How to avoid takeout.

thYesterday I woke up with this phrase in my head: “Something about the bridge.” Not the conveyance type of bridge, but the kind in my mouth.

Unfortunately, my dentist appointment proved that my precognitive flash was correct. The X-rays showed decay in a place that can’t be fixed unless the dentist removes the cantilevered bridge (aka a “Maryland bridge”) to do it.

That bridge was on borrowed time anyway. It was installed 31 years ago. When I said as much, the dentist’s eyes widened. It’s had an impressive run, but time for it to go. And for a crown to be placed on that tooth.

My self-funded dental insurance covers only preventive work like X-rays and cleaning. The work needed will run a little over $1,200 if I pay by check. Which I will, of course.

My decidedly non-frugal reaction was to say, “Let’s go out to eat.” You can see that I wasn’t thinking clearly.

How could I? I’d just been handed a big bill. I hadn’t packed for my Fairbanks trip. I’d spent most of the day not working (dentist, business meeting, picking up a nephew). The fridge was bare of leftovers and we hadn’t taken anything out to thaw. I hadn’t eaten much that day and was hungry and dispirited.

Fortunately, DF was smarter than I am. Also very kind.

He told me he’d be happy to take me out to eat anywhere I wanted. But he gently pointed out that for the next three days I’d be eating out nonstop.

“That will be food made by people who do not love you,” he said, and offered to fix us some turkey burgers.


Prepared and shared with love

The instant he started sautéing onions, I knew he’d made the right call. The house took on a delicious aroma as he sliced potatoes and fried them, and warmed up a can of baked beans.

While he did this I packed for the trip and cleared some e-mails, reappearing in the kitchen in time to toast some rolls from the used bread store and get all the condiments out of the refrigerator.

While the burgers finished cooking we picked at the plate of potatoes, onions and some fruit-punch Koolickles that he’d also sliced. The caramelized onions plus some of our home-canned pickled cabbage turned the turkey burgers into gourmet sandwiches, and the side dishes were just right.

So the next time you think there’s nothing to eat and want to order takeout or go out to eat, the answer to your issue is probably in the freezer and cupboards. It may not be the answer you want, but it’s the answer our budgets often need.

Even if your dinner winds up being scrambled egg sandwiches or ramen and canned peaches, it’s still food and it’s not a budget-buster. Bonus: Food gets used up in good time vs. languishing for months or years.

Normally I would have done that myself but I didn’t because I was too cranky-pants that day. So thanks, DF, for bringing me back to my senses. My share of that mythical dinner out can go toward my dentist bill.

After all, the same meal eaten elsewhere would have cost us $20 or more. It also would have been prepared by people who do not love me.

P.S. Yes, I flossed before bedtime.

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  1. DF is a darling.

    It’s such a natural reaction to take that path of least resistance when stressed and worn out, isn’t it?

    Take out would have been PiC’s go-to as well but in recent months he’s become great at at least trying his hand at pantry cooking which has been invaluable for those times neither LB nor I can take it anymore. Now *I’m* the one asking for it once in a while and it’s a real treat, but I’m ever so conscious of having spent quite a bit more than usual on takeout since LB was born. I’m back in the kitchen more, now, thankfully.

  2. Donna Freedman

    Pantry cooking can save quite a bit — and I did find it restful to be in our own home vs. a noisy restaurant.
    Ad yes, DF really *is* a sweetheart.

  3. Luckily we are at least a 30 minute drive from restaurants. Unless I get bad news while in town, and immediately pick up food, I won’t have the energy to go out again! Keeps us from spending money to fix our emotions, rather than planning a nice meal out as a celebration.

  4. Yep, as soon as stress hits I don’t want anything difficult. I lean toward the path of least resistance and don’t look back.

    It’s a little easier now that I have my daytime meals taken care of (protein bars) and sometimes dinner (Tim’s mom). We still eat too much convenience food. But it’s a process.

  5. See if your dentist participates in Care Credit, and for how many months. Zero interest if paid off in the agreed upon number of months.

    • Donna Freedman

      If I didn’t have the money I’d check that out. But I do, so I’ll just suck it up and pay it all. I’ll save $60 or so if I pay in cash, and I’ve decided to look at it this way: I don’t want to take $1,222 out of savings all at once, but thank God I have it and don’t have to go into debt to get this fixed.

  6. Holly S

    ONLY $1200. You are luckey. Today I am starting a many month journey that will be $7000: 2 extractions, bone grafts, bridge & tooth implant.

    • Donna Freedman

      Well, the $1,200 is a start. The dentist said the tooth next to it also needs a cap and that yeah, I should consider a couple of implants because I’d lost other teeth on that side. That won’t be happening any time soon because cash flow.
      Take heart because you’re lucky, too. Abby and Tim are are looking at $25,000 or so for his implants. They’d already spent a ton just getting the remainder of his teeth pulled and dentures made. Sigh.
      A close friend of mine has had two implants done, with bone grafts. She said it was “a little achy” but not too bad. I hope that’s the case for you and Tim.

  7. jestjack

    MAN….I’ll agree with others that $1200 is a pretty good price. Like you, I have been having the same feeling with a “bridge in my mouth”. And as crazy as it sounds I’m thinking this thing is a bit over 30 years old. I recall well when my old dentist , who has since retired, predicted the bridge would last 20-25 years but that my “mileage may vary”. And like you my dental plan basically covers preventive visits and offers a bit of a discount on procedures. Another reason I hate going to the dentist….Good luck on the fix…

    • Donna Freedman

      That’s what my dentist said: “This should last you about 20 years.” And it has. And then some.
      I don’t begrudge money spent on health. That is, I don’t want to spend it but it’s for a good reason vs. something like a paintball sessions or a fur coat.

  8. Cathy in NJ

    I am such an emotional eater. Why does life have to push the distress button so often? I am not a fast food burger, or pizza lover. My goto is sweet and chocolate, my drug and happy pill of choice. After I devour the nearest chocolate treat, which is not good for my blood sugar or waist line, I could hold off for the home meal.

    • Donna Freedman

      I, too, am an emotional eater (although I call it “stress eating”). But I’m working on it because, as you note, it’s not good for me.
      One suggestion I heard is to eat few to no sweets during the week and allow yourself whatever you want on the weekends. Although at first I fear I might overdose on the ice cream or whatever due to perceived “deprivation” during the week, I expect that attitude would adjust.
      Right now I’m in Fairbanks and eating out means more temptation. Sigh.

  9. Lisa O

    You are a lucky women with your DF! He is looking out for you in many ways and he made something yummy for both of you!

    I found myself Sunday after being busy all day pondering the old order out cause I have puttered all day and it was dinner time. Then I thought to myself…its Sunday lets clean out what is in the refrigerator and it was an awesome meal with lots to choose from. We all went away happy. I didn’t have to throw the foods out and I didn’t spend $30 on pizza!

    Good luck with the dental work 🙂

  10. Amber

    Lately I have been deliberately avoiding eating out, even if it does mean ramen. Tonight, I’m having breakfast for dinner, a favorite meal. Sausage, eggs, pan-fried toast (so much better than toaster-made toast). Sugarless jam, olive oil butter, and an apple for dessert. And most of it made by DF. Pretty good. Ramen is good, too. I put green onions in the water first, then the noodles. Add an egg, and there you are. When I had an allergy-caused sinus infection, eating ramen with egg just felt so good. I later read that eggs have zinc, and zinc helps the immune system fight a virus.

    • Donna Freedman

      My sister and her husband add several kinds of vegetables to their ramen. I like it plain, but I tend to be a path-of-least-resistance cook.
      Another favorite for me: Lentils or beans with a poached egg on top. The lentils I season with mustard vinegar and add bits of ham (if we have any) and sometimes caramelized onions. Leftover beans are always pre-seasoned (i.e., cooked with ham and olive oil and spices) so all I have to do is heat them in a frying pan, crack an egg on top, cover and cook on a very low heat until the egg is done.
      Both tasty, both cheap, both easy — and that’s my holy trinity. (Apologies to the Creole cooks out there.)

  11. Vicki

    Yesterday my hubby, small girl and dog decided to take an afternoon road trip to visit some pals 2 and a bit hours away. While driving is not always a frugal pursuit, spending a few hours with friends is worth the effort. I packed a big cooler full of food for the drive up with the hope that on the way back we would have enough for another meal. On the return trip it is late. We got the the big city an hour from our home and i said it “let’s stop for dinner”. My hubby, ever the sensible one, in an instant said ” we have food and we have more food at home”. We stopped and ate what was left ( not enough really) and then went home. At home when small girl had gone to sleep with cereal as her dinner I made pasta with a quick, quick sauce and we sat and watched House of Cards. It was the right decision for sure though there are moments when buying takeout is so much easier and breaks up the boredom of a road trip. Today I look at our budget and all we spent was gas money versus an $30 or $40 and a belly ache for eating road food.

    • Donna Freedman

      It’s nice to see the money still in your checking account. Go ahead: Give yourselves a little pat on the back. And I like a little cereal for dinner myself, sometimes.

  12. Cakester

    That’s so great that he said he would take you out to eat if you wanted! I just had a 2-day trip to visit my aunt and we went out to eat. The rule visiting her is that I can stay with her, but I pay for all her meals. We ate delicious ethnic food I don’t know how to make, but I would have been almost as happy at home, eating reasonably priced food I could make. Even better is food made by someone who loves you.

  13. Twelve hundred dollah for a crown and new bridgework? That’s not bad. The last time I had to have (another!) crown, the cost was so staggering i can’t even remember it. But it seems to me it was pushing a grand.

    Mmmm… An actual, REAL home-cooked hamburger! Now THAT’s comfort food.

    • Donna Freedman

      Well, a turkey burger. But still good!
      Recently he found both ground turkey and spicy turkey sausage in the manager’s special bin. He combined the two and made some really tasty sandwiches. The addition of hand-cut home fries just adds to the frisson.

  14. At a recent dentist visit, I was told that one crown would be $1200! So what a bargain you got. My dentist ended up doing a very large, 3 sided filling at about $550! Fortunately dental insurance covered part of that. I too had a Maryland bridge in the lower front around the bend of my mouth. It did fail relatively soon and then I had to have a standard bridge. But thankfully it’s still in there 22 years later. I had to think of the cost of a replacement. It’s always something ;(
    I would be well matched with a man like you have, but unfortunately mine thinks money is for spending. He always says whenever I offer a frugal hack, “what am I gonna do with all that money I save?” And now it looks like he is spending in on doctor appointments and taxes. What fun!

  15. I meant ” I hate to think of the cost of a replacement”. Also, he is spending “it” on doctor…” I should re-read before sending next time 😉


  1. Crossing that (dental) bridge. - Surviving and Thriving | Surviving and Thriving - […] I explained in “How to avoid takeout,” the Maryland dental bridge I’ve had for 31 years needs replacing due…

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