T he weather this past weekend had the perfect drab, monochrome feeling that makes everyone want to just curl up in bed with a good book for days on end — and that’s just about what I did.
Ambitious plans for fourteeners and long runs got shortened in favor of tea and naps and happy hour got converted into wine and s’mores — both at home. I ended up feeling a lot like an over-wintering rodent: hiding out in my basement apartment, much like mice insulate themselves under the snow all winter long. And a lot like rodents with conveniently cached food stores, I also passed a lot of my time eating, or preparing to eat. Friends came over to make dinner, or I went to their houses for a campfire and snacks.
Partially, the weather was to blame — cold outside makes a warm and brightly lit kitchen so much more appealing — but staying home is also a veteran cheapster trick. As my friends and I joked about being lame at home, we realized we’ve been doing it a lot recently.
Yes, I know staying home has a kind of boring, party-pooper ring to it — but it doesn’t always have to! In the spring I wrote about the good parts of drinking at home; this week, I’m all about eating. I mean, how much do a couple servings of rice cost? A dollar or so? Add some beans and a few veggies and you’re up to maybe six dollars.
Even happy hour prices aren’t that cheap. To be fair, you could add the cost of your labor: a student’s wage is $10 an hour, but honestly, would you be doing anything more productive in that time? Yeah, probably not. Hang out with friends as you cook, and then it’s social and productive time.
Buying groceries is so much cheaper than going out to eat. You can practically buy anything,without feeling guilty (although maybe still skip the caviar, and the organic starfruits in December). Day-old bakery markdown items (especially at King Soopers) and clearance items are personal favorites of mine.
One of my favorite parts about cooking at home is that you don’t have to look even vaguely presentable: lounge in your pajamas. As a matter of fact, one of my friends preferentially cooks in the same attire every time: a colonial-looking nightgown and slippers.
Our apartment’s hot plate has been getting plenty of use recently: I made broccoli with peanut sauce recently and my roommate has been making pasta, veggies and sweet potatoes.
Maybe it’s not the most glamorous way to spend time, and all of you who broke speed records on your bikes or wrestled cougars into submission over the weekend are allowed to feel superior.
But this is one way to save money on a day-to-day basis without sacrificing much in return. The best part is that your friends will be so grateful for a real, home-cooked meal that they’ll buy you drinks next time you do go out. As much fun as cooking in can be, let’s face it: inevitably, we’ll all be out again soon.
Vivian Underhill is an environmental sciences major at CU and writes about being cheap once a week for the Colorado Daily.