restaurant option, but if I’m putting together something nicer, I end up paying several times more. The protein for more than a couple of people is enough to push the needle over to the other side all on its own.

Realized recently that the rotisserie chicken at my grocery is cheaper than buying the raw chicken, and the irony that those on food stamps (and there are many who shop at this market who are), they could not buy that pre-cooked chicken, despite it being the more affordable option. Coupled with this article, now thinking about our contradictory viewpoints on cooking at home. We’re willing to discuss the problems of “real food” being more expensive than processed food, and how that negatively impacts those people who make the least in society, but then you get to talk about people who are perhaps not wealthy, but no impoverished, and there’s this whole “it’s so much cheaper to cook at home, you crazy!!!” when guess what, the prices are the same! Produce, meat, dairy – whole food components for real cooking – it’s not cheap! Real food cost real money, and I think there’s a lot of ignoring how you can get a very nice meal with expensive ingredients at a restaurant for a rather reasonable amount of money, if you were to be honest and reflect on the ingredients alone, not to mention the kitchen staff and the lack of any effort on your part.

Dining out every meal, or even a majority of your meals, is not the economically efficient way to live, but it’s not the big ripoff everyone makes it out to be. Especially considering the many different options in dining out these days, a lot of competition, a lot of opportunity to get good food at good prices, and it need not be demonized by those who are content to eat chili all week because it cost you $1 per serving.

Don’t even get me started on the cat…..

@lapgiraffe I agree, cooking at home with the same quality ingredients you would get in a restaurant is not in any way cheaper – except for your guests, who are eating for free minus the cost of a bttle of wine/hostess gift.

@lapgiraffe It’s not cheaper for you to host one meal, but if you and your friends take turns hosting it works out to be pretty cheap. Other than fast food, there’s no where in my town where eating out will cost less than about $25 each to eat dinner (assuming you get a drink, and it gets expensive quick if you have more than one), but with $12 I can buy a chicken that will serve 5 easily, plus $20 worth of sides, and a $12 bottle of wine. If I then get two or three free meals from my friends, that’s definitely saving money.

ThatJenn (#916)

@MilesofMountains My other trick for making hosting people cheaper: do it regularly, so I know I’ll be doing it sometime soon and can stock up on relevant stuff when it’s on sale.

But yes, I do agree that cooking for people is not always cheaper than going out. Still, it’s a nice possibility that generally isn’t much more expensive and does have some other advantages.

hellonheels (#1,407)

@lapgiraffe I would argue that as long as all parties are drinking, which in the case of any dinner with friends I’ve ever attended has been the case, dinner at home is cheaper than dinner out much more often than not. Maybe it’s partially due to the high cost of living where I am, but the cost of two glasses of wine can easily exceed the cost of an entree. And just because you’re having guests doesn’t mean you have to serve expensive portions of meat or fish. Unless you live in a true food desert (which, of course many do, but not the vast majority of the people this post is targeting) it is not difficult to serve a relatively elegant three course dinner for four for under $20 for ingredients. Add in another $10 for a couple of bottles of medium quality wine and you are still spending roughly the same amount of money on dinner for four as you would for one at a moderately priced restaurant in most major cities.

@lapgiraffe Thank you! I’ve noticed the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken thing, too (at Whole Foods and Fairway, no less).

OK, I agree that if everyone’s drinking, yes, it will be cheaper to eat at home (someone’s home.)

And, also, I agree that this applies primarily to people who already cook (was it in this comment thread? another?). Back in another life, I cooked a lot: I had everything one needed, spice-wise, and since I cooked a lot cooking was easy. I could whip up even fairly elaborate dishes with little effort, and it made sense to have lots of spices/oils/whatever on hand because I would use them. I can’t even get through a bottle of red wine vinegar within a year these days…

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area has permanently soured me on hosting dinner parties. The expectations for the food people expect to receive at someone’s house are so high! My cooking skills are intermediate at best, and combine that with the pressure to have a spotless, tastefully-decorated house and the anxiety I’m experiencing has me toying with the idea of becoming a hermit just thinking about it.

Catface (#1,106)

@KathleenD@twitter I recommend getting some different friends. Tip: avoid anyone who self-describes as a “foodie,” or else only go out to eat with these people and let them do all the talking about the food (and they will). I worry that this sounds like I’m being snotty to you, but I’m so not, I sympathize.

@Catface I hear what you’re saying about different friends. I and all my friends are “makers” and “artisans” by profession, so no matter what I make, somebody I invite can do it better, and possibly has been, all day, in a commercial kitchen.

I make clothes, so maybe they feel the same way about me and clothes shopping.

@Catface It just dawned on me that I should have potlucks. THANK YOU CATFACE AND OTHER BILLFOLD COMMENTERS! You are doing the Lord’s work.

Catface (#1,106)

@KathleenD@twitter Bless you, my child. Go forth and enjoy a nice dinner with kind and reasonable people. (And don’t forget the booze!)

Entertaining can be expensive if you are serving high end cuts of meat, etc. I do have more leeway at home in terms of menu than a restaurant will. I can suit my taste and budget exactly – steaks for fat weeks and brunch for thin ones. I still find it costs about the same to host dinner for six than to pay for two at a nice restaurant, plus we can linger over our meal. Also it’s fun to see other people’s house/gardens and share mine.

Tatiana (#194)

Loved this post!

EM (#1,012)

I like having people over, although I also like going out because THAI FOOD and also no dishes, but all of the above are twice as convincing when it comes to meeting people for drinks. In the winter: drinks inside where it is cozy, save millions of dollars. In the summer: beers discreetly wrapped in paper bags in the park or on the beach, save millions of dollars. I hate spending the same amount of money on two glasses of wine that I could spend on a bottle of wine to drink at home and still have enough money left over for snacks to go with it.

rorow (#1,665)

the costs of hosting vs. going out also depends on how much you cook. if you need to stock the pantry with grains and spices and oils and the like, it adds up. if you just need a protein and some veg, it’s not expensive.

i’m a perfectionist so since moving into my NYC shoebox without a dining room table i haven’t had more than one person over for a meal, but when i had a house in Vancouver we did massive brunch parties and Thanksgivings and birthday dinners and it was fucking awesome.

Irrelevant to the discussion of money, but while I’m sure Miss Boris Carloff is lovely, those friends who are allergic (like me) might have a problem with her presence.

rorow (#1,665)

@Jackie Officecouch i was hankering for an invite until i saw that line.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Jackie Officecouch Cat allergies are the worst factor in my social life. :( Everyone I know owns cats and it means I can’t sit on anything upholstered at their house or stay for more than an hour or so. Though ultimately it just means I host everything, which is mostly fine.

sox (#246)

@Jackie Officecouch Whenever I’m havin people over I don’t know well or haven’t had over before, such as for a clothing swap, I make sure to mention my cat in the invite for that very reason!

limenotapple (#1,748)

I wonder if I’m the only person here who doesn’t particularly like going to other people’s houses to eat. I guess I’m a picky eater though. Also if they let their little kids help prepare the meal…*shudder*…all I can think about is sticky little fingers. And if they have pets it’s guaranteed Not Fun. (I’m growing sort of curmudgeonly in my old age?)

@limenotapple No, I get where you’re coming from.

Thisthisthisthisthis. Linking to this article on my blog immediately.

I would be down for everything but the truffle oil. Stay away from truffle oil.

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