Well, we survived. We made it through January and our family challenge of “No eating out.”
It wasn’t easy and we faced different hurdles. I’ve outlined the five situations that tested our self-control the most:
Hurdle #1: It was the weekend. (That alone justifies eating out, right?) My husband was out of town. Crew had a basketball game in another town right at dinner time. Just he and I went to the game. Historically, he would have played, and we would have gotten something to eat on the way home as a little date night between mom and son. But this time I fed him at home before we left and then fed him again when we got home. It wasn’t as fun as eating out together, but it worked.
Hurdle #2: Chad got in a car accident. He is fine, but it did throw the whole day off. I was unable to get dinner made, so we ate leftovers. The main thing here was that Chad noticed he wanted to emotionally soothe his stress with a big, juicy hamburger. It’s common to go through something stressful and then turn to food to make us feel better, but Chad held strong and talked through his feelings instead.
Hurdle #3: My daughter had a half-time performance at a high school basketball game. She was to be at the high school at 4:30 pm and then we thought she danced at 5:15 pm. This would get us home around 6:00 pm for dinner. But she ended up not even dancing until 6:00 pm. As we left the high school around 6:15 pm, we were all hungry. On the way home we passed one of our favorite restaurants that is famous for its shakes and burgers. It has even won awards. We don’t go there often because it is a 30 minute drive in the opposite direction of anywhere we are usually going, so it was hard to be so close and so hungry and not stop. Chad was particularly tormented to pass this one up.
Hurdle #4:Our friends invited us and our two girls to go to the ballet “Alice in Wonderland” on a Saturday afternoon. Then they asked us if we would like to go out to dinner after. Again, the ballet was in a different town with way better restaurants then our little town can offer. Plus it would have been nice to spend more time with our friends. In the end we told our friends of our family challenge and declined.
Hurdle #5: I took the kids on a field trip to the city which is about an hour a way. Our tickets to tour the museum were at 12:45 pm so we left our house about 11:30 am. We stayed in the museum until about 3:30. The whole excursion was right over lunch time. Normally, we would have gone to lunch because there are so many fun places to eat when you get to the city, but we packed sack lunches instead. They ate some on the drive down and some on the drive back.
One other hurdle that we faced was the vague parameters of the challenge. “No eating out” seemed straight forward enough, but as we got going there were lots of caveats and loopholes that were hard to foresee at the beginning of the challenge. We were faced with some questions as the month progressed:
Was going into a gas station and getting a snack or treat eating out? Were we just talking full meals or any kind of food out of the home?
Was buying something from the deli bar or salad bar in a grocery store eating out? Or was it just considered part of grocery shopping?
If you have a Visa gift card, could you use that to eat out? Or did your gift card have to be specifically for a restaurant?
Was buying snacks at a ball game or movie considered eating out?
All of these questions came up. How we answered them doesn’t really matter. But just for reference, we based our answers on what budget the food would normally come out of. For example, popcorn at a movie comes out of our “Family Fun” budget, not our “Food” budget so we were ok to get popcorn.
(If you decide to do a challenge like this, you can do what you want for your own family- it’s your challenge and your rules. But at least I have warned you and you can be better prepared than we were.)
Overall, the challenge was so good for us. Life was not as fun, but we did save money, and we noticed other benefits as well. We all became aware of how many times we eat out and how fast it adds up. We also got to exercise our self-control, creative, and resourceful muscles. I feel like this challenge stretched us all and helped us grow.
As we debriefed the challenge as a family, I was surprised that the kids wanted to keep it going and eat out less because they really didn’t miss it that much. They wanted to use the saved money for other things like vacations and family activities. I think the challenge was harder for mom and dad since we were the ones that had to come up with the meals each time.
“No eating out” made for a long month, but I’m proud to say we did it. I loved working together with my family for a united purpose. And I loved to hear my children learn and grow and have their own realizations.
We will continue with a new family challenge in February. Details coming this week!