Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Are you an eat-at-home mom?

I just had to pass this little "pearl" along.

It seems that the increase in moms staying at home is contributing to a decline in the restaurant business, according to yesterday's article in Advertising Age.

Here's how the article starts:
For the first time since June Cleaver donned pearls and aprons in the 1950s, the percentage of women choosing to work outside the home has been flat to down for several years running. Not coincidentally, the number of meals purchased at restaurants per person has stopped growing too, for the longest sustained stretch in the 23 years NPD Group has tracked the number...

Women's participation rate in the paid U.S. labor force topped out at just above 60% in 1999 and again in 2001 but has fallen since then, according to the Labor Department. Restaurant meals, fueled for decades by the migration of moms to the work force, also topped out at 211 per person per year in 2001 according to NPD and likewise have been bouncing lower since, hitting 207 this year.
First of all, let's pause and "digest" that number (har-har). Restaurant meals are DOWN to TWO HUNDRED SEVEN per person per year? That's almost a meal out PER PERSON every other day!

I just want to know: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? And how can they afford this?

Our family eats out two or three times per MONTH ("NO! You can't have that burger, honey. It's not on the dollar menu!"), with a takeout pizza thrown in there every now and then (I hesitate to call the aforementioned establishments "restaurants," but whatever.). Even if we went out twice a week, that would only be 104 times per year, which sounds astonishing when you add it all up. But 207?

Besides the cost, all I can think of is those poor kids, eating chicken nuggets and french fries (again). Washing it all down (as Ruthie-3 would say) with a "sugar drink." Then begging for the ice cream ("Because that other little boy got one, Mommy!"). And we wonder why childhood obesity is a problem?

I suppose if all these meals were eaten with all members of the family present, I could imagine some redeeming value. Some of our best times as a family have been when Dad comes home and says, "Mom is NOT cooking tonight! We're going out!" You can hear the cheering for miles. We all get our food and talk and argue about who gets to sit where laugh and have a great time.

Sadly, my hunch is that most of these meals are on the run, Mom shuttling one kid to soccer, another to ballet, another to baseball. There they sit under the glare of the fluorescent lights. No need to talk, because there's a game on the big-screen TV. Either that, or everyone's in the car (not that I've never done that...), facing forward (or worse, watching a movie), shoveling it in. Dad's running late, so he'll just pick up something and eat it at the office.

Sigh. It's yet another symptom of the insane pace of life that is so easy to get caught up in.

Yes, I'm glad the trend to eat out seems to be reversing, although I'm not sure going from 211 to 207 is what I'd call significant. And the article suggests that the decline in restaurant dollars is being shifted to "complete meals" being offered at grocery stores. Oh well, I still don't want to belittle any small gains on the home front.

Mostly, hearing statistics like that makes me strengthen my resolve to face that slab of meat in the morning and dream up something edible to make out of it by supper time. To make the kids put out the mismatched placemats and plastic cups, and to overlook that spill and the deafening crescendo to which the conversation inevitably rises. Not to mention the conflicts that tend to come out when we are all in one place, all facing each other, all at the same time.

Messy as it is, inconvenient as it is, noisy as it is, I need to keep reminding myself that eating at home is healthy - for our bodies, for our pocketbooks, and for our families.

Here's another post on the family dinner at our house
And an article about more moms staying home
And the 2005 NY Times article that made everyone so mad


Raquel said...

I am glad to see the impotance of eating at home is catching on even if just a little any thing is progress right! love your blog

Anonymous said...

Amen, Katherine, amen. This is how I'm becoming more like my mom. Mustering effort to cook so that my kids get some healthy food to eat.

But I must confess we eat out most weekends. It's very easy and cheap to do so in Singapore as there's lots of "hawker" or foodcourt stuff. Just not that great in the health dept.

Beck said...

Good GRIEF. That's nightmarish.
We eat at home pretty much all the time, with the exception of Saturday's lunch. So that's 50 times a year, which is still kind of staggering.

Jen said...

Wow.....we eat out maybe once a week...maybe.....we do however eat at church every Wednesday night but that is little ole ladies cooking in the kitchen ALL day long..tonight is Fried Chicken and the fixins.....Sometimes that is our eat out night just depends.....I normally never cook on Friday nights my mom never did...but if we are home its clean the fridge out or get take out...or PB&J's and chips......we love eating at home and at our MOPS meeting last week our topic was on Organizing Meals....Laura would have loved it. They gave us some conversation tips to talk about at the table...I cut them all out and put them in a pumpkin.....for example Madison drew one out last night and it said "What was your most embarrassing moment?" And everyone answered.////except Miller who just looked at us and laughed when we did....good topic...I loved June Cleaver. But I dont wear my pearls....LOL

Wendy said...

Funny that they would even call this "going down." It doesn't seem to be much better?!

Thanks for this. I've appreciated your posts on this important part of family life.

It is fun to eat out when it is something that is special. If we did it all the time, it wouldn't be exciting.

Anonymous said...

We eat out as a family less than five times a year, usually on someone's birthday. Dh and I usually go out together for our anniversary and Christmas without the kids, and dh eats out every Friday with the guys from work, but it's usually $10 or less for a lunch. As a family of seven, it costs us $30 just to go to McDonald's for a birthday dinner. I cannot even comprehend how much money we would spend if we went out four times a week to eat.

Susanne said...

We mostly eat at home. But I was still stunned to learn how many times we had taken pizza takeout last year. It actually says on the reciept at our take out place.

Anonymous said...

Wow--you all eat out WAY more than we do--I think we go out a couple times a year. It is shocking to me and yet I look at today's generation of kids and am not surprised to find so many of them overweight.

Mary said...

Well....I'll be the one to come here with my head hanging down admitting the we eat out or pick up something to go ALL.THE.TIME. It's truly embarassing how much money we spend and how much junk we eat.

I'm going to change this though. I ordered 3 new cookbooks (2 freezer meals & 1 slow cooker) and Bonnie's Household Organizer yesterday. I'm going to make some serious changes at my house. We are going to eat at home, all together, as often as possible.

I CAN do this. I can create the homelife that I want us to have.

Granny said...

I was planning on blogging this article later today! I have a slightly different take on it than you do, but I loved your thoughts--and the comments are very interesting, aren't they?

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

I'll admit that we go through peaks and valleys with the eating out.

When I worked full-time, we ate out at least 4 times a week. Ridiculous, I know. Now that I'm home to cookand our income is much lower, we definitely eat at home more. These days, we do take-out about once a week, but we also give in too often to the temptation of friends who like to eat out.

We're a work in progress, definitely!

Unknown said...

I would have to say that we eat out about twice a week on average as a family--usually a lunch on the weekends and a weekend dinner, but then my husband and I each probably eat at least one breakfast or lunch out (I love taking my three year old to Panera for breakfast or a mid-morning snack, in his case) during that week, so that brings everyone in our family to an easy 3.

I agree that it's harder to plan, and cook, especially if everyone isn't in one place. We all enjoy the experience of eating out as a time of family togetherness (and I know that probably says something about our restaurant culture of today), but eating at home is definitely cheaper and healthier, and something we strive for.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! (We don't eat out as much as most people - but we probably eat out once or twice a month - far more than my hubby would like.)

LOVE your blog, as usual.

Searching for my Sanity or Jen...whichever you prefer... said...

lol I love this post! My kids always act surprised when I saw we are all sitting at the table...their response is "at the family table?" do ya think they watch too much nick at nite? lol In any case if your ears are burning it is because I was talking about you today on my blog. go check it out when you get a chance. :)


Christy. said...

How refreshing to read your post!! We used to eat out quite often when we had just one child but now with three we rarely eat out. It is so much easier, cheaper and healthier to stay home.
I am happy to hear that stay-at-home moms are increasing. I can't imagine putting my little munchkins in daycare for someone else to enjoy!!!

PhDCow said...

I'm a working mother. My schedule is a bit more flexible because I'm a college professor, but I still do work outside the home.

From the time my husband and I got married to the present, I have always insisted on eating meals at home. Even before the children came along, I felt excitement in creating a delicious, healthy meal every night. From the very start of our life together, we have always eaten together at the dining room table, even when it was in the eat-in kitchen.

No matter how busy or full my day may be, I take delight in knowing that I'm nourishing my family -- that I can do something good for them. Call it my need to fill my inadequacies as a parent if you will, but it's what I do.

I'm working on family breakfasts too, although that seems to be harder to coordinate!

Wifeof1Momof4 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wifeof1Momof4 said...

Loved this post! I cook almost everyday, except Saturday lunch or dinner. That may be a heat up item or sandwiches/soups, but when my work calls for me to work outside the home, we eat out, but now that it is getting colder, that will probably decrease because I will be using my crock pot more, A LOT MORE. I am still in the minority with some friends though who say they like eating out frequently because they don't have time or can't think of the variety to cook at home. Weekly and monthly menus have really helped me.

What it really boils down to for me and my husband is how are we spending God's money. When we think of it that way, we usually change our minds and rustle up something at home or change the resturaunts if we need a "quick bite". You know Luby's on kids free nights instead of Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc ...

SuburbanMom said...

Yes, sad as it is, every single day half of all kids eat fast food.

Sarah said...

Great minds think alike:)! I just posted on a similar topic about a week ago. Again, always enjoy reading you Katherine.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great post. I may link to you on my blog if you don't mind. we eat out maybe once a week with a fast food lunch possibly thrown in there. I don't understand why people don't see the importance of sitting down with your family over a meal. I think it's crucial and I protect it with my life! Ok a little dramatic but you get my point.

Anonymous said...

We are the house where all the teens eat! I have 2 teenagers and I have cut the apron strings as they are both in High School HOWEVER the rule is still the same. Just let me know where you are going but you MUST be HOME for dinner at 6. It sometimes seems to be my only saving grace with a 14 and a 15 year old. They both know that they need to be home for dinner. We usually watch TV but we do sit around the table and say a pray before we start to eat.

I like having my kiddos check in with ME at least one time a day. Since they are teenagers we don't go out---Not good for you anyway...they eat alot of food when we go out or not. I would rather we stay away from the grease.