We don’t eat out much. I know, I know – in the age of Uber Eats and Grub Hub, working parents, pandemics, and strange times – this might seem odd. But it’s true. Now this hasn’t always been the case, but it has definitely become the norm for us over the last few years.
Don’t get the wrong idea though – we weren’t trying to save money or be healthy. Well, initially we weren’t, but we’ve found that we have saved quite a bit of money not eating out and maybe even gotten a little healthier, too.
How Did This Happen?
Let me tell you just how this came about. Rewind eight years ago. My youngest had just entered the terrible twos (which for him began at about 18 months and didn’t end until he was almost four – or was it five?) This little guy was full of spunk and spontaneity. He could flip the switch between “happy baby” and “screaming hellion” in seconds. Many times, we found ourselves out, trying to enjoy a lovely lunch or delightful dinner, and the switch would flip. All hell would break loose, and chaos would reign supreme. We would end up leaving in a hurry, usually frustrated, and often hungry. We finally decided that staying home was a better option for us – at least for this phase of life.
Staying home for dinner meant learning to make those dishes we loved to eat out at our favorite restaurants. It also meant, I soon realized, that I could make twice as much food for half as much money. It sometimes even meant…wait for it…that I could make a dish taste better than the restaurant version. It wasn’t long before we were experimenting with all types of food and new ingredients – all the while taming the little beast that was our child. We found that we most often all of us enjoyed a home cooked meal more than eating out at what had been our favorite restaurants.
So, here’s a few tips that have revived the home-cooked meal for our family:
- Make a weekly menu! Mix up what you eat. You don’t have to eat chicken day after day. Have your family help brainstorm meals for the week. In my house the kids choose at least one meal each that they would like to have for the week. My husband usually adds in a meal or two as well.
- Check the schedule for the week! Do the kids have a late-night practice or appointment that makes dinner difficult? Will you be rushed one night to get dinner on the table? When these nights happen for us (and they do regularly), we plan for a crockpot meal or something that comes together quickly. We have found that with a little thought and planning, we spend less nights rolling through the local fast-food drive through.
- Try new recipes! We make it a point to try at least one new recipe per week. It may be a salad or soup or fun sandwich. We are always on the hunt for new recipes to try. Even my kids and husband have gotten onboard. They send me messages, notes, or save recipes on our Alexa Show for me to see and try later. New recipes keep us from being bored with our weekly menu.
- Plan a big family dinner each week! We usually find the weekend works best for us. We try to plan a (somewhat) fancy dinner to enjoy as a family. Often, it’s steak or salmon (my littlest’s favorite) or maybe a lasagna or something a bit more time consuming to make. You can add dessert to spruce it up even more. These meals mimic the sit-down dinners at the restaurant, but allow us to laugh loud, without worry of bothering neighboring tables. Plus, when we’re done, we are already home and ready to relax!
Now, We Eat Out… Occasionally
My little guy did finally grow out of his “wild years” and now easily sits at a nice restaurant. But the decision to eat at home has stuck with us. We crave home cooked family dinners! Now, when we choose to eat out, it’s a real treat! We don’t feel bad about the money we spend or the calories we eat. We love finding great food and supporting our local businesses. The busyness of life often screams convenience and eating out is VERY convenient. But, maybe in all the busyness, a home cooked meal might be just the thing you need. I hope you will give it a try!