I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered those words, or its close relative, “Can I place an order for delivery?” It’s more than I’d like to admit, but here’s the truth: my family eats out a lot. And by a lot I mean we eat out for dinner at least three times a week. The weekends are pretty much all about eating out.
I have many excuses for why I reach for the phone more often than I reach for a spatula. They include, but are not limited to:
- I’m lazy
- I’m tired
- It’s a day that ends in -y
- I’m hungry RIGHT NOW
- I’m not a great cook
- Mister Jess is a pretty good cook, but he’s tired
- We have no dishwasher and our sink is small
- We have an oven but it sets off the smoke alarm. Every. Time.
- We have no counter space in the kitchen
- We barely HAVE a kitchen
- Bug is hungry RIGHT NOW
- That place serves breakfast all day
- The place next to the place has donuts. Built-in dessert.
- The fridge is full but nothing looks good
- It’s the weekend and weekends are for eating out, duh
- I could go on
- But you get the point
I try to make good choices for Bug and thankfully there are many places around us that serve delicious, organic, at least semi-healthy meals. But at the same time, I have friends with kids who manage to put food that didn’t come from a container on the table every night. This leads to one of my least favorite emotions: Mommy Guilt. I have it about a lot of things fleetingly, but this is one that sticks around. I make sure he gets his fruits and veggies and good protein. Am I a terrible mom because I buy him pancakes rather than making them?
But here’s the thing: I don’t know how I can fit the life I need to live into the life I have. There are only so many hours in the day and when our days – and especially our evenings – are dictated by child-led timelines and a bedtime of 7pm (Bug’s, not ours. I wish), it’s so much easier to pick something up on the way home. It’s one less thing I need to worry about, one thing I can check off the never-ending list of To Dos.
I want to be healthy. I need the food I eat to fuel my fitness, especially once I get full-swing into my half marathon training. I just don’t know how to balance it all out. I need your help, Scoot readers!
So, tell me: is there an easier method to all of this that I’m missing? A way to capture the ease of take-out without actually taking out? Or should I just come to terms with the fact that we are a take-out family and try to make the best food choices I can when we do order it up?
Ahhhhh- okay, Mr. Speedy and I, when we were in our courtship and not living together, ate out a LOT. And I didn’t like it very much b/c I like preparing my meals, but we just didn’t have the time… or a kitchen really that was OURS to use. So now that we live together, and are very very busy, my solution to it all is – meal prep day. SUNDAY. Sunday is made for gathering all my raw veggies and whatever else, and preparing ahead of time. Our fridge then has a constant stock of fresh veggies for snacks/lunches, sandwiches made ahead of time, soups that are packaged into servings, etc.
You just need to carve out about an hour or two and prep it all. It helps SO much!
There are places like Super Suppers and My Girlfriend’s Kitchen that you can go and prep meals for the freezer, if you aren’t quite at the place where you want to buy ingredients for many different meals yourself. However, I know in my area they all went out of business because people realized it was more affordable to just do it at home. I find MANY different meal ideas on pinterest or people around these parts give me ideas too.
However, I’m home during the day. And you are not. Crock pot meals are always an option (I’m trying one tonight that I’ll pass along if it’s good). Lily’s idea of carving a couple of hours out on the weekend is a good one – even if you do all the chopping and prep work so that then, on the weekdays, you’re able to throw things together quickly.
Cooking was a learned skill for me so I know very much what you’re dealing with. And if we don’t get to the grocery store, it’s really easy to slide back into the takeout routine. However, when I look at the prices compared to my shopping list, it’s a good incentive to get back to cooking!
Weekend food prep! Its a lifesaver for me. I make big batches of stuff that i can package for lunches or dinner, and even freeze, so that i can easily heat something up with almost no work.
I have the absolute worst time with this. My life is pure chaos right now, and sometimes it’s easier to just grab something on my way home then to get home and start cooking, only to eat dinner far later then it should be…
For me, I have meal plan. Even if it takes a couple hours on the weekend. If I carve out that time to plan what we are having, I can then shop and have it on hand. I even try to go a step further and prep as much of it as I can on the weekend. Veggies needed chopped that are going into that dish? Those are ready and waiting. I even go as far as to open things and combine them to go into the crockpot. Making chili? Put everything in one container ready to go into the crockpot later that week. I’ve found that if I take the time to do it all at once, I SAVE so much time during the week and it actually helps me feel less stressed about cooking. Good luck!
The crock pot is a beautiful thing. Throw something in before work or school and you are golden when you get home. Frozen veggies and some bread – bam. And pick easy things. Stir fry is throwing some cut up meat and veggies in a pan and pushing it around for a few minutes. Dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate. Good luck!
I love your description of a stir fry Any! That’s so true! I often cut up whatever is in the fridge, stir fry it up and serve it with either rice or quinoa. Easy peasy! And usually it tastes pretty good too.
Jess, I often keep cheese tortellini or ravioli on hand for a night when I don’t want to cook. I also have been known to make omelets for dinner, because, it’s easy and it works
I do as much meal prep as I can for the week on Sunday’s. It really helps to have things redily available to us in the fridge when we need it. All we have to do is reheat and eat!
I hear ya! We eat out way too much…and it’s mainly because I am a horrible cook and I hate to cook! I’m working on it though. This week we’ve already had 2 homecooked meals!
I’ll echo everyone else and suggest the crock pot. There’s a site that has recipes for freezing in a bag ahead of time, so you prep on a Sunday and then just dump the bag in the crock pot. And my friend Sara swears by those crockpot liners (which are bpa free) because they make cleanup easy. I’ll send you the link.
Also, have a few things on hand for quick, easy meals- I always have ingredients for mac ‘n cheese and tortellini soup.
Freeze things! I make double enchiladas or chili and freeze half. Josh makes spaghetti sauce once a month and we freeze it in smaller portions.
If you never make pancakes from scratch, that’s okay. You’re an awesome mom.
I totally relate. We eat take out much more often these days- I used to cook six days a week. Now I’m like, “Oh, I cooked today!” and patting myself on the back.
So, I am going to offer no new tips here, but instead emphasize what all of these other smart ladies have said. With 3 kids under 3, a full time career, and preschool pick up and drop off, I utilize all of these methods. Since my guilt at being a working mom manifests itself in an avowal to not do take-out (we all have our own guilt badges, right?), I use Sunday as a prep day for a large meal that can be re-energized as the week goes on. So, although I don’t have an official meal plan, the pork loin or roast chicken or rack of lamb, etc that is cooked on Sunday then informs the next few nights’ meal options. I usually also reinforce this with a crock pot meal assembled on Sunday and ready to go on Tuesday or so, when the family starts to balk at the idea of yet another night of the same protein. I also make big batches of things like beans, soups or stews to keep on hand in the freezer for those nights where the schedule just doesn’t work out. Oh, and my one unique kernel, Trader Joe’s! I will keep Trader Joe’s prepared foods stocked in the freezer for those rare moments when Mr. B offers to cook a dinner or when I just don’t feel inspired. And we eat fairly simply most nights. Pasta, rice, polenta, or potatoes with whatever roasted veggies have come in the CSA along with a protein… And I will often begin planning and prepping the next night’s dinner while the meal du jour is cooking. And, finally, if cooking makes you miserable, then don’t overdo it, start out by just cooking one more night than previous and up it.