The most obvious reason for us eating out is so that I don’t have to cook, which is such a treat for me as I’m the ONLY cook of the house. However, I can only use that “I need a break” card so often, as it tends to get quite expensive! I mean, the average fast food meal is roughly $5, so for the 5 of us that $25 each time. If we happen to go to a slightly nicer place it can be about $40-$50, and thats just for 1 meal! Imagine the groceries I could get for that…
Ok, looking past my favorite reason for eating out, there are many other reasons as well. We go out for special occasions, the setting, the delicious food, the company, etc… So how can we continue to enjoy all of this in our changing times, when everything seems to be breaking the piggy bank? Bring it a little closer to home. Yup.
Though not all reasons for eating out can be re-created at home, I think quite a few can 🙂 Here are a few fun ideas you can implement to make it seem a bit more like you’re “eating out”, but without the huge expense.
For the Kids: If you want to create a fun atmosphere for the kids try using a funky tablecloth (picnic checkerboard is always good), themed dinnerware or containers (taco & hot dog holders, fun/colorful plates & plasticware, crazy cups with built-in straws), creating a short menu of similar foods that would be quick to prepare (sandwiches, soups, sides and veggies, snacks, appetizers), playing 60’s/surf music in the background, build-a-(burger, taco, sandwich, etc…) bar-have all the fixings out in a line and let the kids help themselves.
For the Adults: If it’s just the 2 of you send the kids out! Dim the lights, use candles and flowers as a centerpiece & your nicest plate settings, fix a simple yet rich/satisfying meal (try finding a recipe for one of your restaurant favorites!), fix a decadent dessert, and don’t talk about anything stressful! If you are wanting a more casual evening with your love one, try creating a evening about some creature comforts-blankets and pillows, popcorn, sweet & salty snacks, fizzy drinks, a rich dessert, and a favorite movie.
For the Family: My favorite night is appetizer or “free for all” night, where its a hodge-podge of fun finger foods; a little bit of this, a little bit of that. The kids look forward to it because they know a lot of “restricted” foods show up on this night (frozen snacks, extra desserts, soda) and that utensils are not required! It is definitely a more casual night with no set place for eating, food in the living room is ok, and in general just a bit more chaotic then usual. Looking for something a bit more structured? How about a theme night infused with some fun educational facts? You could do a certain decade, type of cuisine, country, or even around a certain food group or ingredient.
No matter what you decide to do, I think the biggest impact you can make is just trying something new, change things up a little to make it a fun and out of the ordinary evening. It doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, just a little different!