True confessions time, shall we?
We eat out a lot. I don’t mean like sit-down restaurants with huge portions, I just mean we seem to do it on-the-go or at coffee dates or lunch dates or sometimes it’s take-out or coffee drive-through or take’n’bake pizza or coffee from the cafe in Target or food courts while shopping or a craving for Chipotle burritos or a craving for an iced venti decaf white mocha with a half a pump of hazelnut. Hypothetically.
But something about it not being those sit-down restaurants made us feel like it was ok, you know?Like as long as it’s not the Olive Garden we’re not wasting our money. We’re not being extravagant, we’re just being busy (and other lies I tell myself…) but then we took a closer look at our budget.
We spent almost $600 on food last month – eating out and grocery store.
Holy crap, guys. HOLY CRAP. Granted, some of that was spent while we were traveling or out of town which is somewhat inevitable (hello, NYC and Oregon trips) but $600 is completely unacceptable for a family of 3 (2.5 if we’re honest) to spend on food in a given month. This has got to stop.
In reality, we’ve known it needed to stop for a while now. But summer is summer, you know? We’ve been to several states and on several trips and all those yummy iced coffee drinks (excuse excuse excuse…)
…I don’t care if summer is summer, a budget is a budget. And we were breaking ours.
So, September 1st has been circled on our calendar for a few weeks now. It is O My Family’s day to change. For the entire month of September we will not pay a single cent to eat out.
Cold turkey, friends (and I’m not talking about the lunch meat in the fridge). No more. None. No coffee, no Noodles & Co., no Jimmy Johns, no Papa Murphy’s Pizza. None of it. For a month.
As I write this, I am in a bookstore cafe and I promise you, the toffee mocha frappuccino and Chonga bagels are calling my blessed name. This is not going to be easy. I can count on both hands the number of functions and events we have at restaurants this month where we may be the only ones not ordering something. This is not going to be easy. Lately, this chasing a toddler thing has me plum tuckered out by 4:00 and I have little oomph left to make dinner. Usually we resort to take out at that point. This is not going to be easy.
So far I have thought of a few plans to help our family succeed at this challenge:
-Once a month cooking (on a smaller scale): I have never attempted OAMC, where you spend an entire day in the kitchen preparing meal after meal (but it’s more efficient because you prep and clean once, and often dishes have similar ingredients that you prepare together) and then freezing them. Then, the night before you plan to eat it, you take the meal out of the freezer and put it into the fridge to thaw (or put it on the counter by 9am the day of). Now, I don’t think I can handle a whole month at a time being that I’ve never ever tackled something of this magnitude, but I really want to try a 2 week version. I hope to do that this weekend which should help with O crud, it’s 4 and what’s for dinner? O’clock.
-Grocery ready-to-go’s: I don’t know if this is technically cheating, but in the back of my mind I anticipate buying a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store on one of those nights that we would normally resort to Chipotle. A frozen pizza or 2 will probably sneak its way into my freezer as well.
-Bringing snacks with us: I already do it for OBaby everyday – I have enough on hand for him to constitute a meal when we leave the house. Some snack sticks, some fruit, water, sometimes I even bring a small cooler bag (the one that came with my breastpump) with cheese sticks and hard boiled eggs in it. I need to start including enough for myself (and DanO if he’s with us) because being out and about and hungry is our main down fall.
-Avoid, when possible: yes, social functions often occur at eating establishments and yes I will continue to be social, but when it’s within my control this month, I will try to avoid cafes and stores with food courts as playdate settings. I will opt instead for libraries (although those increasingly have coffee shops and in-house restaurants), beaches, houses, and parks.
Sure, I’ve thought of some strategies but friends, (say it with me:) this is not going to be easy. But neither was looking at our budget last month. So.
Do you have any help/tips/advice/encouragement/motivation/experience to share? I could use it, because… well…
This is not going to be easy.