Big news: I’m on Day 104 of my No Takeout Challenge! Subtract my five “slip-ups” and you have 99 days of my life without takeout! I started this challenge with the goal to eliminate takeout and delivery food for 30 days. Even though I craved some specific foods during the first 30 days, it wasn’t actually that difficult. So, I kept going. I was more surprised than anyone — I never complete food-related challenges. This one has been different for so many reasons. As I continue to weave this no-takeout habit into my lifestyle, I am learning more and more about myself.
1. I’m reaffirming my love of cooking.
I strongly stand by the principles of “Treat Yo’ Self,” but now I know that treating myself doesn’t mean letting someone else do the cooking. This challenge got me back in the kitchen, cooking at least one meal, seven days per week. I found some new staples, like eggs with veggies and salsa, or brown rice topped with sweet potatoes and salsa (are you sensing a theme here?).
Bonus tip: salad kits have become my best friend. It turns out they are super convenient, delicious, and economical options for dinner.
2. I now know which purchases are essential vs. extraneous.
I can’t believe I wasn’t noticing the chaos in my spending prior to this challenge. I listed out every single purchase, tracking my spending to the penny, and yet I didn’t notice the random unnecessary purchases I made on a weekly, if not daily, basis. This challenge has slowed down my spending markedly and thus has me really looking at each purchase with a critical eye.
Now, my budget is more manageable and significantly less stressful. It turns out that all I needed to do was simplify everything a little bit to understand how it feels to live within my means. Over the last few months, my budget has evolved into a well-oiled machine. I’m still working with my same customized tracking spreadsheet, but now I’ve added concrete, reachable goals and savings accounts to support each specific goal. I’ve even increased my contribution to my Employee 403B. Who am I?!
3. I’ve made friends on this journey to cut back on how much I spend on takeout.
Through this challenge, I’ve made new connections and tried new things and my life is truly more fulfilling. I’ve connected with old friends who want to test out their own No Takeout Challenge, and I’ve made some new friends through social media. Who knew it was more than a mind-numbing time sucker? I’ve even found some success in sharing my story with other bloggers and publishing some pieces related to my budget ideas. The last 104 days have really helped me turn a new leaf.
4. I came to an important realization through this process.
It’s something I’m completely uncomfortable talking about. So, I’m innocently burying my confession deep within this blog post, but bravely admitting something that I have had trouble expressing for years: I have an eating disorder, and a common one at that. Becoming more in tune with my diet (and my budget) has opened my eyes to a problem I knew was persisting, but I never let myself face. I’m hoping to share more about my journey to correct my disordered eating. Later this month, I’m going to start meeting with an Intuitive Eating group, seeing a nutritionist, and going to a counselor who specializes in helping people work through food-related issues.
In the meantime, I’m learning to be much kinder to myself. I don’t have the constant guilt associated with ordering takeout and eating a sad meal alone in my apartment. And when I feel a little out of control in the eating department, I slow down enough to do something good for myself. I go on a walk, read a book, call a friend. In all my efforts to be kind to my budget, it’s sometimes the hardest to just be kind to my body. But I’m working on it.
Needless to say, this has been an extremely eye-opening and mind-opening experience. I’m ready for my next budget challenge and it’s going to be a big one! Can any of you guess what I’m going to eliminate next?
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.
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