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Thrifty Tip – January

It’s kind of a crappy economy, in case you hadn’t noticed, so I’ve decided to add a monthly feature this year on how to be a bit more thrifty.  I gotta tell ya – you’re not going to find out how to buy $12,000 worth of groceries for a used piece of gum and some broken shoelaces.  I can’t tell you how to take that European vacation for the cost of a Happy Meal.  But I can give you some of my favorite ideas for stretching the dollars you’re going to spend – even if you’re going to spend them a little frivolously.

My January tip, now that you’ve all broken those New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight and get in shape, involves eating.  Good food, big portions, lots to take home.  You were tired of celery by now anyway, weren’t you?

Maggiano’s Little Italy is a chain Italian restaurant with a pretty extensive menu.  If you go with a party of four or more people, you can opt a family style dining service instead of ordering from the regular menu.  Your choices are pretty extensive, and you can tailor your price range by ordering light, classic or chef’s choice.  Light, which runs about $20 per adult includes two appetizers, two salads, two pastas, and a dessert of lemon cookies.  Classic offers two appetizers, two salads, four main courses, and two dessert options for about $28 per adult.  If you want even more options, the Chef’s Choice gives you the same number combination as the Classic, but opens up menu items that include a shrimp scampi appetizer, lobster carbonara as a pasta choice, and several veal dishes for a meat option.  It will cost you about $10 more than the classic to upgrade.

Now, I see you clutching your chest and breathing rapidly over the price for Italian food.  You know you can go to the Olive Garden all you can eat pasta and get bread sticks and salad and spend less than $15 per person, but you know you’re going to go there, fill yourself up with all that nasty good for you salad, and only be able to eat one bowl of pasta.  Game over.

At Maggiano’s, you can get refills on whatever you want!  Did the kids polish off the fried calamari at their end of the table before it ever made it to your end?  No problem!  Your waiter happily brings you more calamari.  Did you love, love, love the Caesar salad so much that you are licking the plate, embarrassing your children, and frightening other guests who think they’re in the presence of some wild savage woman who has been starved on NutriSystem for months?  Before you can wipe the dripping dressing off of your chin, you waiter will bring you another plate of salad.

So, because you’ve really had more than a full meal of appetizers and salad, those yummy entrees you were looking forward to now look like your eyes were too big for your tummy.  And that happy waiter will have boxes out to you quicker than your tubby little overstuffed self can roll out of your chair.

How is this a value, you ask?  Because I’m going to take home almost all of the entrees I ordered and some nice dessert, and maybe a handful of over ordered calamari appetizer.  When I hear someone the next day say, “What’s for dinner??” I’m going to pull out my fabulous treasure trove of someone else cooked them for me leftovers, add a bag of salad, and I can almost always get two more dinners out of what we bring home.

So, for $20 per adult (on the Light Menu), I’m feeding us three meals – and we’ve gotten the bonus of an evening out on the town.  Which we wanted anyway, even in this crappy economy!

I think this is a pretty thrifty tip!