This last week, the Norwegian Artist and I celebrated 31 years of marriage with a special dinner for four. What should have cost $170 ran a little under $25.
Do I have access to a coupon code that you don’t? Nope.
But what I do have is the ability and willingess to cook, and because our chefs for the evening were Tired of Being Youngest and the Son and Heir (who were also our guests at the table), we ate like rich people even though we’re . . . not.
Here’s the menu, all you can eat, with the estimated cost at a restaurant listed in parenthesis:
- Handmade Ancient Wheat Fettuccini pasta with cream sauce and wild-caught Alaska shrimp ($18 per plate)
- 1 bottle red wine ($35)
- Five-ingredient vanilla ice-cream with Chocolate Decadence Sauce ($6 per serving)
Taxes and gratuity, which we didn’t pay, finish out the final retail cost. None of us felt like preparing a vegetable, since it would fill in space that the shrimp (caught by the Son and Heir over the summer) and ice cream claimed, so we forewent. Most of the $25 we spent went toward the wine, which set me back $15 (that’s REALLY expensive in this household, but you’re only married 31 years once, generally), and we still have half the bottle.
“But that’s not fair,” you say. “You did the work yourself.”
Well, yes, I made the noodles, but the main work I did was years ago, when I taught the kids to cook, simply because I believe that the more you control what and how you eat, the healthier — and more financially secure — you are.
Eating out, or eating in — while the two don’t compare as apples to apples because the ambiance is different (I prefer being at home, actually; it’s more comfy), the food quality was the same, and what we exchanged in ambiance and labor we received in savings. There’s always an exchange, and when you’re out to live the simple life and save money by doing so, you do what you do because you feel that the exchange is worth it.
It was worth it to me to ply the pasta machine while the Son and Heir peeled the shrimp and Tired of Being Youngest whisked the sauce: we talked, we laughed, we bumped into each other and dropped things, we enjoyed time together which is one of the finest gifts that life has to offer. The Norwegian Artist set the table and lit the candles, and when we sat down, it was cold outside and warm inside, and we retold the story of how we married in the midst of an ice storm, wretchedly poor college students who couldn’t possibly look ahead and see four children in their future.
The two older children, out of town, called, and when the two younger children saw how much this pleased us, they ran upstairs with cell phones and called us as well.
Such is the simple, and the good, life — in the same way that the finest food is made from few, but excellent, ingredients, the fine life consists of recognizing what we have, and being grateful for it. There’s no use to acquiring more stuff when you don’t appreciate the stuff you already have.
This weekend, even if you’re not celebrating 31 years of marriage, eat out by eating in, and enjoy the process of creating your meal together — even if it’s peanut butter sandwiches and milk — as part of the dining experience. It’s worth every penny.
Join me Fridays for articles on Financial Health and/or Simple Living, because the two generally go hand in hand. I encourage you to look at my book, Live Happily on Less (digital $5.99, paperback $12.99 or less), which is a series of short, fun essays on how to make the most of what you have, and be happy about it.
“Poor” is as much a state of mind as it has to do with your pocketbook, and while we’d all like to have more money, we can’t necessarily control this. But we can do a lot to control how we use what we have, and that’s what Live Happily on Less teaches you to do.