Iona Murfitt considers the pros and cons of the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.
I don’t know about you, but the best thing that could happen after being locked up in our houses for months due to a global pandemic was probably the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. With half-price food at most restaurants, the scheme seemed like clickbait when I first saw an article on it while aimlessly scrolling Facebook out of lockdown boredom.
It wasn’t long until we learned this was not a dream but in fact reality. The light at the end of the tunnel in our dystopian existence. The scheme was a government measure to support businesses reopening following the Covid-19 lockdown, and this meant that every Monday to Wednesday throughout August, my brother and I could feel good that we were helping the country by eating a delicious meal.
Afternoons were soon devoted to scanning and comparing menus. Serious discussions were held on which starters sounded more appealing. Would it be cheeseburger spring rolls or prawn gyoza tonight? Then, when the evening would come, we would get ready and set off for our meal. Sometimes we would queue for hours for a pizza, or walk an hour to go to a particular restaurant. Once we began eating, there would be no stopping until we lacked even a slight space in our stomachs, and the prospect of us rolling out of the restaurant was looking increasingly likely.
I soon realised my brother and I were becoming incredibly greedy people. We would order double of what we usually would because "it’s all half price" and there would be times when we would have one meal immediately after another. One time we had ice cream, cookie dough, and a waffle and then instantly joined the queue for Nandos. The scheme was great, but it made me see just how gluttonous I could be. Especially since, on that very occasion, I couldn't even finish my ice cream and ended up leaving it melting in its bowl. It wasn’t just me either; as I left restaurants, I would often see untouched plates of chips and rice sadly sitting on tables.
Furthermore, as my weight increased and my pocket emptied (albeit at half the rate it would have done without the scheme), I noticed all the groceries in my fridge had started to wilt and rot. Yes, I was saving money on restaurant food, but what about the food I already had? What happened to having the satisfaction of lovingly preparing a meal for myself? The kitchen that I had once seen as my place for experimentation had now become a graveyard for takeaway boxes with leftover meals from the night before. I was getting lazier, and on days when there was no scheme, I had no desire to so much as make a sandwich for myself. Due to this newfound laziness, it took me a while to get used to making my own meals again. I had never realised what eating out just three days a week for a month could do to my routine.
However, the scheme did allow me to try more restaurants in a month than I had in my entire two years at university. I got to find places which I thought would be worth paying full price and ones which simply were not. Apart from this, cheaper food also gave us an excuse to socialise more, as food and friends make quite the duo. I got to explore my love for different cuisines and try more items at a time, something I would normally refrain from doing due to my student finances. Additionally, as a cherry on the top, the scheme reduced costs for when I took my brother and six of our friends out for his birthday dinner. I got to spend much less than I normally would have, and if it would not have been for the discount, I would have taken him to KFC, rather than the nice Korean barbeque restaurant we ended up at.
The Eat Out to Help Out Scheme proved to make August a pretty fun month. But apart from the obvious perks, as the month progressed I also realised I needed to make sure the food that was already in my kitchen needed to be used too, and that I had to stop being so greedy! Despite the pros and cons, if the scheme returns, you’ll see me queuing outside Paesanos and having popcorn chicken for breakfast again. That much is certain.
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