End of Month Report…

I made the commitment not to see the inside of a restaurant for the month of January. I thought on this last day of the month that I’d report back how the month went.

restaurantActually, I’ll confess…I went to four restaurants in January. One trip, Vanessa and I went with two colleagues, and it was a trip that we planned before I made the commitment. I suppose that counts, but it didn’t feel right to cancel on our friends. It WAS Mexican food, though! The other three trips to restaurants came in the span of three days in the middle of the month, and had to do with hosting a guest speaker that was in town. Feeding him around his speaking schedule necessitated restaurants, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much about those trips either. Besides, our guest speaker requested Burger King and KFC. Seriously, do those even count as restaurants?

There were a few benefits that came from not eating out so much in the month of January. First, I’m six pounds lighter now than I was at the beginning of the month. I’d like to think it was because I stepped up my work-outs at the gym, but that wouldn’t be totally truthful. I did meet with a trainer a couple of times and alter my work-out, but I haven’t worked out more. I’m still at my four-five days per week I’ve done since 2007, so I pretty much have to count the weight loss to not eating out so much.

Another benefit has been that our food “envelope” lasted much deeper into the month than usual. It costs a lot to eat out! We’ve saved a ton of money in the month of January on food costs. Vanessa also experimented with some recipes she’d been wanting to try. I suppose not eating out gave her more time to spend on pinterest because that’s where the recipes came from, but we did discover a couple of things we’ll have in the future. One was a chicken casserole that reminded me greatly of my grandmother’s famous chicken pie. If Vanessa hadn’t made that dish, I might be 7-8 pounds lighter this month. It was fantastic, and yes, I ate too much (this is not a blog about gluttony, so save your comments!).

Yet another benefit of the “no restaurant” commitment is that I freed up (as I figure it) about 25 hours to do other things. I read more. I worked more. I watched more TV (no redemption in that, I know). I sat on the couch with Vanessa more. How, you ask, did it free up that much time? You don’t really understand how much we were eating out. And, eating out takes a lot of time (unless you’re eating at Burger King or KFC). I’ve never been the fast food type. Most of it is just not that good. So, I figure it takes, on average, one hour to eat at a nice restaurant, and it was not unusual for me to eat out at least once a day, four or five days per week. If I figure drive time, too, that probably adds up to 25 hours or so. That’s a lot of time!

There was a drawback, though. Living in the church world, so much of what we do centers around food. I declined several invitations to eat with folks simply because it would involve restaurants. It’s not that I didn’t want to eat with them, but I wanted to see if I could keep the commitment. There is so much business that gets done over a meal, and there is a ton of pastoral care that can happen over a lunch meeting. I probably missed a few opportunities to accomplish both. Lunch or dinner is the best time to engage some of my leaders. Everyone’s schedule is so busy, but we all have to eat. It’s so convenient to schedule a lunch date or a dinner date to get some work done, or simply to build a relationship. I have missed that, for sure.

So, I’ve made it to the end of the month. Vanessa told me yesterday that she hasn’t missed the restaurants at all. I can’t say the same thing. There were a few times I wanted to throw in the towel. It’s almost like I was addicted to restaurants. I haven’t had Johnny’s Pizza in a month, I missed El Jaritto (we usually went once a week), and near the end of the month I was really craving some fried catfish. Luckily, my son and his family went to Catfish Charlie’s one evening, then stopped by my house afterwards. They had leftovers. They brought them in. Yes! I ate the leftovers. I got the yearning for catfish out of my system. That one almost made me break my commitment. Vanessa said eating my son’s leftovers counted as breaking the “no restaurant” commitment. I disagreed. I didn’t go to the restaurant, and I didn’t pay for the food. We just had to agree to disagree (and we still enjoyed our time sitting together on the couch).

I’ll also confess that I’ve missed the restaurants. I’ve missed the fellowship around the table. I’ve missed watching the people in the restaurants, and I’ve missed the food. But, I’ve proven that I don’t have to eat out all the time. I’ve proven that it can save us a ton of money, and it can obviously help the waist-line. But, I’ll still head back to the restaurants in February. I’ll probably get my fix by having lunch with church folks and colleagues, and Vanessa and I will probably eat out far less frequently than before (just because we proved we can).

Now, I’m really not sure why I’ve told you all this. Not sure you really care, but this is my blog, and one of the purposes of my blog is personal catharsis. Maybe that’s why I’ve written this morning (that, and I was up at 4 a.m., and didn’t want to work on a sermon). Maybe you can find something useful in my cathartic exercise. Maybe not.

Until next time, keep looking up…(and, wave when you see me in the restaurant!)

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