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Dining Out: A Blessing Or A Curse?

It’s obvious: we’re obsessed with eating out.

It has become a mainstay in our modern consumer culture–and our budgets.

The most recent consumer spending report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American family spends nearly 44% of their food budget on eating out. This statistic has doubled since 1960 and is only slated to increase. 카지노사이트

With the current landscape of restaurants on every corner, it’s hard to imagine that the restaurant as we know it is a relatively modern development.

For thousands of years, people mostly cooked their own food. Aside from roadside inns that served simple fare to traveling tradesmen, the average civilian had little to no options for meals away from home.

It wasn’t until the French Revolution in the 1800s that fine dining restaurants were born as displaced chefs left their aristocratic employers to open gourmet restaurants in Paris. The last century and a half has seen a widespread adoption of restaurant culture as it evolved into a global industry.

Nowadays, our dining options are limitless. From high end, Michelin starred establishments to hole-in-the-wall eateries and meandering food trucks, restaurant venues are as diverse as the food offerings on their menus.

As ubiquitous as they are, have restaurants been a blessing to society, or a curse?

Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of dining out–and how you can make the best of each.

Convenience
At the most basic level, eating out is simply convenient. Restaurants are open at virtually every hour of the day (and night) to supplement the busyness of overstretched schedules and long commutes to work.

Not surprisingly, the rise of dual income households in America has a direct correlation to the amount of money we spend eating out. As women entered the workforce at increasing rates, the rate of eating out has closely followed suit.

This historical data taken again from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) paints a telling picture of how families handle the burden of both parents working outside the home.

Invariably, the option to dine out instead of cook–to always have a backup in case a meeting runs long, traffic is delayed, or dinner gets burned–is a great convenience. 안전한카지노사이트

But perhaps, it’s too convenient. And that convenience comes with a hefty price tag.

The same BLS report shows that the average family spent $3,365 on eating out in 2017. That’s almost 5% of average before-tax income–even more if you consider after-tax, take home pay.

For reference, we spent almost as much on eating out as we did on health insurance, which is saying a lot since health insurance costs have risen considerably.

More notably though is the fact that while average household income actually fell by 1.5% in the last year, the proportion of money spent dining out increased 6.7%. This means we’re spending more and more of our paycheck on eating out each year.

Not surprisingly, this disproportionate increase is putting a strain on our financial wellbeing. Like expensive lattes, eating out is a major leak in the average household budget. And though it’s one of the most commonly reported pain points of spending, especially for younger folks, it’s one of the hardest to cut out because of the convenience factor.

Convenience foods, in general, have also contributed to health problems. Myriad research studies and articles have reported on the negative effects of frequent dining out on health. So in addition to hurting our wallets, our waistlines suffer too.

What can you do to escape the eat-out-multiple-times-a-week cycle? Here are some strategies that have worked for me. 카지노사이트 추천

Plan ahead

I know. It’s a chore. Meal prep is a special skill that few of us have. But planning ahead doesn’t have to entail full Sundays dedicated to meticulously scripted trips to the grocery store, batch cooking, and freezing perfect portions for the week.

If you struggle with structured meal planning like me, you can take a more flexible approach:

Every time you cook, double the recipe so you can have leftovers for the next day.

Defrost meat in the morning so it’s thawed out by the time you start cooking dinner.

Use an Instant Pot (pressure cooker) to reduce cooking time.

Divide meal cooking/preparation responsibilities among spouses, roommates, or family members.

Arrange to swap meals with a neighbor or friend to reduce the burden on both families.

Stash pre-washed, pre-prepped or even pre-cooked food in the pantry and freezer for those crazy evenings when you don’t have time to cook from scratch.

If you can’t manage to cook for every meal, pick one or two meals out of the week that you’ll intentionally dine out for and plan for the rest. Giving yourself some slack room so you can stay on course the rest of the time is better than striving for 100% home-cooked meals, falling short, and then throwing in the (kitchen) towel out of defeat.

Reframe expectations
When I went back to work, my family had to make a shift in a lot of areas, including food. My husband and I talked through expectations of shouldering the meal burden together. We settled for a plan that afforded flexibility while keeping us on track financially:

Not every homemade meal is going to be 5-star dining or have a perfect nutritional profile. And that’s OK. Eating out doesn’t guarantee those things either so better to eat sub-par food at home at a fraction of the price than at a mediocre restaurant.

Dinner won’t always be served right at 6:30. Some nights my kids are half asleep through dinner. Some mornings breakfast doesn’t happen until closer to noon. Life gets busy and it’s hard to stick to a rigid schedule so we go with the flow.

Healthy, fresh, organic food can become costly. We only buy organic when it counts. We go with what’s on sale the rest of the time.

Culture

As mentioned earlier, the restaurant industry has evolved dramatically over the years. The privilege of dining out is no longer reserved for just the uber wealthy or sophisticated palates.

With this evolution came an unprecedented variety of choices for consumers of all kinds. As the industry grew and competition got stiff, restaurants emerged to cater to a burgeoning spectrum of diners with differing income levels and food preferences.

One way that restaurants differentiate themselves is through the type of cuisine offered. Since our society has grown greater awareness for other cultures, we’ve also grown in our taste for ethnic cuisines. And as a nation of immigrants, America boasts wide ranging representation of cuisines from every imaginable corner of the globe.

Appreciation for new cuisines, however, doesn’t always translate to a real appreciation of other cultures. While food is often our first taste of a different culture, we often neglect to learn more about that culture than what’s being offered on the menu. We fail to discover the rich history of how a certain dish came about, and how culinary arts is often a product of social and political influences.

While trying out different foods is a great introduction to new cultures, boiling down an entire ethnic group to just the food it epitomizes can be both reductive and counteractive to real cultural awareness.

We need to make a greater effort to learn more about foreign cultures beyond mere appreciation for their food. We can ask wholesome questions, maintain a genuine interest, and engage in learning the history of different ethnic groups. By doing so, we allow purveyors to serve the kind of food authentic to their experiences, not just what the market demands.

Status

Recent foodie culture has been adopted by a variety of consumers regardless of their social status. Everyone is food critic. As a result, their has been a great shift from typical chain restaurant meals to artisanal, well-crafted creations.

However, as consumer demands for quality and creativity rises and restaurants strive to innovate, the financial implications for restaurant owners and staff are critical.

According to this journal article, 93% of restaurants are small businesses who employ less than 50 workers. To accommodate growing consumer preferences for sustainably sourced ingredients, eco-conscious operations, and distinguished skilled labor–what the article calls ‘moral authenticity’–restaurants have to employ more time and resources to produce a certain dining experience.

“Unlike lower end restaurants, where routinization encourages uniformity and reduces the uncertainty produced by combining different workers’ skill sets,” the article quotes, “upmarket venues that promote moral authenticity depend on the cult of personality and on creative uses of nonuniform goods.”

Thus, their menus are priced accordingly. But price is just one factor in indicating the status of high-end restaurants. They also use “uncommon ingredients or particular cooking techniques on menus…[to] signal a restaurant’s price class, aspirational identity, and desired clientele.”

While high-end restaurants don’t blatantly exclude certain types of clientele, they ultimately cater to affluent patrons.

“As organizations, these restaurants reproduce field-level, class-based disparities related to food availability and consumption,” the article said.

Remarkably, the lines have blurred between social classes when it comes to dining out. But perhaps exercising our ability to dine at nice restaurants indirectly reinforces systemic inequality.

As paying customers, we are the voice of the marketplace. It’s up to us to spend responsibly and contribute to the availability and sustainability of good food for all, not just the privileged.

The choice to eat
Cost is a big factor in eating out but it’s just one of the downsides. In our hip, Instagrammed, wanderlusting culture, it’s easy to forget that good food doesn’t come easily.

Whether we choose to eat in our out, there are other costs involved–time, energy, health, social, even cultural–so we must choose carefully. It’s not only what we eat but where and how that also matters.

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