That’s Not What I Ordered!

Last week, we talked a bit about what minimalists eat. I thought maybe the post would get people thinking about food (and it did) but I didn’t anticipate that a lot of those people would be the ones I live with every day!

My sister and I spent an hour yesterday weighing the pro/cons of various fad diets we’ve seen come and go in our lifetime (remember the Grapefruit Diet??). My 12-year-old niece asked me if I thought it was time to stop being a vegetarian, just before we had a heart-to-heart on why not all carbs are bad. Angie spent an afternoon at the DMV talking to folks about the benefits of online grocery shopping. My mom told her doctor that she attributes her improved health to eating less meat. And me…well, since that post, I’ve decided we’re no longer going to dine out.

Now, I would love to tell you that my decision was based on some higher ideal. I’d love to show you how dining at home saves money (it does) or how it’s healthier for you (it is) but while all these things are true, we’re calling it quits on restaurants for another reason – quality.

The last few times that Angie and I have gone to a restaurant, the quality of food, the quality of service, and the quality of the experience have all been lacking. The sad part though, we’ve gotten so used to this being commonplace that we find ourselves making excuses for it, as if it is somehow our fault we receive poor service. What do we expect from a place like that? It’s not exactly a 5-star restaurant. Maybe the server was having a bad day. They were just too busy. We should have known better than to stop in at dinner time. 

Seriously??

If someone hires me to write a grant for them, it doesn’t matter if my cat threw up on the bed that morning, my car wouldn’t start, and my best friend’s first cousin broke up with her boyfriend. I can’t turn around and say – well, if you wanted it done on time, you should have gone with a $60/hour grant writer instead of me. You get what you pay for! And if I have 5 clients all with deadlines on the first day of the month, it isn’t on them to come back when I have more time. It’s on me to learn to prioritize (or say no, if I can’t do something!)

So why do we accept sub-par quality from a restaurant, especially ones that fall in the category of fast food or fast casual? Because we expect that cheap equals bad? Let me tell you – there’s nothing cheap about paying $10 for a salad at McAlister’s or $8 for a burrito at Moe’s or $9 for two frozen custards at Culver’s. Yet, every single one of these places has been a disappointment to us for one reason or another, all of which can be summed up in one word – quality.

You might say, Culver’s was the last straw though. My mom wanted to go there specifically to try their frozen custard. She saw an ad and being a dessert nut, she thought it would be delicious. We ordered two caramel cashew sundaes and what we got instead was a plain dish of vanilla custard, a cone of vanilla custard, and a few cashews in a separate cup. When I asked about the mix-up, I was told that “they weren’t allowed to mix add-ins for a cone”. Okay, that’s all well and good but we ordered two sundaes – which were prominently displayed on the menu board, dripping in caramel and cashews. Despite the fact that we were in the right, the manager wanted to argue with us  and we ended up with two vanilla custards and a handful of cashews.

Now, I understand that a lot of folks would have persisted until the restaurant got the order right. Under normal circumstances, I might have too but after one round, I knew I was going to lose. The manager was the one who prepared our desserts and there was no convincing her that she had done it wrong or that we weren’t asking for something they couldn’t do. It was a mess and instead of a sundae, I got a headache.

And a new perspective on dining out.

Our budget is smaller than it has been in years so every dollar is important. I don’t want to give them away in support of poor quality products or services and I definitely don’t want to give them away for something I didn’t ask for in the first place. And that doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Throughout my life, I’ve lost a lot of dollars to poor quality goods and services and I don’t want to do it any more. Frugal living just doesn’t make allowances for wasteful spending.

I expect, because we’re human, there will be the temptation to dine out again in the future (especially after we’re over this recent rash of bad experiences), which is why I’m writing about this today. You all are now our accountability partners. If I even so much as mention a restaurant (that isn’t work related), you have my permission to call me out on it. 🙂

Have you banned a particular restaurant, service-provider, or retailer for poor service? Or maybe you’ve banned restaurants altogether? How’s that working for you? Are you ever tempted to return? We’d love to hear your story!

7 Books To Jumpstart Your New Year

We start our day the same way every day – with a cup of dark roast coffee and a book. Angie and Caesar curl up on the loveseat (sometimes with James Patterson; though of that fact, I am never jealous!) and I take the couch for a wake-up routine that has been our thing for nearly 8 years now. We find that reading is a great way to open our eyes and our minds first thing in the morning and to set the stage for a positive day to come. Especially when the book is interesting!

Between the two of us, we read 63 books in 2019. We read travelogues, biographies, mysteries, crime novels, memoirs, and more. Some were good, some were not, and a few were simply outstanding.  These are the ones that we still refer to, talk about, and steal ideas from most often and these are the ones we want to share with you today.

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Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living
I’ve been a follower/fan of the Frugalwoods for years now and really enjoyed the story of their simplicity journey. For three years, Elizabeth and Nate lived like no one else and today (yep, you guessed it), they live like no one else. I was most inspired by the fact that they lived on just 30% of their income and never lost focus of their dream of exiting the rat race to live a quiet life in Vermont.

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer
Heather Lende is one of my favorite authors. She lives in the small town of Haines, AK, where she is an unconventional obituary writer. Instead of giving the details of a neighbor’s death, she tells the story of their life in each column. Through short anecdotes about real people, Heather shows readers how to find the good in the world again by seeing the positive in every situation.

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
I love a good 365-project so this book about not shopping for a year was right up my alley. As with any book about minimalism, I always find myself decluttering as I read, and this was no exception. I think I got rid of 50 items that week! What I liked most about the book was Cate’s honesty. She talked openly about her addictions (to alcohol, shopping, and food), framing their role in her life in a way that I could identify with.

It’s Not About Money…except when it is
This was probably the best book about money that I read last year. Except…it’s not really about money. Amy Dingmann is a Minnesota farm girl who speaks my language when it comes to spending, saving, and just living every day in a monetary system that doesn’t always fit a minimalist’s mindset. This book won’t teach you anything about money but it will make you think about how you think about money.

A Thrifty Good Life: Reflections on My Unexpected Journey Toward Homegrown Simplicity and Healing
This book made me want to buy a house just so we could dig up the front yard! Sarah Sailer and her family live on 1/5 of an acre just blocks from downtown. They grow all of their own food, plus enough to supply a neighborhood CSA. As folks who aspire to grow our own food too, Angie and I were inspired beyond measure by this book. If Sarah can farm 1/5 of an acre, we can surely make better use of the space we have.

The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick
I picked this book up mostly to prove a point – that getting sick is not “just a part of life”. I believe most illnesses can be avoided. This book tells the story of 25 people who each take a different approach to better health. Some believe the secret is a cold shower, others (like us) think it’s what you eat. Regardless of what you think already, you’ll likely find some things you’ve never even heard of in this book…and a few you’ll probably never want to try!

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating
Did you know that Parmesan cheese (the kind in the shaker) can contain cardboard? Or that nearly 70% of all sushi sold in restaurants is made with a cheaper fish than what’s listed on the menu? Or how about the fact that a cow might just have nibbled a blade of grass once in it’s life to be considered grass fed? I did not know these things. (Okay, I knew about the cardboard, but not the rest.) This book really opened my eyes to the fakery in our food system.

Do you have a morning routine? Does it include reading? What was your favorite book of 2019?