Did you know that 58% of North Americans eat at a restaurant at least once a week? 4% do so more than three times. That’s a lot of eating out – and our health, finances and relationships suffer for it! There are so many good reasons to eat at home.
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When we lived in Ontario, there was a wonderful little restaurant that served authentic Mennonite cooking. The servers and cooks were all in Plain garb, the decor was simple and the food was delicious. Look, you have never dined until you have filled your belly at a Mennonite table.
But almost no Mennonites ate there.
Seriously – it was very strange to see a Mennonite sitting at a table. They were all cooking or serving.
One time when I was shopping with one of my friend Leona’s daughters, I noticed some delicious-looking donuts. Have I mentioned that I have a terrible sweet tooth? The yummy looking donuts sparked a short conversation that ended with “If we want donuts, we make them.”
Ok, yes, she was a teenager (this was before her marriage this past summer) and, yes, even Mennonite teens can get attitudes (she sure did!), but she had a great point.
Donuts – if you want one, do you buy it or make it? Until she said it, I had never thought about making donuts at home.
When Leona and her husband visited us, again, we wanted to treat them to a Nova Scotia lobster dinner. The only issue? Leona had never actually eaten in a restaurant and was not very keen to try. So, I went to town, bought lobsters and cooked them at home. Since the meal cost us about $60 to prepare at home, it’s easy to imagine how much it would have cost in a restaurant.
No, lobsters don’t scream when you boil them. That’s air escaping from their shells.
Anyway, the point is that Plain living and eating out do not go together very well.
Five Convincing Reasons To Eat At Home
Plain people tend to be frugal and I don’t know what it is in your neck of the woods, but dinner out around here runs at least $10 a person. That doesn’t include a drink other than tap water, nor does it include the tip. Ouch.
And buying fast food isn’t saving any money, either! (Plus, it’s even less healthy.)
Mennonites are just about the most frugal people I know, and the idea of spending $50 for a $5 meal just horrifies them.
I know. I really do. It SEEMS as though eating at a restaurant should save time. In order to eat out, you need to:
- drive to the restaurant
- wait for the food to arrive
- pack up and go home
It takes longer to do all that than it does to simply cook a meal and clean it up. Unless you are eating out for a very special occasion, something that is worth all that time, think about how much easier it actually is to eat at home.
Control The Food
One of the problems I run into when dining out is that restaurants are not set up to deal with allergies or food sensitivities. It doesn’t matter what food you are trying to avoid – it can be difficult, if not downright impossible, at a restaurant.
My mother, who reacts badly to gluten, has given up on finding a gluten-free place to eat – even though many restaurants offer gluten-free options.
What are some other things that you might wish to avoid but that are inevitable at many restaurants?
- Vegetable oil
- Factory farmed meat
- Dirty dozen produce
- Tree nuts
- Excess salt
Restaurants just aren’t very earth-friendly.
If you want to minimize food waste, conserve energy and water, eat and drink organic food, support local growers or purchase from sustainable farmers … a restaurant is probably not the best place for you.
Ask anyone who has worked in food service – some really crazy things go on behind those doors. From people licking your burgers or spitting in your gravy to meat left out on the counter to thaw overnight, the list of things that go on in restaurants is horrifying.
Low income, hourly-paid workers are more likely to show up even though they have a bad flu, cold or other illness. They take medication to mask the symptoms and get to work – handling your food. (Don’t be too harsh on them. It’s hard to make ends meet when you’re working hourly for minimum wage and a missed day of work can mean rent doesn’t get paid. Or worse, missing a day might mean losing your job.)
Yes, I’ve worked in food service and, while I certainly never licked or spit in anyone’s food, the stories I could tell would shock you!
If your food is being prepared behind closed doors, trust me, you do not know what is going into it.
Improve Family Life
For those of you with children, there is one simple way that you can improve your relationship with your children, protect them against eating disorders, keep informed about their lives, keep them in school and strengthen their communication and relationship skills.
Eat with them regularly, at the dinner table, with no electronic devices or other distractions.
Children who don’t eat meals with their families regularly are more likely to skip school, more likely to be overweight, more likely to have academic problems … the list goes on.
Make a meal. Sit down. Talk to your children. Aim to do it every morning and evening, if at all possible.
Become Less Jaded
Okay, I can’t count, because that’s six reasons. Home cooking is not fancy. It’s meat and potatoes and vegetables, or rice and beans and vegetables or … insert your traditional, boring, not-very-expensive staple foods here.
When we eat at home, we don’t have such-and-such on a bed of this-and-that served with a sauce of whatever.
And like so much in our world today, we become jaded. I can remember when my parents would take us, on a very special occasion, to the Chinese restaurant in our neighboring big town. It was A Big Hairy Deal. Hushed voices. Carefully selecting our food. Placing that napkin carefully on our laps.
A number of years ago, I visited that restaurant and was rather underwhelmed. The quality was poor, the decor was average. All in all, it was nothing special. What had changed?
Me, to be really honest. In the interval, I had dined at so many restaurants, many of them very high quality, that I had lost the ability to simply enjoy a small town restaurant.
Please note – I’m not saying that you should never eat out. There are times when it is unavoidable, and there are times when we want to dine out for the pure enjoyment, or to have foods that we are unable to make at home.
But make it A Big Hairy Deal.
Make it rare enough and special enough that you enjoy every moment.
These days our favourite place to eat, when we do go out, is a ‘hole in the wall’ family diner in my home town.
How To Minimize Eating Out?
It’s tough, especially when it’s so easy to run down to the pizza shop or the closest family restaurant. How do you make it easier to eat at home?
There are two ways, as far as I can see. You either make a menu plan ahead of time and shop with those meals in mind, or you have a “deep pantry” filled with enough food to make plenty of meals.
Considering I wrote A Cabin Full of Food to teach people how to fill their pantry and use what they store, it’s easy to see what side I’m on. If you plan ahead and have a fully stocked kitchen, it becomes much easier to pull together a meal even when you’re tired or busy.
In a pinch, I can have spaghetti and meatballs on the table in fifteen minutes. Omelettes. Chicken and dumplings. Beef or chicken stew. With my food storage, many filling meals can be on the table in less time than it would take to get to a restaurant.
Make Your Meals A Production
Honestly, there is amazing bonding power in the simple act of eating together and families should harness that as often as possible. Treat the family meal as something important.
Have you read my post with 14 tips to make every meal a feast? Turn off the devices, sit around the table together and enjoy eating real food!
Do The Math
Just how much is it costing you to eat out? I know that even a fast food meal costs about $50 for our family of six. Food made at home, especially from scratch, costs a fraction of that.
What debts are you trying to pay or what goal are you saving for?
Let’s say you have a $10,000 debt that needs to be paid off. If you are buying coffee three times a week for $2.50/coffee (you’re a *cheap* spendthrift, so you buy Tim Hortons instead of Starbucks!), you could make it at home and put that $30 toward your debt each month.
$30 might not seem like much, but I promise you that every penny paid toward that debt really is more than a penny.
Or you’re eating out, a family of three, twice a week, spending $60 each week. How would that $240 look on your debt or toward your goal? With that alone, you could get the $10,000 in just over three years.
Frugality, though, is contagious, and once you have the thrill of putting that “extra” $30 or $100 or $250 toward your goal, you’re going to want different ways. Like the Mennonites, you’ll want to start drinking water instead of soft drinks, for example.
If you’ve been in the habit of ‘grabbing a bite’ several times a week, and you have financial goals – a house, farm, education or getting debt-free, maybe – it is time to reconsider your choices.