The Art of Living Solid

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants.”

~Esther de Waal, author and scholar

dinner-tableDuring this past month of January, our family ate dinner at home 30 of 31 nights. The exception was Mike’s birthday dinner at a steakhouse. For a family with menus from every restaurant within a 10-mile radius stuffed in our glove compartments (and who ever keeps gloves in there, anyway?), this streak is nothing short of miraculous.

When we sat down for dinner each cold and dark January night, I would announce the number of days we’d managed to refrain from take-out or dinner at a restaurant. “Day 17 of living solid,” I would intone (mimicking a SunTrust Bank ad campaign that’s on the air right now).

My kids have been less enamored with the vow to eat home more. I tried to make it more palatable by selling it as a pseudo-game, “Let’s see if we can make it through the whole month of January.” Not particularly impressed with that game, those kids. Then, last night, as I started to pull out pots and pans to prepare Tilapia fish, french fries and green beans (I mean, what’s not to like with that at-home menu?!?!), Caitlin frantically exclaimed, “It’s February 1st – we can eat out tonight!”

When I shared that we were keeping up the money- and calorie-saving resolve, she lost it. She lost it like only a 17-year old, tired-from-last night’s- sleepover, frustrated-because-she-can’t-understand-her-English-assignment, aspiring actress would lose it. It wasn’t pretty. She ended up choosing to not eat the dinner deĀ  jour and dig out some pizza bagels from the freezer.

That’s OK. I was unfazed by the tantrum and her turning her nose up at the dinner I prepared. I will have my revenge satisfaction when tonight I declare, “Day 33 of living solid.”

“I do want to get rich but I never want to do what there is to do to get rich.”

~ Gertrude Stein, writer

BTW, both of the above thoughts were featured in the magazine Real Simple. You can sign up for a daily dose of simple wisdom by going to the site, scrolling to the bottom, and signing up for the Daily Thought newsletter.


  • Cindy La Ferle Says:
    2-2-2010 09:03:21

    I admire you for doing this, and know how hard it is. When my son was young (and still at home), I started noticing a lot of articles on the topic of eating at home, the family meal, etc. The stats on families eating together — and how the kids fared better, all the way around — really impressed me. But lord knows, it’s not easy for time-pressed, working parents.

    I did a similar “experiment” so that I could write about it for my Sunday newspaper column, and I enjoyed it so much that regular meals at home became the norm and not the exception. I also became a better cook :-)

    Hats off to you. Let us know how it goes and how long you keep it up.

  • Barb Says:
    2-2-2010 09:26:28

    Wow! Great accomplishment. Good luck on day 33!
    We eat in most nights — kids are still young and there’s homework and bedtime to deal with. But I got sick and tired of two young boys making comments like “that’s disgusting”, “I’m not going to eat that”, “why can’t you ever make anything we like.” etc. Wise hubby is very wise and never makes such comments! So armed with some new cookbooks for Christmas, plus my old ones, I tried to cook new things every night in January, and I invited everyone to give a 1 to 5 star rating. So far, a couple of 5*, some 2*, and quite a few 4*. My 12 and 10 year olds are enjoying this. They even complained when I took the easy route one night and made tomato soup and grilled cheese — “not exciting enough!” They also know that I’m unlikely to make a 2* again, and that they’ve had some input into seeing the 4* and 5*s repeated. Two big hits from Jamie’s American were Mac ‘n Cheese and Rich Grits. And another favorite was the raspberry chicken from the Silver Palate Cookbook. It takes time to look for the new recipes, but I’m hoping I’ll end up with a few that will become favorites and dinner planning will become easier.

    Good luck with Day 33 and beyond Elaine!

  • Kathleen Says:
    2-2-2010 10:48:34

    i went through about a week of cooking dinner every night and eating together as a family in January (a VERY rare occurrence in our house). Then on about day eight, as I was struggling to come up with something for family dinner, my 11 year old said, “I like family dinner. Can we do it every night?” Damn, just when I was about to quit… (Of course, what with after-school activities, sleepovers and the like, I don’t think we’ve had a family dinner since she said that!)

  • Maura Says:
    2-2-2010 13:25:06

    I applaud you and your entire family. Living solid rocks. While we do eat dinner together fairly regularly, it is not always a home-cooked meal. My family really enjoys our family meal time and it is especially valuable to hear school day stories from our 13 year old. You have given me a goal for this year, Elaine – a solid month of home-cooked meals. Thanks for posting.

  • Sharon Says:
    2-2-2010 21:29:36

    This is great, Elaine. I never thought to celebrate eating at home but we’ve been at it since the New Year, too. I have discovered that if I make what we like we’d just as soon eat at home. And I think I’m becoming addicted to fresh spinach.

  • Stacy Says:
    2-3-2010 14:44:28

    There are so many fun things you can do as a family for dinner. You could have themes such as Italian night, French night, American night…and everything that you eat or drink would be something from that particular country or region. You could take that a step further and put someone in charge of finding music from that area to be playing as dinner music. Have you ever eaten a meal in the dark and/or with a blindfold on?! What about eating all of your dinners by candlelight or having backwards dinner night where you start with the sweet and then have the savory? Does anyone watch Food Network? – have a throwdown. Cook a big pot of soup or tomato sauce on the weekend to freeze and serve at a later date.

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