Let me just start out by saying that I really love food. All of it, really. My kids love their chicken nuggets and waffle fries, Happy Meals and Wacky Packs. My husband and I lived for date nights out at nice restaurants and ordering in on the weekends. So, when I tell you that eating out was a way of life for us, I mean it. My real weakness is Mexican food - chips and salsa, queso, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, taquitos. (Fun fact: I even made up my own lyrics to Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" by replacing the real words with the names of all of my favorite Mexican dishes. It's fire!)
Okay, so here's the deal. I went from eating out on average 6-8 times a week to not eating out a single meal for six straight months.
Six months, not days. Six straight months, people. Sounds kinda crazy, right? It took a pandemic to shake things up and really get my attention in a major way. If you read The Budget Meeting, then you already know how much I treasured Taco Bell and Starbucks. I'm still in shock over the removal of cheesy fiesta potatoes from the menu, which was a real tragedy. Gone, but never forgotten!
While not eating out started due to the pandemic and the many shutdowns, it became a much deeper decision. I challenged myself to eat only food prepared at home for 30 days - no drive-thru, no takeout, no delivery. Those first days were probably the hardest. It was difficult to break my old habits of grabbing the lunch special or my go-to iced latte.
The first month crawled by and then the second. Near the end of the third month, I had stopped dreaming of Nachos BellGrande (minus the beans), waffle fries, Big Macs, and tacos. Instead, I was making copycat versions of my faves. Pinterest for the win! Even my family said my wannabe Chick-Fil-A sandwich "wasn't too bad" and the imitation Raising Cane's sauce was "pretty good." Hey, I'll take it! I made my own cold brew, added flavored sauce, a splash of milk, and boom - iced coffee! Gamechanger.
We even let the kids make their own custom menus to give it a restaurant feel. They made a list of their favorite dishes, then designed and colored the menus before they were laminated. We often pull them out when trying to decide what's for dinner. Being able to see their options makes the choice much easier.
Before I knew it, six months had flown by without eating a single meal out. It hands-down changed my life. Not only do I feel better physically (and financially!), but so much stronger mentally. There is something intensely empowering about setting a difficult goal, sticking with it, rising to the challenge and then actually achieving the goal.
Giving up eating out felt like such a weight lifted off my shoulders. (Maybe more like my hips, but you get the idea.) Even after those six months, I have eaten out less than five times. Running through a drive-thru after a long day of work, which used to be the norm, doesn't even cross my mind anymore. My Mexican cravings are now satisfied with a pan of loaded nachos at home, complete with the obligatory bottomless chips and salsa, of course.
I learned that eating out was not about the food. It was a habit, a really bad habit. The iconic Jenny Craig once said, "A change in bad habits leads to a change in life." Amen, Jenny. Amen!