Our Family Challenge for August

We did it for financial reasons, and it ended up being about more than the money: 

We did not eat-out for the entire month of August.

For us, it was not about fast-food, we eat very little of that as it is.  It was about the numbers related to spending on “food”, and we thought we could do better as a family. 

Here are some things we learned about our family this month:

  • We spent 27% less on food, comparing to our average over 12 months, by cutting out restaurant dining, and 40% less than our most expensive/worst month (that’s embarrassing).
  • I was forced to plan the entire week, and, honestly, it wasn’t that bad; I was also forced to get the groceries by Sunday if I wanted a fighting chance of staying sane during the week, and, honestly, that wasn’t that bad either.
  • We challenged ourselves to make use of leftovers, and gained awareness of how much we waste — either by my making too much food, or by us not eating leftovers.  Many recipes I should be cutting in half; and it’s no longer cool in our family to “not like leftovers” (suck it up). 
  • While I made some new meals the family didn’t all love … there were some surprise hits that I wouldn’t have known about had I not been forced to increase their rate of new meal consumption.  We, as a family, love grilled spinach wraps with deli meat and cheese; we also love fried rice with leftover rice and meat (“Mom, I’m digging on this dinner!”).  
  • I challenged myself to find new recipes.  Lemon chicken.  Lasagne soup.  Mississippi Roast.  
  • We cleared off our dining room table which too easily is the receptacle for stuff unrelated to mealtime.  We ate at the dinner table more often, instead of three of us at the bar while one (usually hubbs) stands and eats in the kitchen also acting as fetch for what ever requests are made from the 4 and 5 year old.  It also meant that the girls helped more … they set the table, they had to think ahead to what they might need in order for us all to sit and stay seated together through dinner.  I also developed a better habit of saying “dinner is ready” only when I was ready for them all to come in the kitchen!
  • They offered to help cook more, because they constantly saw us cooking.   I let them help more, but let’s be honest — most days you just want to get it done and not have to explain and be patient.  They also offered to wash the dishes more this month than ever before.
  • We were provided with opportunities, due to mealtimes not gone well, to refine our dinner time manners and rules … how to appreciate the meal and the cook; that you don’t have to like everything on your plate but you do have to try it; to handle all your needs before coming to the table so you don’t have to keep getting up (potty, water, straw, napkin, stall tactic); and how we as a family should handle it when someone doesn’t like dinner (which, is not to beg because you’re so hungry, tug on your mother’s work pants she hasn’t had a chance to change out of, then finally sit for dinner and make that face that says what you don’t need to say but you say it anyway, which, on that day was the straw that broke your mother’s back).
  • Taco Tuesday gave way to Crock Pot Tuesday … it is my busiest day of the week and it’s not like we can’t have Mexican another night of the week.
  • We had one week where we didn’t get to the store, so we pushed ourselves to be creative with what we had, and it is pretty remarkable all that can be be found in the freezer, fridge and in the cupboards.  And there is something to be said with being okay with PB&J, or Mac N Cheese, or pasta with butter and parmesan, or veggies dipped in ranch, or a bowl of cereal for dinner here and there.

The dishes were an issue, to keep up on them, but we just had to stay on top of it more (they’re never truly done anyway, right?), and I’m lucky that I have a husband who helps with that.

And it was tempting, on long days, to just go out … but if there is some kind of plan (and goodness, the older I get the more I realize I have to plan for sanity’s sake), then we could motivate each other to cook it instead.

We ate at our favorite pizza place on September 2nd.  

We will enter new challenges this week with soccer practices to work around.  But the challenge has been worth it: if not for the pocketbook then as a bit of a lifestyle cleanse of sorts. 

Can you challenge your family to something for a month?  You might be surprised to see what you are capable of!

 © Houseman 2013