A couple of weeks ago, I decided to challenge myself to go for a work-week without eating in a restaurant. Why did I do such a crazy thing? Because I was tired of eating food loaded with sugar and fat and who-knows-what-else, because I was dumping too much money into said food, and because I’ve been trying to stretch my cooking muscles. And may I say, mission accomplished:
So, beautiful tilapia aside, how did I do? Well, I’d give myself an A-. (What a teacher!) From Monday morning until Friday afternoon, I was on fire. I had dinners planned, lunches packed, and coffees brewing in my kitchen. I was completely satisfied with everything I was eating and over those few days, I even lost a couple pounds and saved more than a couple bucks. The main thing that really kept me on track was something I never thought I’d use: a food journal. That’s right. I abhor the thought of documenting everything you eat as a way of policing yourself, but I decided to try it anyway so that I would have a record of what I ate – you know, just in case this week actually worked. Being on the other side of that week now, I’m glad I did it. Does that mean I didn’t have any junk? No (Reese’s Easter Eggs are out – come on!) But do I now have a week’s worth of meals and healthy snacks to use as future inspiration? I sure do.
The breaking point in this restaurant-less week was Friday around noon. I’d had a busy work week and desperately wanted another cup of coffee once I got to my office. I had planned to make some myself in our lounge at school, but when I went up there, it was closed off to be used as a classroom! The downside of city teaching: never enough space. Rather than wait it out, I caved. I paid two dollars for a cup of coffee from Einstein Bros., and it was delicious. I still had my lunch from home, but that evening, in the spirit of already having failed, I went to Outback for dinner. This was the beginning of a restaurant binge that carried me through the next week. I am happy to report that I’ve since regained some balance.
So what does all of this amount to? Here’s what I learned from my week of home-cooked food:
- Obvious, but in our age of Starbucks and Panera, this must be said: it is entirely possible to avoid restaurants.
- Planning is everything. Make a meal plan, make a grocery list, and plan leftovers.
- Eating smaller meals throughout the day kept me satisfied, but never stuffed (After a week of this, that Friday-night Outback dinner nearly killed me.)
- Avoiding restaurants will save you money, even taking into account the groceries you’ll buy instead.
- French-pressed coffee is amazing.
- Eating at home helped me lose weight. I didn’t change my workouts at all, yet a couple of pounds finally dropped off.
So, will I ever eat in a restaurant again? You betcha. I believe that going to extremes like trying to avoid restaurants forever only sets you up for failure. It’s important to be realistic with your eating goals, but it’s equally important to think critically about them. If I’m eating out to celebrate something or to see friends or because I am completely swamped with work and it’s that or don’t eat at all, fine. But if I’m just being too lazy or just want that Qdoba quesadilla because it is SO GOOD, then I need to stop and remind myself of the effects of what I’m eating – on my health and on my wallet.
And speaking of healthy things that will save me money…
… I’m growing some of my own food! I have a pot of strawberries, one of green beans, and one of cherry tomatoes. I’ve been told by the gardening experts that these can all grow in large pots on my deck, so I’m optimistic! So far, they’re looking good, although they have been living inside. (But it’s spring now, right? RIGHT?!) I’ll keep you posted on how they do!
Till next time – happy eating and happy weekend!