|This morning's smoothie (before it was blended): frozen mango, frozen berries, kale, orange juice, and almond milk.|
For the month of January, I'm working toward a monumental goal (for me, at least):
I will not be eating out for the entire month.
When Shawn and I talked about it, I realized I don't think I've done that for 10 years. Maybe even longer. Before having Liam, Shawn and I would eat out at least 5 times a week, sometimes more. Maybe that sounds extreme, but when it's become a habit, it doesn't feel that way at all. It only feels convenient and, sometimes, like the only option.
This month, though, we've been
Here's what I've learned so far...
1. Cooking isn't quite as bad as I'd made it out to be. Spending hours in the kitchen isn't my first choice, and that's what seems to be required when you never eat out. Because a gluten free diet requires making more things from scratch, I do have to spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen every day. However, I've learned to love eating leftovers, which has also helped us make huge strides in our money saving efforts. I love that I can "cook once, eat twice," which is what I've been trying to do for nearly every meal. Lunches are the times we eat leftovers, and it saves a lot of money and a lot of time.
2. You do save so much money. I never thought it would be in the hundreds of dollars that we'd save by not eating out - even at places like Chipotle which aren't high end restaurants. We've budgeted down to the penny using Mint.com and it is incredible how much we're saving by having a plan and sticking to it.
3. Planning ahead is integral to success. I've begun making our meal plan an entire month in advance (including grocery lists for each week). I spend one afternoon a month with a cute wall calendar I bought from Target, some favorite cookbooks, and a cup of tea, and I plan. And plan and plan. I write down a meal idea for every lunch and dinner for the entire month, with preplanned events in mind. For example, if I know Shawn has rehearsal at church every Wednesday night, I'll make sure to make a crock pot meal or a soup that can stay hot so we can eat at different times. And whatever I plan to make for dinner, I plan to use the leftovers for the lunch the next day.
Even more than the relief it brings to our budget, this type of planning brings relief to my mind. I know that I don't have to think about what I'm making because it's already planned out for me and I already have the ingredients. Hallelujah! I don't know how I lived without this plan in place.
(If anyone's interested in seeing our entire month plan for January, let me know... I may do a separate post about it.)
4. Thinking of what I'm gaining instead of what I'm losing in this process is helpful. Instead of reminiscing about all those Chipotle burrito bowls I could be devouring (my weakness!), I think about what I've made this month already that has been so nourishing and delicious. Roasted chicken, delicious homemade soups, warm chocolate chip cookies. We can spend more on groceries - including treats that we wouldn't normally buy - because we're saving so much by not eating out. We also tend to have people over for dinner at least once or twice a week, so I don't feel so strapped in preparing for them. This month has not looked like deprivation, but has felt lavish and tasted delicious.