Monthly Archives: March 2011

Still on Track!

It’s been a while since my last post.  We have had some major family events in the last two weeks.  I am just now feeling like I have recovered from them.  I’ll tell you about the first event today, and the second event in my next post.  Both were highly emotional in very different ways, and each offered its own unique challenges to eating in.

In my last post, I showed you how we were able to fly during dinner and still eat in.  We flew to Florida for my grandfather’s funeral.  We spent a week there having the funeral and getting his house ready for sale.  We had a wonderful time, despite the circumstances, spending time with family, reminiscing, and doing some relaxing.  Eating in while we were out-of-town was surprisingly easy.  Our first day there, we took a trip to the store, and bought food for the week.  We spent a little time at the beach on a few of the days, and packed a lunch to bring with us.  Matt thought it would be fun to feed the birds, and I was able to get some fun shots of them all diving for the pieces of crust.

 

We ate sandwiches...Ryman ate sand.

 

 

 

Bird announcing that food was near.

 

 

 

Diving for the crumbs!

 

 

The evening after the funeral, my mom said that grandpa wanted to take us all out to dinner.  Since we would not be spending any money, we knew we had to respect his wishes and go out to eat.  We went to Sharkey’s on the Pier, a place where my grandpa had taken us when we would visit.  We would go to the pier and fish, and would sometimes get to go to Sharkey’s to eat.  Matt was excited because he always loves getting “real” seafood when we’re in Florida.  He got a boatload of shrimp, and I got shrimp and grouper.  It was amazing.  You really can’t compare anything we get here in Nashville to what they have in the Gulf.  Since grandpa was paying, and we knew this was a rare opportunity, we ended the night with the best key lime pie we had ever eaten!

When we arrived back in Nashville last Saturday, we dropped our bags, and immediately drove to Murfreesboro to see the Lake County basketball team win their State Championship game!  I was reluctant to go since we had just stepped off a plane, but I’m so glad we did!  The game was amazing, and we got to see a lot of people from Matt’s hometown.  Their coach is the first female to coach a boy’s team and win the State Championship.  This was also her first year at Lake County High School.

We had a good, but exhausting week, and we stayed on track always eating in!

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Eating In Jet Setter Style

Up until a few days ago, avoiding restaurants had been easy.  I committed to cooking every night with the help of E-Mealz, and we made lunches to bring to work every day.  Busy weekend days, when we would have normally gone out to eat, were slightly altered with meals at home.  We hadn’t encountered anything too complicated.

On Sunday, we faced our biggest challenge yet, and conquered it mightily!  (If I do say so myself.)  We flew at dinner-time, with a 13 month old, and still ate in!  Our flight to Tampa left at 6:20pm.  We knew we would be getting to the airport around 4:20pm, and not arriving to our final destination until close to 11:00pm.  Eating dinner before or after the flight was not an option.  Normally, if we were eating at the airport, we would probably get something from one of the fast food options.  Instead, I packed orange slices, strawberry feta salad, and peppercorn turkey sandwiches on sourdough.  Here’s what it looked like.

I wanted to make sure our meal would be good enough that we wouldn’t even want the options at the airport.  I stepped up the sandwich a few notches from our normal lunch meat on double-fiber bread.  We bought “real” deli meat that was sliced at the deli counter.  I also bought some “special bread.”  Wal-Mart actually has some nice specialty bread in their bakery section.  We went for the sourdough loaf.  For another special touch, I packed them in parchment paper as if my kitchen were a real deli; I like to pretend.  The other part of our dinner was an attempt to clean out the refrigerator before going out-of-town.  We had some lettuce and strawberries that needed to go, so they made the salad.  Oranges almost always make it into any packed meal I make, and I cut them into disks because it’s fun.  

We had to take turns eating because Ryman was flying in our lap.  She did awesome, though.  She slept for about 30 minutes on me, got up and ate her dinner, and then slept for 30 minutes on Matt.  

If you can, try to look beyond the adorable baby at the sun setting through the clouds. It was a beautiful sight.

The only hitch in the plan was eating the salads.  We weren’t able to eat them because I forgot forks, and the plane didn’t have any.  That didn’t matter because the sandwiches ended up being so huge, we were full after half.  We ate the other half on our ride from the airport to the house.   

One last thing…a confession.  We purchased our drinks.  In our defense, we would have violated federal law smuggling drinks through security, and probably would have been subjected to one of those full body scans.  However, we did have some money my parents gave us to retrieve my grandpa’s car from long-term parking.  When my dad gave it to us, he said he threw in a little extra “for incidentals.”  This…was an incidental.  So technically speaking, we did not spend our own money, even on our drinks.

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Tips for Always Eating In

I’m a mom who works outside of the home.  I am a high school choir director; a job that I love.  I miss Ryman terribly at moments throughout the day, but luckily, when class starts, I am able to compartmentalize and enjoy work.  I am required to be in the school building from 7:45 am-3:15 pm, but as many teachers and friends of teachers know there are always hours outside of the classroom.  It’s musical season, so on Monday and Thursday, I’m at school until at least 5:30 at rehearsal.  We’re doing South Pacific this year.  You’ll definitely be hearing more about that as the show approaches.  Matt has a pretty flexible schedule, so on rehearsal days he’s able to pick up Ryman from daycare, which is great!  Wednesday evenings are for small group meetings.  Sundays are always full of multiple church services.  I’m saying all of that to say this:  our schedule is packed.  This is part of the reason we opted for going out to eat so often.  We’ve started the year-long journey of not going out to eat at all, and in order to do this we had to come up with some practical things to do to avoid restaurants.  Here are four of the ones that are helping us right now.  I’m sure we’ll come up with more as we progress through the year.
1. Decide and Commit. Even if your goal is to avoid going out to eat for one week, you have to make the decision and commit to actually doing it, no matter what.  We started talking about doing this since January and it took until March for us to finally pull the trigger and go for it.
2.  Identify Your Danger Zones. When we did go out to eat, we ate out most on the weekend.  We don’t tend to sit around the house.  We are always out doing something most of the day.  This makes it hard to eat at home.  We knew that weekends would be the most challenging for us.  Somehow just knowing this, and anticipating the challenge made it less difficult to get through this first weekend.  Examine your schedule and identify the times when going out to eat is the most tempting.  Know that it will be a challenge, and see tip #1.
3. Prep Lots at Once. I have gotten good at this one.  When Ryman started eating real food, we decided that I would make all of her baby food.  It really is not hard at all, and we felt good knowing exactly what was going into her little body.  I got into the habit of making her food in big batches and storing individual portions.  I still do this every week, and it helps with our mornings tremendously.  It’s great to be able to grab a few containers and throw it into a lunch bag.  I definitely regret it when I don’t prep things in advance.  This week my mom reminded me of something they do.  Whenever she and my dad grill, they cook lots of chicken and store it in the refrigerator.  When it’s time for a meal, they pull it out, heat it up, and add it to any meal.  We’re definitely going to try this soon.
4.  Pre-Plan. This one is probably the most important.  As I have said before, one of the reasons why cooking every night is so difficult, is that it’s so hard to come up with something every single night.  I’m so excited to tell you about our solution!  We have started using e-mealz!  I first heard about e-mealz on Dave Ramsey’s radio show, and was reminded about them by Jon Acuff, on his blog, Stuff Christians Like. I knew I needed some help with ideas if I was going to make 3 meals a day for 365 days in a row.  We have used e-mealz for two weeks, and we love it!  Once you pick your plan, you get recipes for the whole week plus (this is the best part) they make the shopping list for you for the grocery store of your choice.  They plan the meals based on sales, so our grocery bill has actually decreased, even though we are buying more.  The meals are great, and the recipes are easy.  Check out their different plans here:  E-MEALZ Easy Meals for Busy and Frugal Families.
I hope these are helpful!  Do you have any tips to add?

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Excuses, Excuses

Let me start by saying, I have always cooked.  Before we started this journey of not eating at restaurants, I cooked most nights of the week.  Weekends were another story, but on school nights, I usually had no problem cooking.  However, there were nights when I would call Matt about an hour before he got off work, and we would do the all-too-familiar “What’s for dinner?” dance.

Me: Hi, how’s your day going?

Matt:  Fine.

Me:  What time do you get off work?

Matt:  Six.  Have you started dinner yet?

Me:  Not yet, I’ve been (insert something like: dealing with Ryman being fussy, staying late after school, trying to decide what to make).  What do you want for dinner?

Matt:  I don’t know.  What do we have?

Me:  (with a very pitiful voice) I don’t know either.  I guess I can look and see if I can figure something out quickly.  We don’t have anything defrosted.

Matt:  Do you want me to just pick something up on the way home?

Me:  Well, I guess I could make (insert something intentionally unexciting).

Matt:  You don’t want to cook, do you?

Me:  No, not really.

Matt:  I’ll just pick something up.  What do you want?

Me:  Thank you.  I don’t care.  What do you want?

Then we switch dances to the “Where do you want to eat?  I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?”  dance.  I’m sure you all are familiar with that one.

When we really weren’t concerned about what we spent, it was easy to find an excuse not to cook.

I put plenty of pressure on myself to make something fabulous every night.  So if I didn’t feel up to cooking a meal worthy of the food network, I didn’t want to cook anything at all.  I now have to deal with the fact that on busy or lazy evenings, a sandwich can be sufficient.  I will be forced to abandon the notion that being a “good wife” equals feeding my family a dinner a la Martha Stewart every night.

Matt will also have to be ok with leftovers.  To his credit, he has come a long way.  When we first got married, he wouldn’t even entertain the thought of eating something for a second time.  It was less about “old” food as it was about eating something again he had eaten recently.  There were definitely times we would go out to eat just to avoid eating leftovers.  Now, he will occasionally bring some leftover chili or casserole for lunch later in the week.  I have also found ways to repackage the leftovers so that he feels like it’s a new dish.

There are plenty more excuses we used for going out to eat as frequently as we did.  While putting together our plan for attacking this huge challenge we presented to ourselves, we have confronted many of our excuses.  We are well aware of the challenges we will face, and that this isn’t as simple as just saying,”We’re not going out to eat.”

In my next post I will talk more about the practical steps of our plan that are making making this process a little easier.

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The Last Meal

The last meal.  The last time for a whole year eating in a restaurant.  Talk about pressure!  We have tried to decide what exactly our last meal would be for a few weeks.  Truthfully, we have had lots of “lasts.”  One last time eating Mexican.  One last time eating Chineese.  One last time at McDonalds.  The list goes on.  It seems like since we decided to do this, any time there was a temptation to get out of cooking, we needed one “last” time to eat somewhere.  We wanted to get it all in.

At one point we wanted to go out on a romantic date to Sambuca for their shrimp and crab bisque and cheesecake sopapillias.  This would have been great, however, both of my parents have been out-of-town tending to their ailing fathers, so no (free) babysitter for Ryman.  That was fine because upon further discussion we decided, we wanted our last meal to be something that is difficult to make at home.  It is so easy now to find just about any recipe, and there are plenty of international markets for odd ingredients you might need.  We had to pick something that took some skill to make that I might not be able to do.

The big winner?

Sushi!

We had to go down to my parents house to return my dad’s chainsaw Matt used to get this out of our yard.

Near their house is a great place called Fulin’s.  They have a huge sushi menu plus lots of other choices.  Matt is really the Sushi eater of the two of us.  I like it fine, but I’m not usually going to pick it over another option.  We both had their salad with ginger dressing.  It’s very creamy, unlike other ginger dressings that can sometimes get watery.  Matt decided on a rainbow roll.  For those of you who don’t eat sushi, it’s crab meat, avocado, and cucumber rolled tightly with seaweed and rice with pieces of whitefish, tuna, salmon, and more avocado laying on top of each piece.  The part Matt loves is dipping each piece into soy sauce he has mixed with the big clump of wassabi that comes with each plate of sushi.  I didn’t want to waste my last meal on sushi, so I opted for their chicken lo mein.  That may not seem exciting, but it is probably something I won’t be making at home.  It was wonderful.  The best part about the meal was that Ryman was in a great mood, and was content to open and close the menu over and over and eat her peas and sweet potato.

Right next door to Fulin’s is Cold Stone Creamery.  For those of you who have been to Cold Stone, that is enough said.  You know we went there.  It’s similar to Marble Slab with all of the mix-in options, but soooo much better.  From the first conversation about the last meal, I let Matt know that I really didn’t care where we went as long as it involved Cold Stone at the end.  After much deliberation, I got chocolate ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups mixed in.  (Definitely the right choice.)  Matt got cheesecake ice cream with graham crackers and strawberries mixed in.

We had a great time, and great conversation about the naysayers who think we won’t make it a year.  I truly think we can, and it all starts today!

I would love to know…

What would you want for your last meal?

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