#19. Eating in

By my estimate, Chris and I eat out about 400 times a week. This costs us, on average, approximately $8,000 a month. That’s too much. Even if my math may not be very sound, the point remains the same: we are lazy, busy people without children to feed and we default to dining out way too much. It means we eat poorly much of the time and that we spend far more money than we need to. It’s conceivable that if we could knock it off, we’d be rail thin and filthy rich. Unlikely, but conceivable.

Still, it was the impetus for this week’s change – no eating out for seven days in a row. I write this somewhat sheepishly, realizing that, for many people, that wouldn’t exactly be a struggle. Both Chris and I can cook a handful of dishes, but it’d be a stretch to say that either one of us really enjoys it that much. And, truthfully, the real hurdle for us isn’t the cooking but the planning. Figuring out what we’ll eat, picking up the supplies, prepping it.

To help jump-start our eating in, I timed this change to coincide with the first day of our community supported agriculture farm share from Tantré Farm. For those who don’t know, the deal’s this: we pay handsomely in a lump sum earlier in the year, then for a few months during the summer, we get a weekly box of produce from the farm.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, but frankly I was a tad intimidated. It’s not cheap and it seemed like a lot of produce to commit to. But commit I did. It seemed like it tied in perfectly with our goal of eating at home more. This way, since neither of us likes to plan or decide on meals, here at least part of the decision’s been made for us. We get a box of green junk and we pretty much have a time-frame in which we have to try to use it all before it goes bad – or before the week’s up and you get another whole box to deal with.

I was pretty game for the challenge and I’m surprised to report that it was actually more fun than I anticipated. It turns out that I can get excited about food that isn’t handed to me through a window. I liked sorting through the produce and figuring out what I needed to use first and how I was going to use it. Some of it was a breeze to figure out – at this time of year, there’s tons of spinach and lettuce, both of which I like.

However, then there were things with which I was less familiar. I consider myself a somewhat worldly gal, a bit of a culinary sophisticate. But garlic scapes and tatsoi? I didn’t know what they were, really, let alone what I would do with them. Thank goodness for the info-webs. Just a little research and the former was whipped into a pesto with walnuts and the latter combined with the fresh asparagus and some other goodies for an awesomely delicious soba noodle dish.

It helped, too, that all of this was going down not long after I had downloaded a couple of new photo apps for my iPhone – ShakeItPhoto and Hipstamatic, which let me take arty-farty cool photos with little or no effort. I found myself chronicling the week’s food in photograph form as I went – some of which you see here – and that added an extra bit of fun to the proceedings.

I can honestly say that, by and large, I didn’t miss eating out the first few days. I was too busy playing with the bright and shiny things our CSA had provided. But by the time the weekend rolled around, I started to feel a little burned out. I was jonesing for the ease of a carry-out meal. That night, dinner was a scrounge-for-yourself affair, Chris eating some leftovers and me dining on cheese and crackers. It didn’t, as a good friend likes to say, blow my skirt up ... but it was fine.

Actually, the only time this past week I felt like I really missed eating out was when I had to skip a regular Saturday lunch date with some of my favorite women friends. (I could have gone along with them and not eaten, but that felt too much like going to a bar and not drinking.)  It made me realize, though, that there are times when the eating out is not about the food or the convenience as much as it is about the social element and connecting with people. Going forward, I’m hoping I’ll think harder about why I’m eating out and when it actually means something to me.

On the whole, though, eating in this week meant eating well – and I felt good and virtuous doing it. Especially with the abundance of leafy greens and fresh foods. I felt connected to and invested in the food that I ate, which is how I imagine Michael Pollan wants me to feel. Not that I’ve actually finished any of his books, seeing as I feel too guilty to continue, but I think he’d be on board.

I’m pretty sure that this is how Yoga Jules would eat all the time. But then, Yoga Jules wouldn’t know the immense pleasure of an awesome, hot slice of greasy pizza. Surely there’s a compromise in there somewhere? Surely there’s a balance of eating out occasionally and mindfully, but being also of being a grown up and realizing that feeding myself is a responsibility that takes effort and planning? Oh, it just sounds so boring when I put it that way!

Then I remember last night’s salad – fresh spinach with Michigan strawberries and walnuts in a lemon-agave dressing – which was anything but boring. And I think perhaps I can keep it all in check for another week. Maybe two. After all, I’ve got a brand new box of produce with my name on it.