Jeremy and I vowed to not eat out for the month of August. At the same time, I’ve been looking for easy, cheap, healthy meals that can be stretched out over a couple of days of lunch and dinner, and rice and beans is about as perfect as it gets. I fired up the slow cooker and the rice cooker to make a giant pot of black beans and rice and started looking for other variations to see us through the month.
Then my brother called to tell me that he and his girlfriend were coming “tomorrow” and that they’d be staying “for a few days”. I told him that we’d only be eating at home. He was immediately disappointed because he wanted to go back to the Capital Alehouse and continue making his way through their extensive beer list. We compromised and said we’d go for half-off happy hour drinks, but we’d eat at home. I bent even further and got a nice big flank steak for dinner one night because my brother doesn’t go for meals without meat. He also happens to be an excellent cook and does some really majestic work on his Big Green Egg.
He might be the result of a Weird Science experiment conducted by Ron Swanson and Gordon Ramsay.
And then came the third night they were here: I warmed up some black beans and rice and a couple of links of chorizo for dinner. A couple of offhand comments later and my brother and I were clashing like Titans in the kitchen. In the midst of shouting about our childhood regrets, the merits of cats vs. dogs, and whether vegetarians were worthy human beings, he let fly that he was super pissed that he spends “hundreds of dollars on food” entertaining us when we go to visit him, and I was serving him “four-day old leftovers”.
I didn’t have much to say besides, “We have different priorities.” I spend about $200 a month on groceries, and that’s already a lot more than I think I should spend. And I wouldn’t even know where to begin if someone needed me to cook up one of the $80 slabs of beef he regularly grills at his epic cookouts.
Jeremy and I spend a lot of money on wine, but my brother and his girlfriend aren’t interested in trying or even hearing about our favorite bottles. And then, the rice and beans weren’t technically leftovers because I cooked a giant pot with the intention of being able to eat them all week (and I did have them every day for lunch as well as that night for dinner).
[Maybe if I hadn’t forgotten the avocados… They’re expensive, as far as produce goes, and they might have made a better impression.]
The next night, I threw up my hands and we went out to eat. My dinner and two drinks cost $30 (with tip), which could have bought approximately 4 tons of dried beans and brown rice, but took less of an emotional toll than being told you’re a bad host and a subpar cook.
In the end, I was embarrassed. I tried to juggle my obligations to be a good host with my commitment to living more frugally and eating healthier, and ended up spending more money on drinks and food than I wanted to AND disappointing my guests. Everyone was a loser this week, folks.
So for me the question is, “Where do I draw the line between being selfish and being frugal?” Maybe this was a bad month to have a no-restaurants rule because we were having guests, but then the months before and the months coming up all look bad for similar reasons. I am pretty sure that at some point you just have to dig in your heels and give the relationships time to recalibrate and your bank account some time to recover.