Fast food is one of my guilty pleasures. I love eating fast food, especially on a busy night when I’m pressed for time and have no energy.
But, during our debt payoff journey, we had to cut back on how much we ate out if we were going to be able to get out of debt for good.
And when we got out of debt in 2018, eating out was just an occasional occurrence.
Fast forward about a year, and our eating out habit started to make it’s way into our normal routine again.
And instead of being able to save all the money that was freed up from being debt-free, we were wasting it on easy junk food on a regular basis. And I didn’t like where we were headed.
So, I was ready to make a change to our fast food habit once and for all.
We wouldn’t go cold turkey, we’d still eat out once a week, but we’d cut back a ton.
As with any habit change in my house, I had a talk with my husband about it. Together, we decided that we need to put a limit on how much we ate out. It was harmful to our physical well-being as much as it was to our financial health.
So, we came up with a 3-month fast food ban, with just one day a week of eating fast food.
Seems a bit drastic, I know.
But, in good Gina form, I needed to make it hurt a little to see how much we can take.
I set it for a total of 3 months of no fast food, so that we can have a starting point to review our monthly and quarterly results. I’d be able to have more data and more to measure with our health, our savings, and whether it became a habit or not.
No surprise here. With any habit change, you should expect to crave your comfort zone, because it’s, well…comfortable and easy. So, we knew our cravings for fast food would be strong at the beginning and we also knew that they would probably subside as the days went by.
Savings In Our Budget
We knew we’d save a lot of money with this change. Fast food, although it seems cheap, can really add up with multiple visits throughout the week.
Our expectation, and hope, was that we’d be able to see more saved each month by eating in more often.
More time in the kitchen
I figured that I’d be spending so much more time in the kitchen. I was NOT looking forward to that. Being a busy mom working full-time and running a full-time business while taking care of my family, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time to waste in the kitchen.
So, I started batch cooking, which meant that I could make a few meals ahead of time that I just needed to reheat the day I needed them. Here’s the checklist I used and simple meal planner, which has been my go-to place to jot down my week’s meals and be able to plan ahead.
This helped me save time (and stress) when it came dinner time. I was able to pull out a meal in minutes and just pop it in the oven to heat through while I made a side dish. In 20-25 minutes, dinner was ready and I loved it.
Batch cooking made clean up easier too.
No Fast Food work lunches
I love having lunch with my work friends, but for this habit to really work, I had to ban eating out at work. Instead, I planned to bring my own lunch instead of buying fast food at our gatherings.
I expect to hear a bit of complaining since they also crave certain foods. My 13 year old tend loves her fried chicken, so I plan to learn a recipe that mimics her favorite fast food restaurant.
After One Week of Our Fast Food Ban, Here’s How It’s Looking
Cravings were not as expected
Surprisingly, our fast food cravings weren’t that much of struggle. Perhaps, it’s because for months now we’ve eaten so much fast food that we were simply bored of it anyway? Or maybe we were just really motivated that it didn’t wear off yet? I’m not sure, but I can tell you, it wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. So far so good.
Creative Dinner Choices
or two nights, we re-created “fast food” type dinners at home. We made burgers and fries one night and sushi (not really fast food, but a food we eat often) on the other night.
I think this really helped us feel like we were enjoying some of our favorites without spending money. It was the best of both worlds. We ate what we liked and saved money by making it at home.
No Fast Food Meant More Money Saved
We saw a significant drop in spending that week. It was awesome to see how much we could save in month, 3 months, or even a year. We could literally use this money for the things that matter to us, like our bi-annual family vacations.
More time in the kitchen
I did spend a little more time in the kitchen. But, I got the kids involved and it quickly became family time and it felt a little fun hanging out together, making dinner.
Clean up was a little more than if we had fast food, but it wasn’t too bad. On really busy nights, we used plastic utensils and paper plates, so the clean up was a breeze. On other nights, I just stuck the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
No Fast Food Work Lunches
I successfully brought my lunch to work every day this week. Surprisingly, my friends didn’t mind that I was bringing my own lunch and it actually motivated them to bring theirs as well.
So now, we’re all hanging out, eating our homemade lunch and saving money together. It was empowering!
Kids were on board
The girls were the biggest surprise. I let them know ahead of time of our plan not to eat fast food and they went along without too many complaints, haha. Overall, I think they adjusted quite well.
As a mom, it’s hard making changes like this that make me feel like I’m depriving my kids. But, I’ve realized that I’m not depriving them of anything important. I’mm actually building good habits for them, spending more time with them in the kitchen, and building a great love of cooking together.
I’m teaching them discipline while also showing them that they can still enjoy their meals when they make and eat them at home.
Kids are more resilient and adaptive than we think and this experience proved it even more to me. I kind of wish I had done this challenge sooner.
What I’m Learning from this Experience
With week 1 complete, I feel motivated to keep going. We learned a lot about our expectations this week and I can’t wait to see how much more we get to learn and enjoy.
All in moderation
With any habit changes, the most critical piece of advice I can offer in a new habit like eating at home is do it with moderation. Don’t go so drastic with your expectations and rules. You want to make things easy for you to stay on track. Less barriers means more success and less falling off the wagon.
As you get better and stronger, add more to your challenge until you get it to where you want it to be for your lifestyle.
I hope sharing my experience helps motivate you to eat at home and try something new to save money and afford the things that matter most to you.