The Steak Dilemma

by Kevin on January 12, 2009

(Photo by jetalone)

I never was a “steak guy”. I never desired a t-bone or a filet mignon cooked just right. I’m good with hamburgers and chicken dishes. Call me simple.

Then one day we went out to dinner at this restaurant. We each ordered a filet mignon (well done, don’t like blood please) as well as a side or two.

I wish I could find the proper set of adjectives to describe what happened when we ate that meal. It was if I had been blind my entire life to this amazing substance, steak, and I was enjoying the holy grail of all steak. Suddenly, good steak jumped up on our list of preferred meals.

As I mentioned on here last week we recently celebrated our 2 year anniversary. As part of that event we set aside some money specifically to go to a really nice steakhouse here in town. It’s the type of place you only go once per year. We’ve been three times and each time has been just jaw dropping good.

My parents, anticipating that we would go there, surprised us and got us a $100 gift card to the restaurant for Christmas. (Awesome!) This was great because our bill usually ends up being in the $120-140 range when you factor in a standard tip. (“Hey, since we saved up for this we can go twice!”)

We made the reservation, fancied ourselves up, and made a great date of it. Then we ran into…

The Steak Dilemma

Here’s the problem we ran into. You can get an 8 ounce filet mignon for $32 and as 12 ounce for $36.

That’s $4/oz. for the first 8 ounces, but then only $1/oz. for the next four ounces. But could we each eat a 12 ounce steak?

My wife argued no, we could not each eat that much if you include the enormous side we would split and the amazing bread that comes with the meal.

Out of pure economics I argued that we should get the steaks even if we couldn’t finish them — we could take them home and eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. “But it isn’t as good as leftovers,” she added. “So?”

We went back and forth and I convinced her that at all costs I would either eat everything on our plates or would eat the steak as leftovers. I have no problem with it not being as perfect as a leftover.

What We Ordered, Who Was Right?

Indeed, we ended up ordering two 12 ounce steaks. They were amazing. The entire meal was just amazing.

… but my wife was right. I couldn’t finish off what was left on her plate (although I did finish mine). Actually let me correct myself — I could have finished it, but risked exploding on the spot. She preferred to keep me around a bit longer and we packaged it up as leftovers. (And they were great the next day, in my opinion.)

What Would You Have Done?

I’m curious as to what decision my readers would have made in this situation. Facing the prospect of buying a larger steak at a discounted marginal cost ($1/ounce rather than $4/ounce) knowing that you likely couldn’t finish it, what would you do?

Leave a comment and get the discussion rolling. Hmm. Now I’m hungry…

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Weekly Roundup and Carnivals
January 16, 2009 at 8:33 am


kathrn January 12, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Well, to tell you the truth, I would saved the money and NOT eaten out. If you go to your local meat market, they have wonderful 8oz Filet Migons for 5.75 ea (that’s the price at ours) could get 5 for the price of one.

I understand that you save for this treat and that you had a gift card, but the money spent is going down the toilet..ahem…no pun intended

My husband and I don’t eat out..its the biggest waste of money around. Our kids understand this too. We find ways to enjoy the same types of meal found in restaurants and fast food places. (Sams Club has great chicken nuggets & tenders)

Maybe next time your parents could get you a gift card at the local meat market. Then you could buy almost 16 filets! Then BBQ them (its fun in the winter too!)…make a beautiful romantic setting at home and maybe splurge on a nice wine.

or better yet….maybe you and your wife could take a gourmet cooking class together and then plan your anniversary around your own kitchen…just some “food for thought”

[email protected] January 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I probably wouldn’t have been at the fancy restaurant in the first place either. BUT, if we did find ourselves in that situation, I know for sure we would have ordered the larger steak – and split it between us. The we would also have had room for a nice appetizer or two, plus a shared dessert.

We’ve done this in the past. Believe me, no matter how good the steak is, and I’ve had *excellent* steaks served to me, the first 2-3 bites are the best and most satisfying. After that, it’s still good, but never as good as the first few bites. If you don’t believe me, check for yourself the next time you have a peak meal experience.

Besides, even half a pound of meat at one meal is a lot. By splitting the 12 oz steak between two people, we would still get *plenty* of meat, save room for other things, and keep the bill somewhat moderate.

Philip January 12, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Tough questions, I am with you on saving and going out to eat at nice places. It is great that you finally are enjoying some good steaks, I have grown up with them and love good steak. However, I like mine very close to rare, the blood running around the plate when you are done is part of the meal 🙂

I know that if I ordered the larger steak I would eat it all and the 8 oz would likely be plenty for health reasons. However we are talking finance here and I guess it would be hard to not pay 8 dollars for what would be 32 worth for another plate. However, in that 32/36 that would include some of the sides that you are paying for, as well as cooking etc etc. Those parts are not increased when you get the larger steak so would be taken out of the total per oz price on both steaks.

I think I would have ended up with the 12oz for the same reasons as you did though.

Kevin January 12, 2009 at 1:54 pm

@kathrn and @Kate: I see your points, but I am a firm believer in that life is for living.

I actually intend to write a follow up post addressing this idea tomorrow, so stay tuned. Bottom line is we only do this once per year, we have more than enough saved to do it, and as nice as staying home is … it’s nice to go on a date every once in a while.

This is not the meal for us to be frugal on. It’s a special occasion. But you can disagree 🙂

@Philip: Ew. 🙂 I don’t like it crispy, still moist on the inside, but no blood for me.

PT Money January 12, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Juicy post!

The filet is the only way to go.

The problem is, the filet cannot be cooked properly at home unless you invest in a very expensive oven. Filets are best in a nice steak restaraunt (Ruth’s Chris, Three Forks, etc.)

That’s why I agree with the special occasion dining out plan. Spend the money to go to a nice place for a great steak instead of 5-10 here and there at taco bell stops every night. Basically, when you dine out, REALLY dine out.

Back to your question…I would have split the 12, or even the 8. I agree with Kate that the first two bites are the best. With salad and potatoes that’s all you need anyway. I’m a big guy but still find that my wife and I enjoy the meal the most when we set some limits.

We split almost every time.

Kathryn H. January 12, 2009 at 2:54 pm

We would of likely bought the larger steak. My husband would of finished both his and what was left of mine. or I might of been stingy and saved 1/2 of mine for the next day. I like Filet, but my favorite is prime rib! yum!

Flexo January 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm

A great steak is great through every bite, not just the first few — but the first few are the best. A great dining experience must include dessert as well, so don’t forget to factor that in. That could be the difference between getting the 8oz and the 12oz.

Kimberly January 12, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I would have had to go for the 12 oz. – the discounted marginal cost gets me almost every time.

But in the scenario above, I don’t see how you could have gone wrong with the 12 oz. option – if you are happy to eat the leftovers, it doesn’t matter if your wife wants the steak leftover. (more for you!)

Plus, if it’s kind of a “splurge” meal, I say err on the side of spending an extra $4 each to be happy with your choice – even if it’s just feeling like you got the best value by getting the 12 oz.

Kevin January 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm

@PT Money: You bring up an interesting point. If you got to a Ruth’s Chris and split, do you feel like the waitstaff looks down on you or are they always “pleased to serve you”? Just curious if you ever felt a stigma with that.

@Flexo: What if I told you we each has a 12 oz., split an enormous potato dish, and each had a Creme Brule? 🙂 Like I said, it’s the one night per year we really go out.

@Kimberly: Glad I’m not alone!

Flexo January 12, 2009 at 3:54 pm

That’s some meal. For the record, I went out to a great steak restaurant in my area two weekends ago. I had the “surf & turf special of the day” — 8 oz filet, South African lobster tail, and wasabe mashed potatos. The entree itself was, let’s just say “not frugal.” My GF had the NY strip. no appetizers, and we split dessert… “fried” cheesecake (truly a peak experience).

Splitting dessert was key.

Kalieris January 12, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I’m a big fan of leftovers, so I would’ve done exactly the same thing.

Sanne July 11, 2011 at 2:50 am

Cheers pal. I do apprciatee the writing.

Elena January 12, 2009 at 8:45 pm

We don’t go out often either and remember each dinner (granted steaks can be more expensive and a dinner can end up costing more than $200 for 2 steaks) We would have made exactly the same choice.
It’s a special dinner, plus you were saving for it, so you can splurge. It looks weird and feels strange when you go out and you cut the meal in half. Is that how special your marriage feels to you, you know what I mean? You will remember that dinner for many years and hopefully, the discussion didn’t leave any negative memories for you and your wife. Since the question was not about whether to go out or not, I say 2 steaks. The next day a fresh salad with cut up steak pieces would be awesome. Desserts tend to be huge in restaurants so splitting a dessert can be ok, plus when you share something sweet together from one spoon, it sets a different mood in. Overall, I could totally relate to the description of the dinner debate. Raymond could probably make a funny episode out of that one. With kids at home, the dinner would have been even more of a treat and even more memorable.

lauren January 12, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I always tell my partner that taking me somewhere nice on our special occasion is cheaper than a divorce hee hee!

I would have gone for the cheaper steak, but i know my male counterpart would not have been able to resist the ‘value’ of getting the bigger steak. And it’s especially great that the leftovers don’t get wasted, even if it would have been cheaper to make a nice salad sandwich for lunch the next day instead.

Due to my partner always wanting to buy in bulk (because it is better value) we have a house full of ‘extra’ stuff. We have metres of spare bits of steel. And lots and lots of stuff just collecting dust. Occasionally I am very thankful when we have no spare cash and he can pull out some extra bits and pieces to fix his trailer with (instead of having to buy new stuff. Most of the time I hate cleaning it all though!!

Emily January 13, 2009 at 5:24 am

I completely agree with you, on purchasing the larger steak. Love leftovers, and especially if it’s a “treat” leftover! Good for you!

PW January 13, 2009 at 8:06 am

I definitely would have gone out to celebrate, instead of cooking, and I definitely would have bought the larger steak. I am not much of a red meat eater but tenderloin is the lower fat steak and since we have cats they would have gotten the leftovers.

headknocker January 13, 2009 at 11:07 am

I would have asked if they had a 16-oz cut. If it had to be filet, then the two 12-oz plates are the way to go. Especially since I love leftovers.

I also agree that having a date with your wife is important. My wife and I are celebrating our 20th this year and going on a cruise. The whole thing will be paid for up front so there will be no debt. Saving and sacrificing are rewarded by extravagance once in a while. I will say, that we have no debt except for our mortgage, so we are at the time of our life where having fun is not tied to feeling guilty.

Start-Up January 13, 2009 at 11:52 am

If you were at say a Taco Bell and you were thinking about getting a few extra volcano tacos on top of your standard cheddar bacon gordita crunch (DELICIOUS) meal because they were only $0.89, then i would say no. But since this is a special once a year type outing, I would for sure jump all over that extra 4 oz of goodness. Although I would have probably finished everything and demanded somebody help roll me home, since i would obviously not be able to walk.

LAL January 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I’ve been to ruth’s chris, my DH’s favorite meal is a good steak. The boy loves it. I bought him a $200 steak dinner every year on his birthday now. I used to do cheapo black angus but when we started making real money, I go to a premium steak house.

Fortunately where we live there are many different ones. I’ve been to Ruth’s Chris probably 4-5 times. Delicious and he eats his rare!

So I would have bought the 12 oz steak. BUT we would have ordered only 1 side to split because who cares about the sides, we want steak. And no dessert because steak is better than dessert.

So definitely the bigger steak. But for a so-so steak place? Not top of the line? We would have shared a steak, gotten an appetizer, gotten 2 sides, and dessert. Just because the steak isn’t perfect.

But the top steak restaurants make you only want the steak.

Try kobe beef. My GOD! It is so ridiculous that you can’t be full on $100 each, but wowsa. Amazing.

Leann January 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm

As Kevin’s wife, and the person on the other side of the steak dilemma, I would like to give my input on some of these issues. People who are suggesting that this meal was a waste of money in the first place because it was “eating out” have obviously never ever tasted this steak that we had. Nor have they tasted the layered cheesy potatoes we had. Nor have they tasted the best creme brulee in the WORLD (which we each got one for ourselves might I add!!) We are talking about the kind of food that I literally look forward to for a year because that’s how often we could afford to go. I would literally give up a week of eating beforehand just to go to this place. So don’t tell me this is a waste of money. Even though it would be cheaper to cook my own steak at home, there is no way I could ever learn to do it that well. It has pure magic cooked in the middle. Besides, not to mention that when it is my anniversary darnit I want to be pampered. I want someone to come serve me my meal and refill my drink every 2 seconds and place the napkin in my lap with silver tongs. So if it is the kind of experience and food that my husband and I enjoy THAT much, then no it is not wasted money.

Kevin January 13, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I’m loving the discussion here. And the fact that my wife stopped by. 🙂

LAL January 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm

i can’t believe how many people are “against” eating out. Get over it. What are you guys? Scrooges? Going to live there counting all your hoarded money?

Guess that’ll be my next post.

kathrn January 14, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Hey, you asked for an opinion, so I gave it. I didn’t realize that I would get bashed for stating an OPINION!!! I get that it was a special occasion, but my husband and I, who have been married for 26 years, do not waste money on eating out – but that’s US. ok?

We like to have something tangible for our HARD EARNED money.

Dining out does not work for us. On anniversaries we try to buy something for our home, or do something has more memories than a $50, $100 or $200 meal. We all know where that ends up.

To us…eating an expensive meal – is like taking the money and rolling down the window to your car and throwing it out!! Its gone like the wind.

But, Please Remember…this is MY opinion.

But hey.. if it makes everyone feel better…I agree with Kate…get the big steak and split it.

And yes, Kevin, I agree LIFE is for Living just because we don’t eat out doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy life, and to LAL…we don’t hoard our money, but we do save and pay cash for everything, have no debt and that’s why I checked out Kevin’s website…I thought it was about living debt free!

Kevin January 15, 2009 at 9:01 am

@LAL and kathrn: Simmer down. All opinions welcome. Different strokes for different folks.

@kathrn: I can appreciate having something tangible. I guess my question is, when is enough stuff ‘enough’? Can you continue to fill your house with things?

Or do you never go on vacation? Vacations aren’t usually tangible. You’re left with the memory of the trip. So you could take all of your vacation money and never spend it, and never leave your home. Going on vacation is like throwing money out the window, right?

Same idea, for us, with eating out once per year.

And yes, the website is about living debt free. Not sure how this post goes against being debt free — we had the cash saved up and covered most of the cost with a gift card. We didn’t incur any additional debt for it.

ariella January 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I read that research has shown that people tend to get more pleasure out of experiences than out of things. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it seems that a family would get more enjoyment from a vacation, say, than from new furniture.

I am very much of the “buy something you can keep” camp, and that’s what I did for many years. However, as I contemplated that I realized it was true. My children, now mostly young adults, talk of vacations, trips to see family, camping trips, etc, as their favorite parts of childhood. They remember trips to the the theater with much more affection than the new bedroom set they were so excited about at the time. Even library activities they used to do will bring on a 20 minute conversation.

So now I splurge a bit more on experience. My youngest is 6, and the next youngest is 15. The days when we are all together are numbered. I know from my older children that my boys will remember special times longer than special things, and that special times build more of a feeling of family than the new dining room set I thought would make our family dinners more special.

All that to say, I would get the two big steaks, a dessert each, and enjoy the anticipation of next year’s dinner.


Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet January 15, 2009 at 8:20 pm

MMMMmmmm Steak. Welcome to the dark side. If you ever want some support for eating out, I’m your girl.

Here’s a dirty secret… before my son was born my husband and I would go to a steak dinner every friday night. We still would if we had a babysitter. Shhh…

Stephanie PTY January 16, 2009 at 8:41 am

I do not understand your dilemma at all. I’ve been known to eat a 20oz sirloin with large sides and refills on the drink, no problem. 😀

I’m a big steak person – although as many people have said here in the comments, I much more often buy it and cook it myself. But when I go out with my parents…. 😀 😀

Philip January 16, 2009 at 9:11 am

I think we can settle this all, you need to go to the Big Texan, you can get a 72 oz steak for free… if you finish it and all the sides in one hour time. Probably not as wonderful of a steak but hey… it would get it free after you pig out! Of course if you don’t finish it is not super cheap, but you would likely have plenty of leftovers!

Fabulously Broke January 16, 2009 at 10:26 am

I definitely would have eaten out, and bought 2 of the 12 oz steaks because there’s no point in scrimping. It’s to ENJOY yourselves, and if I can eat a whole 12 oz, I don’t want to be sharing it with someone else and feeling shafted!

Call me greedy. But mama does love her some good, well cooked steak.

marie January 16, 2009 at 6:08 pm

We definitely would have gotten 2 of the 12 oz size and planned to get at least one more meal out of it–most likely as something different, like fajitas. No, it’s not exactly the same as it was the first night, but it’s still pretty darn good.

Kevin January 19, 2009 at 4:18 pm

@Ariella: Very well said and this is exactly how we feel about spending. Experience over things.

@Ashley: I won’t tell anyone 😉 Did it fit into your budget? Then again we feel like if we went every week (which we would love to do!) it wouldn’t be as memorable… might ruin the experience.

@Stephanie: Wow! I’d like to get a video of that!

@Philip: I’ve heard of that. Yuck! Don’t think we could manage that!

@Fabulously Broke: Thanks for stopping by and contributing your opinion.

@marie: Yea, turn it into something else or just eat it the way it is. Mmmm…

Stephanie PTY January 19, 2009 at 7:27 pm

And what a hilarious video that would be, since I’m a skinny blond who in no way looks like she could even eat a whole Happy Meal, let alone a 20oz steak! Unfortunately, all I have is a camera phone photo of the steak itself to commemorate the first time it happened. Maybe next time, I’ll bring along a documentary crew…

Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet January 20, 2009 at 8:42 am

Of course it fit into our budget! Plus I was working then and we worked opposite shifts so we really didn’t see each other that much.

Anyways, for the record. I get the smaller steak and forgo leftovers.

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