experiments in cooking

Mostly I like to write about cooking and baking, and that’s the main topic of this blog. But I was thinking today about the times when you just don’t feel like cooking anything, when a meal at a real restaurant (not Chez Working Mom) sounds just right.

Recently my husband told me he’d been reading 10-year-old old emails we wrote to each other back when we were dating.

“Please don’t tell me what I wrote,” I said.

He laughed. “It’s like you were a different person back then,” he said.

“Don’t remind me,” I said.

Chris told me that we both sounded pretty immature in those emails. “We’ve changed a lot,” he said, and then he paused. “But some things are the same.” Specifically, he said, I dwelt on food a lot in those emails. And I still talk about food all the time.

“Also, you really, really, liked eating out back then,” he added.

That’s true. I did love eating out. Once I got to college, and even after we got married, before we had kids, I wanted to eat at restaurants every weekend, every chance I got. But then I had the kids, gained weight and had to fight to lose it, and had to learn to live on a budget. So we don’t get to eat out much anymore.

But I still love the excitement of going to a restaurant, and Chris does too. Even when we went on a strict budget, we left a little money for eating out. Now, even though we can’t afford expensive restaurants, we try to be choosy, in part because we don’t want to spend what little money we have on something both unhealthy and forgettable. Many a fast food meal is like that—forgettable. Yeah, it cost only a few bucks, but was it worth it? Quite often, no.

Well, Chris would probably say, “Yes! It’s worth it!” But I say no.

The thing is, Chris and I both love a good burger and fries. We don’t eat fries often anymore and try to treat them like a luxury. Even a fast food burger is a luxury for us nowadays.

So where do we go when we’ve put aside some money for a good burger and fries?

Five Guys.

Five Guys (http://www.fiveguys.com)—based out of Arlington, Va.—opened a location in Lincoln earlier this year, and we immediately made plans to try it. We’d read about the chain and we were curious.

The thing that attracted our attention was a nationally released news article on the Internet talking about the calorie count in Five Guys’ large-size fry. It’s gargantuan. I mean, the calorie count for a large fry was as much I was eating in a day at the time.

I’m a petite woman and was eating about 1400 calories per day in my last days of a successful effort to lose 50 pounds. After the weight was gone, when Five Guys moved in, I was setting myself some eating challenges around eating indulgent foods occasionally while still keeping off the weight. Five Guys seemed like a good test.

I guess there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Chris was all for the idea.

“I heard about those fries!” he said.

He was trying to lose weight himself, after having seen me do it successfully, so I thought a warning was in order.

“We can eat the fries,” I said, “But we have to share.”

And I meant the entire family would have to share. Split the fries up three or four ways, and it’s indulgent, but not obscene.

Chris agreed, and we made the trip. And loved it!

Five Guys makes their burger patties in the store and makes their own fries from whole potatoes brought in from Idaho and fried in peanut oil. You can choose from 16 toppings, some healthy, some not. If you share the fries and go with the “little” burger, it’s not too expensive—but it costs enough to keep you from going every day.

Also, sharing the fries and ordering a smaller burger, as I said, should help you maintain a modicum of dietary discipline. Keeping your portions small may keep you on the right side of the line of giving yourself a treat versus practicing full-blown gluttony.

So, here are my top tips for a frugal and waistline-minded trip to Five Guys:

  1. Do not order a regular burger, as all the regular burgers are actually double burgers. Order a “little” burger. They aren’t little—they’re a “normal” size, just a single patty. And they’re affordable. If you want to make the little burger seem bigger, add a lot of toppings, and stick to the veggies and mustard if you want to tread on the healthy side.


  1. Share the fries. Maybe even share the regular fry, not the large fry. Share with as many people as possible—although probably not with people from outside your own party. That wouldn’t be prudent. At all costs, do not go alone, because you’ll be tempted to eat the fries all by yourself. That would be delicious, yes, but naughty.


  1. Park a good distance from the restaurant so that you get in some exercise coming and going. This is easy for us, because Lincoln’s Five Guys is located downtown, and we have to park in a parking garage a block or two away. The further you walk, the more you can afford to eat your part of the fries. However, even if you walk half a mile to the restaurant, don’t tell yourself you’ve earned your own large fry, or your own regular-sized (double) burger. Because you HAVEN’T—unless you stop by Five Guys after running a marathon. Not a half marathon—a full marathon. Or, unless you absolutely know you are going to die very, very soon. I mean, if I knew the end of the world would be tomorrow, I might order a regular cheeseburger and large fries tonight.  

Try Five Guys my way. I think you’ll like it. And, just so you know, I did keep off the 50 pounds I lost—and I’ve eaten at Five Guys about once a month or two months since that first visit. In fact, we ate at Five Guys again just last week. And it was worth it.


Comments on: "“Five Guys” on a Diet and a Budget" (2)

  1. You think having one in Lincoln might be dangerous… try living in Virginia, home of Five Guys. They are EVERYWHERE taunting me. There aren’t enough WW points in the world for a reg. burger and a large fry. They are the best burger joint around though, no contest on that one.

    *** I secretly adore eating out too. David and I go out just the two of us now since the kids don’t require paid child-care for such and event. We even go to “grown-up” places that don’t have children’s menus from time to time. Sometimes I feel bad that the kids are at home having frozen pizza… Nah, not really, but that is what a good mom says. Right? LOL***

  2. I’m glad you wrote on this subject. I LOOOVE eating out too.. .yet have gained weight in the last year. I want to lose it, but I guess I have a hard time with the whole indulge vs. gluttony. This article was encouraging!

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