I’m sure you have heard that old line, “Don’t play with your food.” As much as parents may often try to get their kids to stop playing with the foods on their plates and just eat, the kids somewhat have it right. Food is fun, and eating can be a really enjoyable fun experience.
Many people are under the wrong impression that food is only entertaining when you’re out to dinner at a restaurant or when you’re splurging on throwing an expensive dinner party. But the truth is you do not have to spend a lot of money to have fun with food and to combine entertainment and food into one. Here are some simple ways you can start to have fun with food, enjoy what you’re eating, combine entertainment and food, and save money all at the same time:
How to Have Fun with Food and Save Money
- Have a potluck with friends.
It’s always fun to get together with your friends and family, but if you’re going out to dinner all the time, it could add up pretty fast. Instead, as an alternative to dining out , throw a pot luck. Have everyone bring an affordable dish and whatever they would like to drink. Now you can try your friends’ favorite meal, have a great time together, and avoid spending a ton on a restaurant meal, drinks, and tip. You can even set a type of theme such as brunch foods or Italian dishes. Another option is suggesting everyone cook with a specific ingredient that everyone must put in their dish, such as cheddar cheese, bacon, or pretzels. If you end up liking the pot luck idea, you and your friends can switch off hosting and make it a new tradition.
- Switch up dinner and a movie.
A night at the movie and heading out to dinner is pretty costly. Instead, have dinner and a movie at home. You can base what you cook for dinner off of the movie you’re watching for a theme night. If the movie takes place in another country, cook the ethnic food. Even if the movie takes place in the U.S., cook something from the region, like barbecue if the movie takes place in the South, pizza if it takes place in New York, Chicago-style hot dogs if it takes place in Chicago, and so on. If you’ve seen the movie before, you can also try to make something that was in the movie.
- Set a limit on a lunch or dinner out.
Before you head out with a friend or your partner, challenge them (or yourself) to find a meal for a certain amount. Pick a neighborhood or area nearby. Choose an amount, say $10 per person for lunch. And then they can find a restaurant where you can get a meal for under $10 each. It doesn’t have to be at one place either. Maybe you want to combine a few small bites at a couple different places. Combining side dishes, appetizers, or small items, like tacos or soup, is a fun way to try a bunch of different restaurants. To make it even more affordable, you can avoid places where you are sitting down so you can limit the tips.
- Recreate a memorable meal.
Try to recreate a meal that you’ve had in the past. Whether it was something you ate on a family vacation, a meal you had at a specific restaurant, or something you ate for a special occasion. Just try to use what you have, and stick to a budget when you’re shopping. It doesn’t have to be exact. Use the meal as inspiration. If you had lobster tacos and a mac n’ cheese on a trip, have vegetarian tacos and something similar. Just get creative with it.
- Have a picnic.
Having a picnic is great because you’re getting out of the house, enjoying a meal, and it’s super cheap. Find a scenic area where you can set up, and dig in on things you’ve brought from home and made yourself. You can turn it into a daylong event by biking, hiking, or enjoying other things that the area has to offer.
- Scope out free samples.
You’d be surprised at just how much free food may be right around you. When a new restaurant is opening up, they may start passing out free samples to try to attract business. Grocery stores often offer free tastes of products. Costco is known for offering lots of samples at mealtimes . Specialty stores, like a cheese shop, offers tastes of their products so you know what you’re buying. You might also find free food at happy hour bar specials if you buy a drink.
- Do a “Chopped” session.
If you’ve never seen the Food Network’s show Chopped, check it out online. Chefs open a basket with three or four mystery ingredients and then have to create a delicious meal out of it. With a friend or your partner, grab a few of these things and see what you can create out of it. You can use what you already have on hand or pick out a few inexpensive items  from the grocery store. The chefs on the show have a stressful time limit, but you can just play for fun to take the edge off.
- Get creative with leftovers.
Throwing out food is a terrible waste. Besides wasting all of the time and effort you made to prepare something, you are wasting your hard earned money with everything you throw away. Instead, stop wasting food  and start having fun with your leftovers and get creative. Leftovers don’t have to be the same meal simply reheated. Try turning them into something completely different. Throw pot roast into quesadillas, turn leftover baked chicken into a pasta dish, or turn leftover vegetables into an omelet. You can find ideas online, on Pinterest, or by watching cooking shows. Making leftovers into something different is not only a way to use up your food and save money, but it can also be fun.
What are some ways you have fun with food that also save money? Which of these ideas would you like to try?
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