100 Days of No Eating Out Challenge

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100 Day of No Restaurants? Could you do it? What is it really like? What would change?During the busyness of the holiday season, I noticed our family was eating out a lot more often than we were eating at home.  Honestly, it’s always been a challenge for us, and I’m sure you can relate.

We eat out for many reasons:

Sometimes it’s because we are not at home during meal times.

When you are running errands or making doctor’s appointments at mealtimes, you’re going to need to eat.  If you don’t prepare, by bringing something along, you’re destined to dine out.

Sometimes it’s because we have too many activities to do in one evening.

When dance class ends at 5:15 and you’re supposed to be at the Christmas parade 20 minutes away at 5:30, and the parade won’t end til 7:00….well, there’s not a lot of options.  You could prepare for this situation by packing sandwiches for supper or a hearty snack to tide them over until you get home to an already prepared dinner or something simmering in the crock pot.  I have never been that on top of things.

To be honest, my first solution to a lack of time is “we’ll just have to do drive-thru.”  Shriek!  Yes, I feed my children drive-thru, grease-laden, preservative-soaked, GMO, trans-fat-bearing, over-salted, fast food.  It’s a wonder any of them are still living.

Sometimes it’s to celebrate or for entertainment.

We have a little family tradition of going to the same restaurant, to celebrate small victories and exciting news in our family.  It’s nothing fancy, but every time my husband got a raise or a promotion, every time we found out another baby was on the way, every time we wanted to celebrate an event in our little family, we ended up at the same restaurant.  At first it was coincidence, then it became tradition.

Sometimes it’s because Mama is lazy or unprepared.

In all honesty, the main reason we go out to eat is my fault.  It’s fifteen minutes till dinner time, and all the meat is frozen.  Or I didn’t get to the grocery store.  Or I’ve been working on the computer all afternoon and forgot to even think about supper. Now, my blood sugar has bottomed out, the kids are wild, husband is hangry, and we just need to get some FOOD! So we load up, and go eat.


Sometimes, I gear up to make some food, but when I get to the kitchen, I see that it didn’t get cleaned up after the last meal and just looking in there is overwhelming.  I can’t create deliciousness in a mess….Let’s just go get something. 


I can’t keep it simple!

I always thought I made pretty simple suppers.  My usual formula is one meat entree, one starchy side, and one green veggie.  That’s pretty simple, right?   But on those nights when I didn’t have meat thawed, or didn’t get to the grocery store, we could have made do with even simpler fare.  Like sandwiches.  I don’t think we have ever had sandwiches for supper, unless it was a rustic sourdough, with melted white cheddar, whole grain mustard, turkey and green apples…..see what I mean?  Complicated-ish.

The 100 Days of No Eating Out Challenge:

The Idea

One evening, as we headed home after dark from yet another round of eating out and running errands late in the day, I looked at my husband and said, “what if we did a 100 day no-eating out challenge?”

The more we thought about it, the more intriguing it became.  

  • We would learn to think ahead and prepare for our mealtimes.
  • We would save a LOT of money.
  • We would learn to be content with simpler meals at times.
  • We would have to slow down at meal times.
  • We would have the opportunity to train our children in cleaning up after a meal (something our family has been struggling with).
  • We would probably lose weight, and no doubt, get healthier.

It was beginning to sound like a no-brainer!

Why 100 days?

Well, we did a 21 Day Fix last fall and we LOVED it!  But 21 days wasn’t enough to change our ways for good.  100 Days of No Eating out would accomplish different goals. If we developed a rhythm to our meal times, and learned to prepare for them, then our next round of the 21 Day Fix would be more likely to stick.

100 Days is a real commitment.  If it takes 21 days to create a habit, I think it might take 100 to break one!  100 days seems like long enough to help us experience a “new normal” that doesn’t include restaurants.

The Plan

We will not eat at any restaurant or drive thru for 100 Days.

The only exceptions are:

If we are visiting with our parents or someone else who wants to take us out to eat, we will not insist that they prepare home-cooked food.  That would be rude.  We will graciously accept their invitation to dine out, but we will not actively seek that sort of experience (no begging our parents to take us to dinner!).

Daddy-Daughter Date.  With each of our daughters, they got to go on a very special Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s date when they were 5 years old.  It’s our youngest daughter’s turn this year.  Of course, this trumps our 100 day challenge!

If there is absolutely no other option.  If we are going to a doctor’s appointment at 11:00, I should pack sandwiches for lunch.  If we are running errands in the nearby city (about 45 minutes from home), we should plan accordingly and not go at meal times, or pack food, or have something in the crock pot for when we get home….  But, if we are 2-3 hours away at IKEA, it makes more sense to eat at the cafeteria than to try to find a nearby grocery store to provide us with food.  (Ok, MAYBE we could pack food for this sort of adventure too, but if you’re going to IKEA, you don’t need to use vehicle space for a cooler!)

If convenience food is required, it may be purchased from the grocery store.

This is to be considered a plan B and not plan A.  Generally, meals should be homemade.  One of the reasons we want to do this challenge is to eat healthier and avoid the bad stuff that’s in processed food.  I am not going all crazy strict here though.  As a recovering Martha, I have to remember to allow grace.  Stouffer’s lasagna counts as grace.

Remember, the importance here, is on creating a new rhythm, a new pattern of thinking.  “Let’s just go get something” will be replaced with “What can I make?”  If the answer to that is boxed macaroni-and-cheese, well, it’s a start.

We’re going to have to get OK with simple food.

Cereal for dinner is not fun, but it’s not starving.  “If we have food and clothing, we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8) Learning to be content with our food is a huge step in learning contentment in other areas of our life.

How blessed we are! We have food!  

I have never worried about my children going hungry.  No matter how “broke” we thought we were, we always had food.  If I forget to prepare for our meals and we have to suffer a little by waiting past our preferred mealtimes or eating a less-than-satisfying meal, I hope we can develop gratitude for the fact that we are not truly  hungry.

The Challenge Begins

We began our challenge on January 1.  Today is January 4.  So far, we are doing well!  We spent two days at my parent’s house, and my mom fed us at her house.

We almost broke the challenge guidelines on Day 2 though.  My husband worked on Saturday.  He usually gets off work around 12:00 or 12:30 and has an hour drive home.  That means he is either starving by the time he gets home, or he stops for fast food somewhere.  I should have sent him a snack, but lo-and-behold, he had stashed a granola bar in his desk so he made it home just fine!  Whew, that was a close one!

Does your family eat out more than you’d like?

How often do you eat restaurant-prepared food?

Would you be interested in joining our 100 Day challenge?

If you decide to join in the challenge, share your posts with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #100DaysNoEatingOut

UPDATE: Here’s what we discovered in the first three weeks AND Lessons from the halfway point


  1. Susan Connors wrote:

    Our family loves to eat out! I’m not sure how everyone would feel about this no eating out challenge. But, we have reduced our eating out in the past year from 2-3 times a week to one or none by paying for all our meals in cash. We set a cash budget monthly and when it’s gone, it’s gone! So it really makes us think before we decide to go out, especially at the beginning of the month. We have never gone over budget. Good luck on your challenge!

    Posted 1.20.16
    • That’s wonderful, Susan! I wish I could say the same thing for us. We had been eating out far to often and generally going over budget–but we always managed to pull the cash from another category. NO Credit Cards! 🙂 We found that the drive-thru was taking all the budget and robbing us of the pleasure of a sit down-dining experience. My hope is that we (I) will learn to make do with whatever we have at home and save those eating out times for memorable experiences! I just wrote about our first three weeks of the challenge: http://www.marthamarthablog.com/100-days-of-no-eating-out-day-21/

      Posted 1.21.16

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