budgeting, food, good ideas, October Challenge, small potatoes

October Challenge: Week One Completed!

Week One!

Ok, so the first week of my October Challenge to purchase zero restaurant food or takeout is behind me, and I’m happy to report that I’m on track! I’ve definitely had to do a lot more meal-planning than usual, but so far I’ve been able to make everything work without too much trouble.

As I mentioned in the initial October Challenge post, I always eat breakfast at home anyway. I’m a little obsessive about having the same thing for breakfast every day, because I invented this breakfast a long time ago and I love it so much.

It’s coffee, plus overnight oats using the following ingredients: oats (obviously), 2 pieces of dried fruit (apricots or prunes), flaxseed, almond milk, blackstrap molasses, some sort of nuts or seeds (usually pumpkin seeds or peanut butter), and cinnamon (see photo). Seriously, I have this every single day. If it’s morning, then I am eating this. It’s my primary motivation to get out of bed.


There are a lot of reasons to get out of bed in the mornings, but this one is especially compelling.

As for lunches, I’ve have a fairly good routine down here too for a while. I have these great BPA-free leakproof tupperwares that I got off of Amazon, and I fill one up most days with a combination of rice/quinoa, some kind of beans, some kind of nuts/seeds, several kinds of cut-up vegetables, olive oil, and salt. It’s basically a highly flexible salad/meal. It’s a little different every day depending on what I have on hand, but it’s always delicious. Sometimes I add other things too if I have them, like cheese, hummus, currants, avocado, or eggs. I always bring snacks too, since I typically get hungry every few hours. Here is what I packed on Wednesday this week: a quinoa-bean-hummus-celery-carrot-onion-almond salad, a tortilla to eat it with, and a Kind bar and a pear as snacks (the green tea was just because I needed to replenish my green tea stash at work):


packed lunch
packed lunches: time-consuming, but so worth it

Dinner, however, was a challenge. I had gotten into the habit over the past year of grabbing takeout on the way home most evenings, and even going to restaurants with friends a couple times a week. Same goes for weekend lunches. None of this is allowed during the October Challenge, so below is a rundown of what I did instead (you will notice that I cook a lot of stirfry, by which I mean I put a bunch of stuff in a pan with olive oil and cook it until it seems like it’s hot and/or done — luckily this is kind of a foolproof method, so it usually tastes great no matter what random ingredients I happen to throw in!).

10/1 (Thursday)     Mooched dinner from a lecture reception

10/2 (Friday)            Cooked stirfry at home for dinner

10/3 (Saturday)      Cooked stirfry at home for lunch, made curry for dinner at a friend’s apartment

10/4 (Sunday)          Cooked stirfry at home for lunch, fried eggs for dinner

10/5 (Monday)        Cooked eggs and yams at home after yoga in the evening, by which point I had become  extremely hangry (note to self: pack more snacks if I’m not going straight home)

10/6 (Tuesday)        Went to a friend’s apartment for a home-cooked dinner

10/7 (Wednesday) Cooked fish and root vegetables for dinner at home (had to put frozen fish in the refrigerator 24 hours ahead of time to thaw; I’m impressed with myself that I actually remembered to do this)

How did I not use this contraption for two years?

10/8 (Thursday)     Successfully used a crockpot to cook dinner all day while I was at work! What an amazing invention! I was a little afraid my house might burn down while I wasn’t there, but it totally didn’t. Here is the lentil and yam stew that I made:

Ok, now that I’ve talked about the good stuff, it’s time for two (possible) confessions from this past week, which you can read and judge for yourself:

  1. On October 1st, just as I was in the midst of deciding to do this challenge, I went out to coffee with a work colleague, not for fun but because I needed to pick her brain about applying for jobs and so had asked her to get coffee for this specific reason several days previously. I think this is still okay because a) I was following through on something I had already planned with someone before I decided to do the challenge, b) it was sort of like a work meeting, and c) it turned out to be my colleague’s birthday that day, so I could also consider it a gift/birthday outing!
  2. On Wednesday I forgot to pack an afternoon snack and so ended up buying an apple at a convenience store. I think this is okay because it wasn’t takeout or ready-made food. That being said, I’m not planning to make a habit of it because convenience stores are expensive.

That’s all for now–I’ll post another update next week, if not before!


I’m still very open to advice/suggestions, so feel free to share them below! Also crockpot recipes!

5 Comments on “October Challenge: Week One Completed!

  1. This post made me wonder, what if we tried to find free food more? I wish there was an app that could match up locals with leftovers from meetings, events and restaurants with people who needed them. I know this exists for some food banks thankfully, as should food that can keep long enough and be efficiently transported, but lots of small amounts gets wasted. At a meeting this week there were probably 30 delicious, high quality sandwiches left over at the end. I guess this app idea is impossible because of laws to protect people from spoiled and contaminated food.

    Not sure if you like it, but maybe think about cheap cereal for snack? It doesn’t go bad, it’s cheaper than bars and it’s not messy to eat.

  2. Yes, that would be amazing! I guess that’s kind of like what freegans do, right? Except maybe without an app.

    There are a lot of food rescue programs in Boston, but they mostly collect unsold bread and vegetables from supermarkets at the end of the day. Like you say, they don’t take food that could be contaminated. It’s too bad because I too see free leftover food a lot, especially at universities, and in a lot of cases it’s at a public event so anyone could walk in off the street and have as much as they want, if only they knew it was there.

    Hmmm, I’m less into cereal, but I think I might start bringing plain nuts as a snack instead of the Kind bars (even though I get the Kind bars with my Amazon points so it feels like they’re free!).

  3. Hey Sarah, this is a fantastic challenge! I find that eating out and takeouts make up a huge portion of my expense… a challenge like this might really help me out.

    Hmm, that’s an idea.. haha!

    1. Thanks, Jaymee! I really can’t believe how quickly I’ve been able to adjust (at least so far). I’m crossing my fingers that some of the habits I’m working on developing (like using the crockpot) will stick around beyond the end of the month. If you ever do decide to do a challenge like this, let me know!

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