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Dine Without Whine - A Family 

Friendly Weekly Menu Plan
Menu Plan Monday: Planning for Downtime and Emergencies

This week is my birthday week, and for various reasons a ton of different people are taking me out to dinner various nights of the week. I've got my mom one night, my mother-in-law another night, my best friend and a barbecue another night, and so on. So I don't actually have much to plan. So instead I'd like to share some thoughts I had about eating out and menu planning.

But first I have a little aside that's going to come around to food in just a minute. Just bear with me!

This weekend I watched several episodes of the show "Til Debt Do Us Part", a Canadian show about couples who are in debt up to their eyeballs. A professional comes in and straightens them out, and by the end of the show they at least have a plan and a better sense of reality. I don't always agree with her (she often pushes moms of young toddlers into the workplace, whereas I would push them into a smaller and cheaper place to live first), but on the whole it's a good show.
But what always gets me is how far in debt these couples can get in one month. They overspend by $5000, $6000, even $9000 a MONTH! My goodness! And they don't realize at the time that they are doing it. I can't for the life of me figure out how you can be that much in denial, but I guess it's possible.

Her suggestion is always to use a cash budget, and she divides up their budget usually into 5 or 6 jars, where she places money for them to use that week. It's never very much. I've rarely seen her give a couple more than $100 a week for food, which I think is unrealistic if you have a bunch of kids. But I do think food is the hidden budget item in many of our homes.

I'm not sure if we realize how much eating out truly costs us. Sure you grab McDonald's on the run today. And tomorrow, when you're out with just one child, you pick up lunch. And then when you've got all kids at the park, you stop by the ice cream store on the way home.

Add that all up, and frequently you're looking at $100 a week without a lot of effort. That's several hundred a month.

Now it's easy to hunker down and just say: that's it. We're not eating out anymore.

But I'm not sure that's realistic, either. Sometimes, after all, you just are in a hurry. And sometimes you do want to do something special with the kids, like grabbing the ice cream.

So today, on Menu Plan Monday, I want to talk about how we can "plan" for these times when we would normally eat out.

I think we need to be realistic. Some days you just aren't going to have time to fulfill your menu plan. The kids are going to have an emergency and you're not going to be home to cook. The soccer game will go later than planned. You got talking to a friend after picking up your kids from school, and your whole plan got thrown off. These things happen.

So why not realize that sometimes you're going to need something in a hurry and just plan for it? Here are two options:

1. Double meals as much as possible when you cook and then freeze half. Don't include that other half on your menu plan. That way, when you're especially desperate, there's always something in the freezer you can just defrost, even if it's just spaghetti sauce.

2. Buy frozen pizzas or frozen dinners just for that night. I know they're expensive, but it is cheaper to eat frozen chicken kiev or fish sticks with some frozen veggies than it is to run to McDonald's. The trick is to not eat it just because it's there. Save it for the real emergencies! These frozen meals don't tend to be as healthy, and they certainly are more expensive. So keep them for necessities (and we all have those necessities).

Now, what about those times when you just need a treat? How about this?

You know those really cool backpacks you can buy that come all ready for picnics? They have a cloth for the ground, and cutlery, and plates, and all kinds of other stuff? I just love them. Why not pick up such a backpack, or even better, create your own, and then whenever you want to go for a picnic you can just stick some food inside? Then you can go for a bike ride to the waterfront, or to a park, or to a river (put bug spray in that backpack, too!), and it's an outing and an event for your kids.

At our homeschool we often bike somewhere for lunch and then do math there, just to mix things up when the weather gets nice! We all need those special times, but you can create them yourself with some forethought.

So those are my suggestions if you don't want to spend $100 a week on eating out. Plan for emergencies, and have something on hand to make a special outing. Then we don't have to go fast food places, and our wallets will thank us!

Thanks for stopping by! I have lots more posts on marriage, family, and finding our purpose. Why not look around for a bit?

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At 9:23 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Some good tips, although I don't really see how going on a picnic with three babies would be a treat...but then again, Taco Bell has a value menu for a reason!

Also, to me, to have $100 a week for food would be amazing. I feed a family of four on less than $100 every TWO weeks, out of necessity. I think people just happen to eat fancier than they need to.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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