Category: dining out

Easy Gift Giving with Zoës Kitchen

Giving Zoes Kitchen Gifts this Holiday Season

The season of giving can be so joyful, but can also come with the stress of choosing the perfect gift for all the people you care about in your life. When the folks at Zoës Kitchen (my favorite lunch spot) contacted me with opportunity to share their deliciousness with some of my favorite people, I jumped at the chance. They challenged me to find three folks in my life who deserved a special treat this holiday season.  Narrowing it down to three was incredibly difficult, but I decided on three women who serve with me in Young Life and YoungLives. Each of these ladies give so much of their time, energy, and love to this ministry and I wish I could give them so much more. Read on to find out more about them and about how Zoës Kitchen can simplify gift giving in your life.

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How to Make Date Night a Priority

Making Date Night a Priority #LobsterWorthy
Date Night Selfie!

Making time for date nights with my husband is a real struggle with our busy schedule, but every time we make it work it is so worth it.  It can be so easy to push it to the back burner and let budget, busyness, and kids get in the way of quality time together. One of goals this year is to have at least one quality date night out a month, and we are working hard to make that happen. Today I’m sharing tips to help you make date night a priority, plus some fun details from our recent #lobsterworthy date night out at Red Lobster.

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Dining Out in Dallas for Under $20: Top Ten Taco Edition

Dining out in Dallas can be both an amazing culinary adventure and a major budget buster.  Fortunately there are many affordable options out there for a lunch or dinner out without sacrificing quality or taste.  Jed and I always say we could eat Tex Mex food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and here in DFW you can do just that.  Read more about our dining out budget here.  Tacos are always a quick and easy crowd pleaser and Dallas has an abundance of fabulous choices from trendy to funky to authentic.  Check out the top ten taco shops where a couple can eat for under $20.
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Dining Out in Dallas for Under $20: Burgers and American Food

American food and burger joints are often family friendly but can run the gamut from fast food to gourmet.  Here in Dallas there are a million options if you are craving a burger and fries, but some of them will break the bank.  If you’ve read about our financial story, you know our dining out budget is TIGHT.  This list will give you the top ten burger and American food restaurants where a couple can eat for under $20.  At a few of them you can even feed a family of four for under $20.  From plain jane to funky toppings, however you like your burger you will find great prices and quality food at all the restaurants on this list.  Step away from the golden arches and head for one of the great options below.

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Dining Out on a Dime in DFW: Taco Joint

Our family loves delicious food, but we live on a tight budget.  You can read about how we stick to our dining out budget here.  As a result, we love to find fabulous restaurants where we can stretch out dining out dollars and have a fantastic meal at the same time.  I’ll share my finds here on the blog so that you can “dine out on a dime” as well.

 My husband, Jed, has often stated that he could eat Tex-Mex for breakfast lunch and dinner.  At Taco Joint you can do just that and not spend a fortune.  A family of 4 can eat at Taco Joint for under $20, which is awesome.

  I highly recommend the brisket tacos for $1.99, and you can upgrade to a meal with beans and rice for $8.29.  Friends of mine love the Lester (grilled sirloin) and the Evan (vegetarian).  You can get the “Gaston Grab” for a crowd, 6 breakfast tacos for $11.79.

Taco Joint has 2 locations – 911 N. Peak St and 6434 E. Mockinbird Ln (Mock/Abrams).  The Lakewood location has happy hour from 3-7 pm Monday – Friday and a fun patio.

What’s your go-to restaurant when you want a great meal without spending a ton?  

This is not a sponsored post, and all opinions are my own.

Frugal Friday: Four Ways to Stick to Your Dining Out Budget

I get questions all the time about the specifics of our budget.  “How much do we spend on groceries?”  “How much do we set aside for clothes?”  By far the most common question is, “How much do you spend on restaurants?”  The answer is, “Not much.”  Our monthly dining out budget on one income is $70.  That’s it.  Would we love for it to be more?  Of course.  Click on some of my ads and affiliate links and maybe we’ll get to increase it.  Just kidding (but seriously…).  How do we stick to spending only $70 per month on dining out?

1) We don’t go to fancy restaurants.  I have a growing list of great local places and a few chains where we can get a great meal for under $20.  It is possible and a lot easier than you might think.  We would rather have 3-4 meals out a month than one expensive one.  

2) We don’t buy kids’ meals.  The Bear is still a toddler with a varying appetite, and every time we’ve ever bought him a restaurant meal we regret it because he leaves most of it on the plate.  Instead we bring in a sandwich, veggies, fruit, and a sippie cup every time we go out to eat, and offer him some of our meals.  Yes, this takes a little planning on our part.  No, we won’t be able to get away with it forever.  We’ve never had a waiter even ask a question about it, and several have even commented on what a great idea it is.

3) We don’t buy drinks.  Soft drinks and alcohol in restaurants are a total rip off, in my opinion.  Why would we pay $2.99 each for a diet coke?  Crazy town.  Sometimes we break this rule, and when we do Jed and I split a soft drink rather than both getting one.  We get free refills and french kiss each other on the regular, so what’s the big deal?

4) We meal plan.  Before we started budgeting, we spent an outrageous amount of money on restaurants because we were both busy and dinner time would roll around without us having a plan.  We’ve learned that dinner is not an emergency, it comes at about the same time every day.  If we plan out our meals one week in advance we end up spending far less on groceries, making fewer grocery store trips, and eat out far less.  This way we can plan our meals out and make them count rather than have them be a last minute rush decision.

Do you have a budget for dining out each month?  How do you stick to it?

Frugal Friday: Our Top 3 Cheap Babysitting Solutions

As parents on a tight budget, we are always looking for a cheap babysitting solutions so we can have date nights, go to social events, and spend time with friends.  We don’t have any family near us, so that’s not an option.  In Dallas the going rate for babysitting one child is around $10-15 per hour.  PER HOUR, people.  That means if we want to go out to dinner and a movie we are shelling out an additional $40 to the babysitter, minimum.  There is no room in our budget for that kind of expense, unfortunately.  Our whole dining out and entertainment budget for an entire month is $95.  Yep, that’s it.  We are on one income and prioritize saving for retirement and other things above dining out and entertainment.  So, we’ve had to get creative when it comes to babysitting solutions.  We’ve found a few things that work well, and one we really want to try.

Cheap Babysitting Solutions:
1) Parents’ Night Out – Several churches and local kid businesses (YMCA, etc) host Parents’ Night Out evenings a few times a year.  We sign up for every one we come across.  In our area these are typically a 4-5 hour window where you drop your child off and pay a fee to help the church youth group raise money.  Most churches are well equipped to care for children because they do it on a regular basis, and we feel good about helping out a local church.  Usually you don’t have to be a member, and most in our area charge $10 for the first child for the whole time slot, and $5 for each additional child.  This is a steal!  To find a Parents’ Night Out in your area, just do a google search or call local churches or kid friendly organizations.

2) The Swap – Trade babysitting nights with another family.  We’ve done this a few times and hope to schedule more in the future.  Most kids Bear’s age go to bed around 7 pm like he does, so we put him to bed and then have 1 parent from another family come over and watch tv, read in peace, etc on our couch while we go out for a few hours.  Then one of us goes over to that family’s house on another night to relax and watch the baby monitor while they go out.  Everybody wins.  This doesn’t work as well for single parents unless you can take your child to the other house and put them to bed there, then transport them home when the parents return.

3) The Co-op – My parents were part of a babysitting co-op in our neighborhood growing up, and my mom has encouraged me to start one here with our friends.  A babysitting co-op is a group of families who organize themselves to trade off babysitting using a point or voucher system.  You earn points by babysitting for others, and then cash them in when you need a sitter.  I haven’t gotten around to starting or joining one, but hope to soon.

What’s your best cheap babysitting solution?  

 

Austin, TX with a Baby

For your viewing enjoyment, I present a photo collage via Instagram of our trip to Austin this week.  
It was in the 30s and 40s, with a hazy shade of winter cast over the city.  We stayed downtown at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel, because we were in town for a state teacher testing conference representing Jed’s school.  Fisher and I did a lot of lounging around in our room because of the cold both weather and illness affecting us.  We shopped and ate and enjoyed ourselves, and would love to go back when the weather is nice.  Downtown is very walkable, and the city has so much to explore.  I would choose a different hotel next time.  The Intercontinental was nice and had lots of architectural interest, but our room was tiny and expensive (paid for by the school) and the mandatory valet parking was very pricey.    
Where did we eat? 
The Mellow Mushroom near the University of Texas campus was our first dinner stop.  We were headed out to Hula Hut at the lake, but traffic was horrendous so we decided to stay close.  We love Mellow Mushroom in Asheville, so we went for what we know.  We had the Funky Chicken pizza and the soft pretzels.  The key at MM is to order a side of the Esperanza house dressing.  That junk is so good.  
The next day Jed had a long lunch break so we went to Mellow Johnny’s, Lance Armstrong’s bike shop.  My husband is a cyclist and could entertain himself in a bike shop for hours.  He showed Fisher all the cool bike stuff while I shopped for Christmas presents for him.  If you are into bikes, the shop is a must see.  Many of Lance’s bikes are on display along with a well thought out selection of cycling gear and accessories.  It also has a cafe called Juan Pelota’s that serves breakfast burritos and coffee.  
For lunch we headed to the Taco Shack.  I had a chicken torta with bread that melted in my mouth.  Delicioso.  
At the Taco Shack, Fisher had a big first.  He sat up in a high chair throughout the meal.  Yay!!  He loved playing with his toys and sitting up like a big boy while we ate.  

Fisher and I did a little more exploring, driving around the state capitol and South Congress shops.  We picked up a few cupcakes from Hey Cupcake, one of the famous food trucks on South Congress.  I surprised Jed with them when he got back to the hotel.  

Fisher and I did lots of snuggling on the big king sized bed in our room.  A sniffly baby makes exploring in the cold not so much of an option.    
Our last night in town we went to Magnolia Cafe on South Congress.  It rocked my world.  It was cheap and delicious with a laid back atmosphere and creative menu.  I had baked acorn squash with the chef’s special pecan pesto on top, with a side of curried shrimp and veggies.  Oh my.  I was in broccoli heaven.  
We came back to Dallas and were greeted by gridlock.  We loved the feel of Austin and hope to go back and explore more when the weather is nicer.  Where would you like to explore?   

Glen Rose Getaway – Dining at Sunset Ridge Bed and Breakfast

On our baby moon getaway in Glen Rose, Texas, we found a really special bed and breakfast inn.  Jed searched long and hard online to find a place that fit our needs and our style.  Sunset Ridge is in our price range and is far more modern than many B & Bs.  I’ll post pics of the place later on, and tell you all about it.  The photo above is the view from our private patio during sunset.  As you can see, the name Sunset Ridge is a perfect fit.  Besides the obvious breakfast part of the B & B, Sunset Ridge offers a four course dinner for an extra fee.  The couple who runs the place gives a few options to choose from, and let me tell you, we chose wisely.  

 We started with homemade Parmesan Black Pepper Crackers and Herb Dip.  We had already dipped into it by the time I thought to take a picture.  The dip and crackers were savory and light, a great starter.  The lighting was also very “romantic”, making it difficult to get a great photo.  Oh well.  You get the idea.

 The second course was a Poached Pear and Blue Cheese Salad.  We were a little nervous about that combination, but it was delicious.

For the entree, we each had a Filet of Beef with Roasted Asparargus and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.  Jed described the steak as the best he had ever had.  That, my friends, is a great compliment.  We got the recipe before we left, believe me.

 See the above photo for evidence of the deliciousness of our entree.  Amazing.

We shared a huge piece of Double Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Dipped Strawberries for dessert.  It was awesome, and we were fully stuffed after indulging in a fantastic four course dinner.  One of the best things about it was that we only had to walk across the veranda to our room after dinner.  Come back later this week for more about our Glen Rose getaway.

Have you stayed in an awesome Bed and Breakfast Inn?  Tell me about it.  

Spring Fling Day 2 Giveaways:
A Tutu and Bows at Time Well Spent
Handmade Hair Accessories at A Very Dandoislion Life

Glen Rose Getaway – Dining at the Riverhouse Grill

Recently, Jed and I went on a little weekend getaway, a baby moon of sorts.  We wanted to keep it close by and frugal, so we went for one night to Glen Rose, a little town southwest of Ft. Worth.  We stayed at a phenomenal bed and breakfast that I’ll tell you about later, and had so much fun wandering around a new town.  We found the Riverhouse Grill just off the main square for lunch, and we so pleased with everything they offered.  The restaurant is family run out of a 100 year old house and features fresh, local, creatively prepared food.  

  Jed picked the chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and then went double carb with the mac and cheese au gratin.  He loved all of it, but said the mac and cheese was the best he has ever eaten.  Seriously.  He let me try it and it was out of control good.  I don’t know what they did to it, but it can’t be good for you, and made us both want to lick the dish.

 I had the ultimate ham sandwich with parmesan truffle fries.  Wow.  The sandwich was on fresh whole grain bread with 3 different kinds of cheese, local ham, and fresh apple slices.  The fries had a savory flavor from the truffles that was amazing.

If you are ever in Glen Rose, I highly recommend stopping at the Riverhouse Grill.  I love supporting small town, family run places, and this one is a winner for sure.

What is your favorite off-the-beaten-path restaurant?