Thursday, 8 January 2015

January No Eating Out Challenge

I've mentioned a few times that if we don't stick to our budget then we'll just eat out all the time.  It's our weakness.  We always come back to eating out.

I know cooking everything from scratch is cheaper and healthier and I'm jealous of you readers that can git 'er done day after day.

Our commitment to home cooking seems to be tested over the summer when we travel more and then fall apart in the fall. 

Remember my post 3 Excuses for Fast Food That Don't Work Here Anymore?  That was my attempt to get through the fall fast food frenzy around here.  If you haven't read it before, the conclusion was that it was still okay for us to eat out, you know, sometimes.  I'm weak.

We picked up on this pattern a few years ago and started the:

January no Eating Out Challenge.


For one month we challenged ourselves to only eat food from our grocery shopping.  No more coffees on the way to work.  No more picking up a lunch, even of you forget yours.  No more take out or restaurants. 

We needed a shock to our system to reverse all the bad habits we'd picked up.  We figured a month was long enough to wake us up and get us back in the kitchen.

That first year was a bit disorienting for the first week or two.  I had to stop myself from reaching for chocolate bars in checkout lines.  I had to squash my wicked cravings for frozen yoghurt when out shopping with friends.

The biggest change was that instead of the "what's for dinner" conversation followed by subtle hints that we could get take out, we just made dinner.  There was no other option.

After that first month we felt healthier, more culinary (ya, I'm going with that adjective) and proud.  We did start eating out again, but not with the same vigour as before.

Last year we wanted to see if we could do the challenge for longer than one month and I think we made it to March.


2015 Progress


This year we've already made an exception.  The Little Miss and I had lunch at IKEA.  Usually play groups are hosted at a kid's house, but this week the mom suggested IKEA instead of their place because they were doing some renos.

Our play group is a little sacred around here.  We don't do daycare or nursery school, so it's our main source of socialization for the Little Miss.  As such, it gets lots of exceptions from our self-imposed challenges.  I've even been known to up the thermostat when we host.

So we made an exception for play group, but we're still committed to finishing out the month eating at home.


What Helps us Eat at Home?


1. Meal Planning

Our biggest weapon for eating at home is our meal plan.  I'm a huge believer in the power of meal plans.  So the fact that I didn't make one for December shows just how many bad habits we'd picked up.

Here's a photo of our Meal Plan for the month.  It's not a fancy system, I just write on a calendar and stick it on the fridge.  For our first month back eating at home I've included lots of fast food style meals to ease us back into things.  Feel free to judge us.


We're looking forward to figuring out how to make shawarmas at home.  Hopefully they turn out as well as Vietnamese Vermicelli did.  That's one of our favourite nights now.


2. French Fries

Our Little Miss has developed quite the taste for french fries and so the Tfal Actifry we got for Christmas has been serving us well.  Our in-laws had safety concerns with us making french fries in a pan of oil.  Apparently there's a family french fry fire/burn story or something.

I don't think we'd ever fork out the money to buy it ourselves, but it's been a fun gift to receive.  Plus, having fries with anything makes it feel like I'm eating out.


3. Coffee

We have all the tools to make our own coffee at home: whole beans; a burr grinder; a coffee maker; a french press; a stove top espresso maker; frothing wands; and, even some instant varieties of coffee/decaf/espresso for when we want a cup of coffee without any hassle.  Plus travel mugs of course.  The Mr. also has a setup at work to make his own coffee.  We have no excuses.


Conclusion:


The New Year is a great time to break the bad habits you've accumulated over the year and start fresh.  For us it means getting back into the good habits that keep us eating cheaper and healthier at home. 


What About You?


Do you find it hard to cook at home?

Are you trying to break any bad habits now that we're in the New Year?

Any tips for the best french fries at home?


P.S. Here's a Quick Tfal Actifry Review:


The Tfal Actifry is basically a big popcorn hot air popper but with a paddle to mix things up as it's cooking.

You only need 1 tbsp of oil to make fries for four.  So, I figure our fries now have even less fat than our mashed potatoes since I usually put a scoop of butter/margarine in when I mash and then butter/margarine on top when I fork little rows into the potatoes.  Not too shabby for fries.

We've only used it for fries so far.  They've come out pretty good even though I suspect I'm not leaving them in long enough.  They're no McDonald's fries, but to be fair I suspect I'm not giving it my 100%.  I'm not leaving them in long enough, I only rinse not soak the cut potatoes, and we've been using yellow flesh potatoes because that's what we had.  So, it's not really a fair comparison.

Honestly, I still am really enjoying having fries at home without standing at the stove for what seemed like forever.  The Little Miss has been loving it too.

I'm excited to see how it work on other foods too.  Notice there are chicken wings on the meal plan?  We're going to try to make them with the Actifry.  I'm also excited to try it for fried rice because I always put too much in our frying pan and get the rice all over the stove when I try to stir it.  I thought we needed a wok, but maybe we've needed the Tfal Actifry all along.

Cons are that the machine is pretty big and it's pretty pricey.  We probably would never have bought one for ourselves.  But I'm super happy to have received one as a gift.

Want to know more?  Check out the T-fal ActiFry on Amazon, there are plenty more reviews.  It seems like it can actually be shipped to Canada.  I did find one on Amazon.CA though for my fellow Canadians.  (Those are both referral links.  If you click a link and make a purchase, I'll get a small cut.  Thanks!)


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