I love cooking. But eating out is so much better!

That was my mantra in 2014 when I would eat out almost everyday. Even my son’s snacks and lunch for school would be a take-out or delivery! Since we live in Maginhawa Street, I just have to walk to get cream puffs from Sancho, chicken burger and milkshake at Burger Project, fried rice at Pakibalot, puto from Marciana’s, banana oat smoothie or pasta at Hillcrest, tapsilog or waffle at Ally’s, spicy chicken katsu at Crazy Katsu, capuccino muffins at Cool Beans, and lechon kawali at Kalan. (That’s not the complete list – I also bring my work to Starbucks where I indulge in their Macadamia chocolate chip cookies, fruit cup, and oatmeal breakfast, and Seattle’s Best for their salads and Java Chip frapuccino at least once a week!)

My son was never a fan of eating out. He has a hard time deciding what to order because he is always looking at the price! When I tell him to get dressed because we’re eating out for dinner (my excuse: I still have work and no time to cook) he would blurt out “Again?”. To me, I was busy and the only way for me to finish all my tasks as a mother, full-time work-at-home-mom, and still have time to exercise, is to save time on cooking.

I like that we get to catch up and talk while waiting for our order in a nice, air-conditioned place and that there are other people around us (it makes me feel alive to be in a place where there are people). And that after dinner I could jump back to my desk and work instead of having to wash dishes.

But the example I was setting for my son could have long-term negative effects. Eating out almost everyday to say the least is excessive (I admit that now). I had no willpower to manage my time and showed indecisiveness and impulsiveness.

Looking back, I cannot believe how much money I spent just on food alone.

The turnaround came when we spent the past holiday at my mother in law’s home in Bicol. Life is not rustic (some rooms are air-conditioned in case guests want to use it) but the way of life is really stripped to the basics. I cooked meals everyday since my mother in law is busy with her church and community duties. I saw how she practices frugality and I wanted to be like that, too. I saw how my husband – despite the fact that it is a holiday break – established a routine with my son so he would give math exercises everyday, remind my son to brush his teeth after dinner, wash up and be ready for bed by 9:30pm. I liked the routine. It was good for all of us.

My husband and mother in law did not know I was observing and slowly building a resolution within me that I would continue the habit of frugality even after the holidays and I am back in my comfort zone. So I continued to cook and resisted the urge to eat out.

The results? My son enjoyed his meals and his appetite improved. I never realized I already forgot how good my luto (“cooking” in English) tastes, to be honest. I was really surprised that they were delicious! I got so fired up that I invited my siblings over to share a dinner of fresh lumpia and buffalo wings. It was fun because everyone had a part in preparing the dinner.

Aside from rekindling my passion for cooking, I also saved a lot of money in the process. This whole week, I drove in and out of our building to bring and pick up my son from school but never thought of stopping by any of the eating places in our street. I did not venture to Matalino Street either to get my usual breakfast and newspaper. I never picked up the phone to order food (almost did last night but decided I can still cook dinner in time – and I did!).

The best part? My son also rekindled his own interest in cooking. He calls himself the fry cook now. He could not help me in the morning to cook breakfast and packed lunch; but at night, once I stand up from my desk and get busy in the kitchen, he would come, inspect, and resume what I am doing. He would always put a twist to whatever dish I had in mind and would throw in a spice or vegetable here and there. And I have to say, the kid’s got intuition. He started to document his recipes and has a pad dedicated just for that.

This week, even if I cooked twice a day, I was still able to stay on top of my son’s school work (he also seemed more cooperative) and get more things done at work. I felt that I was more calm and in control of how my day would go. I was less impulsive and aspired for meaning in all my actions. Before my son stepped out the door, he stopped and remembered the things he had to do in school. He’s never done that before and I have a feeling my consciousness is rubbing off on him.

Will I still eat out? Yes. My goal is not to do it on a daily basis. It would be nice to completely reverse the frequency, though (if eating out started only as a way of celebrating special occasions that then turned into monthly/payday indulgences and daily routines, then I can try to do that backwards until it is only done on special occasions).

I just have to remind myself that the money I save on eating out everyday could fund the Tao Expedition I am dreaming of, or a sewing machine, or a full archery class for my son. In the end, however little time I have to cook, as long as the fridge is well-stocked, there is always something I can whip up for me and my family. Even if it means having scrambled eggs for dinner!

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