Fall in NYC is a busy time for the food obsessed: Each week is filled with celebrity-studded eating and drinking events like the New York City Wine and Food Festival, Le Fooding, and the New York Craft Beer Festival. (Not to mention that the season is also jam-packed with new restaurant openings.) It’s a bit daunting knowing that dozens of potentially amazing food festivals are about to go on around you, and it’s up to you to figure out how to make the most of them all while still making rent.

But the sad truth, many of these fall food events fall short of their promise. So many large-scale festivals and tastings suffer from what we like to call “Shitshow Syndrome”—they’re not only tough on the wallet, but also overcrowded, poorly organized, and generally frustrating. Even if you’re willing to suck all that up, they often sell out before any of us mere mortals can get tickets—or, they’re so expensive that few can affford them. So, we propose alternatives that offer same-but-different—and we think, much better—experiences at a similar price point. Plus, you can do them anytime.

Click through the gallery for a rundown of the season’s hottest NYC food events, plus recommendations for savvier ways to spend your time and money.