Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tips from the Road: Avoiding Fatness & Financial Ruin

I was giving a budget workshop to some young singers the other (yes, I am doing that now! Let me know if you have some young minds in your grasp you would like me to infiltrate). We were looking at budget items and of course dining out came up. I had a figure I was using and someone astutely asked "how did you come up with that figure?" Having come up with the figure quite some time ago, and thus not really remembering, I blithely said:
 "Oh.... just add up what you think you might actually spend on food in a day.... say, $5 for breakfast, $10 for lunch, maybe $25 for dinner & drinks.... so... what is that?.... $40 a day? Then multiply by 30 days... and that is...hmm.... OH MY GOD..... No, No, there is NO way I spend $1200 a month on dining out!!!" 
 And no, of course I do not, but the experience was eye-opening to say the least. Because I could spend that much.  I certainly could.

There is a tendency, at times, to think, "oh, I'm out of town. It's almost like vacation, except I'm working really hard too.... I deserve a nice hot dinner at the end of the day." 

And that, my friend, is the road to financial ruin, not to mention fatness.

The answer is simple of course:  Make your own damn food.
When I talk to other vagabonds, it is the number one thing they say they wish they had learned sooner.
Yes, it is mildly inconvenient, and a bit less social, but eating a nice bowl of homemade chili at home, even with all the fixings, will knock you out about $2 max.  Go, crazy, have a beer.... even a fancy one.... you've just set yourself back another $2.  

Mark Bittman wrote a great little piece about this called Cooking Solves Everything: How Time in the Kitchen Can Save Your Health, Your Budget, and Even the Planet." Check it out:

So.... the tip (part 2!): 
Go ahead and make yourself a universal grocery list that includes all the things you need to pick up to really get going in the kitchen. You might have two versions of this: one for times when you have a full kitchen, and one for times when you have to be a little more creative with a microwave and mini-fridge.

I know this can be tough. EVERY SINGLE GIG I start off with big plans to revamp my eating habits. But I find that if my fridge is ONLY stocked with kale and spinach and other virtuous items, and someone says “wanna grab a beer?” after rehearsal, then I am 100% more likely to grab a beer and a meal. Healthy eating fail. So I try to be realistic, and of course include healthy options, but also make sure to pick up a bottle of red wine or some other nice treat that will help me make the choice to come home and cook instead of living it up at the brew pub down the street.

Obviously, your universal grocery list is going to be full of your own personal choices, but mine looks a little like this: butter, coffee, eggs, mayo, mustard, hot sauce, spinach, broccoli, lemon, dried beans, ground beef, onion, can of tomatoes. red wine, dark chocolate. It used to include milk and yogurt, but I am trying to wean myself off of the dairy. I eat ALOT of eggs, and usually have a few hard-boiled on hand as well. I'm also a fan of a big pot of chili that will last for days and days.

Stuff I try to remember to bring with me from home: a good knife, chili powder, salt & pepper, some small ziploc tupperware.


Ps. Great article from Bon Appetit on making a better desk lunch.

Interested in other Tips from the Road? Check 'em out:

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