As I mentioned in my last post, for the month of September we decided, as a family, to challenge ourselves to eat every meal at home. I’m happy to report: we did it! My sons are even happier to report that we now have an XBOX Kinnect. Part of our goal included the reward — we would use the money we saved by not eating out to purchase an XBOX.
So, what did I learn from this experiment?
- I can resist the “it’s-just-too-much-to-think-about-what-to-cook” urge if I’m in the habit of doing it. I became much better at finding things to throw together in our fridge. Thankfully “just doing it” is now the new normal when the dreaded “What shall we have for dinner” question comes up.
- Knowing exactly what is in my younger son’s food is an important part of enjoying a meal for me. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve known this in my head. In fact, it’s pretty obvious. But there was a shift for me last month — I felt how much better it is for me if my husband or I (rather than a chef in a kitchen somewhere) are the people preparing my son’s food. Sitting at our table, I felt calmer and more relaxed, even though most of the time I’d been the person busy getting that food on the table.
- We were spending too much moolah on eating out, and it wasn’t even “fancy food”. Cost-benefit ratio? In our case, eating out was a huge fail.
- Time and hassle? I think eating at home actually saves us time and hassle. We don’t have to pick a restaurant, drive there, wait for a seat, make choices from the menu, etc. (Nor do we have to hassle with keeping our kids entertained during that time.) Again, eating was a more relaxing experience when we were at home.
- Our sons’ taste buds improved. While our eating out destinations never included McD’s, the tendency for the boys was to choose something fried from the menu. And they would balk at the healthier options we presented them when we did eat at home. Compared to many kids, they are really healthy eaters — they eat a lot of veggies, fruit, whole grains — but still we couldn’t be convince them that a potato is actually from the same food as a french fry. After our month of eating at home, I’ve noticed that they are more willing to take the obligatory “few bites” of the foods we prepare and often they are pleasantly surprised. For example, there were no screams when I dished up the Pork and Lentil Cassoulet we made last night. That’s a huge win.
On October 1 we went out to dinner to celebrate our month away from restaurants. We’d had a lot of discussion about where to go and finally picked our favorite Mexican Restaurant. It was good food and a fine experience, but having been away for a month, I realized that I would have preferred eating at home. Our schedule was crammed that night, so it took juggling to get us to the restaurant on time, once we arrived the boys were fidgeting, we allowed them to have lemonade (sugar high = bad) and the food was fine but not great. The perspective we gained from a month away was huge.
Based on the success of our eat-at-home-for-a-month experiment, we’re still tracking our habits this month and are aiming for no more than two meals out this month. And, we’re considering new challenges for a future month…maybe dropping sugar or eating paleo. Stay tuned.