Have you ever thought, “We should eat out less often — for the sake of our wallets and our waistlines!” Maybe you tried tracking your purchases, keeping almonds in our purses, and beating yourself up. But nothing ever seems to work. What if I told you I could eat out and save money?
A restaurant tax
I decided to do something drastic. I instituted a surcharge for each meal I didn’t make at home. It was a bold move, but I can do anything for a month, right?
I told myself I could eat out or order in as often as I wanted, guilt-free. However, as long as each time I did, I tucked away an equivalent amount of money in a special envelope.
- A $10 trip to the Burger House now cost me $20.
- Thai food for the family meant spending $90 instead of $45.
- And a frou-frou coffee drink was $8, not $4.
To keep myself honest, I imposed a non-negotiable rule: my “tax” was due at the time service was rendered. If I didn’t have the cash to put into my envelope immediately, I couldn’t place my order. It’s difficult enough scrounging through the nooks and crannies of my purse and minivan to find money for a burger on the run. But now I had to find twice as much.
I assumed this experiment would drastically reduce how frequently I ate out, because eating out is expensive, and I had just doubled the cost.
A surprising result
At the end of the month, I removed the bulging envelope from my desk drawer and held the stack of small bills in my hand, curious to see how much I had collected. My heart beat faster as I counted: $185, $190 — I was holding over $200! A mix of emotions swirled to the surface.
Embarrassment — Do we really eat out this much?
Shame — How did this not “cure” me of eating out?
Concern — Had I forgotten to pay a bill?
But those emotions were eclipsed by excitement: We spent $200 eating out last month AND we had an additional $200 saved!!
That means, at least for last month, I could have spent $400 in some other way, if I had chosen not to eat out at all. At the very least, I had $200 in my hand that I could still choose to spend intentionally. The options were endless — all because my experiment failed!
Or had it?
Spending money intentionally
How much money do you spend eating out each month? Is there something you could spend that money on that would give you more satisfaction? Maybe. Or maybe not. How will you know if you’re not intentional?
One Small Win: Try imposing your own restaurant tax. You may eat out less frequently. You may eat out just as often. At least you’ll be making an informed decision. Either way, you’ll gather far more money than you’ll ever find by foraging through your car.
Kendra Burrows has a passion for tending her earthly and spiritual gardens. Some days they overflow with blooms, other days the weeds seem to prevail. In either case, Kendra strives to mindfully recognize God’s grace in her life every day, and to encourage others to tend and nurture their own beautiful gardens.
Kendra is joyfully married with three great kids and son-in-law, and two other lovable nuisances (pets). She lives in Eugene, OR, and teaches psychology at the local college.
Connect with Kendra at www.kendraburrows.com.
I love the idea of dinner—the coming together for conversation, connection, and a shared table. I like the idea of food and conversation happening around the kitchen table, filling both our stomachs and our hearts. The idea of roasted chicken, fresh from the oven, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans displayed on an impeccable table with candles glowing makes my heart sing.
That’s just not what dinner looks like at my house.
What my dinner table really looks like
Allow me to set the stage. It is 6:00 pm. It is the “losing it hour.” It is the end of the day and everyone is tired and hungry. The rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is trying to stay warm in the oven without drying out while I warm up the leftover rice and defrost some green beans that have just a touch of freezer burn. The table is littered with crumbs, scraps of paper, and eraser bits. I sit the food on top of it all so we can just eat already. My husband arrives home from a long day and, well, we’ve all had a long day.
We pray and begin to eat. And so it begins. Someone is chewing too loudly. There’s too much lemon pepper seasoning on the green beans. “She looked at me funny” is a constant refrain. Our questions about school end up with answers like, “We did math” and “I liked recess.”
At your house maybe the baby is throwing food and refusing to eat or maybe you are still waiting for the tardy teen to arrive. It is always something. Dinner is burned, attitudes are keeping things lively, or the disagreement from the morning has decided to return for the “losing it hour.” And on a really great night you get all three!
Invite joy to the table – a new way to do dinner
I am on a mission to rescue dinner from unrealistic expectations. My goal is smiles and the rest is just details. To begin this mission I bought three tins of jokes. I wanted to introduce a different expectation—one of connection through fun—and, at the very least, keep the grumpy at bay. For the most part it has worked. The eraser bits are still on the table, the chicken is dry, but we have smiles! About a week after starting this new way of dining my son checked out a book of jokes from the school library for us to enjoy at dinner. I call that winning!
Rescuing dinner from expectations has led to dinners full of fun. Grumpy still joins us for dinner every now and then of course, but we’ve stopped setting a place for him and instead have invited joy to the table.
Here’s a few more ideas, some I have tried and some I will implement soon to give grumpy the boot and invite joy to a place at our table.
– On Sunday nights we watch America’s Funniest Videos while we eat an easy dinner. There is always belly laughter and I LOVE IT.
– Grab some trivia cards from a board game and just ask the questions – no pieces or game board needed.
– Serve dinner that is only finger food – easy for the one prepping and fun for all.
– Buy or make some fun placemats.
– Speak with accents.
– Eat dinner with chopsticks. (Make chopsticks easy for kids to try with this tutorial! http://www.instructables.com/id/Chopstick-trainer-with-only-a-rubber-band-and-ch/)
– Turn on some music and allow it to set the tone for your meal. Are you having Mexican? Turn on some Latin tunes. Having grilled cheese for dinner? Jazz genre, of course. Have throwback night and introduce your kids to the music you listened to growing up.
– Eat a picnic on the living room floor.
One small win: Make dinner fun again by releasing your expectations. Introduce fun at dinner tonight in a way that your family will enjoy. Invite joy to the table.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
It’s a Thursday night and you just invited a friend over for dinner later this weekend.
You’re excited to reconnect and share a meal — until you get a text from this friend: “Hey, just wanted to let you know that I am now a vegan. Hope this won’t be a problem!”
Your heart sinks and anxiety kicks in. What will I make? None of my dishes fit this diet.
Accommodating dietary needs
Does accommodating a dinner guest with dietary restrictions overwhelm you?
Is there a friend whom you’ve avoided inviting over for dinner out of fear that you won’t have a meal that will be both enjoyable and fit his or her diet?
As a gluten intolerant person, I get it. When I first cut gluten out of my diet it really frustrated my friends, family, and me.
(In case you haven’t heard … some gluten free items taste a little like chewing on cardboard. Here’s a list of my favorite go-to gluten free products that I always have in stock.)
At first I created a Pinterest board and started cooking new meals from scratch using special gluten recipes.
Over time however, after adding a few staples to my cooking supplies, I discovered a loophole that made cooking for my diet a breeze!
One Small Win: Rather than making an entirely new dish from scratch, create dishes you already love and modify only the ingredients that don’t fit the diet.
Let’s pretend your signature meal is some kind of pasta dish with meat sauce, but your guest is a vegetarian.
You can make the dish as usual, but leave the meat sauce on the side. You can also make an additional, meat-free sauce and have it on the side, giving your guest options.
Maybe your guest eats meat, but is gluten intolerant? Use certified gluten free pasta instead, and research your other ingredients to see if any of those need replacing.
Here is a worksheet to make this process easier if you are a visual planner like me!
Remember, if all else fails, ask your guest if he or she has any meal recommendations or if specific ingredients will be a problem.
Asking doesn’t make you look dumb; on the contrary, it shows that you care!
Your dinner guest will feel loved and cared for with your efforts and consideration.
Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student, writer and speaker, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.
You can read more about Kelsee’s ministry, Detangled & Free, over at kelseekeitel.com or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
Do you ever get frustrated with people who suggest a “quick fix” solution for losing weight?
• “If you want to lose weight, you have to stop eating sugar.”
• “I lost weight using products that will change your life. Buy my products now.”
• “All you need is more willpower.”
I hate it when this happens. As someone who has lost and gained large amounts of weight many times, I know from experience that losing weight isn’t a one-size-fits-all challenge.
Unsolicited advice, regardless of how well-intended it may be, usually comes across as criticism.
How do you feel when someone tries to “fix” you with uninvited input? If it’s not weight loss, maybe it’s telling you how to:
• Feed your children.
• Spend your money.
• Resolve relational challenges.
How do you respond when someone tries to fix you?
I used to have one of two extreme responses, depending on who was talking to me. Do either of these sound familiar?
• Do nothing and act like it’s not bothering you, even though it does, and then later (maybe many weeks later) you blow up.
• React defensively and aggressively in the moment. Then later you wish you hadn’t.
Learning to become honest with the right people at the right time has been empowering. It’s helped me to not hear food calling my name when I start feeling irritated.
Here are several response options to someone trying to fix you with their advice. Experiment to find what works best for you.
Respond in the moment
If you are talking with someone who tends to react in a positive manner when challenged, choose a simple response.
For example, “Thanks for caring. I’ve got that area of my life covered.”
If you are talking to someone who has a history of not listening to you and even becoming defensive, it’s helpful to have a conversation later.
Be sure to initiate the conversation another time; don’t let it go.
For some situations, I choose my battles, viewing it as their issue and not mine.
For example, with someone I will probably not see again, I often decide to let it go.
If it’s still bothering me, I either journal or talk to someone else about how I am feeling.
Choose Your Response
So, the next time someone offers unsolicited advice meant to fix you, remember: you can learn to choose your response.
These questions will help:
• Is there a history of the person responding positively when challenged? If so, respond honestly in the moment.
• Is there a history of the person responding defensively or aggressively in the moment when challenged? If so, choose a better time to have a conversation about the impact of their advice.
• Is this a relationship with no future? If so, journal or talk about it later with someone else.
One Small Win: Be intentional about practicing these responses. You’ll be glad that you did.
What’s your typical response when someone offers you unsolicited advice?
Mary Lou Caskey trains Christian coaches and communicators to influence hearts through the power of story. If you want to become a transformative storyteller, click here to connect with Mary Lou and get her free quiz, “Is It the Best Time to Share a Personal Story?”
by Kelsee Keitel
Would you join me in a moment of silence for all the Tupperware containers lost due to my neglect? First stranded in my vehicle for weeks, then tossed to their dumpster deaths?
I can’t tell you the number of Tupperware containers I’ve thrown away without even attempting to open last month’s leftover salad. (At least I think that was salad; you never can tell after 30 days.)
Sometimes I think my Camry is more like a scrapbook than a car.
If given the chance to ride shot-gun amongst my leftover lunches, you may notice the floorboards are littered with last week’s junk mail, sermon flyers from at least four Sundays back, and straw paper memories of the last several early morning fast food breakfast meals I’ve consumed (Chicken-Minis anyone?).
Make your way to the backseats, and you’ll find a baker’s dozen of half-consumed water bottles, about a week’s worth of wardrobe, and enough old receipts to save a rain forest.
I don’t even have children. I can only guess what goodies they would add to my collection!
I remember being 16 and thinking I’d never trash my beloved ride to freedom.
But here I am.
Life, it turns out, is messy.
And you might be in the lane next to me, surrounded by your own junky memorabilia.
I actually don’t mind cleaning my vehicle all that much. But getting myself to actually do it? That is the problem.
I’ve got every excuse for procrastinating this job. My biggest being that the temperature outside is too uncomfortable. (I live in Indiana … so the hot is hot and the cold is COLD!) My next excuse, I honestly forget until the next morning when candy wrappers spill out when opening my door.
But there is hope!
I recently found a system that works for me. I still use the floorboards as my personal dumpster (we’re breaking one habit at a time here, okay?). I no longer have trouble making myself clean out my car.
Here’s my simple system:
When you leave for work in the morning, take two plastic grocery sacks to the vehicle with you.
Go about your day and make as many messes as you like.
When you get home at the end of the day, you’ll be prepared to clean out your vehicle (which happens to be the perfect temperature because you’ve been driving it!)
Fill one plastic sack with trash. Fill the other with items that need to go inside.
On your way inside throw the trash in the trashcan.
Bam! You’re done!
I like this system so much that I’ve started to leave a supply of sacks in my car to tidy up whenever I feel inspired.
One Small Win: If you tired of putting off the task of cleaning your car, gather up some grocery sacks right now and put them by your car keys. Next time you leave, equip yourself for the job with no excuses.
Just think of all the Tupperware we can save!
Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student and blogger, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.
You can read more about how Kelsee experiences divine moments in the midst of ordinary life over at kelseekeitel.com or on Instagram and Facebook.
Do you find yourself starting things, but not finishing them? Would you like to learn from someone who broke that habit and replaced it with other habits that help her finish strong?
Today I talk with author Nicki Koziarz about her book 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit about not quitting including the five questions to ask yourself before quitting.
Does Nicki’s name sound familiar? That’s because I did an awesome interview with her for the Husband Project. Be sure to listen to it here:
Episode #206-Nicki Koziarz and The Ultimate Resource Guide for (trying to be) Awesome Wives