I’m on Day 53 of my personal challenge to completely eliminate takeout and delivery food. I can honestly say that this is the easiest and most natural challenge I’ve ever engaged in. When I made the decision, I thought it would be impossible, considering how often I ate my meals from a to-go box. But it’s going so well! I spend way less time feeling guilty about eating expensive and unhealthy takeout and way more time creatively rearranging all my favorite ingredients into meals.
I’m continuing to pick up a lot of good habits throughout this journey. It’s also really difficult to feel like I’m working toward my health goals if I’m not incorporating regular exercise. I’m in no way the picture of health, but I have gathered a few methods along this journey and I feel like I’ve found ways to make exercise feel more effortless.
Here are some of my suggestions that may lead you to choose a healthier lifestyle, both through what you eat and how you stay active:
1. Do yourself a favor and buy some prepared foods. There are about 1,000 fresh convenience foods in most grocery stores. Some of my favorites are shelled (and salted) edamame, spiralized veggies, and ready-to-boil ravioli. Some people like to buy a roasted chicken to cut up for salads or pre-made tuna salad from the deli. In any case, treat yourself to a few conveniently pre-chopped ingredients or some open-and-mix salad kits. You’re paying a bit of an upcharge for the convenience, but it’s still significantly cheaper than getting takeout.
2. Give in to one of the many social media advertisements you see for those meal subscription boxes. I’ve tried a bunch of them: Blue Apron, Green Chef, Naturebox, Hello Fresh. Hungryroot is my current favorite, though they’re all delicious in different ways. I highly recommend testing them all at least once. You can always get a very inexpensive first box, then decide if you want to keep it up. Just don’t forget to pause your deliveries while you’re still making up your mind!
3. Eat a meal before every trip to the grocery store. This simple trick is a very common life hack for people like me who go to the grocery store on an empty stomach and end up buying 19 different bags of chips. It’s not a good look for my waistline or my budget. But when I eat some scrambled eggs or a can of soup before I hit the store, I effortlessly make better decisions. Bonus tip: bring a snack in the car with you, too.
4. Place a personal ban on certain unhealthy purchases. For me, it was a no-brainer to get rid of takeout and delivery. It’s a waste of money for me, since I have the time and absolutely love cooking. And even on the days that I don’t really have time, I can still make time to pop in the grocery store and pick up ingredients for a fast salad or eat some canned soup. I also recently made the decision to stop buying candy, unhealthy snacks, and frozen pizza. This way, the only times I can eat the “bad stuff” is when I’m out with friends. That’s the time I want to eat it most anyway, so I think it’ll be a rewarding practice.
5. Set aside two hours for grocery trips (if not more). That way, you can really take your time at the grocery store and make great decisions. Then you can get to meal-prepping right when you get home. I tend to use up all my veggies if I chop them all up for snacks or immediately cook them into some sort of simple crockpot recipe. Check out my No Takeout story on Instagram for great ideas on simple meals made with all healthy ingredients (and also some images of the many different frozen pizzas I’ve eaten in the last 53 days).
6. Create a menu for all the possible combinations of healthy ingredients you have at home. This was one of the best things I started doing when I first stopped eating takeout and delivery. It felt like I was tricking myself into thinking I had some of the best food in town sitting in my own fridge! I would go grocery shopping, meal prep, then write down all the delicious meals or snacks I had at home as a reminder that I didn’t really need any restaurant food to enjoy a yummy meal at home.
7. Block doorways with workout gear. This way, you can’t walk around your home without having to literally step over your running shoes. It’s silly, but when I set my running clothes out at the front door of my apartment, I pick them up on my way in after work, and I’m much more likely to actually work out.
8. Become a walking commuter, no matter the weather. Unless your town is experiencing a monsoon or a blizzard, it’s so easy to become a walking commuter (depending on where you live, of course). Most days, you’re not going to break a sweat, but it’s a great way to incorporate some “me time” and light exercise. And if you live too far away from work to actually walk in, consider parking your car farther away from your office, walking to all your in-town meetings, or spending 15 minutes of your lunch break walking around town.
9. Move around for 10 minutes after each meal. Even if you don’t exercise daily, make sure you get up after each meal to get your body moving. Go for a walk, do some light stretches, walk up and down your stairs a few times. It’s a great way to get rid of the overstuffed feeling.
10. Have a TV show or podcast that you only watch if you’re working out. Make it a good one, and you might even start to look forward to your workout!
Jane B. Diener is a freelance writer, foodie, and budget enthusiast based in Providence, Rhode Island. She has a big girl job working in higher education, molding young minds. You can find Jane on Twitter, Instagram, and her food blog.
Image via Unsplash