Bring dinner home again!!

Going out to eat can quickly become a 3-4 night a week event.  Whether it’s a quick drive through dinner because of evening activities or a sit down because it’s been a long day, it can easily add up!

A few reasons we only go out on very special occasions …

  1. Financial – We can easily spend on one meal what we would spend on 2 weeks worth of groceries.
  2. Quality of food – When we cook at home we can control every ingredient of our meal and prepare it exactly how we like it.
  3. QUALITY time with family – When we are at a restaurant we are surrounded by noise and interruptions.  The kids don’t tell us as much about their day in a public setting with all the other activities around us competing for their attention.
  4. Teaching opportunities – Children can learn some incredible life skills in the home kitchen.  Communication, math, reading, self sufficiency, team work … the list goes on and on! 
But most of us know all of that already … the real question is HOW can we do it every night??  Over the years we have added a few fun activities to our dinner time routine that have really made it more enjoyable and exciting for us to stay in and eat at home.  Here are our tips and tricks on reducing/eliminating restaurant visits:
Sports and activities night
Event nights are crock pot nights.  We currently have one day a week that is jam packed full of activities and sports.  That night is crock pot night.  Sundays (our free day) I prep everything needed for one crock pot night.  I have a recurring reminder set on my phone for that busy morning.  It alerts me to throw everything into the crock pot and turn it on.  When we come home that evening dinner is ready.     

Interactive theme nights

Kid’s choice
We have two theme nights every week.  The first is a kids choice (big kids aka farmer J, get to pick too.)  We take turns choosing a theme for that day on Saturday before we hit the grocery store.  We then come up with a fun menu for that night.  Some examples are under the sea mermaid night (my daughter picks this one often, so this is usually our sea food night), race car drive-up diner night (burgers/fries),  and Tarzan jungle night (finger food without utensils).  We find a Pandora station that fits the theme and play it while we prep the food and dinner table.
We have one Italian night a week.  This is a fixed night every week (example every Wednesday).  We do this so the kids know exactly what to expect every Wednesday and they look forward to this day every week.  On those nights the kids help make pizza, homemade pasta, lasagna, meatballs … anything interactive.  The Pandora station for this night is “Italian Traditional Radio”.  

Family movie fun night.
Fridays are family movie fun nights.  We make appetizers, snacks, and a big bowl of air popped popcorn for dinner.  We lay out a picnic blanket and have dinner in front of a movie.

UN-Takeout night
There are lots of foods that are easy to pick up on the way home from work.  They are surprisingly just as easy to make at home.  Here is an example of Chinese UN-Takeout night Veggie lo mein with homemade noodles (recipe here) and Egg drop soup (recipe here.)

 Leftover buffet and surprise soup night
We have one night during the week where we eat up all the leftovers in the refrigerator.  We do this by upgrading leftovers, having a leftover buffet (I got this idea from the Money Saving Mom’s book**), and veggie drawer surprise soup.  Leftover buffet is when you put all the leftovers on the counter in a buffet line.  Everyone gets to put whatever they want on their plate for dinner.  Surprise soup is a pot of soup made out of anything in the refrigerator that has a short shelf life.  (Example, left over turkey and a bell pepper can be mixed in with beans and tomatoes for a chili or hardy soup)   These three significantly reduce food waste.  This is also the night I clean out the refrigerator.  

**you can also listen to it for free with a 30 day audible trial

Example week of meal themes at home 

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8 Replies to “Bring dinner home again!!”

  1. I have been considering doing something like this to plan my menus around. We do not have children at home, just the two of us, but it sounds like fun and would make our meals more interesting. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Love it! Eating dinner as a family is very important to us and I love that it is important to other families as well. We don't do theme nights but after reading your post I am going to start. Thank you for sharing.

  3. i need to get back to our themed nights. It get's crazy at Christmas time with our busy 6 weeks of ministry and its so easy to just go out. Our waists and pocket books are showing it. We have Vegetarian, Italian, Mexican, Oriental, Burgers and Fries, crockpot, and kids pick nights. Now I think I'm finally motivated! Yeah!

  4. My husband and I are the only two at home, til granddaughter gets back from her Dad's this summer. She is at our house at least three nights a week. We had gotten into the terrible habit of eating out most night since I was still working. Well I'm no longer working and we still were eating out quite often. A couple weeks ago we decided to start eating at home except one or two nights a week. Thanks for this – it gives me things to plan around granddaughter likes to eat at home and she likes simple meals so I can use this to plan.

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