According to this report from the market research firm NPD, more of us now consider dining out to be a “treat, an indulgence”—and while the report is focused mostly the on nutritional content of the food served than the actual experience of dining (and going) out, it’s a step forward in shifting our mindset away from the mediocrity that’s unfortunately become acceptable in how we view our leisure time.
Think of it like this: in theory, you have the option to dine out five times a week at an entry-level restaurant that specializes in basic but underwhelming fare and okay service—or, you can cook at home the majority of the time, and save your tastebuds (and money) for one fantastic meal a month at your favorite five-star restaurant, where pots and pans circle around you singing "Be Our Guest" as you clap your hands over a tray of well-chilled oysters. (Again, I'm speaking hypothetically here.) Which would you choose?
For me, the answer is obvious: I’d go with option two. Sure, quinoa and kale (my homemade go-to) can get boring after awhile, but if I’m going to spend my time and money, I want it to be a memorable, enjoyable experience—and the same principle applies to nights out on the town. Take after-work happy hours, for example: a few beers on Tuesday night, a margarita and $2 tacos on Wednesday night, carafes of house wine on Thursday night—by the weekend, when the juicy, pricier plans beckon, you’re spent, mentally, physically and financially.
And, hey, I get it: spontaneous opportunities pop up, and a girl on-the-go’s gotta eat. I’m certainly guilty of cheating on even the most well-intentioned strategies (see: the Anna’s burrito I scarfed down for dinner tonight while hammering away on a deadline, or my failed attempt at going to three separate social engagements an hour apart on a Tuesday night—then running late for one, and missing another entirely). Plus, I love me some frugality, and what you spend doesn’t always guarantee an ROI on what you’ll get—there have been plenty of times when the best nights I can remember were dirt cheap, and tons of fun. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s quality, not quantity, that counts, and that goes for our social lives, too. Maybe it’s time to stop allowing our calendars (and stomachs) to saturate with filler, and focus back on the good stuff worth savoring.
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