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How do you feed your family if you don't cook?

I've met quite a few people who have nobody in the family that cooks. Since I've never been forward enough to grill them on how they do it, I thought I'd ask here.
I raised two boys (and a couple of husbands) and cooked daily, sometimes simple meals and others more involved.
What I can't figure out is,do you take everyone out to eat every day, and what does the family have for breakfast? If there's no food in the pantry, what do you do when the kids are hungry, whether it's dinnertime or not?

So I guess what I'd like to know is, what does a typical week of eating look like in a non-cooking family?

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    1. I have some friends who don't cook. (They can, they just don't). There's cereal, frozen waffles, and instant oatmeal for breakfast. Purchased cut fruit and vegetables in the fridge. Dinner is takeout.

      42 Replies
      1. re: cheesecake17

        <Dinner is takeout>

        Every night??

        I have a list of about 100 restaurants that deliver to my neighborhood from some of the best restaurants in LA and I'd get bored after about a week of that.

        1. re: latindancer

          yep, my husband's parents ate like this for years. They'd actually go out to eat at Marie Callendars or similar place. Eat salad for dinner that night at the restuarant and take home everything else and eat that for a couple more days. Then its time to go out again. When we'd visit couple times a month on the weekends (we didn't live that close) I'd always try to COOK something in house.

          1. re: latindancer

            Yup. Takeout or something frozen- nuggets, pizza bagel.
            Once in a while spaghetti with jarred sauce or BBQ.
            Stinks to see the kids eat that way.

            1. re: cheesecake17

              That's how I ate when I first moved out on my own and didn't know how to cook. It was great back then, brings back nice memories actually, but I would be dead by now if I still subsisted on Top Ramen, spaghetti with jarred sauce, Kraft mac'n'cheese, frozen chicken fingers, Eggos, and those Budget Gourmet $1 frozen dinners.

              I remember a boyfriend asking me to make him a chopped salad for dinner once and I bought like 8 different vegetables and chopped them with a dull dinner knife and poured Kraft ranch dressing over the top. I felt like a chef.

              Once in a while I'll find myself at someone's house around dinner time and they'll try to serve me foods along these lines and I politely decline. Not as a snob, but I just can't stomach over processed stuff anymore. I'm in my very late 20s and find that many of my generation still have not learned to cook.

            2. re: latindancer

              i eat out at least 5 times a week.
              have been doing this for years.
              waiting to become bored.

              1. re: westsidegal

                For me, it's like going on vacation for a month and eating out every breakfast, lunch and dinner.
                It all seems to begin to taste the same and I'm pretty used to high end food and accommodations.
                Regardless, raising children when all they know is take away food seems so bizarre to me, and sad.
                I suppose it's because I had parents and extended family who were stellar cooks and bakers. Their food was/is on par or better than most restaurants I've eaten at.

                1. re: latindancer

                  when i was raising my kid, i served food at home.
                  it was healthful food, but i wouldn't have called it "cooking."

                  in the young, early elementary school years, my daughter was on a "dipping" jag. she liked almost any kind of food that she could dip.
                  organic peanut butter was a dip
                  organic hummus was a dip
                  organic yogurt was a dip.

                  organic vegetables could be dipped (both raw and cooked).
                  organic whole grain breads and crackers could be dipped
                  cut up fruit could be dipped.

                  it got much tougher when the evil influence of peer pressure came into play. all of a sudden pizza became a major food group.
                  thankfully, at about that time i was able to add fruit smoothies made with organic soy milk to the menu to counteract the pizza et. al.

                  later i was able to add trips to Souplantation to the mix.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Since you have so much experiencing eating most meals out, I'd like to have a side by side comparison over the course of a year on eating every meal out vs. making every meal at home and see what the costs are.

                    Interested? Experiment just for giggles, eye opening results and surprises...2014?

                    1. re: HillJ

                      just for giggles, what i eat
                      is detailed in my post lower on this thread, the post that i made about 16 hours ago.

                      (clue, the cheeses normally cost between $30 and $50/lb at the various specialty cheese stores and gas is a bitch and to put together the cheese platter you will need to add in at least $10 to $15 in gas and wear and tear on my car and parking to drive all around town to get the cheeses)

                      would love to know how you plan to price out the other dishes that i am eating this week, much less for the rest of the year.

                      please specify how you plan to account for the tremendous amount of waste because i don't eat the same stuff over and over again.

                      just for giggles.

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        Maybe you misunderstood me. I haven't read your other entries entirely and I'm only skimming this thread at this point. I was looking for a CH who would start 2014 with me comparing the price of eating out every meal (or near every meal) vs shopping & cooking at home.

                        I'm not talking about what gets pitched, what you spend to travel or the wear and tear on your car. Just the daily consumption & the cost. The grey area is leftovers. But, we can either count them 100% the first time or guesstamate the value saved. Not a deal breaker and I want this to be fun.

                        For instance, tonight my husband and I are enjoying a three course dinner and wine. Cost for just the dinner I've got planned is $72.00. If you were heading out for dinner tonight would you spend that? Now tomorrow I'm anticipating that breakfast, lunch, dinner and two stops for some holiday foods will run me and my husband $210.00 for the entire days worth of shopping and fixing meals. Would that be your budget for the day? And so on.

                        I only singled you out because you sounded like you know your way around a food trip, a restaurant meal and at home preparation.

                        I am curious about what I spend in a year. I have a rough idea but I'm going to track it in 2014. Most days I'm in the $50-75 range for two people and if it's just me I could spend half, I could easily spend the whole budget for the day.

                        So, just for giggles.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          oh, i get it now.
                          i'd be a poor person to work with because the type of foods that we eat are not at all alike.
                          the best comparison would be with someone who eats food that is, at least, somewhat similar.
                          the yearly cost of my food would be relatively easy to calculate if i save my american express bills because, since american express gives me a "cash back" discount on all restaurant purchases, i tend to put all such charges on that particular credit card.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Okay, I'm going to ask a friend and her husband instead. I'm only interested in the spending. I'd never find someone who eats like (we) I do. Or shops and home cooks/bakes the way I do. That doesn't matter to me. I'm only curious in the spending. What does it cost Hill & J to eat meals prepared for one year vs. one year eating meals out. Check back in 2015. :)

                            1. re: HillJ

                              I keep a strict spreadsheet on every penny I spend, to keep myself in line, so I could give you my figures for the last few years if you like. We do eat out maybe once a month though, wouldn't want to skew it!

                              1. re: coll

                                No kidding. What did you spend in 2012 for the year on food with and without monthly meals in a restaurant.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  I was just saying off the top of my head, so it was interesting to see the cold hard facts. 2012=$5,817 grocery, and $2,197 eating out (I was still working part of the year), while now that I'm cutting back, 2013=$5,513 grocery and $1,515 eating out.

                                  A lot more eating out than I thought! But really only once or twice a month, not counting pizza, Chinese, etc. For my purposes, I counted it all, even cups of coffee.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    Oh this is really what I'm after and yes! everything consumed big or small. I keep receipts but I'm going to approach this in greater detail in 2014 just to see what happens. Thanks coll this is what I'm talking about. BTW-those are great figures for an entire year!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      I get a kick out of being a cheap shopper and don't buy much that isn't on sale; we actually eat really well and healthy too. Food is my biggest expense overall, the way I break it down anyway, so money well spent.

                                      The spread sheet works great. I track car expenses, medical, pet stuff, household, fun and so on. I don't go crazy with the results, it just reminds me where I need to cut expenses when money gets tight.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        I admire your discipline. I'm just curious what Hill & I actually spend on food over a year. Like you, I consider myself a smart food shopper and we both like to cook/bake but we also indulge and splurge in celebrations and special food stuffs. I'd like to think it averages out and still remains a smart food budget, but I do wonder. I'm going to give it a try in 2014 and my friend and her spouse are on board. Thanks coll.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Keep me updated, one thing I don't know is how I compare to the rest of the world. I used to be in food sales, so the numbers always were important to me; now it's just an old habit. And I do have worse ones, I have to admit!

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Thanks, I will. I agree, I think a comparison would make this more interesting. We'll see, in a year :)

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              Can I play? I have a spreadsheet too! 2013 groceries are $1011 for 1 person. This only represents 36 weeks because I was out of town the rest of the time so $28/week. Eating out = $130 for the 36 weeks. I eat out all the time when traveling and made a decision to save money for travel so this accounts for the low spend there.

                                              1. re: jadec

                                                Welcome, welcome! The more the merrier, the more comparisons the better.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  I can definitely tell you our numbers, because I use Quicken to track expenses, but I'm lazy about splitting transactions. So, our "Grocery" category also includes paper products, personal care items, some medications (basically anything I can buy at Costco) and wine/liquor, which skews it quite a bit. I'll still post when I get home if anyone is interested, though!

                                                2. re: jadec

                                                  People like you scare me. Not because I'm afraid of you, but because it makes me realize how bereft of the record-keeping gene I am. People like me really need people like you. Just sayin'.

                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                    That's why I use mint.com. It categorizes everything for me because it links to my bank account. Occasionally it'll categorize something wrong (like i buy both my gas and my groceries at the grocery store) so I have to go manually fix it, but otherwise it's way easier than a separate spreadsheet!

                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                      Entering the data works as an accountability tool for me but Mint and an automated tool is better if you just want to capture data.

                                                      Back on topic I use the spreadsheet to decide if I need to cook more, eat out less, spend less on groceries on a weekly basis.

                                                      1. re: jadec

                                                        Oh for sure. I was just offering a solution to someone who is overwhelmed by a spreadsheet log :)

                                                        But yes, I also use the budget tools on there to figure out where I'm at, if I can splurge on something at the store, etc.

                                2. re: HillJ

                                  I checked my mint.com account. It isn't 100% accurate because I can't "split" transactions... like if I buy toiletries or cleaning supplies at the grocery store, they get lumped in with the grocery amount, same for Costco.

                                  But, my 2013 Number is $4,679 for groceries ($389/mo), and $1,410 for eating out ($117.50/mo).

                                  The eating out amount is a bit surprising to me. Although, a lot of the restaurant budget is from going to hockey games. We have season tickets and the food at the arena is not cheap. SO buys some of his own food for lunches when he's around, but most of his food is paid by his job since he travels on weekdays.

                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                    You've got some really good information there, juliej. This is another example of what I"m getting at. Good numbers on your end too. Thanks.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      I wonder how much of a difference in price in different parts of the country too? I'm on Long Island so I know I'll be on the high end no matter what, despite my eagle eye for bargains.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        I'm in NJ (I think you know that) and currently in PA & CA three months out of the year. What I pay in NJ is about the same in PA (tax diff) but I find CA is higher on some things and much lower on other things. I try to shop wisely wherever I go but I do splurge in my own way. I'm figuring what I save in the left hand, enhances the right.

                                        In 2013, it's coming to about $16,800.00 on food and beverages. Now, that includes our food pantry donations, four major fundraisers Hill & J run and my son's last year at college. That's receipts.

                                        What I want to know in 2014 is how much I will save if I give more thought to it, no longer have any kids in college (yeah!) and a tighter handle on my charity work.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          I look at it almost like a game, or a competition, and believe me any errors on the stores part are dealt with immediately too. I sure they roll their eyes when they see me coming to the courtesy desk. At this point in my life, I don't care! I get a kick out of controlling what I can in my life. And this is one of the few things you can, unlike taxes and gas.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Good point, coll. Let's see how I 'control' things in 2014!

                                    2. re: juliejulez

                                      You can split transactions in Mint.com; that was one of the first features they had when they started back in 2007. Here are some pointers:

                                      https://satisfaction.mint.com/mint/to...

                                      "We wish to inform you that you can split a transaction by following the steps below:

                                      - Hover over the transaction you want to split and click Edit Details.
                                      - Click the Split button located under the transaction amount.
                                      - After clicking the button, a new box will appear Split Your Transaction.
                                      - Within the box you can enter the desired amount, edit the merchant name or change the transaction category.
                                      - Click on Split button to split the transaction.
                                      - Click Save to save the changes.

                                      If you’d like to revert a change, follow the steps below:
                                      - Locate the split transaction that you’d like to revert.
                                      - Go to Edit Details and navigate to the Split button again.
                                      - Click on the 'x' to revert the split.
                                      - Then click Save. "

                                      http://www.asktheyoungprofessional.co...

                                      1. re: cornedhash

                                        Oh gosh, how easy, thanks! That will really help me keep more accurate records in 2014.

                                      2. re: juliejulez

                                        I'm a big Mint fan, and on the iPhone app you can split transactions. When you tap a posted transaction on the upper right in blue is "Split".

                                      3. re: HillJ

                                        also, how would you handle the "drinking out?"

                                        (being single, many times my friends and i will spend the evening at a restaurant bar. sometimes we may order bar food or dinner, but sometimes it's an evening of drinks only. also, in terms of paying, it is a very uneven rotation. sometimes one will pay the tab, while another pays the tip. if one of us is out of work, the others will pick up the tab entirely until a new job is secured, etc.)

                                        the tab, though, shows up on my american express bill under the "restaurant" category.

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          I myself have a "fun" category. It's for things I could do without, but choose not to at that specific time. That's why I like to track it myself, bill by bill.

                                          I do also have a liquor store column, which gets a bit more use. We can't buy liquor at the grocery store here, so it's easy to keep separate!

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Goes in the receipt pile. Costs-whatever comes out of your pocket. Eating/drinking in or out for one year. Simple.

                                3. re: westsidegal

                                  <I wouldn't have called it 'cooking>

                                  My kids loved all the foods you've described above.

                                  For me, not being a single parent, we all sat down to full meals at the table because I was also serving my husband. We ate very well thought out breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Lunches weren't as elaborate when they started school.
                                  Dinners were fish, roasted chicken, braised meats and all the sides that go with them. I baked the same way. I baked a cake or cookies or pie every day, experimented with all kinds of things and they both learned their way around the kitchen because they chose to.
                                  We went out to eat when we wanted to but it wasn't every night take away like so many on this thread are talking about.

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    to me, personally

                                    take away = evil

                                    take away is a way to consume all sorts of questionable ingredients disguised as food.
                                    i have an almost religious aversion to take away.
                                    the take away business was one of the big drivers of the whole pink slime business.
                                    i am deeply suspicious of any chopped, formed, mass-produced "food." anything at all could be incorporated into that patty/nugget.

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      Wow, most takeaway food we get is made from scratch pizza, Mexican and Chinese.

                          1. re: Reston

                            My stepdad's ex-wife thought she was cooking when she threw a chicken in the microwave for 20 minutes (or so, I'm not sure exactly how long) and boiled some frozen corn and called it supper.

                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                              Sweet Jesus. That sounds like my dad's second wife, except the corn would have gone in the microwave, too. EVERYTHING came out of the microwave, except her cornbread that had mayonnaise in it....

                              1. re: Kontxesi

                                My mother was like that too! Everything in the microwave all at once. That's why I taught myself to cook.

                                1. re: Kontxesi

                                  if that's the same woman perhaps you and Potato are related in some weird way?

                            2. Well I don't know for certain, but my guess is probably a mix of take out (pizza, Chinese, etc), fast food, convenience foods (Kraft blue box, frozen dinners, etc), also, soup, sandwiches, and I'd put going out to eat last. I'd think that at least a good amount of families don't cook due to a lack of time. If you don't have time too cook you probably don't have time to go out to eat to a restaurant either.

                              Breakfast would be easy. Like another poster said, cereal, frozen waffles, pop tarts, yogurt, granola bars - all very easy. Does not cooking scratch mean no food in the house? I'm assuming these families still have some food in their pantries, or at least they should, even if it is a bunch of shit.

                              1. I have a girl friend who (somewhat proudly) admits she can't cooks. They eat cold/hot instant cereal, nut butters and toast, scrambled eggs for most breakfast with the occasional pancake or french toast on the weekends. Her son eats hot lunch at school, her husband take out and she a yogurt or salad. Dinners are either out, take out or the occasional pasta. In the summer her husband grills a lot so they eat grilled fish and chicken on the grill.

                                They actually eat tons of veggies and fruit. They actually eat a more balanced diet than some people I know who cook.

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: melpy

                                    The people I know who "grill" serve only meat. Like hamburger in a bun = dinner.

                                    1. re: melpy

                                      I guess I see the kind of grilling they day the same as making boxed spaghetti. They grill lots of hotdogs, pre-shaped/frozen burgers like bubba burgers, pre marinated chicken, plain fish.

                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                        That kind of grilling doesn't seem much different than microwaving or throwing something frozen in the oven.