I know a lot of people who probably use the terms “Treat Meals” and “Cheat Meals” interchangeably; but there really are a couple of key differences that are important to understand, both from a financial and nutritional perspective.
In essence – Treat Meals are planned, and Cheat Meals are not. We know that (generally speaking) any diet that is too strict will be doomed to fail; the same as any budget that is too tight, is likely doomed to be over-spent.
Treats vs. Cheats – Nutrition and Diet
Treat Meals – from a nutritional/diet perspective – are built in breaks from a well balanced and calorie-controlled meal plan. For me, Fridays are Treat Days, both lunch and dinner are either take out or are ordered in. My weekly meal plan “kitchen command centre” board clearly outlines the “treat” dinner days, and I make it a habit of treating myself to lunch on Friday as a reward for packing lunches and eating healthy snacks Monday-Thursday.
Cheat Meals – from a nutritional/diet perspective – are meals that fall outside of my planned treat days, and while a Treat Meal can be moved from one day to another during the week, a duplication of treat meals become by definition – cheat meals. At the same time, overindulging on a Treat Meal or day, can become a Cheat – it is one thing to order Pizza for dinner, and another thing to order an Extra-Large Pizza and then consume it like it’s a personal pizza (I can’t eat an entire XL pizza, but I have given it the old college try – when I was actually in University).
In summary, from a diet and nutrition perspective; a Treat Meal is a planned and reasonably departure from your normal meal plan, while a Cheat Meal is unplanned and/or overly indulgent.
Treats vs. Cheats – Budget
Treat Meals – from a budgetary perspective – are anticipated breaks from make-at-home, budget friendly meals. Treat meals also fall within a reasonable price point relative to your family finances and personal budgeting. In the average month this year, I have budgets for Groceries, Restaurant Meals, Take-Out and Delivery, and Alcohol; while these are monthly averages, and I would consider myself to be on budget if the total spent on all of these lines is less than or equal to the total budgeted, they are my goals on a month-by-month basis.
Cheat Meals – from a budgetary perspective – are in addition to budgeted/anticipated treat meals, and/or are in excess of reasonable costs for a meal. So, while ordering “the lobster” may well be within my dietary plan for the week, it would ordinarily fall within the Cheat Meal category from a cost perspective.
While Cheat Meals generally fall outside of budgeted funds and calories in any given week or period; they are not inherently bad. Sometimes you simply deserve to give yourself an extra “treat” for a job well done – even if that job was just doing your actual paid job all week; Self Care dictates that we understand that there is a line between reckless over-indulgence and knowing when to cut yourself some slack.
Be gentle with yourselves and others, especially in these difficult times. If you want to avoid “cheats” generally speaking you can easily do that these days on your weekly trip to the grocery store; if you don’t have it in the house, you can’t eat it.