This Week’s Menus and Cheap Date Night

Our boys are with the grandparents tonight, so it’s date night for the first time in months.  With no need for a babysitter and free movie passes, it’s definitely in the budget. We’ll have a snack before we leave and maybe a small movie popcorn, but we still can’t afford to go out to dinner.

We stopped going out to dinner and ordering carry-out when we realized how much of our weekly budget we were eating up (sorry).  When I worked 50 hours a week we were both so exhausted sometimes we just didn’t have the energy to cook.  We had the best intentions, of course.  Meals were planned out, produce was in the fridge–but the reality of work and kids often meant scrapping our healthy dinner plans (and scrapping a lot of produce and meat moldering in the fridge).

I really wanted to quit working full-time to stay home with the kids, but everybody told me it couldn’t be done.  I believed them for too long.  It can be done.  If you’re not rich, however, it takes sacrifice and discipline.  I think the biggest thing we gave up was going out to dinner.  I have to spend a lot of my time now planning meals and shopping for the best prices.  And I have to cook every night.  Even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it–I have to cook.  Sometimes I still fantasize about Pat walking in the door at 5:00 with a brown paper bag full of Thai food.

Americans spend less than 10% of our income on foodless than any other nation.  But 40% of this we spend eating outside the home–nearly double what we spent 40 years ago.  If this money were spent on whole foods to be prepared at home, we’d all be a lot healthier.  The primary reason our family can afford to buy organic produce and grass-fed meat and dairy is because we don’t spend money eating out.

Yesterday I crushed my fingers in the van door and couldn’t make dinner, so Pat brought home Mexican food from America’s taco stand.  I realized this was the first time in over six months we’d gotten carry out.  We savored every bite because we knew it would be a long time before we’d do it again.  As I enjoyed my food from the little styrofoam cups, I though to myself that my swollen purple fingers were a small price to pay for carne asada and ceviche that somebody else made.

Here’s this week’s menus–I’ll include recipes in this week’s posts:

Saturday: pomegranate guacamole and nachos

Sunday: smoked pork butt with cauliflower and greens

  Monday: French quiche with figs and goat cheese

  Tuesday: salmon stuffed with lime, cilantro, and chiles with quinoa verde

  Wednesday: einkorn spirals and seared tofu and vegetable salad

  Thursday: baked ricotta with apricots, toasted maple pine nuts and salad

  Friday: pad thai with shirataki noodles

2010 Food Expenditures USDA

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