100 Days of No Eating Out: Challenge Completed!

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Three and a half months ago, our family set out on a challenge.  We challenged ourselves to give up restaurants for 100 Days.  Our goal was to establish new habits, new patterns of thought, that would help us to see restaurants as a rare treat, a last resort, or a traveler’s convenience.

Now, at the end of 100 Days, I feel as though I have nothing to say. 

You see, we did it. We accomplished our goal! My pattern of thinking has shifted so much that it’s hard for me to remember what my outlook was before the adventure began!

What once seemed impossible now seems normal.  And it’s really hard to write about things that seem normal.

So I went back and re-read the original challenge post: 100 Days Without Eating Out.

We had written down certain expectations that we had.  Let’s go through them and see how well we did!

We would learn to think ahead and prepare for our mealtimes.

This is a definite yes! From Day 1, I was thinking ahead much more.  I knew that if I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to cook, life would get a whole lot more difficult when suppertime rolled around. I had to be sure that there was food in the fridge and pantry to be cooked.

I used to think that Menu Planning was the only way to go.  A few years back, I made meal plans for every day of the week.  I still think it’s a great idea, but I don’t do it myself anymore.  I’m too spontaneous, and I don’t like being locked in to certain choices.

For the last 100 days, I’ve made sure we had fruits, veggies, meats, and other things on hand.  When the sun starts shining in through my west-facing windows, I take a look and formulate a plan.  If I know we have a busy evening, I make a plan the night before!

We would save a LOT of money.

Did we?  Well, my husband withdrew the cash that we have budgeted for eating out each month, and set it aside.  Occasionally, I went over on the grocery budget (since we were eating at home so much more!) so we dipped into that money for that.

At the end of the 100 Days, we had saved over $500!

Let me add, that we NEVER stayed on budget for eating out.  When we totalled up all our eating out expenses in 2015, it was sickening.  If I use that total and project it, we saved closer to $1800!!  Honestly, I can’t even believe that.  The math doesn’t make sense to me.  How we could have spent so much on restaurants in 2015 and not gone into debt is beyond me.

We would learn to be content with simpler meals.

This is a huge breakthrough for me!  I shared how I always thought home-cooked meals required 1 meat, 1 starchy side, and 1 green vegetable.  It was the formula I was raised on and the formula I adopted as a young wife, and it’s so engrained in my head that I really struggle to break from that pattern.

In the last 100 Days, we’ve developed quite a few at-home meal shortcuts.  Breakfast for dinner became a standard rather than a rare treat.  We’ve done frozen pizzas instead of delivery. And leftovers played a much bigger role!

We realized that we had been eating for pleasure–“What do I feel like tonight?  What sounds good?”–rather than eating to fill our tummies and fuel our bodies.  Just last night, we ate leftover rice and beans… We could have gone out.  We had the money.  The 100 Days was over, but we had food.

 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1 Timothy 6:8

Growing in contentment was one of the BEST results.

We would have to slow down at meal times.

When you can’t go to restaurants, you plan your day a little differently. You don’t just go and go and go….  You have to stop and prepare your meals.  You have to take the time to shop, and cook, and clean up.

The biggest surprise I got from the challenge was realizing that my husband and my kids were not going to fall apart if our meal was later than usual.  My husband is big on promptness.  He likes structure and routine.  These 100 Days challenged him to be more patient and flexible.  He never said anything about it, but I definitely noticed a shift in his attitude regarding meal time.

We would have the opportunity to train our children in cleaning up after a meal.

YES!  We certainly accomplished this one! I wrote about it in 5 Steps to Clean a Messy Kitchen Fast.

This new routine was not easy to instill, but it has been such a blessing!  I hope we can keep it up.  Just a few days after the challenge ended, we at out a few times and already the kitchen was getting messy.  It’s so weird that going out makes things harder at home.  If you think about it, anything is like that.  As soon as you slack in your efforts, it’s that much harder to get back to where you were.

We would probably lose weight, and no doubt, get healthier.

Well, I hate to end on a sad note, but No, we did not lose weight.  Apparently, I’m too good at cooking. Ha!  In all seriousness, I didn’t focus on making healthy meals.  I just focused on feeding my family.  And, like I mentioned, we were used to eating for pleasure, so I continued that habit and cooked foods to please the palate more than to nourish the body.  There’s plenty of cross-over, of course, but when biscuits and gravy becomes a family favorite, the numbers on the scale don’t change much.

As far as healthier, I’m not sure.  I wish we had tested cholesterol and blood pressure and the like.  I suspect those numbers have improved, especially for my husband who really made the biggest change by taking his lunch everyday!

Would I do it again?

Maybe…but probably not 100 Days.  We both felt the lesson had been sufficiently learned at about 75 days.  However, the next 25 days flew by! Once the new pattern was established, it was easy to continue.

The hardest part was the first 3-4 weeks.  There were many nights when we stuck to the plan simply out of commitment.  I equated it to the early years of marriage.  If you’ve been married long, you know there were days when it just seemed too hard.  Not necessarily that you were tempted to be unfaithful, but when you just wanted to throw in the towel and say “I can’t do this anymore!” But your commitment held you.  You pressed on through the problems and stuck it out.

Looking back, it seems rather silly.  The marriage we have now is not difficult.  We work together well, and the rewards are immeasurable!  Sticking through those challenging times grew us into new patterns of thinking.

When I read my journal from the first few weeks on this challenge, I laugh!  How ridiculous it sounds!  Sticking through the challenge grew us into this new pattern of thinking.  I’m first thinking “what will I cook?” rather than “what are we going to do for supper?”

If you are like we were–spending far too much money at restaurants, turning in to the drive-thru more than once a week, eating for pleasure and convenience rather than nutrition–then I suggest you take the challenge!

Mark off the dates on your calendar!  Start today…give yourself at least 75 days and complete the challenge!

Tag me on Instagram (@marthamarthablog) or Facebook and let me know how it goes.  I want to see the whining and the success! 🙂

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  1. This was a very admirable challenge and a great recap! We don’t eat out very often, mostly because of the financial savings and health reasons. But you included a lot of benefits I hadn’t even thought of – like the opportunity to train your kids to clean up after themselves – brilliant! Your creativity and experience make this an awesome post. I will definitely be pinning it on my Pinterest boards for all to see! 🙂

    Posted 6.7.16 Reply