Ordering takeout occurs with some frequency in our abode. It keeps us from falling into a culinary rut and lets us feel like we’re treating ourselves. However, it’s always a challenge to do so cheaply and healthily. Sesame Chicken is tempting, see. So are sushi and pad thai and chicken parm and samosas and nachos and … oh man, I just wet myself. Anyway, my budget and waistline are forever working against me, and sometimes I have to eschew the deep-fried diamond-encrusted dodo eggs for something simpler and less heart attacky.
With that in mind, today’s post is a short-n-handy reference guide to ordering meals by phone. Essentially, it’s eight different, common takeout cuisines with a few inexpensive, semi-nutritionally sound foods assigned to each one. Weight Watchers, Calorie King, and Real Simple helped provide the health information, while the previously mentioned 14 Brooklyn-area menus supplied the pricing. For brevity’s sake, it concentrates on takeout only, since restaurant dining is a whole other ball of noodles.
Ah, but before we begin, a few tips on maximizing your cheap, healthy experience:
- If you order an unexpectedly large portion, put half in the fridge as soon as you have it. It’ll make for a great lunch tomorrow.
- Remember that you may get more bang for your buck from some takeout joints (Chinese, Indian) than from others (Japanese). If you’re looking to feed a crowd, the less-expensive option might be the better choice.
- To reduce cost, calories, and fat all at the same time, minimize fried foods and go easy on the meat and cheese.
- Consider ordering appetizers only, as they can be much less expensive.
- If you’re concerned about calories, fat, or sodium, check nutritional information online before ordering. Calorie King is a great general reference, and many chain restaurants have the stats posted somewhere on their sites.
- Have condiments or light dressings at home? Use ‘em and save packets that come with the meal.
- If you have a similar item in the pantry, don’t order beverages.
- Save the environment! Tell the phone operator you don’t need utensils, since you have silverware in your kitchen.
- Tip the delivery guy. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford takeout.
And now, the list! (Incidentally, I'd love to add to this, so if you have suggestions, please bring 'em on.)
Chicken, shrimp, or vegetable egg foo yung
Chinese vegetables with tofu
Egg drop or hot and sour soup
Steamed chicken, shrimp, or vegetables with brown or garlic sauce on the side
Steamed shrimp or vegetable dumplings
White or brown rice
Bean burrito (easy on the cheese and sour cream)
Black bean soup
Black or pinto beans
Chicken or vegetable soft taco (easy on the cheese)
Rice and beans
Salsa or pico de gallo
Chicken satay (easy on the peanut sauce)
Salads (minus peanuts, no or light dressing)
Thai chicken with basil (breast)
Thai seafood salad
Tom yum kung (hot-and-sour shrimp soup)
Chicken, shrimp, tofu, or vegetable soba
Chicken, shrimp, tofu, or vegetable udon
Maki sushi (in small quantities)
Nigiri sushi (in small quantities)
Nori maki sushi (in small quantities)
Steamed vegetable dumplings
Greek salad (no or lite dressing)
Souvlaki (1 skewer)
Shish kebab (marinated meat and vegetables)
Tabbouleh (1/2 cup)
Yogurt and cucumber soup
Bean and/or lentil stew
Chicken tikka masala
Lassi (1 cup)
Tandoori chicken without skin
Linguini with red clam sauce (1 cup pasta, ½ cup sauce)
Pasta primavera (1 cup pasta, ¾ cup sauce)
Salad (no or lite dressing)
Thin-crust cheese pizza (one slice)
(Photo courtesy of msnbc.)