Having a no eating out challenge is a great way to start the year! You can go a whole month without ordering fast food, or dining at your favorite restaurant. While it might be hard, I promise you that it will save you so much money! It’s time to see what you can get at the grocery store and maybe even learn some meal planning tips.
Home-cooked meals are a simple way to save a lot of money and enjoy a little bit of potential health benefits, too. This no eating-out challenge proves that you can easily make some of your favorite meals easily right at home! Forget what you did last month – now it’s time for lots of delicious experimentation at home!
My husband and I, in order to cut expenses and be healthier, have often made no eating out goals and challenges (see THIS post about how we like to challenge ourselves). But, most of our eating out goals were short-lived and short-sighted.
Limiting Eating Out
For a while we had a goal of only eating out once a month. But, this was hard when we’d eat out early in the month and then regret it later on, when we were out and about, and starving, cursing ourselves for eating out already or breaking our once a month goal, just this once.
Other times it was more of a mental challenge, though not a specific goal, of avoiding those drive-thru lanes. But, like most “mental challenges,” that aren’t written down, they don’t happen. “A goal not written down is just a wish.”
NO Eating Out for Two Months
But, starting at the beginning of September, we made a no eating out challenge for two whole months. And, it was surprisingly easier than we thought it would be!
One of the great things about making an absolute goal (no eating out at all) is that you’ve already made up your mind. It makes it easier to not even think about whether or not you will give in to temptation. This principle has been true throughout my life in many different things, from chastity, to cigarette-smoking and alcohol consumption, to no sweets.
[Tweet “It is when we leave room for usage, room for doubt, that it is easier to give in to temptation.”]
Complete denial is actually much easier!
My husband and I LOVE eating out! We love Arby’s and Panera. Our twin daughters love McDonald’s. And we all love going to sit-down restaurants and helping ourselves to chips and salsa, bread sticks, and delicious entrees!
However, food is a necessity. And in our house, many people, myself included, get crabby and short-tempered when the need for food is not being met. Hungry adults and hungry kids are not the best people to be around.
Since my family of five generally does everything together, most of my tips are for those who have families and are on-the-go, trying to run errands. The following are some precautionary steps, and helpful tips, to help you meet your no eating out challenge, with the fewest amount of hunger-induced crabby episodes!
How to Avoid Eating Out
- Plan the time of your trip out according to nap and meal schedules, as best as you can. Be realistic about what can and can’t be done in the amount of time (and energy) available to you (between those nap and eat times). This one can be hard with kids of multiple ages, illnesses, the day of the week, or with planned activities. It can also be hard when trips out take longer than expected! That why you need to make sure to…
- Eat before you go. One of the easiest ways of avoiding the drive-thru lanes is by eating at home before you go out. If you aren’t hungry, then the smell of steak, Mexican, or burger won’t be nearly as tempting to you or your kids.
- Bring a snack/lunch from home. But, if you want to be out for a while, combining trips and saving gas money, then make sure to bring snacks and/or lunch for the whole family. It’s super easy to remember food for the kids and neglect packing food for yourself. But, I know I need food and nourishment too (as well as my husband) in order to finish our trips all still in good spirits. My favorite snacks to bring? Bananas, apples, or oranges. They are super easy to grab right before heading out the door, don’t fall into crumbly little bits all over your car, and can’t topple over and spill onto the floor. The oranges get a little messy and juicy, but are so good! And the peels/cores? Yeah, we totally chuck them out the window as we pass by a grassy/woody area so it can decompose naturally, leaving us with no wrappers or messes to clean up either. We’re so green like that. Our other go-to snacks are a bag of Cheerios and granola bars.
- Leave on time. If you have several stops to make, then make sure you get out of your house on time! Don’t waste your prime time out! Mornings can quickly slip away and creep into lunch time and nap time. Pack your bags ahead of time so that you can get out sooner.
- Pack a lunch for work. And make sure that you bring enough to satisfy your hunger (and thirst) for hours so you aren’t tempted to grab a quick snack or meal.
- Remind yourself how crappy the food is (or how crappy it makes you feel afterwards).
- Hold yourself accountable to another. I have found that challenges are easier when made with my husband, an accountability partner. I know that if I cheat, and eat out, that I will have to tell him. I also know that he’s refraining from eating out, being strong for himself, but also for me, so I don’t want to disappoint him. It’s a two-way streak of encouragement, and a great way to strengthen your relationship!
- Say no to social engagements if needed. Going out to lunch and dinner with friends are very common and very detrimental to your resolve to not eat out! How can you say no to your friends/boss/family? But, kindly tell people no, or invite them over to your home or out for a picnic or park instead. Or tell them you will catch up with them after dinner. Or, get together for something other than eating. The point of no eating out is to avoid the overpriced, frequently unhealthy, food, not to estrange you from society. You can always bring your own food if you meet before or after a restaurant (many states have laws regarding whether you are allowed to bring outside food into restaurants however).
- Remind yourself how expensive it is to eat out.
- Leave your credit cards, debit cards, and cash at home! You can’t eat out if you don’t have money to buy food! My husband has done this multiple times (he’s the spender in the relationship). And it certainly helps us meet our no eating out challenge!
How can I meal prep to avoid local restaurants?
Restaurant dining might be calling your name, but meal planning is a good idea. Check and see what you normally spend on your monthly eating budget and then look at the sale ads for the store.
The easiest thing to do when it comes to new meal planning tips is to meal plan around what is on sale that week. This will cut out bad habits quickly and have you some extra cash at the end of the month.
Some good foods to add to your weekly meal plan are salads, frozen pizza, crock pot recipes, instant pot recipes, and vegetables. You can serve your family some good food all while cutting down on food waste, too!
This will also be a great way to introduce a new side dish or get the kids to try out new things as well! Good meals are a perfect way to stop eating out and save money at home.