And with that off-hand comment, the seed was planted.
We started out by lightheartedly tossing out numbers, making rules for the game, and dreaming about weeknights with no cooking or clean-up.
And then: “What if we gave it a try for a month, just to see if we could do it?”
An experiment to increase family time, reduce chores, and an added financial challenge? Of course I was in!
Coming back down to reality, the idea began to give me pause. I worried about me and my husband’s waistlines, our family’s health, and even though the proposition of a month off of cooking sounded attractive, I knew I would miss it.
But then, looking ahead to an upcoming weekend filled with camping and social activities punctuated by Camping Laundry (TM), I knew there would be very little time left for meal planning, grocery shopping, and food prep. So, I proposed an abbreviated challenge.
“What if we just do it for one week? Next week?”
Our family’s meal planning usually looks like this: the menu runs Sunday through Saturday, grocery shopping & food prep get done on Saturdays, I cook nightly, and lunches at work consist of leftovers packed from home. Most foods are fresh with very few packaged or processed ingredients. All snacks are pre-planned and primarily fresh fruit. It’s a good system that works really well for our family.
I developed this process for my family because it’s consistent with some of my most highly held values including healthy living, frugality, sustainability, and tradition. Added to that, I enjoy cooking and find meaning and purpose in caring for my family this way.
With that said, I respect that not everyone has the same primary values. A family who disdains cooking and finds it to be a tedious chore, who craves increased family time and lives according to values including simplicity, flexibility, and convenience may be much better served with less scratch-cooking and more prepared foods.
And so, though I know this is not something we are interested in doing long-term, I am excited to see how this week-long challenge turns out for us.
The Takeout Experiment
The Timeframe: Sunday dinner through Sunday lunch
The Budget: $170 (Our normal weekly budget is $140 for groceries, toiletries, and diapers when needed. We also have a rarely-used $120 per month line item for restaurants or takeout, which averages out to $30 per week. Therefore, $140 + $30 = $170)
Groceries – I will shop for items including toiletries, coffee & creamer, and fresh fruit for snacks. The cost of these items will be deducted from the weekly budget.
- Breakfast – Breakfast will not be takeout. I will make a week’s worth of mini-quiches on Sunday evening as per the usual for a no-fuss breakfast each morning. Coffee will also be made at home.
- Kid #1 – Conlan’s participation will be optional, but his food will be included in our overall budget. I’ll buy bread for him so he can (happily) enjoy a grilled cheese or PB&J if there isn’t something he will eat. This is not the week to strictly enforce our dinnertime rules as I refuse to spend money on takeout that I may just end up throwing away. I also want to assure you he will not be enjoying a week of McNuggets. His lunch is included in his school tuition, so it is excluded in here in our eating plan (as always).
- Kid #2 – I anticipate most of what we’ll be eating will be inappropriate for Brynna due to the sodium content, so her food will most likely be included in my grocery/produce purchases or be procured from what I’ve already prepared for her in my freezer.
- Tracking – I’ll track our food and expenses and will give you a full report next Monday of what we ate, what we spent, and how it went!
Wondering what I’m doing here? Learn more about the idea behind Surviving Dinner.