Chinese Delivery Versus My Food Preparation Sensibilities

After a very busy weekend, on Sunday evening my wife ordered some Chinese food to be delivered. She did this while I was attending to other tasks and she was watching our son. We were both completely worn out after having accomplished a ton of little things over the weekend, so at first I didn’t really mind.

First of all, we sat around waiting for the food because we had no idea when it would arrive for certain. The person on the phone estimated a 6 PM delivery time so I halted my task at six o’clock and headed downstairs to eat. It didn’t arrive until 6:20. If I had prepared it myself, I could have provided a lot better estimation on when it would be done.

Second, the food wasn’t all that good. I am quite certain I could prepare a garlic chicken and rice meal at least as good as what I ate in about fifteen minutes. I have become used to using fresh vegetables and stuff I have cooked and spiced myself and thus it has made sub-par prepared food seem very sub-par to me. I don’t mind eating out if it’s well-prepared, but if it’s not, I’d just rather prepare it at home cheaper and tastier.

Third, it was expensive. $20 for an entree for myself and my wife and my son and an order of crab rangoon (that seemed to be lacking crab)! That’s a lot of money to pay for sub-par food.

So, let’s add this up. For the “convenience” of it, we spent twenty minutes sitting and waiting on the food. Then, when it arrived, it was expensive and not that good.

I could have prepared everything that we ate in those twenty minutes that we were waiting. It would have been tastier, likely healthier, and substantially cheaper.

The area where I live has extremely limited options for food delivery. I can safely say that I will never have food delivered to my door again unless I move or there’s a new place in the nearest town that delivers.

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  1. Brad says:

    I would make it yourself. Most entrees are pretty easy recipes. Get a rice cooker too, makes it so easy. I love chinese food, but as a whole they are probably some of the worst restaurants as far as cleanliness goes. I can’t count how many news articles i’ve read recently about poultry being delivered to chinese eateries in unrefrigerated trucks.
    If you make it yourself, then you at least know the chicken was frozen up to the point of being prepared.

  2. plonkee says:

    I always knew there were drawbacks to living in Iowa. There is nothing worse than paying a lot of money for poor food.

  3. GeekMan says:

    $20 for Chinese food?! Wow, that’s expensive. My wife and I sometimes need to order in food since we both have to work late (past 8pm) sometimes so cooking is the last thing we want to do. Plus, delivery of Chinese is usually under $8 for both of us, including tip. Then again, we are fortunate that delivery food is very cheap, very tasty and very available where we live. However, if the food wasn’t tasty, cheap and fast then like you I probably wouldn’t get it, either!

  4. J.D. says:

    The area where I live has extremely limited options for food delivery.

    Ah, the hidden cost of that cheap Iowa farmland.


    There’s a good Chinese place down the street from me. For $6 I can get a very tasty entree that last me two (sometimes three) meals. Yum.

  5. guinness416 says:

    I live in the most diverse city in North America, so generally have a good choice of delivery and takeout food. But I still often regret getting it – it’s just not healthy, even (especially?) when it tastes great, and like Trent I miss the fresh veg, farmers market chicken, etc we spoil ourselves with. My husband worked in the kitchen of an Indian restaurant for a while, and can tell some stories about the jaw-dropping amount of butter used in their food. I work out every day, if I want Indian I’ll make it myself and save the extra 1,000 calories!

  6. rstlne says:

    I get Chinese food takeout maybe once a year. Most of the time, there are better options. It was a different story when I lived in NYC, where there was takeout food everywhere and lots of competition among takeout places.

  7. Amanda says:

    Seriously, where is the crab?! I have to agree wholeheartedly — I’m a foodie, a fairly reasonable foodie though, but I can’t stomach delivery anymore…price or taste. I can do better in less time.

  8. Gwen says:

    You actually wasted the time yourself. Though it was estimated at 6, you made the decision to ‘halt your activity’ at 6 and wait for 20′ when you could have been doing your activity instead of ‘waiting’. Couldn’t your wife call you when the food arrive if you’re that involved in your activity?

    That said, now you know that the Chinese delivery sucks. You should have called and filed a complaint and at least have gotten part of your money back (ie, food being late, cold, bad, etc.).

  9. Elaine says:

    I can’t remember the last time I ordered delivery; there’s a ton of takeout places within a 5-10 minute walk. One block away, for example, is the vietnamese deli, where I can get a veggie sub (with tofu, carrot, daikon and maybe some other stuff) or 2 salad rolls (same as above, but with rice noodles) for $3. It blows the Subway next door out of the water. There’s a falafel place two doors down from the deli as well; it’s pretty new so I’ll give that a go next time I’m not up for cooking.

  10. From my experience in travelling to different cities, your plight is not far from the norm… I always try and figure out where a good place can deliver food, but ultimately, preparing my own gives me more food than I need to eat, tastes better, and is a lot quicker than waiting around for a delivery person to show up.

  11. Justin says:

    $8 for delivery chinese for two? Where?

    $20 is about right for two meals and an appetizer. In Indiana anyway. Including tip. I hope you tipped the driver.

  12. brent says:

    the thing is that if you’re still motivated enough that that 20 min wait was irritating because you could have Got Things Done in that time… then don’t get take out.

    Get food delivered only when you have committed yourself to arse-sitting on the couch for the rest of the evening and don’t care when food shows up just as long as it does.

    Don’t tip the driver – outside of the us – just use your c/c when you order. that way you don’t even have to wait for change.

  13. Bloggrrl says:

    I spent $30 dollars yesterday to get food poisoning from a Chinese restaurant. I’m definitely breaking out my own wok next time I have that particular craving.

  14. Sean says:

    I find it very hard to believe you could have prepared, cooked, and cleaned up for the entire meal in 20 minutes.

    And honestly, is it that much of a ‘waste of time’ to be sitting around your house with your wife and child? Yeah, if you had prepared your meal yourself you could have gotten on to something more important like watching TV or something – god forbid you have downtime and spend it with your family!

    I really don’t get this entry – You complained about the delivery time being off, thus you had to sit with your family and then when it came, you had to give them money and then eat.

    What’s really bad is I bet you tipped the dude a pittance due to your frugality.

  15. vh says:

    After getting into the habit of cooking my own food most of the time, I’ve found Trent’s experience seems to apply to almost all restaurant food, except for very fancy restaurants only the Richistani can afford. Industrial food just doesn’t taste very good…it’s oversalted and full of weird chemicals. Especially true of fake “crab”!

  16. Trent Trent says:

    When meals are cooked at home, we usually all get involved and it becomes family time. Even my toddler son can help with some things, like putting stuff in the dishwasher (yes, a 21 month old can put a plate in the dishwasher). If we all work together, it can easily be done in 20 minutes.

    And, Sean, this is a ridiculous comment: “What’s really bad is I bet you tipped the dude a pittance due to your frugality.” You have absolutely no idea what frugality is if that’s your mindset. I generally tip far better than most people – the bill was actually about $14.75 and we paid a $20 to give the delivery guy a very nice tip.

    If you have that attitude about frugality (or about anything in life), you’re going to have a very hard time being a financial success, or any sort of success. Perhaps learning about something might be good before attacking it blindly.

  17. Len-Len says:

    Hi Trent,
    Crab rangoon doesnt have any crab in it. Its basically just fried cream cheese. Thats what one restaurant in my town serves..

  18. BW says:

    “the bill was actually about $14.75 and we paid a $20 to give the delivery guy a very nice tip.”

    So in your original post when you said your food cost $20, you were kind of fudging the truth.

    Your food cost $14, the amount of tip you gave is completely independent of the food cost. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to give hardly a tip due to the latenesss of the food, or to give the normal 15-20%. This drops your total from $20 to the $17 area. it was your choice to be extravagant with the tip.

    Also, is this just the risk you take when trying a new restaurant? Some places are good, some are bad. You don’t know until you try. I enjoy your blog but this post just seem to be you complaining for the sake of complaining.

  19. Michelle says:

    After being tired from activites all weekend, I would gladly welcome the 20 minute break while I wait for my food, instead of using that time to become even more tired by cooking and cleaning up after my homemade food.

    I agree it would be cheaper, healthier, and tastier if you made yourself, but sometimes the convenience of being able to relax is well worth it. That is really what you are paying for.

  20. Sean says:

    Trent, I am sorry for making those remarks. I really enjoy your blog and look forward to it everyday.

  21. daydreamr says:

    That’s really a good price for chineese takeout. $20 is average anyway. The wise crack comments about rural areas are a bit simple minded don’t ya think? Like having this resource is essential to life. Well it’s not a necesity. Takeout and, resturaunts in general are not worth it. When you make it yourself you KNOW the ingredients are fresh. There’s a lot of MSG in takeout too. It’s a neurotoxin and most people underestimate the stuff. It’s too bad. We live in a society where people don’t know how to cook anymore. They think baking a cake means buying one at the local store. Americans get enough sodium in their diets of processed foods to exceed the upper limit of a daily dose without picking up the salt shaker.

    I have found the key to making good chinese food is adding a little sesame oil. Chop up some garlic, onions, grate a bit of fresh ginger if you want, and sautee them in some olive oil, (or other healthy oil. I think they use a lot of peanut oil because it’s got a high smoking pt. so they can cook @ high temps)

    Add meat if desired, cook that until it’s almost well done, then add the veggies, sliced thin so they cook faster (you could blanch/lightly steam them to speed things up) Add some soy sauce and sesame oil. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Mix it up and saute it for a few min. Or you can add the sesame oil at the beginning. Soy sauce makes things stick though, it’s best to add that later.

    As far as rice goes, you don’t need to spend extra on another gadget that will take up space in the cupbords. Use a ratio of 1:2 (say 1c rice to 2c water). Pick thru the rice, rinse it well, drain, then put the rice and water in a pot, bring it to a boil, turn it down to a simmer, stirr well (once). Cover and let it absorb the water. It’ll turn out perfect evry time. I learned that trick from a lady from India.

    Even crab rangoon is so easy to make on your own. They don’t even put real crab in it. Every time I go to a chineese resturaunt I ask (since some just use cream cheese) and they usually say they use sea leggs. But you can pick up a pack of wonton wrappers, creamcheese, and what ever you want for “crab” meat. Mix up the crab & cream cheese (or leave out the crab), put some in the middle of a wonton wrapper, fold it half, to form a triangle, dip your finger in water & run it along the edge to seal it, and push the 2 longer ends together. They take seconds to fry. You don’t even have to use much oil. Turn them over using tongs, a few sec. later take them out & drain them on a plate w/paper towells to sop up the extra oil.

  22. lizard says:

    I’m willing to grant that you could have cooked the food and cleaned up the kitchen in 20 minutes. You’re probably a much faster veggie-chopper than I am. But you couldn’t have gone to the store, bought all the ingredients AND prepped the meal in 20 minutes.

  23. brent says:


    that’s not the point.

    It’s not 20 minutes – it’s about an hour.

    Most of seem to earn around about $20-30/hr, which works out to maybe $15-25/hr after tax. That $20 took an hour to earn.

    The differential cost between the $20 takeout and the $5 it would cost to throw something together costs about 3/4 hr. By going with the less frugal option you’re not just spending money you’re spinning your wheels when you’re working: working to earn money that you don’t need to spend.

  24. roger says:

    there are no chinese people in their right mind would be in iowa so of course the food is subpar. also 20 dollars for a meal is not expesive get over it.

  25. Sean says:

    I did not post the August 21st response about how much I appreciate the website…what kind of malarkey is this?

  26. Sean says:

    Learning about something? I used all the facts on hand to make my assessment…and now you bring up additional and more relevant facts in your rebuttal, ha.

    I hardly attacked it blind, you just withheld information which made your case – perhaps if you had written it better initially this would have been avoided.

  27. Trent Trent says:

    Tipping has nothing whatsoever to do with this discussion, Sean. You interjected it to make an anti-frugal troll statement. There’s no withheld information at all – I was merely trying to be nice and answer your additional, largely unrelated question.

  28. partgypsy says:

    I can say I haven’t done takeout chinese in years. Even if I like how the food tastes in the restaurant, something always gets messed up in the ordering process it’s late and tastes lukewarm and greasy. We still do pick up at our favorite places (which don’t do delivery anyways).

    I think it is all well and good to be dissatisfied to pay good money for not so good food, but this is very reminiscent of the getting fast food versus making your own burger. Delivery whether it be pizza or chinese is not known for being great food. The value of delivery food is the convenience and time saved, that you could otherwise be still working, or spending time with wife and family, rather than in the kitchen (and cleaning afterwards). If you don’t value those things, don’t use delivery.

  29. adsfdi k says:

    this article is ridiculous…. $20 for 2 items and one small item is about right. if you’re living in a diverse area or chinatown then it would be cheaper

    ur complaining about very vein things here…..

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