Sunday, September 12, 2010

Opting Out of Restaurants (The Manifesto)

One week has passed since the Great Resolution of 2010.

And how have we been doing?

Twenty-one meals have been consumed either here at home or with food taken from our home. No restaurant meals!

It hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be. The kids have not complained, and Brent has been an oak, as well. Friday night was a bit of a weak moment, as I contemplated an end-of-the-week trip to the local sandwich shop (as a reward for completing the week, I guess??), but in the end, opted for a much more fun and interesting "Fend For Yourself" pantry scavenge at home.

Today was our first real challenge, as Kirby had a soccer game this afternoon in a town 20 minutes away. In the past, we probably would have headed straight from church to Subway (or similar) to grab something before we left town. Today, though, the kids packed their own lunches and drinks...to be eaten on the road. Nobody missed the turkey flatbread or meatball sub.

I'll admit, I've craved a Cheeseburger Chowder bread bowl or Garden Bagel sandwich over the last week. But I also know that once I scarf that food, the enjoyment will be gone. And I will have failed the challenge. So yeah, a little bit of guilt has helped me stay the course. But, I can't help feeling a little beatific when I think about what we're doing.

We've had a couple of people tell us "Good luck. I could never do that!" when we mention the experiment. And that makes me sad - how limited those people must feel? Their capacity for personal growth stunted when it comes to restaurants?

Because I haven't gotten around to it yet, I thought I'd quick-list the reasons we decided to live restaurant-free.

1. Costs - the two oldest don't want kids' meals anymore, and the prices are adding up quickly.

2. Stress - whether our kids would behave well in a restaurant on any given night was a crapshoot. Usually, I'd end up more stressed out because I was on constant misbehavior watch!

3. Pounds - portions served in eating establishments are larger than they should be and we couldn't help but finish everything on our plates (and maybe even the kids' plates too).

4. Traditions - food is an important part of our lives, whether we believe it or not, and what legacy was I handing down to my kids? ("My best childhood memories are of eating at Subway a lot; my mom only cooked once or twice a week!") Now, my hope is that when they think of me, they think of walking tacos and tater tot casserole.

5. Health - when I prepare every meal for my family, I control a lot. When my kids don't eat at McDonald's and I refuse to buy chicken nuggets at the grocery store, those infernal pieces of UnChicken reach their lips very, very infrequently.

6. Purpose - we could discern no substantial reason for going out to eat. It wasn't a special treat; it was habit - once or twice a week (maybe more). We went out because we were lazy, or didn't feel like eating spaghetti, or felt like we needed a break. We knew it was time to revolt when we'd get in the car to go out and the general attitude was "ho-hum" about where to eat. Why? Because we'd been everywhere in town! It was no longer special.

7. Creativity - without restaurant menus to ponder, I'd be free to consider new recipes like Spaghetti-Turkey Pie or Seafood Paella.

Pretty good reasons all, I think. And, naturally, we couldn't start the experiment without setting some parameters.

1. Breakfast, lunch, dinner were not to be purchased in a restaurant-type establishment.

2. However, drinks were exempt from this rule. I frequent a coffeehouse here in town, and I wanted to still be able to indulge in a Flavor Dujour every so often. The same could be said for trips to the local ice cream shop.

3. Any trips out of town require special planning and/or purchases...the goal is not to eat at restaurants AT ALL, regardless of ANY special circumstance that may arise.

4. The children would choose one meal a week for the family; this includes: helping to prepare and clean up.

5. Whenever possible, double servings of vegetables will be provided to help combat the "eight o'clock hungries".

There have been a myriad of positives to come from this: quality family meal times, children honing culinary skills, mama loving her kitchen, and weight loss (yours truly is down 2.5 pounds from last week). There is (and will be) more, I'm sure...but for now, we are feeling good for removing ourselves from the restaurant scene.

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