Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What About Eating Out?

I get lots of e-mail questions and I love them, keep ‘em coming. Just give me a little grace in answering them. I try to get to them as soon as I can but I do have four kids that I’m trying to teach and train and a house to run and a 14 year marriage to keep strong and a gazillion other commitments just like you.

(I totally know that some of you are now adding up 14 years and trying to figure out how old I am so I’ll just tell ya. I’m 36. You are so busted!)

So with that said I’m going to try and spend some time blogging the answers to some of your questions this week. If you’ve got something that you’ve been wondering, now is the time to send me an e-mail. Just follow the link in my sidebar.

One of the more popular questions I get is, “Do you ever eat out?” And the answer is: It’s a rare occurrence, but yes, we do.

Since we are a large-ish family, you can probably imagine that eating out can get costly. With six of us; a 6’4” man who burns calories running miles and miles, 1 nearly 13 year old boy and 2 ravenous younger boys as well as a tween daughter and me, our appetites are big but our budget isn’t. But we’ve found a couple of ways to make it work when we decide to splurge. And it’s definitely a special occasion when we do it.

With a grocery budget of $50 a week you can imagine the shock of easily spending that much or more on one meal for my whole family at a restaurant. So we try to stick to a budget of $25 when we do make the rare decision to eat out, and we follow a few guidelines…

We usually eat at a fast food restaurant. Yeah, I know it’s not the healthiest choice but we aren’t eating out for health, we’re doing it more for recreation. Although I did watch Supersize It and I have to sing “la-la-la” in my head when I’m eating my Big Mac.

We usually choose places with a dollar value menu. Each person can order 4 items off the dollar menu and for 6 of us it keeps our total below $25. We’ve found these menus at Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Taco Bell. It’s kind of fun to see the kids weigh the option of a $1 soda pop or free water and another burger. I look at it as teaching them money management as well as the value of a buck.

Another great find, and I know this may sound weird, is our hospital cafeteria. I know the big joke is how BAD hospital food is but the cafeteria offers everything from roasted meat and mashed potatoes, to a salad bar, deli sandwiches, pizza, wraps and desserts and it’s really cheap and fresh. Sometimes when we can’t decide where we want to eat, we’ll go there and everyone can get exactly what they want. The atmosphere is clean and quiet and they have a table big enough for all six of us.

And the bonus of eating out is not only that I have one night of NOT cooking but that the meal that we were GOING to eat at home gets saved and put on the next week’s menu with all the ingredients purchased and waiting for me in my kitchen.


Mrs. Querido said...

We live near a hospital (like five minutes away)..never thought of eating there! Thanks for the tip! :)

Mama Squirrel said...

When my oldest was little, we lived just down the street from a hospital, but nowhere near any other coffee shop or snack place. So that was one of our regular places to take a walk to. We'd look around in the gift shop and get a drink in the cafeteria. I figured that (as a bonus) if she ever got sick, she'd never be worried about "having to go to the hospital!"

Anonymous said...

HEY!!! We eat at the Hospital Cafeteria too!! We usually eat for less and have leftovers to boot. Its nice to know that we aren't the only ones!

Emily said...

Did you really just say 'hospital cafeteria?'

Rhonda in OK said...

A hospital cafeteria in my parents home town is a big Catholic hospital and it has great food, all healthy and heart-friendly too.

Personally, I think most eating out is very over-rated.
It is so expensive, even fast food, and rarely is it as good as what we cook at home.

But people love convenience, don't they?

Dh and I eat out at most maybe once every 2 months.

Anonymous said...

How funny on the cafeteria! DH and I joke about how cheap it is and the variety, we always eat dinner/lunch when we visit someone.


The Ice House said...

Just wanted to tell ya....I'm 35, married 14 years tomorrow with 4 kids, too! Mine are 10, 8, 5 and 2. I enjoy reading your blog! Keep up the great work ;-)

momanna98 said...

Some restaurants have kids eat free nights. I don't know if you can keep it under $25 though. I imagine you can be very close if you get something cheap and drink only water. Two kids per paying adult get to eat free. In think it's 12 and under - at Lone Star anyway.

Gayle said...

Gayle: Thanks for the great tips. When we volunteered at the Hosp. my daughter and I enjoyed the great inexpensive lunches. We also found that the local airport has a nice cafe that we like. My most favorite place for lunch is the Boarding House in Issaquah, WA. I try and eat there as often as possible when we lived close.
I appreciate all the info.

Kelli said...

Our family was in a car accident almost 2 years ago, my daughter spent a couple of weeks in PICU. The cafeteria's milkshakes and grilled burgers, not to mention their bakery keeps her asking if we can have lunch there everytime we pass it!!
We like to go to Sam's club where the whole family (me 33, hubby 36, ds 15, dd11 and dd11) can get stuffed on pizza and ice cream for about $15 (we share drinks, Hey, we all have the same germs!!! ;-)

Rachel said...

I think we must have gotten out of luck with our hospital cafeteria! The food is actually pretty good, but it's really expensive. Then again, that seems to be most of California!

I agree with the dollar menus, though. DH and I are almost off eating out, but once in a while still splurge with money from the grocery budget. This past weekend we went to Taco Bell and spent $5 -- they have 79 cent and 89 cent items now (okay, maybe that's old news, but we hadn't been there since they've had them!)!

It still amazes me that when I met him 5 years ago, he ate fast food twice a day, almost every day of the week! Ugh!

Lainie Rae said...

My mother in law retired from St John cafeteria service. They have a very high standard of food service besides the great menu's.
Another great thing about the hospitol is you don't have to deal with crabby waitresses and big tips.

Shanna said...

When I take my dad to Baptist-Memphis Hospital for check-ups, we always eat in the hospital cafeteria. The food is terrific and not overpriced. Our local hospital also does cookie trays & meat/cheese trays for purchase by the public, very competitively priced with the grocery stores!

Duckygirl said...

I miss the cafeteria there....after staying a two other hospitals that just brought you meals (no choices) I realize how great the food there was!


Midwest Nest said...

I volunteer at the hospital once a week and always look forward to what is for dinner that night in the cafeteria before I go work. Great idea for a family!