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How to Dine Extravagantly, Even When You’re on a Budget

By Elizabeth Dunkel March 15, 2017 Lifestyle

We do it three times a day, so it might as well be fabulous, fantastic, delicious, delightful. Even if we’re watching our weight. Especially if we’re watching our weight.

Maybe our home is not as luxurious as we’d like, or we don’t have the time or money to take first-class vacations. But the least we can do is eat beautifully. Even on a budget. So, welcome to another in my series on millionaire living on a retirement budget.

What is Dining Like a Millionaire?

I imagine a millionaire decides what she wants to eat, and then asks her personal chef to prepare it, or goes to a restaurant of her choice. Szechuan, Italian, French, Thai, Mexican. So, to me, millionaire dining means eating whatever I want, whenever I want it. Sounds good, right?

Ask yourself, “What do I really feel like eating?”

Slow down and anticipate. You can’t wait until the last moment and then get “hangry” – the millennial term for hungry + angry. That’s when you’re so hungry you’re a grouch and will eat anything in sight. You need to ask yourself, what do I really feel like eating? And then, make it happen. Fulfilling your desire is my idea of luxury.

Get into the Kitchen

If you don’t already have a nice relationship with your kitchen, you’re going to have to start to love cooking, or at least assembling food. In addition to planning what you’d like to eat, you need to get to the grocery to keep your favorite items for the week, in stock and ready.

Style Your Setting

Beautiful eating is not just about food. It’s about ambiance, style and the place setting. Standing up in the kitchen eating is not luxurious. You want tableware that makes you happy. You don’t have to buy a whole set. Go to charity shops or second hand stores and pick up beautiful mismatched vintage plates. Or go to stores like Pottery Barn or Pier One where you can buy a piece of this and a piece of that. Same goes for placemats.

Variety is the spice of life. Delight yourself when you sit down. Flowers and candles are always luxe. Tapers are formal, so go for small votives for luscious atmosphere. Fresh cut flowers from your garden, or some blooms you foraged on one of your walks.

Serve your plate like you’re going to take a picture of it.

Styling your food takes it up a notch. Don’t just stick a chicken breast on the plate with a scoop of rice and some veggies. Food styling is what makes it alluring. Plate your meal like you would receive it in a fine restaurant. Look at photographs and get into the fun of food styling. Be artistic. Glam it up.

Serve it in a Bowl

Do what the millennials do. They’re not eating out of plates anymore. Create a masterpiece in a bowl. Take a look at Instagram food photographers. You’ll notice how beautiful food in bowls is. Pretty food, a beautiful meal, always makes you happy.

Become a Foodie

It’s not about fancy, it’s about verve! A simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but served on thick, crusty, sourdough toast, garnished with a sprig of grapes for a zing of freshness or a slice of bacon for an umami hit. Your milk in a wineglass. Get the picture?

Take it Outside

I’ve written about this before. What is it about eating outside that makes food taste more delicious and… special? Dining al fresco always feels luxurious and enhances your dining experience. Breakfast on your balcony, and if you don’t have a balcony or terrace, then fling open the window. Take your gourmet sandwich to the park.

Eat Less, Eat Often

I’m in favor of small plates. Who wants to eat the same thing for 30 bites? I prefer to eat small meals, and eat more often. I always have morning tea time and afternoon tea. Maybe a small bowl of blueberries to nibble. Or one teensy biscuit. It’s about coddling yourself. You are your own client, so give her what she wants. Make her (you!) feel special.

Change it Up, Make it Fun

Make eating a celebration. Have breakfast for dinner. Declare a junk food evening. Or a dinner of appetizers only. Have breakfast (the cheapest meal) out one day, and then have breakfast in bed the next morning. Variety is not only fun, it’s luxurious.

Discover Budget Gourmet Dining

Food trucks are popular for good reason: zesty gourmet food at accessible prices. Don’t forget to splurge occasionally at a restaurant you’ve had your eye on, but go for lunch instead of dinner, when prices are typically much less. Or wait for the yearly food or restaurant festivals when expensive restaurants offer deals.

Dining should always be an adventure. Taking the time and consideration to give yourself exactly what you want is the ultimate luxury.

How do you feel about the way you eat? Any tips on what you do to feel like a million when it comes to dining? What is your favorite way to dine like a millionaire? Please share in the comments!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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