Eat in Month – Lessons Learned

Well, it’s finally here. It’s January 31st, which means today is the last day of my Eat in Month Challenge.

For those of you new to the blog or not familiar with it, Eat in Month was a challenge I came up with to help me eat healthier and spend less money on food. All I had to do was not eat out for the entire month of January. I challenged others to join me and had about 20 people who opted in! See list of participants below.


  • Breakfast was the easiest meal to keep. I think breakfast is the meal I eat in by nature more often anyways, plus there are so many great, simple options, like oatmeal and Power Toast.
  • Lunch was pretty easy to keep, especially considering my hectic work schedule. Not being able to leave the desk is conducive to finding something to keep at work handy to eat. I found lunch was easy to eat in as long as I was prepared most days and had backups (frozen meals) for days I wasn’t.
  • Dinner was the most difficult to keep, but not as hard as I expected. When I had the urge to get take-out, I had to try extra-hard to head straight home, but knowing there were easy things to cook made life simpler. Dinner was difficult because it made you avoid common social situations – work dinners, friends getting together at restaurants, people wanting to just grab coffee with you casually.


I didn’t have as many cravings for things I could only get out as I expected:

  • Starbucks & lattes in general
  • Pizza (from our fave, local pizza join)

Entertaining In

If you want to entertain friends or get together with them but you don’t want to eat out, there are plenty of options that are sure to keep your friends happy. Here are some of my personal faves:

What’s your favorite way to entertain in?

Lessons Learned

  • Eating in is easier than you think. If you don’t let yourself make excuses for why you should get take-out and suck it up and go home and cook, you most likely will have a more enjoyable, affordable and healthier meal.
  • Every meal doesn’t have to be fancy. Sometimes a grilled cheese sandwich and soup make for a great dinner – it’s simple and cheap.
  • A well-stocked pantry is essential to staying in. If you feel like getting take-out and have to get groceries to cook something, you’re far less likely to stay in. Alternatively, if you feel like getting take-out but remember you have something you could whip up quickly and affordably at home, you are more likely to just eat in.
  • Having quick meals in your back pocket that you know you can cook up quickly and easily will make you think twice about ordering take-out. When you have recipes you can fall back on, you’re less likely to feel pressure to just eat out.
  • There are some situation, mostly social ones, where eating out is essential. Example #1: Your boss invites you to a group dinner with teammates – it’s a good idea to go to events like these to get to know your co-workers and boss better, get face time, and build relationships with all. I know it sounds cheesy to do team building, but when you have a good social relationship with someone, they’re more likely to help you out at work, too. Example #2: All your friends want to hit up a restaurant in town. Even if you’re trying to eat in, it won’t hurt you to go out once in awhile. There are affordable ways to eat out and there are healthy options, too.

Eating Out Healthy

Though most restaurants tend to serve food on the heavier side, there are options:

  • Avoid foods that sound heavy, i.e. “cream of”, “creamy”, “butter-sage”, “alfredo” – anything cream based is probably not your best bet.
  • Try grilled items.
  • Go for sushi, but don’t get the tempura.
  • Choose the healthy side (steamed veggies vs french fries)
  • Get a salad, but don’t let the toppings and/or salad dressing make your healthy salad worse than the cheeseburger on the menu.
  • Customize your selection – ask for light or no butter, oil. Ask for sauce, dressings, etc. on the side. Some restaurants post their healthy options online along with customizations you can request, so try to do some research in advance. I especially like to do this when I’m traveling for work, so I don’t get the expense-pounds. Great example – I used to hit up Outback when I was traveling for work because I could get the “Grilled Chicken on the Barbie” without butter or oil, steamed veggies (also sans butter) with a side salad with low-fat but delicious Tangy Tomato dressing on the side and a nice hunk of their yummy bread.

Personally, I like to splurge once in awhile, so I’ll get cream based foods, tempura sushi, and french fries. Salads are usually one of my last choices for dinner. But, when I’m trying to eat healthy, I’m use the tips above.

Eating Out Affordably

For the most part, no matter where you go (except for the really fancy places), there will be affordable options:

  • Try getting an appetizer as your entree. Most entrees are so big, they could feed two people anyways.
  • Talk someone into splitting an entree with you. I LOVE to do this because I find most restaurant portions too big anyways and I don’t like leftovers. I also try to convince friends (and sometimes co-workers) to split something with me so I can try more flavors – especially if splitting means you can also get an appetizer and/or dessert.
  • Get the vegetarian dish – these are typically more affordable than the meat ones.
  • Get something you can have for lunch tomorrow, too. If something costs $20 but I can make 2 meals out of it, I rationalize each meal was more like $10 each, which sounds much more affordable. Though I don’t like leftovers much, there are some things I think taste pretty great the next day.


And let’s give a hand to our Eat in Month participants. I know some of you have emailed telling me you didn’t make it the whole month, but who cares?! You tried, even if only for a short time, and I like to think you benefited from even a short time eating in.

Thank you Eat in Month for the lessons learned and thanks to my participants for playing along! If you did a recap post, please post the link in a comment so I can check it out. 🙂

I’m still trying to decide where to eat out first. Where will you be eating out first?

15 thoughts on “Eat in Month – Lessons Learned”

  1. I;m glad the month went so well! I love all your tips and reflections on it too. I actually don’t eat out very often, but kind of want some mexican or middle eastern food right now…hmmmm….

  2. I really really enjoyed this challenge! It was tough yes, but lots of lessons learned, especially all the money that can be saved! We are thinking we may do sushi as a special treat 🙂

  3. This may sound weird but I learned that I’m not nearly as “hungry” as I once thought I was.

    In the past, I would be “starving” when it was time to come home from work, but knowing that I wasn’t just going to grab a deli sandwich forced me to wait. By the time I had dinner prepared, even if it was a 10 minute dinner, a lot of my apparent hunger was eased and I ended up eating a much more reasonable meal that I would have.

    That plus all these new cravings I have- rice and beans or fresh juice, which I always loved but previously would have traded for a slice of pizza, are pretty fabulous too!


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