The Value of a Forgotten Meal

Readers, thanks for indulging me while I take a break from writing to work on other projects. In the meantime, enjoy this post from CK's archives!

I had an interesting moment of clarity about the true value of restaurant meals when I recently went through a pile of credit card receipts. In that pile were receipts from fifteen or so restaurants we had been to the year before.

These dinners occurred anywhere from nine to twelve months in the past, and yet I hardly remembered any of them. Heck, I couldn't even remember the names of some of the restaurants, much less what kind of food they served. And yet the aggregate cost of these culinary experiences was hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

You'd think after lighting all that money on fire I'd remember more of these experiences, but sadly, I don't. The ones that really stuck in my mind boiled down to a couple of really fancy restaurant meals we had, Laura's 40th birthday dinner, and the spectacular all-you-can-eat ribs we had last fall during our visit to Belgium. That's three or four restaurant meals--out of fifteen. [Ed: Now, years later, I can't even remember Laura's birthday dinner. Sobering. I still remember the rib dinner in Belgium though.]

In complete contrast, I remember nearly every dinner party I've hosted at our home, going back many years. Those dinners were all truly salient and meaningful experiences, full of good conversations, good eating (well, I did make the food after all) and good times with friends. And yet the entire cost of all the food--for everyone--for a dinner in our home was usually far less than what Laura and I would end up spending on just ourselves for the average forgettable restaurant meal in this forgotten pile of receipts.

Readers, get ready, because here's the punchline of this article: you will completely forget most of your restaurant meals, making them an utter waste of money. Only a select few of your dinners out--the ones with particularly special circumstances--will stick in your mind.

Moreover, you'll get more value from your experiences by going out to eat only for really, really important occasions. Otherwise eat at home. And host lots of dinner parties. You'll spend a lot less money, and you'll keep more meaningful memories.

What's the point of spending extra money on an experience if you're just going to forget about it?

READ NEXT: When Restaurants Stop Being Worth It

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Lauren said...

You presume that restaurant dining is about the experience, but we eat out for other reasons: laziness/ehaustion, lack of choice (travelling, no kitchenette), or very occasionally date night, when we need a destination out of the house when the babysitter arrives. Restaurants are accounted for in our food budget, not entertainment, and are weighed carefully for value on that basis.

Daniel said...

Lauren, that is a fair point. If you're dining out for other reasons and don't really care about remembering the experience, you can safely ignore this post. :)