Cathy Erway's blog, "Not Eating Out in New York," proves that even in one of the world's top restaurant cities, eating in can be delicious, quick, and better than takeout. Erway grew up in a kitchen-centric family. Her Taiwanese mom preferred meals cooked on the fly, stir-fried, improvised. Her American dad poured himself methodically into cookbook recipes.
That good grounding in home cooking lost its appeal when Erway, now 31, moved to New York City after college. Meals devolved into alternating between takeout places. "The culture was so lacking in the things I loved growing up, which were cooking and taking the time to enjoy a good meal." That sense of loss, and a need to save money, fueled a dining-in experiment: Erway went two years without eating a single restaurant or takeout meal.
By the end of the process, she had become more attuned to what she ate and how she cooked. Her weekly food expenses fell from $100 to just $25. She now spreads her "cook more" message through blogging and classes. "I'm definitely less rushed now, and I approach life and meals the same way," she says. "I just enjoy the process of how it evolves."
CATHY'S TOP 4 TIPS
- Take five, and multiply. "I teach a class based on cooking five meals with five ingredients. We might have a whole chicken, onions, carrots, potatoes, and seasonal produce like broccoli. The first night, you stir-fry vegetables with chicken breasts cut from the whole bird. Then you have braised chicken thighs with mashed potatoes. The yummy broth can make a soup or risotto, and any leftover meat becomes chicken salad for a sandwich. Leftover stock makes a creamy carrot soup."
- Bulk up on grains. "If you're making rice or grains one night, make enough for the next day. Extra rice is great for fried rice—which for me is the archetypal leftover dish in Chinese cooking. Rice, couscous, and quinoa all work great for mixing with leftovers you have on hand."
- Be big on beans. "Beans are something I really love, especially in winter. Stock some cooked black beans in your fridge. One night you can make tacos or a dish with beans, chopped bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Or use some mashed like hummus on a sandwich with fresh arugula."
- Make it social. "When I first started eating in, everyone asked, 'How are you going to have a social life if you can't go to a restaurant?' I threw potlucks. I hosted cook-offs for the community. I started a supper club and just got into all sorts of walks of life that had to do with DIY and making food from scratch. I felt like it struck a chord with a lot of people."