Vacation From Cooking?


The little boy (who really isn’t all that little anymore as I watch him inch closer in height to myself) woke up yesterday morning claiming a sore throat in the same sentence as informing me that the first pitch for Mets opening day would be at 1:00 pm in the afternoon.

Did he really think he would fool me? I mean, I was once a kid too.

Not only did I fake my own illnesses, I read Shel Silverstein’s Where The Sidewalk Ends. Remember little Peggy Ann McKay who cannot go to school today? I believe she had the measles and the mumps, a rash and gash and purple bumps…

I also watched Full House enough on repeat to witness DJ Tanner fake a fever by putting the thermometer under her lamp in order to skip school to sneak out with Kimmie Gibbler to get Stacey Q’s autograph.


I managed to ship him off to school but received a call from the nurses’ office conveniently around 1:05 pm. I then informed the nurse that his sore throat is ironically coinciding with the first pitch of the Mets game at which point she too shipped him on back to class.

I did pick him up a bit early though for his routine Orthodontist appointment. The orthodontist’s office is a drive from where we live which always puts me in the lazy mood when it comes to preparing dinner.

Part of me wanted to stop at the Whole Foods Food Bar after his appointment but my wallet chimed in like an evil angel to inform me that spending $30 on a Monday evening wasn’t worth it when I have plenty of meal options at home.

Last year, right around this time actually, I came up with the concept of a foodcation – a vacation from cooking.

Ideally, I would love a full week off from thinking about, preparing and cooking dinner.

I  never actually took my foodcation but I am back to considering the exact rules and regulations.

  • Will the foodcation apply to all meals? Just lunch and dinner? Just dinner?
  • Will we eat out? A week full of favorite restaurants preparing my salads and other favorites for us?
  • Red Mango, The Cheesecake Factory, sushi and pizza?
  • Or will I go SEMI-HOMEMADE and treat us to the prepared foods from Whole Foods?

A full week of meals out or ordered in could get a bit pricey and I struggle to allow myself to pay $6.99 a pound for someone else to roast my vegetables when I can do it for a fraction of the price.

Maybe I don’t need to take a full week off; maybe I just need to cook and prepare a bit less. Maybe we need to start building in a day or two during the week where we rely on our meals from an outside source without blowing the budget.

It’s funny – so much of what we read involves tips on how to prepare restaurant style meals at home for less. What about tips on picking up the relatively healthy made-for-you meals that don’t cost that much more than preparing something at home and will save you time and energy (and maybe money too)?


1. Pizza

Clearly I still have Saturday’s slice of pizza on my mind.


Sometimes pizza gets a bad wrap. Any one meal will not do you in and really, pizza can easily fit into anyone’s lifestyle on a regular basis.

I actually like whole wheat crust. I love the crisp and dense texture as well as the flavor. I normally make my own using Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough but you know what? I am tired of doing it.

My favorite loaded veggie slice is about four dollars. In fact, most of the specialty slices are around the same price and the regular slices are even less. Paired with a quick salad made at home and you have yourself a terrific and easy weeknight meal.

I don’t recommend ordering the side salad from the pizza place because that’s where they get you on price – $6.50 for a house salad which is a pile of boring lettuce and a tomato slice? Not even in my weakest of moments can I order that and insult my kitchen by letting such a thing enter my home.

Pay attention for the weekly specials at your local pizza place. It can’t hurt to order the pie special (try to avoid the super duper meat lovers with extra cheese) and freeze the leftover slices for a later date.

I may have grown up on Ellios but I no longer keep the rectangular-three-sliced-poor-excuse-for-pizza in my freezer. Instead, I find it fresher to freeze slices from the pizzeria over stocking up on the processed and packaged kind.


2. Chinese/Japanese Lunch Deals

Every Chinese and Japanese restaurant in my area offers a lunch special. The Chinese lunch dishes include brown rice and soup for about six dollars (some places may be a bit more/less).


Steamed shrimp (or chicken) with mixed vegetables is always a great option – just ask for a sauce on the side.

If you think ahead during the day (as in between the hours of 11:00 am – 4:00 pm) you can score a lunch deal, place it in the refrigerator and take it out come dinner time. I used to pick up the lunch deals during my lunch hour from work, store it in the office refrigerator and then bring it home for dinner.

I don’t love sushi take out, however, when you can get three rolls plus a ginger salad and soup for around nine dollars, it maybe worth it once in a while.

3. Red Mango

Of course I had to throw this in.


You already know that I love my Red Mango but I also complain plenty about the price to the point where I often make my own parfaits at home with either frozen yogurt or greek yogurt loaded with fresh berries and granola from my kitchen.

Even if you don’t have a Red Mango near you, think about this:

Sometimes the price of fruit (and really, produce in general) at the grocery stores can be so sky high that slicing up your own strawberries, dumping half (if not all) a container of blueberries into your bowl of greek yogurt (which if you are buying Stonyfield Organic is not exactly cheap) topped off with granola and fancy peanut butter can clock in at about the same price if not more than just going to the yogurt store.

I try to limit my meals at Red Mango since the price went up per ounce but they do sometimes run a weekday special making it a cheaper option than preparing it myself at home and they always have a wide variety of fresh fruit options to make me happy.

I really do the best that I can. I make my weekly list of what’s on sale at which store and sometimes shop several times a week to keep our house stocked with fresh produce and healthy options for the best price possible when sometimes, you just need a break.

If once in a while, or even once a week, you break even or pay an extra dollar to have someone else do the cooking, it may be well worth it for your sanity.

Like overtraining with running, kitchen burn out happens. A rest day or two from cooking won’t do any harm to your body or even the wallet in the overall meal planning picture.


Do you rely on take-out often?

What are your go-to food choices when you don’t feel like cooking or eating from your freezer?

Do you shop supermarket sales or just go to one store regardless of price?

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