By ALANA AL-HATLANI  Seamless delivers restaurant-quality food without the hassle.  No shopping, no cooking, no standing in line for takeout or a seat.  Try to make this a bit lighter. But in less than the two hours it takes to decide what to order and waiting for delivery, you can have the same meal at home and save money.

Millennials spend 44% of their food budget eating out, almost $3,000 annually, due in part  to delivery surcharges and minimums on Grubhub or Seamless, according to Forbes. With those fees and tip, a $10 entrée quickly becomes $20 charge.

A top Seamless favorite is The Smith’s mac and cheese, from the downtown Manhattan restaurant, Chef Brian Ellis estimates 30 Seamless orders per day. To see if the ease of an app was worth the strain on my wallet, I compared ordering in with do-it-yourself.

ORDER IN:

Servings: could serve two, but who are we kidding, this is usually gone in one.

Time: Quoted between 45-55 minutes to deliver “ASAP.” Note: this varies by time of day and busyness of restaurant; this was on Friday afternoon. My order came in 35 minutes, and I also live just three blocks away from the East Village location. You can also schedule a delivery for a specific time.

Itemized Costs
Food (delivery min. $18) Mac and cheese $15 Water* $3

*To reach the $18 minimum, I ordered a water for $3 (the cheapest item on the menu .)

 

Sales Tax $1.60
Tip (average 15%) (15%) $2.94
Total: $22.54

 

Overall Quality:

Not too hot when delivered, but still delicious. Not soggy, and the top was nicely browned. Cheese sauce was velvety and well-seasoned. Consistent with other times I have ordered the dish via Seamless.

HOMEMADE:

Servings: 3-4 (one 8×8 pan)

Time: Prep =10 minutes (grating cheese), Active cooking =15 minutes, Baking =25 minutes

Total = 50 minutes

 

Recipe (Adapted from The Smith via Oprah.com)

Ingredients:

Itemized Costs*
Noodles (1lb bag) $0.99
Cheddar/Gruyere Mélange $4.75
Parmigiano Reggiano $4.20
Quart of whole milk $1.29
Heavy Cream $1.29
Fontina $3.47
Total: $15.99

 

  • ½ pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 6 oz heavy cream
  • 6 oz whole milk
  • 6 tbsp cheddar
  • 6 tbsp. fontina
  • 6 tbsp. Gruyere
  • 1/8 cup parmigiano reggiano + ¼ cup for the top
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

 

*Notes on Ingredients:

This is the cost of ingredients from Trader Joe’s. Even with the smallest sized packages of cheese, milk, and pasta available, you can easily make the recipe twice over or use ingredients for other recipes (I made several grilled cheeses). The actual price of the recipe is closer to $8, or about $2 per serving. I chose to use a Trader Joe’s cheddar/gruyere blend, a single cheese that was cheaper than buying both types separately and the taste difference was undetectable.

This total cost excludes pantry staples, including the flour, butter, and salt/pepper that are assumed to be on hand and used in such small quantities that they do not contribute significantly to cost.

Directions:

Preheat oven and an 8×8 oven-proof baking dish (or cast iron pan if you have one) to 400 degrees . Grate all cheeses.

Bring salted water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook al dente according to package. Strain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium pot, melt butter and then whisk in flour. When combined, add milk and heavy cream. Whisk until boiling. Add cheeses (except extra ¼ cup of parmigiano) and whisk until melted and smooth. Add cooked pasta and season with salt and pepper.

Remove preheated baking dish. Carefully butter the hot dish with 1 tbsp. of butter. Add pasta mixture to dish, top with reserved parmigiano, and bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes until lightly browned.

Pros Cons
Same taste and creamy texture Not as brown as restaurant’s (could be my oven)
Actually hot when served, unlike delivery Requires planning (going to grocery store, which is a pain)
Makes plenty, easy to share Creates a lot of dishes to clean (clean time=15-20 min, sans dishwasher)
Reheats well (surprisingly good cold, too) A lot of leftover ingredients that you will have to figure out how to use up
Not difficult to make
Apartment smells amazing while baking
Don’t have to be dressed to accept the delivery at the door

 

Conclusions: If you are at all culinary inclined, bored, or trying to feed more than yourself, go with homemade. As NYU Student Natalie Tso, frequent user of Seamless said, “You may actually burn some calories making it, which justifies eating it.”  Add that the time commitment is minimal, less than an hour-long TV show (which you can watch while making it). It’s certainly more effort, but saving money usually is.