Chipotle and Friends - Saving Money While Eating Out
Getting the Most for the Least
The name of the game is getting the most bang for your buck. Now, let me start by saying that I do not practice nor condone underhanded tactics, so think of this as the white hat's guide to getting the most for the least amount of money.
Some of you may wish to stop reading here, because let me go ahead and say that dining out is not about ordering that one single item that you want to eat the most.
- NO, dining out is about saving the time and effort of having to make something at home.
- AND, while you're spending money to enjoy that convenience, your primary objective is to figure out how to be most satisfied without ordering the most expensive thing on the menu
- EXTRA CREDIT, is to speak the language and know how to get more than the person next to you paying the same amount for the "same" food
Great, let's dive in.
You Have to Eat There
Eating lots of Chipotle can hit your wallet pretty hard, but it's delicious so it's not like you can go cold turkey. So how do you get the best bang for your buck at Chipotle and restaurants like it?
Imagine yourself driving down the street after a long day of doing something (working, studying, watching the kids, even vacationing!) and you see your favorite Chipotle-style dining franchise. You're oh so hungry and you've got ten bucks burning a whole in your pocket so you decide to walk in and order something.
You walk in to the familiar smells of grilled meats and fresh vegetables. You can hear the chatter of others like you that have wandered in to quell empty bellies. And if you're someone that constantly thinks about personal finance as I do, your eyes are drawn to the prices and descriptions with a single question dominating even your hunger:
How do I get the most satisfaction for the least amount of money?
Giant Chipotle Burrito
Saving Money at Chipotle Tips
Half + Half > Whole
We've learned since 2nd or 3rd grade that two halves make a whole. Well, let's rethink that when it comes to Chipotle or a Chipotle-style restaurant. I'll stick with the latter for the following examples:
The absolute most important thing you can take away from this article is to order half-and-half when it comes to proteins at Chipotle.
I witnessed this first-hand years ago when i was visiting a friend who lived near a college campus and we decided to grab a burrito at Chipotle. We watched and learned from the throngs of hungry 20-somethings as seemingly all of them were ordering half and half on their proteins. Their burritos and burrito bowls were overflowing with tender slices of steak and shredded carnitas. But when it came to be my turn, I ordered chicken, and I couldn't believe it but I was ending up with less protein than everyone in front of me. How could this be?
We're all paying the same amount and yet they not only get the benefit of variety (the spice of life) but more actual meat for their money. BUT, think about it for a second. when you order at Chipotle, you basically get one spoon of your desired protein. So if you order half and half, you would expect 2 half spoons of protein. BUT the half spoon looks so sad that you will normally end up with 2 spoons that are more like 2/3 or 3/4 so you end up ahead.
Chipotle Half and Half
Stuffed with Veggies Like You're Jared
If you've ever paid attention to the old Subway ad campaign and Subway Jared, then you probably noticed how he always had this subs absolutely stuffed with vegetables. After all, these veggies were free, full of vitamins and somewhat filling because of dietary fiber. So what if you apply the same rationale to Chipotle?
First, you get your half and half of pinto and black beans. Then ask for the peppers and onions (they are so delicious, BTW!). Get all the salsas so you get a scoop of tomatoes, corn, and feel free to ask for a little extra if you really want it. Always add lettuce, cheese and sour cream, and if you've done well, they'll have to grab a second tortilla just to wrap your burrito. Now that's getting a lot for your money!
Chipotle Burrito Bowl
Extra Veggies like Subway
Bowling for Burritos
A question I've had asked of me before is whether you get more if you order a burrito bowl? I can only speculate on this one, but I would say YES. Imagine if you're in the Chipotle employees' shoes and you have two orders come in. The tortilla is limiting because you essentially spoon everything onto it taking into account the size of the tortilla. The bowl however is massive in comparison, and you would subconsciously add a little bit here and there to that the customer gets a plentiful order.
You can also order the free tortilla on the side with a burrito bowl, so it's like having your cake and eating it too.
Chipotle Tacos - Mostly Empty
Beware the Tacos
Yes, I said beware the tacos. I have to admit that the tacos at Chipotle may be the tastiest single entrée because of the added crunch and familiar corn flavors. The downside of course is that it is incredibly difficult to slide ingredients into the taco opening. So basically what you end up paying for are the 3 taco shells with the right amount of meat, but you're probably getting shortchanged on the other condiments.
The same is more or less true for the soft tacos as they're smaller canvases which pose limitations compared to the burrito bowl. So if you're serious about getting the most for your money, stick with the burrito bowl with the side tortilla.
An Idea: Crunchify
If you've been to one of Bobby Flay's Burger Palace locations then you've undoubtedly seen the signs for crunchifying your burger. What that means is that they'll actually put potato chips on top of your burger or chicken sandwich so you benefit from the crunch and salt of the chips.
I haven't tried it, but I would imagine that it's possible to ask for a few tortilla chips on top of your burrito, in essence Crunchifying it. If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out.
8 Pound Chipotle Burrito
Will you be using these tips when you eat out?
Will you be using these tips when you eat out?
Not Just Chipotle
The other biggest lesson to take away from this is that these ideas are not limited to just Chipotle. Because of the restaurant chain's massive popularity and stunning efficiency, lots of smaller shops have popped up with a similar assembly line layout.
Why not ask for half and half proteins when you're building a salad at Chop't?
I always get half and half meat + extra veggies at Roti on my salad bowl.
You can apply the same principles to Shophouse, Subway, Saladworks, Sarku, mall-style Chinese carryout, and the list goes on.
Go out there gang and get fuller than ever with the same amount of money.
I believe that being frugal and making smart money choices is like any other exercise. As we continue to practice good habits in saving money where possible, finding deals for what we want, and having a good time at it, then we become better at dealing for a living.
I'm committed to sharing my experiences with getting the most out of using credit cards, saving and spending tips, and I might even add a slice of perspective without trying to be a psychoanalyst like some other personal finance folks out there.
Please let me know what you think and if you'd like to hear my take on a specific topic.
PS. I've also started writing on my own site: dealforaliving.com.