Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Do You Want, Dear?

This post is one in a series on cutting the budget by eating at home. Links in this post are to other related articles.

One thing I have realized in thinking about eating out, is that many times it isn't physical hunger that motivates the trip out the door.  Today I want to address the emotional reasons we eat out, and how to cope with them so we can keep the money in our wallets.

I've identified these reasons: Convenience, Celebrations, Boredom, Mother Me, Get Me Out of Here!. I'm sure there are others, but by the time we've discussed a few, hopefully ideas will flow to you about your own feelings and your own situation.   (By the way, these are all legitimate reasons to eat out, and sometimes that is great, but if we are trying to satisfy one emotional need and end up replacing it with guilt or worry because a splurge wasn't in the budget, then we are not helping ourselves or our family.)

Convenience:  I'm guessing this is the main reason we go out to eat.  The best way to battle this one is with a solid menu plan that includes low stress meals several times a week. Also be prepared with some Cheater Pants meals tucked away in your Fierce Pantry.

Celebrations: Food is one of my all time favorite ways to celebrate! Once in a while a celebration sneaks up on us as a happy surprise, but I will submit that we know in advance about 90% of the celebrations in our lives, and therefore can plan for and budget for them.  Birthdays, holidays and family milestones are fun and budget friendly when held at home.  The key to food for an occasion is to have a plan and make everything you can ahead of time, then the celebration really feels like an occasion, even for the cook.  My family loves silly theme parties consisting of decorations, food and a  game or two.  A few streamers hung in the kitchen make everyone feel festive and costs only pennies and forethought.  Children love to help with everything when it is a party!  Call in the reinforcements!

Boredom: Sometimes we are tired of the same old routine, same food, same expected remarks, bleah.  If you realize this is one of your motivators, then you are in for a treat! 
1) Take yourself to the library with a really big bag.  Fill the bag with every cookbook that looks remotely interesting (concentrate on getting some with great photos) and tote them home.  Spread them out and invite your family to flip through with you and find some things that look yummy or exciting.  Make a shopping list and try one new recipe each week for awhile.  You will find new favorites and add new life to dinnertime. 
2) Find a new-to-you ingredient at the grocery store and surf the net for ways to cook it.  Tickling your brain with a challenge can be rejuvenating.
3) Set the table in a fancy way and invite everyone to dress up for dinner, even if it is only a Wednesday with the same old menu.  Light some candles and play soft classical music.  Little girls love this!
4) Give everyone a bib and no utensils.
5) Eat outside on a blanket.
You get the idea.  Think outside your usual dinner box, not just the food, but where you eat, how you set the table, how to involve family members in new ways.

Mother Me, Please.: You know the days when you are sad and tired and you just wish that someone would take care of you?  When it would be so nice to sit down to eat something wonderful if it weren't for the hitch that you would have to make it?  I wish there weren't so many days like this!  There are a few ways to give yourself the gift of a hot meal you didn't have to worry about today:
1) Periodically freeze a casserole or a lasagna.  When you are ready to use it, take it out of the freezer and put it in a cold oven, then turn on the heat, bake for as long as you normally would.
2) If you can tell early in the afternoon that you are needy, pull out the crock pot. Fill it with something simple and read a book while it does the work.
3) Teach someone else to cook.  If you have children old enough to help out in the kitchen, encourage them to learn to make a meal or two, and assign them the kitchen on stressful days.
4) Keep a stash of treats for days when you feel entitled.  Sometimes if I've had a few M&Ms, I can face dinnertime anyway. (These are special, medicinal chocolates, you know.)

Get Me Out of Here!: This is the night when you feel like running away from the kids and all the housework and there is a new stress everywhere you look.  When I get to this point, I go to my bedroom and shut the door and get on my knees and ask for help.  I know God stands ready to help mothers in the work of caring for their families, because he has helped me out of this corner time and time again.  Another thing that helps with this is to have a scheduled night out.  I can cope all week if I know on Friday I do get out of here!  I can even make dinner if I know that when it is over, I'm gone!

You can do this!  Ask yourself what it is that you really want, and then work to meet that specific emotional need.  It is empowering to have a plan, and to know there is something you can do.
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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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