Cash Fasting Round 6: No Restaurants for One Month

It’s here, finally! Another Cash Fasting Challenge! Thank. Goodness. The last challenge I did was four months ago (whoops) when I didn’t spend any money on food for a whole week. I don’t know what it is about food, but it’s always the category that I end up targeting for these challenges, probably because it’s got the most potential for cost reduction. This time, I did a one-month fast on all restaurant expenses.

This means that for the whole month of September, no restaurant swiped my credit card or took my cash. I’ll be honest, when I decided to do this challenge, I didn’t think it’d be that bad. Personally, I don’t consider myself to be someone that eats out a lot (anymore). No restaurants for one month, no problem. However, if I add up all the coffee shop purchases, cafe moments, and impromptu lunch/dinner opportunities, I realized that I go out more than I thought!

For my longest challenge ever, I took things one week at a time. Every weekend, I’d meal prep enough to get me through the week lunch-wise, and made sure to eat a filling breakfast every morning. I’ve found that when I sit down and have a proper breakfast, I’m less likely to snack or crave more food during the day.

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Week 1

Easy peasy. With Ian still on his three-week PCT hiking trip, I stayed strong all week long. All it took was some good ole weekend meal prep (Japanese curry and eggplant pasta); I cooked enough food to easily last a week. Over Labor Day, I hosted a ‘picnic’ at my place. Ian and I have been hosting regular potluck nights, so the scale of cooking didn’t bother me.

There were a few close calls. A friend of mine from college who I don’t frequently see came to town for some interviews, and we went out a few times. Lucky for me, she had a per diem which she was more than happy to share with me. Huzzah for freebies!

Week 2

With Ian back, things got a little more difficult. Meal prepping for two requires more cooking. We finished all our prepared meals by Wednesday, so there was a little scrambling to get through the rest of the week. As long as there’s food in the fridge, I try not to go grocery shopping. The US leads the globe in food waste, and I have a younger sister who constantly tells me to live a more sustainable lifestyle. As my mother likes to say, “a clean fridge is a happy fridge”.

On Thursday, we left for Boston. We spent the weekend up there for Ian’s cousin’s wedding, which was a blast. Technically, only two meals were covered under wedding-related activities. As for the rest? Ian’s parents covered the costs, keeping this cash fast alive another week. Two weeks with back-to-back freebies? Definitely not realistic, I know.

Week 3

Smooth sailing! Lots of meal prepping and a large dinner cooked by Ian’s parents at the beginning of the week made this week easier than most. Over the weekend, I had a dance showcase which included dinner in the ticket price, and a 10K which included post-race pancakes in the registration cost. I don’t count those meals as dining out, so I’m in the clear!

Week 4 (The Final Stretch!)

Ian meal prepped for this last week, making bulgur wheat (it’s kind of like porridge? It’s supposed to be good for you, but if you buy it go for a small pack first like the one linked – the texture isn’t for everyone), roasted veggies, and chicken. That lasted until Thursday, causing Ian to have the realization that yes, we need to prep two different dishes to get us through a full week of meals.

So, on Thursday night, I went to the grocery store then made a giant batch of pasta🍝. I don’t mind cooking during the week, as I usually get home from work first and have more time in the evenings.

Over the weekend, Ian and I went to a Shakespeare-themed pub crawl. As a ticket-based event, I don’t count the cost of the crawl towards my dining expenses. On our way home, however, we happened to walk down a street dubbed “restaurant row”. Although I wanted to go home (after all, it was the final day of this challenge!), a sushi place caught Ian’s eye and we ended up stopping in for dinner. Ian covered the cost, which isn’t out of the norm for us. Sometimes we split, sometimes he pays, and sometimes I pay. Because of this, I’m not torn up about getting treated to a meal.

The Final Tally

Times this month I spent money at a restaurant/cafe/food truck: 0

The number of times I was treated to a meal: 7

“Cheats” used that don’t reaaallllly count against me but definitely were cutting it close: 1

How much I spent on food this month: $305 🎉

That’s it! That’s the whole challenge! Doesn’t seem so bad, right?

This is the longest challenge I’ve ever done, and also the most successful

There were a few areas that I could’ve improved in. Over the course of the month, I got quite a few freebies that wouldn’t have happened in a normal month. A friend treated me to Xi’an Famous Foods (soooooo good) and food truck halal, Ian’s parents treated me to a few meals in Boston, and Ian even sort of enabled me one time by buying ice cream for himself and letting me eat a full quarter of it.

As for my “cheat”, the day we left for Boston, I went to a hot bar at a grocery store near work for lunch. I didn’t want to worry about leaving Tupperware at work for four days. It was my first experience buying such a meal at a grocery store, and definitely more expensive than I would’ve liked (but still cheaper than going to Chop’t or Union Fare, my typical lunch options). It wasn’t ideal, but an option I left as a last resort for when I didn’t have lunch prepared.

Would I recommend this challenge to you?

Yes! As Cash Fasting Challenges go, I really liked doing this one because it made a serious impact on my spending and forced me to focus on my eating habits. Eating out is one of the easiest and more convenient ways to eat food that isn’t good for you. Don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty of junk food, but all of it was bought at the grocery store. After all, if I’m eating crap, the least I can do is buy it at a relatively low cost😂.

The secret to this challenge is the attention to meal prep. Meal prepping is really the only way you can avoid dining out for an entire month because it requires you to never be in a food-less situation at work.

The best part about this is how much I reduced my food costs. $305 covered a whole month of eating for me, plus two weeks of grocery expenses for Ian. My normal food spending is around $500, so this is a HUGE improvement.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go meet up with all the friends I pushed back dinner plans with, haha (I kid, I kid). Have you tried this challenge or something similar before? How did it go for you? Is anyone else willing to try it? 😜


    1. Author

      With much of the trail in Oregon in flames, Ian didn’t spend as much time in the wilderness as he would’ve liked. He did spend a lot of time in Portland though, and took quite a few day hikes (and loved every bit of it).

    1. Author

      I don’t really follow recipes 😅
      For Japanese curry, you really can’t go wrong with the recipe on the back of the curry boxes. As for eggplant pasta, the secret is cooking the eggplant enough so the skin isn’t too chewy. That took me wayyyyy too long to figure out, haha.

  1. Congratulations on a successful challenge! I don’t eat out very often in my normal day-to-day life, so it probably wouldn’t be very hard at all to go cold turkey for me haha. But then again, it’s more shopping than food that’s my spending problem and I want to live my life so a total ban on meals out is probably something I won’t do.

    Meal prepping is a huge thing. And just on my own I need to make two different things to get me through the week (plus I sometimes like switching up what I eat for lunch and dinner), so I’m impressed that the two of you managed to do it with just two recipes!

    1. Author

      That’s just for lunch and the occasional dinner. Ian gets a free lunch from work once a week, and I can usually swing a couple free lunches over the course of a month via work as well. For dinner, we usually keep it light and simple. A quick salad or a veggie patty (that’s been a recent thing 😂) does the trick. If Ian comes home late from work or an event, he’ll often skip dinner entirely. It’s not ideal, but hey, it reduces food costs.

      1. Ah, okay. That makes a lot of sense that it’s only lunch! Haha, I sometimes find myself making a smoothie as a stand-in for a meal if I’m not too hungry or am feeling too lazy to make a real meal, but I’m also very aware when I do it that it’ll help lower my grocery bill so it’s a win anyway! Plus it’s healthier than me making nachos, which is the other non-meal alternative…

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