the dinner debate



Today I’d like to chat about a question that has been tossed around several times over the past few months in the Lively household:

To eat out or to eat at home?

After a long day at work, Mr. Lively often wants nothing more than to come home and cook dinner. Meanwhile, after my long day at work I want nothing more than to get outta the house and enjoy a meal at one of our favorite neighborhood spots – or delivery, if I’m feeling lazy.

For a while, we attributed this difference of dinner opinion to the fact that Mr. Lively likes cooking and I do not.

However, upon closer examination it’s a bit deeper than that.

Because I work from home, 99% of the time I eat breakfast and lunch in the apartment. There are many days (especially in the Chicago winters) where I may not even leave the house before 6pm, aside from taking Franklin out.

So by eating from the same selection of foods over and over and over, working and living in the same space, and being a fan of the local cuisine, I naturally want to get the heck out of the apartment the minute Mr. Lively steps foot in the door.

Whereas Mr. Lively, who has been gone all day and often eats out during lunch, wants to come home and spend time in the apartment with a home-cooked meal.

It’s a tricky business.

We also realize that my penchant for ordering from a menu is not very economical.

But even so, there are days where eating at home after being home all day makes my skin crawl. 

I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true.

For now, we’ve decided that we will give ourselves a target of cooking dinner on three weeknights and the other two can be my choice.

With all of this in mind, I have to wonder: do any other couples or work from home people experience this same mealtime predicament?



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  1. I’m single, but I know exactly what you mean — I always want to go out for dinner, and I usually actually enjoy cooking. It’s just by the end of the day I’m ready to get out of the house for a bit. The desire isn’t as strong if I take a short break during the day to go for a walk or run errands.

    1. Jess Lively

      I’m not the only one! : )

      For me, the errands or walks don’t really happen (unless Franlkin’s in daycare)… but I’m sure if my schedule wasn’t packed with consulting on some days that would be an option for me too.

  2. Everydaychicny

    Yes, yes and yes!! Though in our case, we both work from home and we have a two year old. And although sometimes we are dying to leave the house at 5pm…..we often have to reconsider since dining with a 2 year old is not exactly the most relaxing exercise 🙂 But we do the same, on days were we just cant take it we compromise and eat out early (early = fewer other diners and typically a less hungry toddler) 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      It’s great to hear how this is for you with a child.

      I actually thought having our puppy would make me want to stay home more nights, but that hasn’t been the case. Since I’ve been around him all day I’m quite fine leaving him to go to get some nachos. : )

      I like the eat out early option for children. Thanks!

  3. Alicia

    Have you thought about compromising? Eating on the patio, on the roof (if you have access), or making a picnic to eat in a park? That could be a fun compromise.

    My boyfriend and I don’t live together, so when we’re at his place we usually go out (he has no food and buying the ingredients to even make something would cost more than a meal out), but if we’re at mine it’s easier and cheaper to throw something together.

    1. Jess Lively

      That’s a great idea and I’m sure we’ll do things like that on the three nights we eat in… but I just LOVE eating out and even those things still kinda feel “boring” to me… I wish I felt differently about it all!

  4. I can totally relate- but we’re in the exact opposite situation. As of late I’ve been running around the city most days, so that when I get home at night all I want is a healthy home cooked meal. Brandon on the other hand- who is in the apartment all the time- often wants to go out. I also don’t love take out, and he loves it- so add that to the mix! As of now the breakdown is usually the following- 1 day of takeout per week, 2 nights out (likely on the weekends), and the rest home cooked meals. I love to cook (as you know), so that helps!

    1. Jess Lively

      Nice! It’s great to hear your story is similar too. I can relate with Brandon. : )


    I work from home all day long (and only leave to walk the dog and then go to yoga in the evenings), but we also eat at home every weeknight (and most weekend nights, too). But that’s because I love to cook so it’s relaxing for me and I look forward to it! I can totally see how if you don’t enjoy cooking it may feel like even more work at home just like alllll the other work at home you did that day. (And although Mr. Lively loves to cook it may not be the first thing he wants to do when he gets home at night.) One thing you could do: Cook a meal w/ lots of servings every few days so then you have leftovers for another night or two. The slow cooker is great for this. This way there’s no meal prep work to do on the days you don’t have to cook, you save $ by not eating out, and you could spend the time that you and/or Mr. Lively would have spent cooking hanging out, sitting together on the couch, watching TV, or eating on your cute patio (when it finally warms up here in Chicago.) Just a thought!

    1. Jess Lively

      Agreed! I think the batching meals is a great idea… it still just doesn’t completely solve the “I love going out to eat” part. That’s something I’m not sure will ever go away…

  6. Caitlin Brown

    I can semi relate to this (I TOTALLY share your love of eating out) but it also reminded me of how Trevor and I used to get in debates over how to spend our weekends. At the time, I had a much more flexible schedule (not less busy than him, but I was able to plan my time the way I chose) and Trevor was working 8-5 on someone else’s schedule. On the weekends, I’d be so excited to go do things like heading to the farmers market, dinners out, walking around shops, etc. and all Trevor wanted to do was order delivery, watch movies, and veg out. I used to not understand it at ALL (it was so frustrating) but now that I work my 8-5 (and often longer) based on someone else’s schedule, I totally understand the need to sit around in your house and do nothing. It’s interesting how these differences in lifestyle change what you want/need at the end of the day, isn’t it?

    I bet as it gets warmer outside Mr. Lively will be more excited about venturing out as well :). It’s even easier to be a hermit when it’s cold.

  7. Melissa

    I can relate to the dinner question… and to Caitlin’s comment below. I’ve been able to combat some of those feelings, especially lately, by focusing on the money saved by eating at home and by trying to be more productive around the house on the weekends (with plenty of veg out time too). It’s a constant balance, but I suppose that give-and-take is what relationships are all about!

  8. Alicia

    Totally been there. At the moment I am working full time again but for a while I was working from home E V E R Y D A Y A L L D A Y L O N G!
    So yes, the minute my boyfriend got home I was like “Lets go out for food”. Neither one of us enjoy cooking (except for like very rarely on weekends) but he had just spend all day out, at work, eating out. And I had spend all day inside, eating the same boring food, inside.

    It was tough sometimes. For me it was important to make sure I got out of the house at some time throughout the day, otherwise I would go crazy. We tried to balance our eat in/eat out better and try to keep eating out for the end of the week and weekend.

    But yes, I totally feel your pain on this one.

    1. Jess Lively

      Very true. Getting out is still hard for me with the puppy and crammed schedule some of the time. But with nicer weather that will sound more appealing.

      1. Alicia

        I know, winter is tough. Isn’t your puppy extra incentive to get out? 🙂

        1. Jess Lively

          Honestly – no. When it’s cold and dark outside in the Chicago winter (as it has been the past few months) I just want Mr. Lively to take him out. I want to go out. : )

          1. Alicia

            Haha fair enough. I think we can all agree we are DYING for summer to get here!!

          2. Jess Lively

            Agreed. I have a feeling I’ll want to take Franklin on a walk… to our favorite Mexican restaurant!

          3. Alicia

            Perfect 🙂

  9. casscomerford

    My dear you need to get Blue Apron. You’ll LOVE it and I bet it will be a great bonding time for you and your mister.

    1. Jess Lively

      VERY intriguing! Sending this to Mr. Lively asap. Thank you. : )

  10. nikki hancock

    When I’m working crazy overtime weeks at work, It’s not uncommon for me to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work. After a couple days of that I become absolutely desperate to be able to go home and cook something, anything! Sometimes its hard to find a balance there.

  11. My boyfriend and I definitely struggle with this! After working from home all day, I’m usually ready to get out of the house, when he just wants to chill on the couch. However, I do love to cook, and we’re trying to stick to a budget, so I usually end up cooking dinner most nights. We try to go on walks every night, so I at least get a little outside time (haha, like I’m a dog!) and I’ve been trying to be more proactive about scheduling social stuff, so that most days there’s some reason to leave!

    1. Jess Lively

      Yes! We are working on getting more family walks with Franklin in as it stays brighter each night.

  12. Mary

    We’ve been trying to eat at home more after years of eating out. It’s not only more economical but often more nutritious and less fattening. As a compromise, we may meet straight after work for a cocktail or glass of wine, then continue home for dinner ((and more wine). This creates a great transition from work to home for us.

    1. Jess Lively

      Now this is a compromise I can get behind. ; )

  13. Jess Lively

    I’m glad you found something so great which has worked for you. : )

    I confess, I’ve given up trying to like cooking… But I am kinda into the suggestion people have shared about Blue Apron, so I might check that out as a way to back my way into the kitchen after all. ; )

  14. whatlolasees

    My bf gets off late b/c he works at a restaurant, so I look out for myself only for dinner. I cook when I can/feel up to it. When he’s off–do you think he wants to cook? No! Dating someone who is a sous chef means dating someone whose idea of cooking at home is microwaving a bag of popcorn.

    1. Jess Lively

      Lol! Who knew being with a chef meant *less* home-cooked food? (I think I’d be the same way.)

  15. Rita

    i never thought of this! we both work outside of the house all day and i tend to always want to get take out or go out while matt wants to cook at home. this will likely be a bigger issue when i work from home starting next month… i’ll have to look for a late afternoon workout class or plan happy hours with friends to get me out of the house and make me willing to come home and cook!

    1. Jess Lively

      Nice! My flaw with happy hour (though it’s great) is that I often just want to roll that into a dinner out. ; ) I’m so incorrigible!

  16. It sounds like you’re craving the ‘dining out’ experience more than not wanting to cook. Have you considered maybe going out for part of the meal — meeting for happy hour & spliting an appetizer and/or going out for dessert? Or maybe you could meet a friend or fellow work-at-homer for lunch once a week?

    1. Jess Lively

      Very much so. It’s a lot about the experience as much as the awesome food.

      I could totally see myself going to dessert with Franklin and Mr. Lively after dinner in the summers — that I can do!

      1. Jess Lively

        And by “dessert” I mean “ice cream.”

  17. stef

    This is so timely! We TOTALLY changed our grocery shopping method this week because we eat out way too frequently. We don’t work from home, but we work together in our own small business in a small town, so it feels like we’re trapped in this cycle of same-ness. We eat dinner out far too often during the week because we spend the whole day working together and get emotionally drained from some customers, so making dinner feels like this huge boring load of work at the end of what was already a long day. Honestly, we eat out just to get a break from our routine.

    Before, I was a *major* budget shopper for groceries – store brand everything, nothing pre-packaged, essentially the same list of food every week, no great cuts of meat or fancy dips or extras. It finally hit me – maybe if we spent a bit more at the grocery story and had really exciting options at home, we’d be less likely to go out. Our grocery bill was probably $70 more than usual, but that’s only two dinners out! duh! What took me so long?! Having the option of a really great steak or crab legs and stuffed mushrooms for dinner makes us less likely to go out AND it’s more fun to prepare than the same baked chicken, rice & steamed broccoli routine we were in before. We can’t “go big” with these dinners every night, but we can afford quite a few and still spend far less than eating out 3-4 times a week.

    1. Jess Lively

      We’ve debated this aspect, too. I’m thinking the Blue Apron suggestion earlier might really help me in this area – not having to think or buy the goods themselves might also make it a bit more novel and enjoyable…

      I’m glad you found what works for you!

  18. I get like this if I haven’t left the apartment for the last couple days. I try to make plans at night to get out, because it just gets plain depressing if I don’t. If that doesn’t happen I get DESPERATE to get out of my sweats and flaunt my pretty clothes in public! Eating out is less about the food and more about the act of participating in society at that point, haha.

    1. Jess Lively

      That’s exactly it. Participating in society. While eating nachos from Terascas.

  19. interesting! eric and i both work out of the home and crave dinner out (or takeout, now that we have a toddler who goes to bed very early) after a long day of work. we make meals at home 2-3 times and eat out the rest of the days. i joke that eating out is my love language 🙂

    1. Jess Lively

      Love that! I’m that love language, too.

      1. Ha ha I think it’s my love language too. I usually get up early and go out for breakfast. Mike finds it a little weird that I go out for breakfast most days, but for me it’s heaven. Usually I’ll stay after I’m done eating and work for an hour or ninety minutes. That way I’m not behind but I have my sanity. I work from home. We live in a studio in downtown San Diego and I’d lose my mind if I didn’t go somewhere. I love my commute.

  20. Chicspace/Marguerite

    Hi Jess,

    Have you thought about doing the same thing Mr. Lively does and eating out for lunch (which tends to be cheaper than dinner anyway)? Gets you out during the nice part of the day (ignoring Chicago winters…), maybe take Franklin out with you, either getting something to go or eating at a dog friendly place? Then you both can be at home at night (or alternate staying home for lunch/going out for dinner and going out for lunch/staying in for dinner)? This lets you both get your needs met, possibly more $$ friendly. It’s a switch to your schedule, but perhaps doing that a couple days a week might be energizing.

    1. Jess Lively

      This seems like a great idea except that I try to only work 9-5(6) and the time it would take to leave and eat alone out during lunch would make my workday longer into the evenings. But you are right, it would save some money!

  21. Elisha

    My fiance and I struggle with this as well, especially on the economical side. I enjoy cooking so I cook 3 days during the week and I always make more than we eat at one sitting so there are leftover for the other two nights. We always eat out on Friday night and then one day for lunch during the weekend. We try to limit our spending by picking restaurants with less expensive menus, but not necessarily fast food. It’s a work in progress!

  22. thebookofjimmy

    I’m a full time stay-at-home dad of two, part time lawyer and part time content manager/copy writer for a small web development firm. For the last year we lived in our friends’ basement apartment here in DC. That’s where I operated those three jobs, and down in the dark basement it could turn full-bore hermit mode in a very short amount of time if I let it (which I did, often). A few weeks ago we moved into a sunnier place, way above ground, with a balcony, and so far that helps a lot. I still get that skin crawling I-need-to-get-outside-of-this-apartment feeling, but it’s not as dire as it was before.

    My wife and I both love to cook (I braised short ribs today – seriously), but we also live in the city and love getting out to all the great places available in our neighborhood – even with the little ones in tow. She’s never argued with me over having a meal out (we can usually convince ourselves it’s a good idea), because she enjoys treating us as much as I do. Unfortunately, our budget now dictates that we do this as infrequently as possible (like once a month, maybe twice).

    One suggestion that might help for the nights you’re staying in (and I’m saying this as much for myself as to help you and your readers): make the dinners in special. Use a real recipe. Have your man grab special groceries (and a bottle of something fun) on the way home from work if you don’t have time to get out. Use a table cloth. Light some candles. Turn up the music. Make the space and experience feel as different from your day-to-day work-at-home space as possible.

    It’s not going out, but it is definitely not what you were used to all day at your home office.

    1. Jess Lively

      What a great story and I like your tips. Music might be a good way to change it up, too. Thanks!

  23. Chiara

    We are on such a tight budget right now that eating out more than twice a month is not an option. Plus, I spend such a little time in our apartment that I cherish every minute I am here.
    Husband is at home more often, but he seems to really love it. He can stay in for two days in a row and never get bored or want to get out.
    A big advantage is that both of us love to cook. So when we want to make something special, one of us cooks for both, we uncork a bottle of wine and buy/make some dessert. We dine with no television on, and if we are craving social life we go out after dinner.
    I think this way eating out is even more special, and we carefully pick the next place we’ll go.

  24. Emilie

    I work from home 2-3 days a week, and I’ve found that on those days–even when we have our dinner options in order–my wanting to “run out and grab a cup of fancy coffee” quickly runs up an additional expense. I realized awhile back that though I love a latte, I seldom order anything fancier than we could make at home. THEN I realized it wasn’t about the coffee at all, but about the “running out” of the apartment part. Now, instead of walking to one of the 10 coffee shops in my neighborhood (it IS the NW), and spending $10 a week extra, I try to treat the coffee I make at home as the destination– I get it brewing, and then take a little 15 minute walk to “get there” and enjoy it.

    1. Jess Lively

      What a great idea! “Walking to work,” kinda. : )

  25. Patricia

    Absolutely! I work from home, my hubby does not. He also enjoys cooking much more than I do and we’ve had this discussion many, many times.

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