budgeting, good ideas, small potatoes

October Challenge!

October Challenge!

So, my big news is that I’m already beginning the third day of my October challenge, which is (drumroll, please……) NO EATING AT RESTAURANTS and NO EATING TAKEOUT.

Now, I realize that you may be saying, um, that’s not too challenging. And I totally get that—perhaps you are someone who already rarely, or never, eats out. But please understand that for me, this is going to be a big change and require a lot of extra planning that I don’t normally do.

My normal routine is:

I always eat breakfast at home, and I always pack my lunch, as well as snacks, but I hardly ever make it home in the evenings without having had dinner out somewhere. My excuse is that I don’t want to lug two full meals plus snacks around every day and am too hungry in the evenings to make it home without stopping for food. But I’m sure there are ways around this. It’s also a social thing in some instances—I like to catch up with friends over dinner. I guess those social dinners will just have to be home-cooked this month!

Part of the motivation for this came from the lovely people on blondeonabudget’s forum, who gave me multiple great suggestions about how to avoid eating out (all of which I am going to be using this month), and somehow I just got really excited about the idea of making this into a challenge.

Another big piece of the motivation came from the Frugalwoods blog, in which Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods somehow cook all of their meals on a ridiculously, amazingly small budget, thanks in part to Market Basket, their (and my!) local bargain supermarket.

So, here are the rules of the October challenge:

  1. I cannot pay any money for takeout or restaurant food or drinks. (This also includes ready-made food at grocery stores.)
  2. I cannot ask or trick friends into buying me takeout or restaurant food (or ready-made food at grocery stores).
  3. Free food from other sources is acceptable.*

I only thought of this challenge mid-morning on October 1st, by the way, which is why I didn’t post about it ahead of time. This meant I hadn’t made an alternative plan for dinner that evening, but luckily I happened to be headed to a lecture/reception after work, so I mooched reception food as my dinner and wasn’t even tempted to get takeout on the way home.

So in addition to the blogs and forum mentioned above, some of my other resources this month will be:

  • Budget Bytes (for recipes and inspiration)
  • my crockpot (which I have not used in about 2 years)
  • my freezer
  • Market Basket!!

I’ll post about my progress throughout the month, and when it’s over I’ll total up all my spending and see how it compares to a regular takeout-filled month. My hope is that by making this into a challenge I will have fun rather than feeling deprived!

*Full disclosure: October is a bit of a weird time for me to do this challenge, because I’ll be away at a conference for five days later this month, and will definitely end up eating in restaurants as part of the whole conference networking thing (also, conferences are usually conveniently located as far as possible from every grocery store on earth). However, these meals are considered a research expense, which means that a research fund will be paying for them, and so they are free for me. So technically this follows the rules. I thought about putting this challenge off until after the conference, but I decided to just go for it!

If you have any suggestions or advice, please please leave them in a comment below!
I can use all the help I can get. 🙂

10 Comments on “October Challenge!

  1. This sounds like an awesome challenge!! We normally eat out about once a week. It used to be a lot more until we had kids haha! I think the best tip is to just be prepared, which it seems like you are! Good luck, can’t wait to follow along!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I’m pretty excited about it. I suspect you’re right that the key is to be prepared and plan ahead. I’m hoping it’ll be a good chance to learn some new strategies, and probably also some good crockpot recipes!

  2. What a great idea! We have been cutting back on eating out, as well. Whenever I make dinner, I try to make enough to freeze, so we can grab it for lunch later in the week/month. If you’re on Pinterest, there are lots of great recipes there! 🙂

    1. Yes, I still need to figure out the freezing thing (how to wrap things, and what things are best to freeze, etc.), since it’s not part of my regular cooking routine! But I bet it could save a lot of time. On days when I’m gone 12 hours and get home at 7 or 8pm, I’m usually waaaay too hungry to think about cooking something new.
      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. I’m similar to you in the sense that I always have breakfast at home and I always pack a lunch. I can’t remember the last time I paid for lunch at the cafeteria or went to a restaurant (okay actually I met up with an old coworker about 6 months ago…but still not the norm). I eat dinner home quite a bit but it’s SO much easier to pick up food, especially if it’s cheap. Tonight we got Dominos and it was only $8 – will provide FOUR meals (2 tonight and 2 lunches). I like your challenge and honestly it would be a lot healthier to make every meal yourself. Best of luck!

    1. Aha — your pizza strategy is a pretty impressive takeout hack! I like it. It definitely sounds like a notable exception to the “takeout = expensive” rule. After my month of strictly cooking, I may be interested in trying something like this to see how it goes…the only problem is that I might accidentally eat the entire pizza in one sitting, haha.
      Thanks for commenting!

  4. I’ve put myself on a $50.00 budget after I tracked spending $213.00 a month on fast food and $325.00 on groceries. I’d be interested in participating in this challenge. I’m anxious to see how you do!

    1. Hi Shirria! Feel free to join in! It’s totally possible that I might continue it beyond this month… 🙂 Isn’t it amazing how much these expenses can add up? It totally blew my mind the first month I started tracking my spending.
      Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to let me know if you do try the challenge!

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