Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 2 and Counting

OK. I have joined the masses of bloggers in the universe. Didn't think I would ever do it, but here I am. I need a focus to keep me on track.

I recently looked at our checking and charge card statements and realized that we are spending WAY too much on eating out. Not really earth-shattering news, but since I am trying to formulate and maintain some semblance of a budget, it was shocking to my bottom line. The high calorie foods are also not too helpful to my physical bottom line either.

For centuries families fed themselves every day with very little, if any, outside help, and for most of those years they also had rudimentary equipment to use. So here I am, a college-educated woman in the 21st century, with great equipment and convenient food sources at my disposal, and I find it easier to pick up a phone and dial take out than open my full fridge and prepare something to eat. Mom cooked 99% of our meals at home when I was growing up. Dining out was a rare treat. And she was cooking for Dad and at least two of my four big brothers, all of whom had big appetites. I am a full-time mom with a three year old son and a husband. I can do this.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy cooking, but it's really been for the sake of cooking as an art or as an expression of love, not so much cooking to make supper. Early on in our marriage, my husband commented, "Honey, every meal doesn't have to be gourmet. Meatloaf is always good." I was just learning to cook, so every meal had to be an event. I found a recipe, made a list, did the shopping, and labored over the preparations. It seemed (and still does seem a bit) anti-climatic just to make a quick meal. Tonight, for example, I made a Bisquick quick pot pie using leftovers. Mom happened to be here, and she loved it. I felt good using up leftovers, but it felt odd somehow that I didn't produce a "beauty plate.", although the finished casserole dish looked pretty darned good, now that I think about it. I tend to equate cooking with entertaining, even when it's just my husband, son and me.

I also enjoy dining out, but I've started to burn out on restaurant food. When you add my ongoing food knowledge quest, it gets a little dicey. It's not a conscious quest really, more of a chain reaction. Several years ago I started reading nutritional information on recipes in Cooking Light magazine to help control a high cholesterol count, which led to reading food labels to watch the trans fat counts, hydrogenated oils, sodium, and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and that led to reading investigative information regarding pesticides, hormone/ antibiotic injections of animals, and genetic modification of foods. Then, to top it off, my tastes are leaning, if not full-on vegan, at least vegetarian, because of the thought of eating flesh, the whole unsavory aspects of the corporate farming, slaughter and meat packing industries, and the safety questions regarding food products, including fish with high levels of mercury, chicken with salmonella, and beef with mad cow. Let me tell you if you haven't tried it yourself, looking for substantial vegetarian, let alone vegan, menu options at most restaurants is daunting. You may be lucky to get a dinner salad and tomato soup (hold the bacon, please).

Wow. And this doesn't even take into account the whole locavore/ carbon footprint concern. Not to mention that I grew up in Texas where just about everything I know how to cook has bacon, butter, and/or chicken broth in it. I’m just saying that while I am learning to make some new dishes, vegan cooking does not come naturally to me. At times, I get so overwhelmed by it all that I either do not want to eat anything, or I do not want to think about it and just order out.

So, having said all that, I am starting this blog to make myself be more thoughtful and productive. My goals are:
1) To reduce food expenses by eating out less and wasting fewer groceries at home,
2) To lose about 10 pounds, and
3) To become what Mom calls a “real cook”, which is someone who can walk into the kitchen at any time and use the food on hand to create a meal that feeds the family.

Dining out is not the problem. Unplanned dining is. I do love a fun luncheon with my girlfriends, a productive lunch meeting for a volunteer project, and, of course, the always lovely date night with my husband. With that disclaimer in mind, onward to the rules:
1) Do plan menus, and thus grocery lists, for about a week at a time,
2) Don’t call in an order or go to a restaurant at the last minute, and
3) Do plan to dine out on occasion. Hey, we all like a treat and I’d really miss Atlanta Bread.

A special note: A shout out to my friend Sharry, whose family recently went at least a month with no dining out. She posted it on Facebook, and it got me to thinking. So, thank you, Sharry!

By the way, I'm on Day 2 with no unplanned dining out. Here we go...


  1. You go girl!! I once took the time to calculate how much we were spending on food a few years ago and it over $14,000 for the year. That's over $1000 a month. MSMoney/Quicken make this easy to calculate. A few years later - th boys are bigger and Blane eats like an adult so I imagine it is worse than that. Good luck and don't worry. Keeping a few standard staples in the pantry will help. Perhaps you will even find new things the kids will eat when you have to get creative. :)

  2. Thanks, Rochelle! I know it's not rocket science. It's habits. I am just reporgramming the way we think. Be sure to share recipes/menus you or your kids love! I'm open to suggestions! :)