“I don’t have time to cook”

This is what I hear from many people I talk to for their reasoning to eat dinner “out” on a regular basis… To people who tell me they don’t have time to cook and then question how I find time to cook with how busy I am, I say “I don’t have time to eat out”… let’s think about this… and if you have kids at home, this especially applies to you…

I’m going to use my favorite local mexican restaurant as my example for the following reasons:

  1. I rarely eat dinner out, but when do, this is usually where I go
  2. They have probably the fastest service of any restaurant in town
  3. Moderate prices, friendly service 🙂

For the sake of argument, let’s assume you aren’t going out for dinner during “peak” dinner times. (Although we both know, if you’re going out to eat, you’re probably hitting the dinner rush along with everyone else who believes they don’t have time to cook.) Let’s also assume you know the menu pretty well, and it only takes as long as the drinks arriving at your table to make your menu selection… with those things in mind, let’s see if we can time it…

  • It’s dinner-time. 5 o’clock. You decide to go out. If you’re lucky enough to live in a small town and not have traffic to fight (I am that lucky!), let’s say 5 minutes to get to the restaurant. 5:05.
  • You are greeted by your favorite cheerful waitress who immediately takes you to your favorite table, chatting along the way. Drink orders are placed as you sit in the booth. 5:07
  • Menus open. Chips & salsa (and of course the guac you always order 😉 ) and waters arrive. Menu choices are made. Drinks arrive. 5:12
  • Place your order, but of course you know the waitress so there’s a little chatting, as well. Afterall, you eat out often, right? Because you don’t have time to cook… so you know the waitress. 🙂 5:18
  • Look at that… almost 20 minutes has gone by…
  • Now you’ll get a chance to visit with your family and eat some chips, salsa & guac and wait for your food. Since you’re supposedly not eating at “peak” dining time, let’s say food arrives quickly. 5:28 (Yes, at my fave place, when I go at off-peak times, my food really does arrive that fast, or faster! Sometimes even that fast at peak times…)
  • Listen to that sizzle, smell that yumminess in front of you! How fast do you eat? Well, that varies for everyone, but let’s say 15 minutes? 5:43
  • Your waitress is sweet and realizes you’re always in a hurry, so she left your bill while you were still eating. Get out the card to pay (paying with cash and don’t need any change? that’ll save you a few minutes). Credit card slip arrives to sign and you’re ready to head home. 5:45 (let’s just pretend that it only took 2 minutes to process that payment… we all know it takes a bit longer, though. 😉 )
  • Load up the family, drive home. 5:50

There you have it. 50 minutes for dinner! And guess what?! Your kids still have homework to do, and showers to take, and wouldn’t it be nice to get in a little snuggle time or reading time with them, too? And let’s be completely honest here… you’re probably eating at the dinner rush time, which will add quite a bit of time to your evening, not to mention  most people linger over their meals at a restaurant more than they would at home, and sit at the table long after they’ve finished eating… so we’re really looking at an hour+ for dinner…

My proposal to you: Spend 15 minutes on an evening, or a weekend sitting down with your family, planning out your week. Know what’s on the calendar for everyone, and plan your menus accordingly. No fancy software required. A simple notepad, lined or unlined, or a simple menu planning calendar like this one I found at a craft store will work just fine. Use your slow cooker for those craziest of days/nights, and you’ll spend 10 minutes prepping in the morning to come home and have dinner ready to eat! Next, by taking the time on a weekend, or evening to prep some foods for the week, you’ll be more likely to eat at home, knowing you have things ready to go. Cut the vegetables, slice or cube some cheese for snacks, shred some cheese, too, so you don’t have to buy the pre-shredded cheese (that’s not only more expensive, but has extra “stuff” on it to keep it from clumping!). Anything you can prep ahead of time for the week will save you time, and then MONEY by not eating out. You’ll also be saving your health!

Stay tuned for more on menu planning and quick meal time tips! I’ve got plenty, because I’m a busy momma and “I don’t have time to eat out”.

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