I've been under this grand assumption that "It's a school night" equals "home-cooked meal by mom" (or at least "home-served meal," because I'm not sure Easy Mac with sliced sausage counts). Yes, the Dad in our family can cook, but I actually like cooking, so I generally do it Monday through Friday, after long days at the office.
We all know that can resorting to restaurants can be a serious wallet drain. It has certainly helped us financially to eat in -- even though we both work, we're not made of money! And as I told a non-parent friend recently, going out during the week "became logistically impossible" once we had a child.
But I've just realized that is not true.
Here are some factors that my husband and I considered when we decided that, instead of saving our Weekly Restaurant Dinner for the typical Saturday night, we'll pick one weeknight to eat out:
- Monotony? We're breaking up. Not only is it a brain-drain to try to produce interesting meals 5 consecutive nights a week, it can be boring! Especially because working moms have been trained to gather our "3-week arsenal" of tried-and-true recipes and rotate them. It's easy, sure, but I know that if I personally have to endure Spaghetti Wednesday every Wednesday? For the rest of my life? I will cry right into my garlic toast.
- He's so clean you could eat off him. Our son is three, and on the verge of that age when a boy needs a bath every night. You know what I mean: Perpetually sweaty hair. Dirt under every fingernail. Remnants of something green... hopefully grass-stains... on both kneecaps. But he's not quite there yet, and I'm trusting his daycare teachers to keep him relatively clean (except on Tuesdays, when he has his sports class) for a few more months! My point is: When it's not a Bath Night, we don't have such a strict evening schedule.
- The grocery cart wheels are greased. When is the best time for shopping? Weekends, of course. I especially like to show up at my local Publix really early on Sunday mornings, while everyone's at church. (That right there is a prayer answered!) If we promise to cook on a weekend night instead of going out, we can shop that day for the ingredients. This allows us to try more interesting recipes with fresh food, and gives us time to cook them -- together. Aha! Cooking becomes quality time, not just a rush to beat the egg-timer.
- Saturdays are actually harder for us. Our son still naps (hallelujah!), but he's pushing it to later and later in the day. Sometimes he doesn't wake up until 4:30 on Saturdays, and to scoot him out the door half an hour later -- because we have to beat the suburban restaurant crowd -- just doesn't work for any of us. And what if we're at a weekend festival or other activity? We've probably already spent money that day, or we're plain worn out. Finally: Guess how many people eat out on Tuesdays? Not many. Our precious toddler bothers far fewer diners and we get the bonus of very attentive service.
- The element of surprise! We've decided not to specify a night that's Eat-Out Night, but instead, if one of us had has a hard day, or if the chicken breasts didn't remember to get taken out of the freezer (ahem), or just because, we'll decide randomly on non-bath-nights that we're going out. This adds an element of surprise to our weeknight meals, and thankfully I’m not talking about Tuna Surprise.
We've only been working this new method for a couple of weeks now, but just the first time, I felt such a huge relief when my husband said, "Let's eat out." We're vowing not to slip into a restaurant habit, but I think once a week will inject just the right amount of spice to our routine, and that's an idea that definitely appeals to my taste.