At the end of August, I made the commitment to spend $125 or less in September on eating out. Here is my progress report for the 1st week of September on that challenge:
First, I planned a month’s worth of meals. I spent about an hour and a half deciding what we would have for dinner each day, including which days were “eat out” days. I put each of these meals into my planner on the appropriate day. I did them on yellow stickies, so that they would be easy to re-use for the following month. (I’d just have to rearrange them.) Since there are only 3 of us (and some days two, when my son is at his dad’s) I was also able to plan for leftovers. Leftovers would be used for either another full evening meal, or for lunches. Additional lunches were covered with sandwiches. (My husband and I eat at home for lunch.) This planning stage was the hardest part of the challenge for me initially. Not because it was difficult to come up with meals, but because it felt like I was forcing the rest of my family to eat certain things. But really, they usually eat whatever I make anyway, so how is this different?
I also built a couple of “ditch days” into the plan. Those were days when we could say “forget it, let’s eat at _____ instead” if we were really craving something else. We’ve already used one of those days, so that leaves 3 weeks for the 2nd ditch day, but I think it will be ok.
Next, I went grocery shopping. I made up a list of the things we would need to cook the planned meals, and went out and got all of the non-perishable parts of them for the month, plus the perishable parts for the week.
Finally, I stuck to the plan. I’d start out the morning by reading what I’d planned to make for supper, and then deliberately tried to look forward to eating it that evening. We did change up a few of the meals, but make-at-home meals were changed with other make-at-home meals, and eating-out meals were changed with other (cheaper & healthier) eating-out meals. I think being flexible while still staying within the plan is helping.
The results? For the week of 9/1 to 9/7, I spent $29.13 on eating out (or an average of $4.16 per day.) Turns out that’s exactly right for a month with 30 days. So far this is going much better than the previous eating out challenge that I tried. Probably because it focuses more on what I AM doing instead of what I “cant” do.