Photo (of our delicious recent rainy day lunch date) by Denise Bovee
I recently turned down a generously paying sponsored post with a major fast food chain via Instagram not because I was fully against promoting aspects of a drive-through agenda, or even paid posts for that matter (at this point, if you can’t see that just about everyone on Instagram is selling one thing or another, your eyes might need some fine tuning) but more because we don’t ever actually eat at this particular place and I figured if I had to mull it over for longer than an afternoon, it wasn’t a good fit. I also knew I would feel like a sham if I went with it knowing it’s not in fact a part of our real life style.
But, it did get me thinking. What fast food, if any, might I endorse? Because in all reality as a family of six constantly on the go we do eat out through the week and there are times when it is really does prove the cheaper (obviously easier) option. What came to mind instantly was Del Taco – for those of you on the West Coast you know exactly what I’m talking about and I have no qualms admitting that I am at that drive through 1-2 times a week, consistently. Why? Because it’s delicious, and I argue still the cheapest fast food on the block (our entire family eats there, excluding drinks because we usually skimp on those anyway, for 10 -11$) And lastly, because I think it remains one of the “lesser” evils, health wise, in the plethora of major fast food options available these days. Not to mention it offers up a handful of gluten-free options for our one gluten-free kid.
A few other places we tend to lean on regularly being: Subway, my husband way more than me, Miguel’s Jr. (beloved local haunt) In-N-Out (rare, but definitely on the list) Chinese (God Bless) and, though I’m not proud to admit it, Pizza Hut when we’re really desperate. Not gourmet by any means, or healthy for that matter either, but when the cupboards are bare and we’re both too exhausted to go out and stock up on groceries it certainly does comes in handy. Also one of the few choices that leaves us with leftovers which is always nice to count on for school lunches the following day. And, might we all raise our hand in agreeance that pizza, of any kind, is a true life saver on those certain, more desperate days?
Other expenses- if we’re on the topic I figure why not delve all the way – would be coffee. And dining out either as a family, with friends, or, if you’re a little luckier than us, an occasional date night out. As far as coffee is concerned I will say that we are better than we use to be. In the past our drive through coffee stops ranged from an almost daily indulgence, to maybe every other day. Nonetheless, a complete money suck either way. When I stop and consider the fact that I can do “community class” Yoga, for 90 minutes every Wednesday, OR buy myself a latte for the same 5$, it seems a little absurd. Now that we’ve finally replaced our broken press though we’ve lost any excuse to go out and usually make it at home every morning. Yet still allow ourselves an indulgence here and there when we might really need it. A mid day iced coffee or a morning pick me up on the days I help at the boy’s school usually being the case on my end. So anywhere from 2-4 times a week currently.
Dining out in resturants still remains a rare treat. We go out as a family maybe once a week, to Mexican usually because chips and salsa seem to help ease the stresses of keeping everybody calm with in-booth tensions that can arise over something so silly as one kid getting a certain color crayon the other one’s missing, and because we have one hearty taco meal that feeds our whole family (including the GF kid) for 28$, with lots leftover. In way of restaurants I also usually find a way to squeeze in a brunch or lunch date with at least one of my girlfriends 1-2 times a month. Typically after our flea market outings but sometimes on a week night when I am downtown to pick up material or source out shop stuff. When I’m down that way I always make an effort to make a day of it because it’s a long way back and really the only time I get out and have the chance to visit with friends and try fancy, delicious new places. A major perk in my month for sure and not one area I would ever think of cutting back on. With an end week tallied estimation of all things considered being anywhere from 100 – 150$ a week we are spending eating out.
Once I started to stop and consider just how much we were eating out though I have to say I did feel a little shamed by the reality of it. Especially because it seems to come in sprouts. Meaning I’ll go months were we keep it in check and I cook and do a fair job at planning ahead for our week’s meals and then suddenly fall off the bandwagon and it’s a full on struggle trying to pull ourselves out of the habit all over again. For instance last year I craved greens and fresh foods the entire duration of my pregnancy so I cooked nearly every single night. On the weekends we would bbq tacos which meant we were home for most meals. I made simple, healthy dinners with all the vegetables my body was craving, it was routine and a nice break from the plies of old drive-through tendencies. And truth be known I’m not a great cook but the meals I was turning out were tasty and appreciated by all members of the family so as much as I can accept the reality of fast food as a crutch on those rough weeks, I do still wholeheartedly believe in the ways of home cooking. In sitting down together at the end of the day, setting a table, passing the beans, allotted time for real conversations and measured manners that are linked to this kind of routine and still speaks volumes for long-lasting ideals where family and connectedness down the line are concerned.
In this TIME article, author Jennifer Martin-Biggers, a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences at Rutgers claims “The data suggested that family mealtime has a wealth of health benefits, especially for children. Kids who ate more meals together with their families tended to eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods, and vitamins, and ate less junk food. Social improvements were also linked to frequency of family meals. Teens who ate at the family table more often were more likely to show fewer signs of depression and feel that their family was more supportive, compared with teens who dined less often at home. “It is very interesting that something as simple as frequently eating meals together may contribute to so many different types of benefits to all family members.”
On the other end, I would also say that it’s not something we should beat ourselves up over too much either, feeling guilty over not being able to sit down together as a family ever night like we may long to but can’t due to schedule conflicts, nap times, sports, ect. I try to remind myself that even if it’s not our “regular,” there are ways to work it in and make a point of it. For example our family eats at home much more in the summer months, when the weather warms up and the option for dining outdoors becomes a daily option. So while I regret that we do tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the school year, sometimes overwhelmed by meal preps and grocery runs, I always try to make more of an effort during the season to test out new recipes I’ve had on my radar for months. A table set and waiting for us to settle all around during the weeks our schedules let up a bit and we have the luxury of new, albeit late night dinners together to look forward to.
I wanted to post here to open up the topic to all readers, hoping you guys might weigh in on how frequently you eat out, where, when and how much. It’s something I haven’t read much about and am happy to open up discussion here. So please, feel free to join the conversation. How often do you eat at the table together as a family? When you do eat out, what’s the main reason and where do you tend to frequent most? To get things started I asked a handful of my friends to share some of their own fast food confessionals.
Paige: “about three times a week. Weekends mostly. And pizza from our favorite place. We spend about 100 – 150$”
Lyndeez: “it use to be maybe once every two weeks but now that we are on the road it’s more like three times a week. Which sucks but you gotta do what you gotta do. It’s about 20-30$ each time for a family of 5.”
Kate: “most weeks we eat out once (usually Mexican) and order in once (either Thai or pizza) so I’d we spend around 100 or so total a week.”
Latonya: “okay, so I tried really hard not to eat out after having Oak. But, actually, it’s the only thing that saved us. So we did it a lot. In the winter here, we cooked a lot but ate out around twice a week, order in once a week. This Spring – so far, we;ve actually been eating dinner in a lot, but I think overall, out a lot as well. We’re out running around all day so sometimes I don’t have enough food to last. So maybe out 3-4 times (maybe more) Mostly lunch and late breakfast dates. Order in maybe once or twice a week for dinner.”
Kristin: “we are kinda all over the place, I’d say we eat out 4-5 (counting a quick coffee and snack type things too) times a wee but that can range from spending 8$ – 30$ depending on where we go and if it’s just me and the girls or the whole family.”
Denise: “I eat our every single day. It’s a lot of money, and usually Sushi or Mexican but the girls also love subway and juice it up too. At the end of the month it’s a lot of money.” – On the reality of being a single mother on the go through the week.
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