budgeting, calculations, food, October Challenge

October Challenge: Week Two Completed!

Week Two!

I’m proud to announce that I’m halfway through my October Challenge to not buy any restaurant food or takeout, and so far so good! Here’s a rundown of what I did for dinners and weekend meals this past week, as these are the times I would typically resort to takeout:

10/9 (Friday) : Ran home after work and ate dinner at record speed, then rushed to a poker game at a friend’s house (where, ok, I ended up having pizza and beer as a second dinner).

10/10 (Saturday): Packed a lunch and snacks to take in the car on the way to New Hampshire to visit my dad. Bought groceries at a farmstand and had a delicious home-cooked dinner at my dad’s house.

10/11 (Sunday): Had brunch at my dad’s, made myself a peanut butter sandwich at his house and brought it with me on the road, went apple picking in a local orchard and ate a couple of those apples as a snack, then had a late dinner in my apartment after driving back to Boston. Since I was very hungry by that time and hadn’t planned anything specific for dinner, I invented a delicious new recipe entitled “Chickpeas, Cashews, Currants, and Steamed Parsnips and Carrots in a Bowl, with Salt”. (I’ll leave it to you to guess what’s in it!)

apple tree
Apple-picking in NH, in the next town over from where I grew up!

10/12 (Monday): Packed two lunches and a bunch of snacks to work, and went straight to a free exercise class at my friend’s gym afterwards. I was so hungry after the class that I went home and ate everything I could find in my refrigerator, which wasn’t much (eggs, hummus, a tortilla, and some random vegetables).

10/13 (Tuesday): Had salmon for dinner, along with stir-fried vegetables and bread that I found in the freezer and defrosted.

10/14 (Wednesday): Skipped dinner because I had had a huge lunch and wasn’t hungry.

10/15 (Thursday): Had a friend over for dinner. I made a butternut squash, kale, quinoa, and feta salad, and she brought bread and cheese and wine and olives. I really want to host dinners at my place more often, as this was a lot of fun, not to mention delicious.

Ok, enough about food. Let’s look at the numbers. The main reason I’m doing this challenge is for data collection purposes. I’ve been tracking my spending religiously since January, so I know what I normally spend on restaurant food and takeout, but what I don’t know yet is how much money I would save in an average month if I avoided those categories of food altogether and bought groceries instead. Groceries are generally cheaper than takeout, but they are not free. So the only way to answer the question of how much it will save me to avoid restaurant food is to do it for a month and collect and analyze the data.

So first, let’s look at September’s totals for food (don’t judge me too harshly!):

Just-me Groceries: $284.11
Social Groceries: $13.41
Just-me Restaurants/Takeout: $97.78
Social Restaurants/Takeout: $169.79

Ack! This is real, folks. $565.09 per month works out to $18.84 per day. In case the categories aren’t self-explanatory, “Just-me” means that I bought it on my own, and “Social” means I bought it for a meal with other people (so, Social Groceries is food that I bought for the purpose of making a meal for or with friends, plus anything I bought to take to dinner at someone else’s house, like wine, bread, etc.)

Now, let’s see where I am for October thus far:

Just-me Groceries: $161.61
Social Groceries: $84.71
Just-me Restaurants/Takeout: $1.25*
Social Restaurants/Takeout: $0.00

To be honest, this is not nearly as low as I had hoped: it’s still $16.50 per day. In my defense, a lot of these groceries went towards generally stocking my pantry, which had been running very, very low. Among other things, I stocked up on rice, beans, quinoa, frozen salmon, and a LOT of winter squash (now cut up and frozen). I also did a fair amount of social eating at my house and at others’ houses. Still, the total seems really high.

But you know what? Change begins with awareness. Instead of feeling regretful about spending so much money on food, I can use this awareness to change my spending from this point onward. If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know what needs to change.

Oh, did I mention that I’m currently splitting a CSA with some friends? This accounts for $27.75 of my grocery bill this month. Here’s what I got in yesterday’s CSA:

Lettuce, escarole, turnip, potatoes, pepper, carrots, leek, cabbage, and kabocha squash. Not a bad week!

We’ll see how the rest of the month pans out. Tomorrow I’m headed to Arizona for a conference (nothing whatsoever to do with this blog), which I’ll be at for five days, so it will be interesting to see how I navigate the challenge in that context.

If you want to see how I did during Week 1, you can read about it here.

*The $1.25 was for a huge apple at a convenience store.
Not really takeout, but not really groceries either. :/

Have thoughts or suggestions for me? I’d love to hear them!
Feel free to leave a comment below.

2 Comments on “October Challenge: Week Two Completed!

  1. Nice improvement over last month so far! Personally I’d count the apple as a grocery item because it’s real food. I hope that your conference went smoothly. I look forward to reading about how you handled it. We generally do small grocery shopping trips every day while traveling whether for pleasure or conferences. The first one we’ll pick up a loaf of bread, peanut butter & jelly so we know we’ve got something that we and the kids will eat on hand at all times. Saves us from the price of going out to eat a lot while traveling. We have a family of 5, one being a teenage boy, so going out to eat is never cheap.

    1. Thanks, Amy! Traveling is so tough, isn’t it? I like the idea of PBJ as a backup since it doesn’t really need to be refrigerated — I did not think of that but will have to next time! Stay tuned for Week Three/conference updates in a couple of days… 🙂
      Thanks for commenting!

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