Near the end of 2014 I was reading Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Rosenstrach started keeping track of her nightly meals in 1998 and has kept up with her food diaries through meticulous journaling. I’m notorious for being a failure at keeping a journal, but I wondered if I could keep up with a monthly calendar of what we ate each night.
I printed out a blank calendar for the month and filled in each day with what we ate. I used different colors for when we dined away from home for a quick glimpse. While I didn’t keep track every single day of 2015, I ended up with a little over 300 days worth of data. Most of the lapses were when we went out of town, when I had my monthly sewing class and didn’t take care of dinner, or when we had dinner with friends (though I did track our dinners with family).
After I completed the year of meals, Scott jokingly asked me if I was going to put it into excel so I could run reports. Duh–genius! Oh the things I do when I’m on maternity leave and the baby won’t let me put her down. Ha! So…
Cooking vs Eating Out
The biggest surprise for me is that we only cooked 55% of the time. Though two thirds of the time if I count the days when we ate at home but had leftovers. As you can see, we dine out a lot (a big portion of this is actually take out that we eat at home) and we definitely want to do better for 2016–if not just for our waistlines but also for our wallet.
What We Ate
No big surprises here! We eat a ton of pasta and beef, specifically ground beef. And most of the soup category and half of the pasta also contains meat (spaghetti with meat sauce and beef stew are two favorites). Convenience category includes frozen pizza and mac and cheese–this category increased greatly near the end of my pregnancy. I was pleased that chicken ended up being about 15%, though I’d like to make this number a bit higher this year. I think half of that is rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (which I counted as eating in since the chicken cost less than it would cost to cook a regular chicken dish and we still made the sides).
Ask the girls what they want for dinner and 9 times out of 10 it’s Bowtie Pasta. I make this a lot when Scott is out of town–sadly with plain jarred sauce. Tacos is the second highest request, which is funny because I don’t think we cooked tacos at all before this year. Scott’s number one request is Spaghetti and his second two are Brats (which we eat with caramelized onions) and Salisbury Steak. I definitely want to note that Spaghetti and Beef Stew are two meals that we make big batches of and then freeze. I can usually get four meals out of my Meaty Spaghetti Sauce and three out of Beef Stew.
I don’t have a favorite meal, which makes the dinner time question “what do you want for dinner” a tough one. I’ll eat nearly anything (except spam and beans), so I try to make dishes that I know will make everyone else happy.
Where We Ate Out
Pei Wei and a local Mexican restaurant are the two favorites. Burgers means In-n-Out–another favorite. We used to frequent the “pizza joint” quite a bit, but they stopped selling ice cream from a freezer chest and the girls lost interest. Ha! Pei Wei and In-n-Out are places were we order take out and eat at home; the Mexican and Pizza Joints are places were we eat out with the kids–we have no qualms about eating out with the kids, but we do like to choose places where the noise level is already high enough that we don’t have people staring if someone is unruly.
I’ve already started my calendar for 2016 and it’ll be interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two years. I have a feeling we’ll be eating away from home less with three kiddos and since my dad moved away that will cut down on some of our family dinners (we are very spoiled with having family close by!).
I hope to make a bigger variety of meals in 2016–we sometimes get stuck in comfort zones and I don’t want the girls to become too particular. I think they’re good eaters but they do scoff at different foods which makes eating out difficult when food doesn’t taste like mommy’s. Last week we cooked steak and it took a lot of “I don’t like that!” before they finally tried their bites and ate it all up.
If you took a look at your Year of Meals, what trends do you think you’d find?
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