Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I grew up in a very small town...a town so small that you could count all of the restaurants on one hand. To be honest, counting them would not even require all of the fingers on that one hand! Needless to say, we ate at home ~ a lot!

Today, I live in a much larger town. It's not even a town's more like a metropolis. Maybe it's city life, or maybe it's just this day and age, but people do not seem to eat at home as often anymore.

And I don't think it's just the Brownstones.

Everywhere you look, at almost anytime of day, cars are packed into the parking lots of fast food joints, fine dining restaurants, and all types of eating establishments in between the two.
Maybe it's the bright ~ sometimes flashing ~ neon lights of the whimsical signs that draw us in, promising a fun atmosphere.
Maybe it's the commercials on television with their catchy theme songs and tables of people talking and laughing over plates of colorful, steaming food that promise lots of great bonding over a delicious meal.
Maybe what lures us in is the thought of not having to prepare the meal, or clean up after it for that matter, promising lots of free time and a clean kitchen.
Maybe ~ just maybe ~ we are trying to keep up with Joneses.

Well, I'm telling you...the Brownstones have been on a roll the past few months! We have eaten at so many different restaurants I can't even begin to count them all. It would require all of my fingers. And all of my toes. Oh, let's just be honest here ~ it would still require additional body parts! Remember what I said earlier about growing up in a small town?

That might sound glorious to some of you. It used to sound glorious to me! But let me tell you what I have learned from it because it just doesn't work...
  • Sometimes we are overstimulated! Bright lights do not necessarily equal fun. It's harder to remember the glory of the simple things when we have to be entertained all the time.
  • A catchy theme song does not always equal good food. It's easy to forget that the food in the commercial is the "star of the show", so it always looks perfect. The food we are ultimately served...well, that's real life food. And laughing customers do not mean there will be great conversation. Often it's really too loud to even talk ~ especially the kind of talking that we should be doing with our children over dinner. It's time to hear about their day!
  • Sometimes taking the easy way out really isn't that easy! When you factor in the time that it takes to drive to and from the restaurant, to order your food, to eat, and to pay the bill, are you really saving that much time? My children finally came to the point of literally groaning if they knew we were going to a restaurant for dinner. They expressed to me that they just wanted to be HOME! That, my friends, was a well-deserved knock upside my head! Sometimes, we just need to slow down.
  • And trying to keep up with the Joneses, will we ever actually be able to keep up with the Joneses? Probably not. Even if you eat only fast food, dining out gets expensive!
I also learned this...
There is definitely a time and place for dining in various types of restaurants. It is fun to meet friends over a carefree dinner. Some of my best memories from growing up are of eating at the local Dairy Queen every Sunday night after church. It was fun being a room filled with the laughter of so many people that we would not have all fit into one house. Though we opt for Sunday lunch instead of Sunday dinner, this is a tradition that we have carried on with our friends today! I have no doubt that some of my own children's best memories will be those of Sunday lunches with dear friends.

And dining out ~ when it's done occasionally ~ can be a really fun way to celebrate! We each get to choose our favorite restaurant, whether it be fast food or fine dining, to go and celebrate at some point during our birthday week. Those are special memories! I will never forget how one year Tornado picked McDonald's, and the very next year, the choice was Benihana!

But...there is nothing better than throwing together a simple meal at home and having your kids smell it and say,
"Mommy is cooking! We get to eat at HOME tonight!"
"We are having real food!"
"That smells soooo good!"
"This is the best thing I've ever eaten!"
"Mommy, you are the
best. chef. ever!"

That best thing they've ever eaten? You can find it below the post. It's one of the easiest things I know how to make. It's also very inexpensive and very easy to clean up the kitchen. Now that works-for-me!

Back to the beginning of the story...Thing 2, Thing 3, Thing 4, and myself are all still very close. We are also still close to our parents. And we all still frequently enjoy meals at home together. We talk often, and laugh much...and we know what is going on in one another's lives. I think a big part of that is what our parents instilled in us when we were young through family participation in preparation and cleanup, as well as many fun conversations around the dinner table. And those memories are even better than the ones from Dairy Queen!

A final thought ~ the less we eat at home, the more we are teaching our children to do the same. Kitchens are meant to be used!!! It's OK if they aren't completely spotless all the time! It is great fun for kids to help in the kitchen, and it creates a memory that will last a lifetime...which is WAY longer than the memory of that meal that saved you so much time!

Hobo Dinners, or "The Easiest Meal I Know How To Make"

2 pounds ground chuck or turkey
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced
4 potatoes, sliced
1 bag carrots, halved and then sliced lengthwise into quarters
salt and pepper to taste

Line a jelly roll pan with heavy duty foil. Form meat into patties, and place on pan. (If you really want to make it easy, buy pre-made patties, though this does up the cost a bit.) Season with salt and pepper to your taste preference. Add potatoes, and season again. Then add carrots, onion, and pepper. Cover tightly with foil, and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Enjoy super easy preparation, a tasty one dish meal with your family, super easy cleanup, and loads of compliments from your kids!

Happy cooking!

Visit Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer to see more

tips this week!

Click here to see my other Works-For-Me-Wednesday tips:
  • "Backwards Edition" tips for shopping at CVS
  • "Backwards Edition" tips for removing white spots/rings from furniture
  • how we master math in the Brownstone household
  • "Backwards Edition" tips for correct "tipping" etiquette in almost any situation
  • how I get my kids (and Mr. Brownstone!) to try new vegetables and love them
  • how we make traveling with kids easier
Click here to find out what works for us regarding chores and allowance!

Click here to see what other easy recipes are working for us!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, X-Wife!

I have to confess, the Tour Manager does all the cooking around here. It's his way of relaxing after a day at the office -- seriously!

But when he's had a bad day, forget it. He'd rather pick something up. (what does that say about MY cooking? Nothing, actually, because we tend to shop European style -- only buying what we need for that day. So that means we usually have nothing for dinner.)

I'd rather eat in more, to be honest. I gain a lot of weight when we eat out, and I don't need that.

Great post!!

Melanie said...

We used to eat out a lot. Several times every week. Then we had a baby and eating out was not so much fun anymore. And also, I decided to become a SAHM so we had to cut costs. So, now we hardley ever eat out. And I am surprised to say that I don't miss it a bit.

Jill said...

Amen Sister! We eat at home almost every night. It does get expensive eating out & is much healthier to eat at home. We just don't have the same quality family conversation when we dine at out either!

Jenn said...

I have to amen you too...although the conversation sometimes that we have when we eat out with our friends is the highlight of my week!!
Susie said Monday night when I tucked her in bed, "Mommy, you are the best mommy, I LOVE your dinner"....just melts your heart!!

Skelty said...

I eat out every meal when I am traveling. I am sooooo tired of it. Everything tastes the same at this point. I guess the upside is that I am getting sick of food, and eating smaller portions.

To answer your question. I started the blog about 3 months ago.

pussreboots said...

My husband also does most of the cooking when he's home. When he's at school late, I cook. I can count the number of restaurants we eat at on one hand. Most of our meals (90%) are eaten at home.

My 5 year old son loves to cook too and has even created a couple recipes.

Anonymous said...

If it's 'kids eat free' and patio weather. Dine out baby! I typically cook more than dine out; however, this week has been flip-flopped. I need to go to the grocery store!