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Repeat after me: No challenge is too challenging for me to conquer.
So let me be completely honest. Last month my husband and I decided to take on a month long no eating out challenge and we cheated a bit. For starters, February is a short month so in a way we had it a little easier. And we actually did eat on a few occasions, but I’ll tell you more about that later. However, regardless of the shortened month a few slips ups I think we did a pretty good job. We saved money, ate better and got creative with our meals. All in all, I’d say mission accomplished. Regardless, I think we all know that a cold turkey challenge such as this one is not easy. Here’s how we made it work.
Make a meal plan
If you haven’t heard already, meal plans are all the rage if you are trying to eat healthier and save money. Take inventory of what you already have in your kitchen and keep in mind what you actually have time to make. If you already know what foods you can eat, you’ll be less likely to resort to fast food.
Lean into your cravings
How many times have you created these detailed meal plans but ended up eating something else anyway? I know I have. The truth is even the best meal plan is no match for those mouth watering cravings. For me, it’s those amazing spicy chicken tenders from Popeyes and some good ole fries. Because I know I have a weakness for those food items I decided the best thing I could do was embrace it by making my very own chicken tenders and freezing them. ( I tried to make copycat Popeyes tenders. They weren’t the same, but just as good) Having them on hand made me feel so much better on those days that I ditched my craving my Popeyes chicken tenders since I didn’t have to go out and spend any money. If you are honest with yourself and your cravings, a no eating out challenge will be a lot less painful.
Prepare what you can ahead of time
Meals plans are great, but the best thing I did was have some food prepared ahead of time such as smoothies for breakfast or lunch and my tasty chicken taquitos for snacks. I also always have some shredded chicken on hand to throw into salads or even rice and pasta dishes in a pinch. Definitely makes eating much easier when going out isn’t an option.
Make exceptions when needed
So here’s where our cheat came in. My husband and I actually ate out three times during our February no eating out challenge. To be fair these were already planned and discussed way before our challenge even started. Since my husband is a HUGE Eagle’s fan, we allowed ourselves to eat out during the Super Bowl watch party, at the Eagle’s parade once they won and during a charity event at Top Golf that we had committed too weeks prior. Because the first two were, “once in a lifetime events” according to him, we didn’t feel too bad stepping away from our challenge on those days.
Celebrate the milestones
Sure your goal may be to avoid eating out for a month but it doesn’t mean that getting through the first one or two weeks isn’t an accomplishment. That’s a huge milestone that should be celebrated. Each time we passed a milestone we celebrated by toasting over a glass of wine, eating a special snack or watched tv. These challenges can be difficult, so it’s important to do these mini celebrations to motivate you throughout the whole thing.
Find your food inspiration
It can be easy to fall into a food rut during a no-eat out challenge. It can seem like your eating the same thing over and over again which makes the temptation to buy food even greater. That’s why it’s a good idea to find food inspiration. As you probably know, Pinterest is a great place to start finding food inspiration. I’m also a big fan of The Skinny Taste for great ideas and recipes on instagram, Hello Fresh and cookbooks. My absolute favorite go to cookbook during the challenge was this one. Not only did it provide for great inspiration, but it shows you how to make healthier versions of your favorite meals like Penne ala vodka. The Skinny also has an amazing best selling cookbook. You can find it here.
Have fun with it
It just so happened that National Margarita day fell in the middle of our no eating out challenge. That meant we missed out on getting fabulous $2 margaritas, chips, salsa and tacos from On the Border. However, it didn’t mean we missed out on the celebration. We simply brought the celebration to our place by making our own margaritas and tacos. Though we weren’t keeping up tradition of going out, we found it important to celebrate anyway and still have fun with it. The more you have fun during the challenge of your choice, the less deprived you’ll feel and less tempted to indulge in buying food. Remember, it’s a challenge. It’s not a punishment.
Tell your friends and family about it
Never underestimate accountability and the support of your friends. At the start of the month we let our friends know that we were not able to meet up at bars or restaurants for the entire month. Most of them were very supportive and suggested free things to do when we got together. One girlfriend of mine decided we simply get together at my place and share a glass of wine together. And when things seemed to be getting tough, there was always a friend there checking in to see how it was going and offer encouragement. They were even considerate of not discussing Black Panther with us until March since they knew going out to see it wouldn’t adhere to our challenge rules. Knowing that we had outsiders rooting for us and made it so much easier to keep going.
Drink lots of water
I don’t care how old you are. Knowing when you are hungry isn’t always easy. Sometimes we confused hunger with being bored or even thirsty. And of course, I’ve you are always confused about your hunger you are more likely to eat out or eat when you shouldn’t. That’s why I encourage you to drink water at the first sign of hunger. You might find that you’re not really hunger after all.
Remember why you are doing it
We did it so we can save and pay off debt faster. Maybe your motivation is to get healthier or become a better cook. Whatever your reason, do what you can to remind yourself of it. Each time I was tempted to go out to get some fries from Five Guys or indulge in it, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t depriving myself of eating fries to deprive myself, I was doing it so I could pay off as much debt as possible and finally lift that weight off my shoulders. While it’s hard and it sucks sometimes, it’s best to focus on what you will be gaining as opposed to what you are losing.
Go easy on yourself
So let’s be honest. If you are someone who goes to starbucks everyday for coffee and makes multiple trips to the Wegmans cafe for lunch, you might slip up and thats ok. This isn’t exactly an easy challenge for some, but it can be done. The truth is no matter how many times you may break or how close you are to buying that coffee, you are going against what feels natural to you in order to make a positive change in your life. Be proud that you are even trying, and recognize you are making progress. And if you do slip up, acknowledge it and vow to do better tomorrow.
Have you ever done a challenge in which you stopped eating out? What worked and what didn’t?
TERRIfic Quip: One day you will say, ” I did it”