Okay so if you’ve read my blog for more than say, a week, you know that I’m a pretty lousy cook, I have picky eaters in my house, and we eat out A LOT. By a lot, I mean four or five plus meals a week. Like they know our names at the pizzeria and Mexican restaurant we frequent.
At the beginning of this year, seeing that the entire family gained excess weight over the last year, and my husband had reported we spent a grand total of $13,000 on restaurants in 2015, I decided we would try an experiment, an entire month of eating at home for dinner. Thirty-one long days.
Armed with a new crock pot and an abundance of Pintrest recipes, I announced this plan to my family and friends. And they all laughed. And laughed. And laughed. No one thought I could do it.
Now by “I” I mean me. Because essentially, this was my challenge. This was 99% on my shoulders to plan, prep, and cook. To design 31 meals we could all stomach without repeating meals over and over. Sure, my hubby cooked a few of those meals (maybe 8?) but that was about it. He was also very opposed to the idea because he’s well, lazy, and likes the convenience of a wait staff and kitchen staff.
Still, I wanted to do it because I felt like this challenge was about change, about making better choices for my family. We’ve all packed on some excess weight from eating out and I know that’s not a healthy precedence for the kids. I felt like not only would we be better off physically and financially at the end of this, we would be better off overall. I thought maybe I might even learn to LIKE cooking.
The month is almost over. We’ve gotten through 30 days. The crock pot has meal number 31 in it as we speak. And the results are pretty much in, the experiment as good as over. And yes, maybe we did accomplish it. And it honestly wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to actually cook. I’m not as horrific at it as I recall and hubby is pretty amazing (when he actually cooks).
Some of our meals were better than good. (I could eat the crab corn chowder or the quesadilla every day). But guess what? I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I developed a new found love of cooking. I’m not going to tell you that I suddenly became a gourmet chef. I’m not gonna tell you our family bonded over creating healthy meals together. I’m not even going to tell you we lost a single solitary pound. I’m not even gonna lie and say I cooked 31 meals.
There were quite a few nights I waved my hand toward the kitchen and said “fend for yourself”, which results in soup or cereal for my kids. What I will tell you is that the challenge was definitely NOT what I thought it would be.
This challenge end up being more than about the cooking for me. It ended up causing me to see the disparity of chores in our household. While everyone ATE the meals, not everyone helped create them. Or even clean up. Not only did my workload in the kitchen increase tenfold, I’ve never heard so many freaking complaints about meals in all my life.
Oh sure, the first few days we all worked together to make the meals and I believe it was Day 15 before we even had a meal we didn’t like. But we were pulling out all the stops in the beginning.
I have about 10 meals in my wheelhouse. Hubby has maybe 7 or 8. You do the math…that’s about 2 weeks of crappy, unpalatable food. That’s 2 weeks of complaints and 2 weeks of HOURS cleaning up the kitchen because the kids have made themselves pasta or soup or some alternate meal.
Hubby gave me the preliminary numbers for our savings for the month. Even though we obviously spent more at the grocery store, we spent nothing at restaurants. I thought we would save over $1,000 a month, considering we spent $13,000 a year. Nope. The grand total amounted to $606 for the month.
Yes, sure, that adds up to $7,272 a year. That’s a vacation or even a year’s worth of car payments and insurance. But that’s also NOT ONE SINGLE MEAL OUT. That’s no takeout, no birthday dinners, and no “hell, I just can’t fathom cooking tonight”. That’s a whole year of hearing “what the hell is this made of?”, “you’re having ANOTHER bowl of cereal?” and “I didn’t know chicken was gray”.
To some, that’s bearable and within reach. To me, that’s like saying you can save that much money if you don’t turn you heat on in the winter or the air on in the summer. Sure that’s a huge savings but holy crap you’re gonna be mighty uncomfortable, unnecessarily. Some things are just not worth it. To me, my sanity is worth $7,272 a year.
Unfortunately, the man who fought me tooth and nail when I proposed this challenge, was seriously buoyed by that number. Cheap to the core, the idea of saving to him is akin to money growing in our backyard on its on special bush.
He doesn’t care that I have old lady hands now from the dishwashing. He doesn’t care how much food I threw out because people in this damn house don’t eat leftovers. He doesn’t care that the cashiers in Shop Rite greet me by name. He just sees dollar signs. He told me wants to go the WHOLE YEAR without eating out.
That’s when I laughed and laughed and laughed.
We’d never make it the whole year. We’re so close to freedom I can taste it. My kids are marking it on the calendar—we only have to eat Mommy’s crappy meals for X amount of days more. My husband is the one who’s actually thinking about where he wants to go out to dinner on the first of February. It would be impossible to expect us to pull it off. I’m not delusional.
But maybe, if we all work together (insert snickering here) we can pull this off enough to limit our eating out to one or two nights a week. Heck, that’s gotta save SOME money, right? Wish me luck.
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