Something that I never really thought about much, before marriage, that I’ve found has seriously affected our married life is how my habits from pre-marriage would carry over and translate post-marriage. The one that probably affects us the most in our daily lives, was my single-girl eating habits. We both carry responsibility for this, obviously, but I never thought my habits would have as much of an impact as they do.
Setting the stage, B’s single guy eating habits weren’t stellar or anything, but they were simple. He kept plenty of frozen things (pasta, burritos), canned food (think chef-boyardee), and sandwich things on hand. When he got home from his shift, he would text me while microwaving whatever food of the day sounded best to him. Fresh food didn’t happen super often.
My habits, were equally appalling. I worked a “split shift” between my two jobs. The first started around 0700 and typically took me to between 1300 and 1400. Luckily, the morning job was at a school with crazy good food and lunch was free for staff. I always made sure to load up on veggies, soup, and the like as lunch was my only big or good meal of the day. My second job started around 1600 and went until 1900. I was rarely home before 2000-21000 at night. On my way to the afternoon job, it was always happy hour at Sonic, which meant I’d get some kind of diet drink for half price and some snack off the dollar menu. For two to three bucks, I’d have enough food to tide me over through teaching. Dinner was either a restaurant meal with my boss while we covered things that we couldn’t while we had students or it was fast food picked up on my way back to my apartment.
On B’s side of things, he was used to eating at home, even if it wasn’t the best nutritional foods. On my side, I almost never ate at home unless it was takeout. While we were dating, since we were long distance, we’d typically cook one meal a weekend and use the rest of the meals as opportunities to explore whatever city we were in at the time. Once we got married, we were in moving mode for the first two or three months and by then our habits were ingrained. All of this translated into us eating out way too much. I don’t even want to think about how much money we spent over the first three years of our marriage on eating out.
We would try to reign it in. We’d by things at the store and plan to cook them at home. But it always seemed to come to meal time and we’d have something that needed extensive cooking. We would try to buy convenience meals, but then they were rarely appetizing. So now we were wasting money on eating out and on groceries that weren’t getting eaten. We knew something had to give.
What we finally settled on and that has been working for over two months now, is combining meal planning with having a spending allowance that has to cover groceries, eating out, and other weekly expenses. It gives us the leeway to go out when we want to, but any money leftover at the end of the week goes into a special savings account geared toward fun trips and purchases. It’s a lot easier to say no to a quick meal out when it means it would take longer to get to go on a trip.
We also lowered our ideals on the types of groceries we would consume. Gone are the days of buying a bunch of salad stuff that just gets thrown out. Instead, we try to plan realistically for things we will eat. While we still plan meals that take time to cook, we gear more toward crock pot meals and things that require prep work earlier in the day and less effort at the end of it. This way I can work on it while my motivation is high and finishing dinner when I’m tired is easier than getting it all started.
We also have switched to planning more on leftover yield than we did before. Nothing killed my motivation to cook more than throwing out leftovers week after week. But, what else did I expect when I was cooking things that left tons of food for us to keep reheating? We categorize our meals now into “high, medium, and low or no” leftovers. We try to cook one high, one or two mediums, and the rest as low or no, each week. We also count up the number of meals in a week that we’re aiming for and do our best to guess how much we’ll get from each meal type.
I wish I had realized, back in my single days, how bad of a habit I was entrenched in. It’s taken over three years to get us on track with eating at home and actually enjoying the food.
What do you do regarding food planning, purchasing, and cooking?