Food For Thought

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September is here!  And with it, comes much relief that August has passed.  Whew.  August was an unusually busy month for us, and with a husband working in the education system it seemed like every day was leading up to the big back-to-school moment.  But, also (just for kicks) I decided to throw another wrench in the cogs of the Pardy-go-round and undergo another entire month of NOT eating out!

Yes, you might recall that we did this same experiment back in January.  So, I sort of had an idea of what I was getting into (i.e. cooking, cooking, and more cooking).  But, there was a vast difference between this month's experiment and January's:  planning.  Or, lack thereof, I should say.

Yep, this month I entirely winged it.  Not even a shopping list.  Not one item written on the calendar.  Not one meal prepped ahead of time or stored in the freezer.  I just knew that we were going to eat at home - every meal, every day.  That was the goal, anyway.

I'll tell you right off the bat - we each "cheated" once.  My husband really didn't even mean to - he just forgot it was August 1st and simply ate out at lunch the very first day out of sheer habit.  Whoopsie.  Oh well.  As for me, my lack of planning (even though I was planning to not plan - ha!) simply got the best of me.  Halfway through the month, I was out shopping with the girls and noon (and hunger) hit.  We were not nearly done with our errands and they had chomped their way through the snacks I'd brought with us almost as soon as we had left the house.  They were cranky and starving and frankly, I had to weigh my options:  Go all the way back to the house to scrounge around for scraps (as grocery shopping was on the list of our errands to run), or Drive thru Chick-Fil-A and calm our souls and stomachs for and easy ten bucks.

Needless to say, the value of convenience won out that day, and it was totally worth it at the time.  However, the next night when I made an entire roast chicken for $3.20 that fed all of us for the next two struck me just how completely insane it is that I paid twice as much for one meal for one person.  Crazy.

We all know that eating at home is cheaper and generally healthier.  It does take extra time and effort, usually, and as a person without a dishwasher, I can genuinely say that it doesn't always feel worth it.  But, after the dishes are done and the oven has cooled and our tummies are full of delicious foods I slaved helps me refocus on why we are even eating in the first place.

Yes, we have some bananas!
Food is fuel.  We know this.  It gives us energy to burn and calories to keep our bodies functioning properly.  But, I think we can almost all agree that food is so much more than that.  Food is family-time.  Food is friendship-building.  Food is rewarding and creative and inspiring and, at times, even nostalgic or romantic.

So often we think of food as just something we put in front of us to enjoy and devour and get us through the day.  But really, food has the power to give power to whatever you put in front of it.

You put a couple of cranky kids in front of one will start an argument.  You put an amorous couple in front of one will spark romance.  You put a whole family (and a little creativity) in front of one might trigger a game.  You put a dieter in front of one fuel will power (or potential guilt).

You see what I'm saying here.  Food can ignite emotions in us if we spend the time to evaluate and appreciate it.

Sure, I do these silly family experiments (i.e. giving up Target for a year or whatever) to save us money, or be healthier, but it also helps us regain our values and refocus our energy to what we truly deem important.  When we eat out, I find myself assigning value to convenience (sometimes very valid - as it was on the shopping day!) or because it saves me energy or dishes or sanity.  But, when I just eliminate the option for a chunk of time (and, a month quickly feels like an eternity when you are cooking this much!) I suddenly feel myself empowered to be able to make it happen.  I do have the energy.  I do have the time.  I do have the creativity and resources and ability.  I do because, if I don't...we don't eat!

Not planning ahead was super difficult this month.  Many (many) nights it felt like I was starring in an episode of Chopped on the Food Network.  (You know, that show where they open a basket of unknown/surprise ingredients and have to somehow make a meal using it all!?)  I would look in my cupboards and fridge and just Tim-Gunn-it into something edible (that is, I would just have to "Make it work!")

Okay, let's see, we got some leftover roast chicken, a can of tomatoes, some olive oil, a clove of garlic, half a pack of rotini, I got some basil in the garden, maybe that spinach is still good....and....GO!" 

It is a cooking challenge, no doubt.  And, with two little kids, it's not like I could up and run to the grocery store every day either.  I just had to work with what I had, be willing to bake from scratch or take a risk or try a recipe that I googled...and keep some cereal on back-up just in case.

I wanted to try to go a month without eating out and without planning this month for one major reason:  to show you that you can do it too.  You can!  Stop rolling your eyes.  Maybe you don't need to.  Maybe you hate the idea.  But, you could do it, seriously.  You might not need to save the money or eat healthier or even spend extra time with your family (and if those are all true, please - tell me your secret!) but, maybe you just want to try something to spice up your usual routine and challenge yourself to see just what your food is empowering you to do.

Watermelon, fueling some silliness
Is your lunch fueling your frustration in getting your kids fed before nap time?  Is your supper triggering you to turn on the tv and avoid conversations about how your day really was?  Is your afternoon snack comforting you so you can just make it a few more hours before daddy gets home to help??

Sometimes it helps me to just stop, take a step back, and evaluate why I do what I'm doing.  We eat every day, and several times a day for that matter.  Food is part of our lives and can set the tone for how we treat ourselves and others around us.  Are we rushing around, being thoughtless and cheap and valuing convenience as our highest priority?  Or, are we willing to take time, maybe get a little messy, take a few risks, and be intentional about what we are really fueling in our homes?

(Am I talking about food or relationships here is the real question?)

I love restaurants.  I love eating out and appreciating how others can cook (not to mention, clean up!) the foods my family enjoys.  But, having these months of "time-out from going out" has been a great way for me to realign what I truly value for my family (plus, it's like a boot camp for my cooking skills).  Sure, it saved us money and calories; but more than anything, this experiment fed my family a new perspective for appreciating time with each other.  And that's something I hope we are always hungry for.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific blog post. Mad love for slow food. I became a fan of avoiding eating out altogether three years ago, yet we still have Sunday pizzas because I can't make them as cheap as Little Caesar (gotta be the slaves, right?) I might suggest emealz. It's inexpensive and gives you just an outline of what you can make. I'm a big fan.: Carolyn Palacios


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