I’ve committed to doing 12 monthly challenges, and the first month was to stay away from restaurants all of January. I wrote down our meals (mostly dinners — we cook for four, and we are but two, leaving plenty of opportunity to eat leftovers for lunch) as we went through the month, and I’ve made notes at the end. Day 1: Emerald Chicken (which was fabulous) and stir-fried pork (which should have been cooked for a lot less time) Day 2: Tom Kha (which was SO VERY good, tasted like a restaurant!) Day 3: Leftovers. Also, dinner at 5:15 on a Friday. I’m old, evidently. Day 4: Chicken salad for lunch, Asian-style meatballs and broccoli for dinner. Day 5: Sauteed veggies and bacon for lunch, stuffed bell peppers (yawn! why aren’t these better?) for dinner. Day 6: Buffalo burgers with blue cheese (yum!) Day 7: Dinner at my sister’s (taco salad/engagement Tuesday!) Day 8: Random leftover veggies with tomato sauce for lunch, chile verde for dinner (which was surprisingly bland given all those bright ingredients. Thank goodness for some leftover emerald sauce. That stuff fixes everything.) Day 9: Dinner at my friends’ house (fajitas with habanero pilaf, yum! Also her guacamole is the bee’s knees.) Day 10: Tom Kha soup again. Seriously. That stuff is so good. Day 11: We drove up to the dog park and spent time with my sister. On the way, we got fruit and snacks from the grocery store. I would have really preferred to have brunch somewhere. This was the first day I felt really challenged by this project. For dinner, Brent made this spinach/lamb meatloaf that was 100% green. It was by far the worst-looking dish to come out of our kitchen. It was really delicious (and super healthy, thanks to all that spinach!) but it was … ugly. Day 12: Shrimp stirfry. Made my own teriyaki sauce and stir fried a bunch of veggies and shrimp. The veggies were excellent and the shrimp was gross. A waste of $9, to be sure. Day 13: Brought sausages/peppers/onions over to a dear friend’s house. Made extra for lunches. Day 14: Brent made one of the absolute best dinners I’ve ever had. Burmese chicken stew. It tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before, and one of the top ten things I’ve ever eaten. It’s sweet, and sour, and has layers of flavor. If you come to my house for a dinner party, there’s a good chance you’ll be served this. Day 15: Leftovers. I got to eat yellow chicken again, but Brent ate some sort of disgusting mush from the freezer. He’s a champ. Day 16: Emerald chicken and rice. That sauce is outstanding. Day 17: Chicken stirfry at my best friend’s house Day 18: Eggs and avocado for lunch, grilled pepperjack burgers (no bun) for dinner Day 19: Buffalo chicken dip for lunch, chips and an apple for dinner Day 20: Roast chicken and cauliflower Day 21: Friends came over for dinner, we had a frittata with chicken sausage and caramelized onions, along with a kale salad and mashed sweet potatoes. Day 22: Brent’s birthday. We briefly considered asking his parents to buy dinner out as a birthday present, but decided that although it would technically be okay (since we wouldn’t be paying for this dinner out) it violated the spirit of no-restaurant month. So I bought a bone-in rib eye and made sauteed kale (there it is again!) and not one, but two desserts: butterscotch pudding and tapioca pudding. Day 23: Philly cheese steak sausage with onions and bell peppers. Day 24: Dinner party. Yellow chicken again, plus coconut mango tapioca pudding. Day 25: We broke down and ate lunch out while we were running errands all over the suburbs. I was disappointed in my planning, and the food I ordered. For a cheat, it wasn’t even really worth it! Dinner was leftovers. Day 26-29: Can’t remember. Sorry. Day 30: Cauliflower soup. Delicious, and plentiful.
Some Thoughts on This Challenge
The first ten days were really challenging. I wanted to go somewhere, have dinner made for me, and come home. But once we passed about day ten, we had the wheels in motion and it became much easier. Brent is just starting to cook, and is really ambitious (as you can see by some of the linked recipes above!) so it made buying groceries a little more expensive this month than it will be from here on out. But now we have all the Indian/Thai spices you could want!
- Habits take time
- We like restaurants
- We also like being at home
- We’d prefer to save money than go eat in restaurants all the time
- Restaurants should be for special occasions, planned well in advance, not a get-out-of-making-dinner card
- We know that a lot of people don’t have the luxury of eating out, and it took the full length of the challenge to realize what a luxury it is
- I lost six pounds in January and I didn’t eat in restaurants (except once). Probably not a coincidence.
Will we continue to cook every single meal? No. Probably not. But we will definitely cook more of our meals at home. Next up: No drinking at home (ours or anyone else’s). We can go out for a drink, but the habit I want to get out of is the one where it’s 8pm, we’ve finished dinner, and we’re sitting down to the television. I’ve been having an after-dinner drink, and it’s a habit I’d like to curb. I am cheating a bit, using the “at home” qualifier, but we started the month in New Orleans, and, well… there’s a lot to drink there!