January's goal: Eating at home.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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 trimming taking a hacksaw to our budget and trying to recover from the last few fiscal months which involved moving to a new state, buying a house, and making it through Christmas. So the decision is a combination of the desire to save money and the fact that a 14-month-old boy sitting quietly in a restaurant just isn't a reality anyway.

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.

19 comments:

  1. Whitney, first off, I love the new blog look! I usually read in Feedly, so I have no idea how long it has been like this--but I love it!

    Also, I would love to hear about your January meal plan. My husband and I recently started doing something similar. Making a monthly menu plan and doing all of our grocery shopping in one fell swoop (sans milk and veggies), has really helped us financially!

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    1. Thank you!

      And yes - I'll plan on writing it out and posting soon. :)

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  2. we have noticed HUGE strides in our money saving efforts and overall health when we plan ahead and "eat in." My problem is that i do so well with it for awhile, and then i get into a rut where i cannot seem to come up with new meal ideas that aren't so complicated...so yes! i would LOVE to see some of your meal ideas! I wish there was a forum where us women (& men) could share our healthier meal options more frequently... and the meals that are tested and approved to ensure palate success. :) Way to go on this new endeavor! I'm cheering you on from the land of WI and can't wait to hear more about your 'learnings' and things you tweaked along the way! :)

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    1. YES. I'm totally with you when it comes to getting in a rut. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  3. I would love to see your meal plan! I really enjoy cooking, but it has been hard for me to get into the habit of doing so consistently due to my husband and I's busy schedule. He is the Associate Pastor at our church and we have plans most nights of the week. I get into the bad habit of saying I'm tired and just getting take out. It's unhealthy and costs more! I do so much better if I make a meal plan for the week and try to stick to it.

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    1. Yep... right there with you. The evening commitments are killer when it comes to this.

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  4. I would love to see your meal plan!

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  5. I have a love hate relationship with my kitchen. Cooking doesn't come extremely naturally to me, but I don't like eating out. (for the reasons you stated, expensive, and I like knowing exactly what's going into my families bodies.) Planning is definitely key to success. I make three meals a day from scratch and always need a plan. I would add to your list, utilize your freezer. You'd be surprised how many foods freeze well. I make extra of things like, soups, taco meat, cookies, any crockpot meal, any stocks for soups, and put a portion in the freezer. It helps on sick and busy days.
    And I would add, a pretty apron, and cooking utensils you love and are pretty:) when my kitchen is clean and pretty it always helps me get in there....candle burning or fresh flowers go far.

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    1. Love those tips. I haven't done much with the freezer (other than cookie dough, some soups, and chicken broth) and I really want to do more. And yes yes yes to pretty things to cook with! I definitely don't do that enough.

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  6. Isn't it amazing how a meal plan can save you on so many levels? I went back to work full time (I was working a .8 position) back in October, so, to save my sanity and the lure of takeout, we began meal planning. We sit down as a family on Saturday or Sunday and plan the week's meals - each person gets to pick their favourite meal for one night that week (my daughters are 8 - perfect age to participate!) and then as a group we choose the other three nights. We shop once a week and with the exception of milk, can make it through 7 days with all the fresh ingredients. Then I put a list on the fridge of all the meals that we have, and I include all of the ingredients that will be needed for that meal - so that whichever adult is at home can make the meal as planned. Tuesday nights are soccer practices for the girls and Wednesday nights I'm home from work late, so those nights are crockpot or meals that can be kept warm for me - and it has saved us money, time, frustration, calories - you name it. And no one gets to say "we never get to have what I want to eat" because everyone participates in it. We were all off on Christmas holidays this year and I veered off the plan - next thing you know, the grocery budget creeps off track and you're ordering out. Back to the plan January 1. Congratulations - you'll love what it does for the health of your bodies and your bank account!

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    1. I love the idea of involving your family! When Liam gets a little older, I will totally hang onto that.

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  7. Good for you! Funny we haven't talked about this because we have the same goal this month! I feel like I've been living in the kitchen so far, but it has worked well and we've tried lots of new things we've never had before (and discovered some keepers). :)

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  8. Whitney, just wondering how long you've been using mint.com for and would you recommend it to others? I'm just a little worried when it comes to putting my bank information in there!

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  9. Love it Whitney, I have been thinking about this a lot because we get home from work and don't have anything planned so it is either takeaways or something that isn't as enjoyable as it could be. Meal planning is on my to-do list for sure. Looking forward to your post with your January plan!

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  10. I would love to see a meal plan. That is something I struggle with and need to do better. I do enjoy cooking more when my space is neat and pretty. Having an open floor plan in our house also helps because I can talk to my hubby as he is sitting in the living room.
    I always enjoy your posts.

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  11. I'm not familiar with a gluten free diet - however, I think Cook's Country - Spinach Lasagna is a great dish to make and have left overs from. The squares can be frozen for eating at another time. It does have no cook pasta noodles but I saw another recipe that takes a butternut squash thinly sliced as a substitute for lasagna noodles. May be great!

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  12. Mint.com has revolutionized our budget! Thank you for sharing this post! We have been planning and shopping weekly, which has helped us be successful without eating out… It's so tough! Praying blessings over your schedule and ability to bless others with your meals!

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  13. Amen a thousand times to this post. Trimming the budget is so hard. Why is it so hard?!!!! Haha. I miss Chipotle too. I like your idea of planning the whole month ahead of time. I think in the 6+ years we've been married I've done that like once but man, when I did, it was incredible! Text me when you're doing it & maybe it'll motivate me! :) Love you. Wish I could come over for a breakfast smoothie.

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