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How (and why!) we do takeout date nights

I’m writing this post because I’m always putting “takeout date night” on my menu plan, and I keep wishing I had something to link to that explains our practice and answer the questions people often have about it.

As those of you with kids know, date nights with babysitters can be kind of expensive, especially if you have multiple kids. And even for people with no kids, eating out at a restaurant can be pretty pricey. Fun, yes. Frugal, no.

So, every Friday night, Mr. FG and I have a takeout date night right here at home. These nights require no babysitting and since we provide our own drinks and don’t need to tip, our meal is cheaper than it would be at a restaurant.

Five Guys takeout date night

Here’s how we make this work for us.

On Fridays, I feed the kids a slightly earlier dinner than usual. This meal is always something very, very easy…sometimes it’s mac and cheese, sometimes it’s leftovers, and sometimes it’s a snacky type of meal, made up of popcorn, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, cherries, watermelon, cheese, yogurt, nuts and other similar foods (they love this option!).

The main requirement for their dinner is that it be something simple because if I had to cook a full-on meal for them, a takeout night wouldn’t be much of a break for me.

While the kids eat their dinner, Mr. FG and I place an order from somewhere nearby. Our budget is $20 for the two of us, so we can’t do anything extravagant, but we can manage to provide ourselves with a decent meal.

We often get our dinner from a local seafood place, but we also do subs, Mexican food, Five Guys, sushi, or soup.

A shrimp salad sandwich on a black plate.

While Mr. FG picks up the food, the kids and I clean up their dinner and Sonia and Zoe get their PJs on and brush their teeth.

When our food arrives, the kids all head back to Joshua’s room, where we let them watch cartoons or play video games to their heart’s content. Normally their TV/video game time is limited, so they think this is great!

Mr. FG and I usually have about an hour and a half to eat our dinner and chat before it’s time to put Sonia and Zoe into bed, and we love it.

It’s so nice to have some uninterrupted time to talk to each other…not that we don’t love our kids, but they do make it a little bit difficult to have a cohesive conversation, and there are some things we can’t talk about around them. 😉

Two goblets filled with ice water.

I highly recommend this practice to you if going-out date nights are out of your budget.

And if even a takeout night is too expensive for you, you could just make a simple meal to eat with your love (a dinner of PBJ sandwiches may feel special if you’re the only diners at the table!).

And now, here are a few questions people typically have about our date nights.

Do you ever go out on real dates?

We do, but the cost of a babysitter keeps us from doing that on a regular basis (I can usually manage to get a pretty cheap meal by using Groupons or gift cards from our credit card rewards, but there’s no discount system for babysitters!).

However, I see that changing in the next couple of years because in not too long, we’ll be able to leave the kids home by themselves for at least a short while (woohoo!).

We do sometimes swap babysitting with other couple friends of ours, and that works pretty well…we both get a night out without having to pay for any babysitting.

Do your kids mind that you’re eating takeout when they’re not?

Not generally. They usually like what I make for them on Friday nights, and they understand that kids don’t always get everything that adults do. 🙂

Plus, the things we order are sometimes things they don’t want to eat anyway (none of them ever want my salad from Chipotle!).

How do you get your kids to leave you alone?

We tell them that their job is to hang out in Joshua’s room until we’re done eating, and they’re usually pretty good about obeying that rule. Occasionally Sonia or Zoe will come out, but we just send them right back. 😉

If we had a baby or a toddler, this routine wouldn’t work, but all of our kids are old enough to watch a movie or play a game without direct supervision.

(incidentally, if you’ve got younger kids, consider putting them to bed a bit early so that you can have a slightly late, but peaceful dinner with your spouse.)

Do your kids feel left out?

I don’t think they do…most every other night of the week, we eat dinner together, clean up together, and have family worship together, so our normal evenings are filled with togetherness.

Mr. FG and I firmly believe that a healthy marriage is a gift to our children, and since our takeout nights are one of the ways we maintain our marriage, we think that our children are ultimately served well by spending an hour or two without us.

P.S. I have to give my parents credit for the inspiration for this at-home date night idea. When my siblings and I were kids, my parents ate a late dinner by themselves most Friday nights and my siblings and I entertained ourselves up in our bedrooms. I never remember minding this and in fact, I remember my sister and I having some fun times in our room together on Friday nights.

So, how do you manage to fit date nights into your budget? If you’ve got some good tips, share them in the comments and help out the rest of my readers!

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K Ann Guinn

Thursday 5th of May 2016

One more idea I'm not sure was mentioned.....what about "coffee dates"? It could be at home if the kids are younger, or away if they're old enough to be home alone. We've both made our own coffee to take with us or picked one up and either go for a drive or sit somewhere nice and talk. It's another way to save money and still have time together.

Our other idea is to go out for breakfast. It's one of the cheapest meals, yet we can sit and drink coffee (free refills!), until we are finished talking. :)

Sharon

Tuesday 12th of March 2013

Hi! I provided a link to this post on my blog today where I, too, talked about the importance and necessity of couple time in the midst of kid raising. We did a lot of "eating in" too when our kids were little.

Emma

Saturday 5th of November 2011

As a speed skating coach, I've noticed that while some parents like to watch their kids at sports practice, many often drop them off at the rink and get other things done while the kids are being looked after on the ice - ie. groceries or exercise. The kids are so absorbed in what they are doing that they don't notice the parents are gone. This time could easily be used to go for a walk or grab coffee or have stimulating conversation with your spouse. Or you could even arrange with another family on the same team/in the same lesson to alternate taking the kids to practice - that way you would carpool (and thereby save money on gas and help the environment) and you and your spouse could be home alone for even longer.

Jennifer Bubolz-Miller

Saturday 22nd of October 2011

We do this as well=). Sometimes we'll also get a movie from the library for free. If our budget allows, take out or ice cream, but sometimes, we love to get frozen appetizers from the grocery store=)

Meredith

Thursday 22nd of September 2011

Every Thursday, we put the little guy (20 months old) to bed, then one of us goes and gets some little dessert-type treat for two. We've done Starbucks, Friendly's milkshakes (99 cents for a kiddie size!), and Bruster's ice cream (by far the most expensive). It's always under $10, and it makes us feel like we're sharing something special. We then put all the screens and devices away and just talk. Since our little one is in bed at 7:30 (and a fantastic sleeper), we have tons of evening ahead of us.

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