Yes, the dreaded "let me confess" post. It's something that I know lots of folks do, but between our attempts to eat healthier and try to save some cash, this is simply deplorable. Let's just say that we've been eating out. A lot. Upwards of 3 times a week. (Mind you, most of the time it's been once a week, but still.) And let's just say that one example of a one-month bill JUST for eating out was over $200. ($236.80, to be exact...and that's just my bank account, excluding hubby's.)
Great googily moogily!!
It SO gets away from you if you don't sit down and take a good, hard look at it, am I right? And this is all while maintaining a relatively well-stocked kitchen. We haven't gone on any expensive/extensive trips to the farmers' market this season yet, and I'm not sure we will until we tighten these reigns.
What the heck's the problem? I'll admit to laziness. Most of it does come from being pregnant, in all honesty. It's caused fatigue and at times a general lack of energy for cooking...and, at times, a teeny bit of depression has crept in, which somehow pushes me to say "Pizza would be great tonight." At the same time, the fact that we're traveling a lot means that when a mealtime comes around and I get hungry (wait, the hunger monster
So, after a birthing class, what happened? We took to venting and enjoying a meal or ice cream at the nearby Friendly's. We even made some friends in the process.
And after yoga on a Friday evening, do I really feel like cooking? Not s'much.
Or any other numbers of excuses that any of us might feel ourselves coming up with.
Compared to folks in other situations (or countries), the fact that cutting back on restaurant-eating is the hardest part of our budget process is a wonderful problem to have. I suppose we have other financial issues, too, but this is the most surprising AND the one that we can have the most control over.
So, what're we going to do? ESPECIALLY with a little one on the way (tell me I'm not going to want to order in practically every night). Well, I'm not planning on cutting it all out cold turkey. Oftentimes the withdrawal that you go through makes you less likely to stick with it, so we're not going to cut out "eating out" altogether. I AM, however, going to analyze the heck out of our budget to see how often we CAN splurge - and on what types of items.
I'm also not going to fall victim of the "we have a gift certificate" or "we have a coupon for such-and-such a place" - because, while it's great to have a way to save on a meal, you end up going out and often over-spending, still. We've had generous offers to use restaurant.com certificates and the like, but the pressure to use them by a certain date and the knowledge that it simply doesn't take $20 to feed 2 people these days (unless you're going to Subway or something like that...but, even then....) is enough for me. If we're in the mood to go to a particular place and happen to have a coupon, that's great! But, it's kind of like the coupon Catch-22 in the grocery store - if it's not something I need, is it still worth spending on?
One thing that's already helped (and is kinda fun, when I'm up for it) is creating meals that we could possibly get in a restaurant. Somehow, they almost always turn out healthier. Last night, I made a couple of grilled chicken wraps (buffalo chicken for Dave, honey mustard chicken for me) and although I couldn't fold them the right way (too much filling - gettin' our money's worth!), it was a way healthier version of a pretty yummy meal that would've cost us at least $9 each at a restaurant. And, yes, we even had some fries - organic ones. (And a beer at home is always cheaper than out-and-about. Dave drank it, not me. ;-)) Oh, and he says his was delicious - I think the fact that he repeated it several times while eating it proved this to be true - while mine, eh, the homemade dressing I whipped up wasn't GREAT. It was still quite good.
Another option I'm interesting in (but, admittedly, intimidated by) is creating weekly menus. The problem with these is that our weekly schedules are often dictated on a whim - say, I don't know that Dave's meeting with a writing partner next Thursday until possibly a day or two before. That's not a complaint; it's just how our household rolls. So, a flexible weekly schedule might be best for us; ie "we were going to have *such and such* for dinner, but since I'm eating alone (or he'll just have a salad when he gets home), I'll eat something lighter or easier (or, tee hee, something he wouldn't normally eat - can we say mushrooms?)"
There are lots of blogs and communities online that discuss menus. I think the hardest part is coming up with things that the family loves, and that don't take up TOO much time to prepare. There's, somehow, always an evening that you feel more like cooking, and inevitably an evening that you simply don't (which helps you fall into the dreaded "let's just get pizza").
So, my search for easy, DELICIOUS (who wants to eat crap, even if it is easy and cost-effective?) possibly even prepare-ahead meals is on! I'll share any sites that I find (I'll be looking for all-natural/organic/whole foods sites, but will share those that I find valuable, even if not), so if you have any that you love, please feel free to respond in the comment section!! Your sites don't have to be crunchy granola, either, but if they are, more power to ya! ;-)
Oh, and, BTW, if anyone has some freeze-ahead meals that would be appropriate for summertime that they love, please share! I've GOTTA get going on some meals to just defrost/prepare quickly for when the baby comes!!