Is Always Dining at Home the New Normal?

If you can’t remember the last time you joined your family and friends for a big shindig down at your favorite local restaurant, you are not alone. I can’t either and neither can millions of other people these days. With the coming of COVID-19, restaurant dining rooms are closed and any of the ones that are open are being forced to serve take-out or delivery only. Frankly, that just isn’t the same thing to me. You do lose a little of the “flavor” (pardon the pun) carrying home a brown bag. So that makes it a real challenge to make your dining at home in any way special or fun. That raises the question: “Can it ever equal dining out and be your new normal dining out experience?”

Dining at home may just be your new normal, but that doesn't mean it can't be special. Here are some ways to make it memorable and fun.

There Are Adjustments

You have always had to prepare dinners at home, haven’t you? Sorry, if you are one of the ones who always did pick-up, delivery, or constantly dined out for reasons which I will never I understand and neither will your wallet! For now, those days are over (which may actually be forcing you to save some money), so what will you do?

Maintaining healthy routines can be comforting in times of stress and lifestyle change. Since we are all spending more time at home these days, one routine you can try to stick to is having your meals with your family, if you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by them and can actually do it. Sticking to mealtime with your family for daily meals is not only a source of nourishment to help you stay healthy, but also offers the chance to share important stress free time with your loved ones.

If you are alone, it is a little tougher for you, but not impossible. Thanks to technology, you can still make a connection with just about anyone anywhere. Now is a time when you might start singing the praises of this kind of “eye” in your home and stop thinking of it as only an invasion of your privacy, if that’s what you were thinking before.

Sharing food with others creates a connection which can help bring a sense of calm during this period of isolation. So here are a few ways to make dining at home just as special as dining out.

Playing With Your Food?

Despite what your mama told you, now is a time when playing with your food can really be a cool thing and you actually have the time and opportunity to experiment. When you find yourself with some extra time, why not try a new skill in the kitchen? Like, making pasta from scratch or finally brewing that perfect homemade macchiato you previously loved at your local bistro? Even if you only have pantry staples, but you do happen to have the right equipment, you can prepare plenty of healthy, flavorful recipes.

Just try to make use of some base ingredients like pasta, potatoes, or grains like quinoa and you will find a huge assortment of ideas. Learning new recipes can give you a sense of accomplishment and you will even find cooking to be a meditative, de-stressing activity. Best of all, even when you don’t have your own ideas right there handy, the internet is always a place to help stimulate your mind. Whether it’s looking up a recipe, reading a food blog, or learning from a professional chef right on YouTube, the internet can deliver the information you need to succeed at dinner.

So Go “Out to Eat”, But Do It at Home

For a lot of us, dining out isn’t just about the food, it’s about the occasion and the company. While there is comfort in the routines around meals, if you’ve worked hard to make a new, delicious dish, you can also treat it as a special occasion. If it’s a special occasion and you are forced to mark it at home, then why not schedule a date and dress up a little for dinner. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries? You can set up the table in a special way and set the mood and kill your boredom all at the same time. You could even go all out and print the menu on your computer printer.

I’m thinking that this is a perfect time for a bit of creativity such as homemade decorations from some of the things you may have just laying around the house. Candles, homemade place cards, decorations, and anything that will make it more fun. The point is to have a little fun and designate the meal as a special time of your day.

Table for One, But Conversation for Everyone

With a little creativity, you can still find ways to share a meal with loved ones, even if you’re home alone. How?

Grab your mobile phone, tablet, or computer and contact a friend, family member, or group and share the recipe you’re about to make, encouraging them to give it a try as well. Once you’ve made your meal, video chat with them and enjoy your creations together, comparing notes on the food and your experience making it. If you’re at home with your family, use the meal as an opportunity to connect with each other and talk about something other than the daily grind. A great conversation starter could be having everyone list one thing they’re grateful for or one thing they’re proud they accomplished that day or week.

This is a moment in time when you can really appreciate the technology we are lucky enough to have and use. Video chat, Zoom, and all of these platforms may not have been designed for use at your kitchen table, but hey, why not?

Adapting our routines gives us the ability to practice positive productivity and wellness during these uncertain times. And maintaining a healthy routine when it comes to mealtime will keep our minds and bodies well, even when we are getting used to the new ways of “dining out”!

Final Thoughts

I guess the best way to cope with the loss of socializing at your favorite restaurant is to find something that can and will distract you and knowing that all of this, as dramatic as it is, will end eventually. You can turn a huge negative into a positive with the right attitude and a sense of adventure. Even if you haven’t any skills in the kitchen, use this time as an oportunity and even if you don’t quite achieve greatness, you will learn something and improve. And even more important, you can spend some fun time with some friends or family that you wouldn’t have had the chance to do under different circumstances!

What cooking skills can you bring to the table? Are you willing to use your time these days to learn a better way in your kitchen? And who do you want to share your dining delights with when you do it? Is dining at home fun and can you make it special with a little imagination? I am betting that you can!