Although I did not specifically participate in the No Eating Out Challenge this November, I had actually created my own personal no-restaurants challenge earlier this year. In January, I had just started my first job after graduating from college and was enjoying the independence of living completely on my own without my parents’ help.
After a few months, I quickly realized that dining out several times a week on my entry-level salary was simply not feasible. An avid fan of restaurants, I wondered to myself if it would be possible to go an entire month without once eating out. So I tried it, and I was surprisingly successful. However, just because the month was over, I didn’t want to revert back to my old habits. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the No Eating Out Challenge that have continued to instruct me as I navigate the world of living frugally.
1. If you eat out less often and consider restaurant dining a treat, you’ll enjoy the experience more. I never realized this before I completed the challenge, but restaurant eating had become something of a reflex action for me. As such, I found that I no longer truly enjoyed the experience; even though I was eating out several times a week, I was going to the same restaurants, ordering the same food, and just eating without thinking. However, after completing the challenge, I ate out maybe once a week, and because it had become a less frequent occurrence, I made sure to explore new places, try new things, and just savor the whole process more.
2. Having dinner at home is more effective in strengthening personal relationships than eating out. While dining out with friends and family can be a great way to socialize, it doesn’t last as long as having dinner at home. In Europe, where service is pretty slow and there’s an emphasis on multiple courses, the dining out experience is by its very nature more social, but not so in America. When you make dinner at home, however, the atmosphere is more relaxed, homey, and better suited to conversation.
3. Knowing exactly what you’re putting into your mouth by dining at home is a great feeling. Although I never thought about it before limiting my dining out experiences, when you eat out, you have so little knowledge and control of what you’re putting in your mouth. Most restaurant meals have tons of added salt and God knows what else. When you make dinner at home, you have a more intimate experience with your food because you purchased the ingredients, prepared them, and cooked them. Seen in this light, eating at home forces you to be more conscious about what foods you select, and you end up just appreciating food more.
While the No Eating Out Challenge may be tough, hang in there. When it’s over with, hopefully you will realize some of the things I did. It will be an experience that not only ends up saving you more money, but it makes you think more deeply about your food, your social ties, and your body.
This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of top online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.