Like everyone else, Mr. W and I have been keeping an eye on our budget lately. We reduced our income by about half when we entered into our new Flexible Life plan and while it’s been totally worth it, it does require a bit of creativity and …ahem…flexibility to keep finding new ways to have fun with our kids.
The last weekend all the kids were home we had quite a bit going on and spent nearly as much time in the car driving places as we did enjoying the fun once we got there. We were all ready for a little down time, but we always wanted to make sure we were taking advantage of the time and freedom to make some memories.
Thing One had been begging to have her friend H over for a sleepover, and the boys had been asking when they’d be able to eat a meal at the new reclaimed wood bar top Mr. W built a few weekends back. So we set up the sleepover for Saturday night and I sat down at the computer Friday after work to do some thinking.
If there’s one thing kids love, it’s the chance to act like grownups. Combine that with a little make believe and you’re generally good to go around these parts. So I talked to Mr. W and we decided we’d set up a restaurant in the basement for the kids complete with a menu and different seating options and we’d work a few life lessons in as we went.
The first task was to figure out what I’d let them order. I wanted them to have fun, but I didn’t want to “Jen it.”
(SIDEBAR: There’s a phrase in our household called “Jenning it” that’s used pretty option by both Hair and Mr. W. Basically, to “Jen” something is to go completely and totally overboard and beyond what is otherwise necessary to make people happy. It’s the curse of being a creative type. What can I say… I like things to look cool? And I LOVE to entertain.)
So I sat down and thought about what we had in terms of leftovers, quick fix items from the freezer or pantry, etc… Then I spent a bit of time in Power Point putting together a menu.
I decided to break things up into four key menu areas, just like you’d have at a restaurant. I also assigned dollar values based on a combination of how much work they were to prepare and what it cost me to serve them. (Hey…kinda like a REAL restaurant!)
There was a reason for this. You see, us sneaky moms like to work life lessons into our fun and play time. While our kids are starting to get a good grasp of what things cost and that we need to spend our money wisely, they still have a lot of obvious oversight from Mr W and I when it comes to making those decisions.
For the restaurant, we decided we’d give each of them ten “bistro bucks” to spend on their meal. This would allow them to order one item from each of the four areas, but wouldn’t let them order anything and everything they wanted. The goal here was to help them see that sometimes you have to forgo something you like to get something you really like.
To help this concept, we made up some “money planners” that matched our menus. It had a space for each type of menu item (drink, appetizer, entree, dessert) and boxes they could color in based on the price of what they ordered from each category.
Apart from the math practice and the “make good choices” practice, we found one other benefit to this idea. The girls got smart and realized they could work together and share their meals to get more variety.
When it was time for things to get moving, Mr. W met the kids at the base of the stairs, pulled out his best french accent and seated them. The girls opted for a fire side table for two…
And the boys decided they’d like to sit at the counter so they could watch the chef at work.
Mr. W passed out menus, money and the money guides and we took some time to help them talk through their options. It was interesting to hear their logic come out.
Kids: “What does water cost us?”
Kids: “Oooh…that would mean we have more money for our food!”
And sure enough, three of the four ordered water. When he realized he didn’t have enough money to order everything he wanted, Thing Three decided to change his entree choice to something less expensive so he could have milk with dinner.
The meals were nothing fancy…but I had some fun with the presentation. The boys ordered apples with peanut butter as one of their sides, so I pulled out some tiny plates and bowls from my entertaining stash.
The girls didn’t want peanut butter, but DID want their food to still look cool…
And I even had a little fun with their very simple salads.(I’m totally going to steal this idea for an outdoor party. Love the little dressing cups nestled in a cup of salad!)
The boys ordered fruit kabobs, but only wanted the grapes, so I pulled out some bento gear and served up these simple little cuties.
And dessert…don’t even get me started on how cute Banana Split bites are!
I thought Thing Two had died and gone to heaven.
Overall, the night went great! The kids had a blast, Mr W and I had a blast and it didn’t cost us a penny. Plus, since we did it all at home and there was almost no set-up time involved, we got to have a lazy day. I spent about 20 minutes printing out the menus, money, etc… and cutting them to size while Mr W and the kids played video games and chased each other around the house. A totally awesome Saturday.
Interested in setting up your own Boisterous Bistro? Yeah, I thought you might be. The good news is, I saved all the files for you and am offering them as a FREE printable here on the site.
You’ve got two options to choose from. If you have PowerPoint, you can download the fully editable Power Point file so you can change up the menu to suit your needs. If you don’t have PowerPoint, you can download the PDF version with the menu items stripped out and either write them in, or double print it yourself.