It might seem like we do a lot of "fasting" around here. I use the word fast to describe purposely abstaining from an activity or item, for a set time, for a defined purpose. I have blogged about our family Media Fast and my Negativity Fast. Our most current endeavor was a 2 week restaurant fast. We have tried this in the past and failed pretty pitifully. Last year we attempted seven days without restaurants. I think we made it for five. For many families, this does not sound difficult at all. I wish we were one of those families!
The two big reasons that we visit restaurants too much are convenience because we are so busy on so many weeknights, and cravings, because sometimes a certain meal or restaurant just sounds way more appealing then whatever I planned to cook.
It really is ridiculous, and each time we have evaluated our finances we come to the same conclusion: we are hemorrhaging money in our food budget, and it is all because of eating out! When we first participated in the Crown Financial Ministries Biblical Financial Study, we discovered that we spent more at restaurants then we did on rent! Holy moly! We have definitely improved since then, but not nearly enough.
The thing is, I really love to cook! With the proper planning, I have plenty of time in my schedule to cook too. There is absolutely no reason for us to be eating out so often.
The goal of staying away from restaurants for two weeks was to get us in the habit of eating at home. I tried to overcome our main challenges with my meal planning.
- To avoid temptation based on convenience factors, I bought a few quick-to-prepare frozen food items. I don't usually buy this type of food, but I thought it would help when things get hectic.
- To avoid temptation based on cravings, I tried to make an extremely varied meal plan. I thought of all the places that we usually eat out, and tried to put similar dishes on our menu. So, for example, I made sure to include an Asian-inspired dish and a homemade pizza, since Asian and pizza are frequent eating out go-to spots for us.
At the end of week one, we had an unexpected offer for free babysitting for a date night. I will admit that we seized the opportunity and went for sushi and appetizers at a favorite Japanese restaurant. Although, admittedly, that was in violation of our plan for the week, it actually led us to a really great idea. We decided that (after the fast) we would put a couples date night and a family date night on our calendar on alternating weeks. If we are faithful to eat at home for the entire week, we will reward ourselves with a dinner out on Friday or Saturday. But if we do not eat at home all week, the date night will have to be a non-restaurant activity. I'm really excited about this new plan, because not only does it insure that we are setting aside special evenings, it also gives us an incentive to eat at home every week, not just during this two week period.
Week two was going as planned until the weekend hit. Epic fail. After tee ball on Saturday we visited a favorite deli for lunch. I am pleased to say that we at least ate dinner at home (not typical for us on a Saturday night). Sunday we hit our favorite Irish restaurant for their family-friendly brunch, and had dinner at the ballpark during a minor-league baseball game.
I really, really wanted to report back that we accomplished the whole two weeks with no restaurant visits. But, of course, I will not lie to you. We are imperfect people and we are not capable of living a perfect life, but we are striving to do a little better each day. I can happily report back that because of this "fast" we got back into the habit of thinking about our dining out and being more purposeful about it. For example, after a family lunch date this past Monday, my fella looked at me and said "Okay, we eat at home until our [planned] breakfast out on Saturday!" and it feels good to know that we both have the same goal in mind. It also got me back into menu planning with creativity. Planning meals that I want to cook and the family wants to eat. Finding recipes that we are all excited to try. So, progress was made even if perfection was not achieved!
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