The “No Restaurants in November” Challenge

mcdonalds nyc sparkly
True or False:  You can go an entire month without eating out ONCE? No Wendys, no Subways, no snack machines!!! Nothing.  Everything you eat – or drink – has to be bought from a grocery store for the entire month of November!  Think you can do it?

Well there’s no way I can!!  I wouldn’t last 3 days! Haha… I’m not joking, there is no way in hell right now that I can plan out my meals and/or cook  & prepare them.  I don’t even have time to make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches! (but if I did, I’d TOTALLY make them this way, haha…) But then again I have absolutely no desire to prioritize something like this now either ;)

BUT – Do I think it’s a freakin’ fabulous idea?  Heck yeah! Not only for the health of your bodies, but also for the health of your budgets!.  Imagine how much you could save by preparing all this in a advance?  The random snack splurges alone could be enough to pay off a bill or two ;)

So if you DO think you could pull it off, or wanna give it a shot and see, rush on over to Enemy of Debt and take Brad’s No Restaurants in November Challenge!!  That guy’s a BEAST at motivating people and he’s already got a team of 7-8 joining him.  It’s not too late to jump in if you wanna see how much you end up saving :)  That’s his family’s whole reason to give it a shot – gotta get back to the basics.

A few words to the wise though, it’s not going to be easy. You’ll have to watch out for things like:

  • Having to say NO to lunch with your work spouse.
  • Not being able to go to happy hours! (remember, beers count)
  • Not being able to go out on dinner dates. Although home-cooked meals together is much much sexier anyways.
  • Not being able to party around the holidays!!!  Thanksgiving falls in November, don’t forget! And you know damn well all your old high school or college friends are gonna try and make you come out to bars and/or restaurants ;)
  • And even more importantly, at least to me right now, no business or networking events at any diners or coffee shops! $hit, you can’t even have any STARBUCKS!

So yeah, you get the point. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.  But then again, you sure would be saving a lot of money during those 30 days!  Imagine pocketing an “extra” $200 or $300 this month?  Niiiiiiiice! (in the voice of Borat). All that sacrificing would pay off for sure. Literally.

So I ask you again, good sirs & gentlewomen:
Do you dare take the No Restaurants in November Challenge?


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  1. C November 5, 2010 at 8:16 AM

    This is brilliant! I’m not really in the market to make this a goal right now (I’m taking the CPA, so cooking has NOT been happening in our house!), but I’ll definitely keep this (or a watered-down version) in mind for the future.

  2. Kevin @ November 5, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    I think it’s a fun concept, but the whole point of making money is buying things I want that are within my means. All this would do is piss me off and leave me to go hungry, because I’m pretty certain I’d pick “screw it” over cooking food at home more often than not.

  3. Karmella November 5, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    Hahaha, I was thinking “oh, that is so easy!!” – and then I read your list of “hey, remember these!” and I said oh, maybe not :)

  4. Brad Chaffee November 5, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Haha J. Money! I’ve seen what you eat when you are at home. LOL Cheese balls or coffee….

    Thanks for posting this man, this made my day my friend! So far so good for me on the challenge, although my wife ALMOST messed up by going out for breakfast with her Nurse friends after work. She took out $20, remembered what we were doing and drank water! Haha! Normally we wouldn’t have even second guessed doing something like that…that’s why we needed to challenge ourselves this month! :)

    Look for an update on Monday.

  5. Doctor S November 5, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Every few months I go through this cycle. I notice I am spending way too much money eating out at mainly fast food spots. My weight is usually up and its nromally the winter time (need to pack on that extra layer of fat!).

    But actually doing this for an entire month is very very very tough. I only spend my money on food and booze, but I alwyas get to thinking it be nice to buy myself something materialistic… like a beer meister or something?

    I have tried this many times and failed 80% of the time.

  6. Tom Meitner November 5, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    Don’t sell yourself short, J! This really isn’t that hard to do! There are a lot of recipes and books out there where you can cook quickly and easily (a lot of websites that detail this too), and once you get into the swing of cooking and preparing meals, it really comes natural. I bet you could do it – could be a sweet post idea, too!

  7. Nick November 5, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    How about a different spin on it – similar to what I posted this morning over at EOD? Focus on not paying rather than not going. My work reimburses me for marketing to customer prospects. We have discretion with how to apply the reimbursements, so I often do lunch or dinner. This way I still go. I just don’t pay. :)

  8. retirebyforty November 5, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    There is NO WAY that I can do this.
    I only eat out a few times a week, why should I deprive myself from that?
    The only purchase so far this week is a burger and fries for one lunch. I want to go out with the wife this weekend.
    No eating out for a month is too extreme for me.

  9. Serenity November 5, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    I’m all about saving money this month, and no eating out will save me a bundle! So I’m participating in the challenge. It definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, and people should think through all the objections you bring up. It is a huge sacrifice for some, but the benefits go beyond saving money! Here’s what I say:

    – My fellow underpaid teachers at work also bring lunch. We actually have some great convos about how we cook for the week and make our leftovers into awesome lunches. Like my chili!
    – Speaking of, all you have to do to make sure you have something good to eat after a long day when you’re tired is cook a little extra and throw it in the freezer. Thaw/pop in the oven or microwave. Baked pasta or lasagna is great for this
    – All that extra alcohol/sugar/fat/sodium in food & drinks at restaurants has rather negative results on your bottom … and bottom line
    – For those not wanting to deprive themselves of the social aspect of eating out: Cooking together and having pot luck dinners or buds over for snacks and a football game = inexpensive and awesomely fun social activities
    – Me and my B bond over doing dishes after a romantic dinner in :)
    – I’m told my friends and significant other about my goal, and they’re actually supportive. Some of them want to join in!

    And here’s a thought: anybody who makes fun of you or makes you feel bad about doing something sensible to save money isn’t a good friend. But I do plenty of stupid things to save money, so that’s fair game :)

  10. Money Beagle November 5, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    It’s a great idea but just doesn’t happen in our household. We don’t go out very often, probably once or twice a month, maybe three. This includes fast food and sit down places. Going out gives us something to look forward to and since my wife does most of the cooking, it gives her a well deserved day off now and then (and yes, I do some cooking from time to time to give her a day off, but there’s still something about being able to get some food made and served completely by someone else that is great).

    I usually turn down the offers for going out at work. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone ‘out’ to lunch!

  11. Evan November 5, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Just read this post after my lunch out to sushi…I am out! Although the beer thing would be really hard for me LOL

  12. Michele November 5, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    I could do this, no problem. Not this month, because I’ve already have plans to go to brunch to celebrate a friend’s birthday on Sunday and I’m not going to cancel, but if that weren’t on the calendar, I could and would easily make it through the rest of the month without eating out. I never eat out for lunch as it is (MAYBE once every couple of months) because I work in an environment where we bill time and literally every single person I work with eats at their desk every day so that they don’t have to extend their work day to account for being out at lunch time. As for dinners, I plan our menu a week at a time and do all the shopping on Wednesdays, so I never have to deal with coming home, looking in the fridge for inspiration, and deciding to go out because I just can’t be bothered. I know what’s for dinner every night, and I always have what I need on hand to make it. And as it turns out, this week was particularly slow at work, so I actually created a dinner menu for the entire MONTH. And let me tell you: It’s a good one. Take it from me, meal planning doesn’t have to be boring. If anything, it’s made me an even more adventurous cook (I’ve always been pretty creative in this regard) and lent more variety to what we eat. I shit you not, there is not a single repeat meal on the calendar for the month of November!

    Much as my husband and I love going out to a great restaurant for a delicious and unique meal, I really can’t be bothered with casual dining and fast food and am fortunate to have a great group of friends for whom cooking and eating excellent food at home is a big part of the social experience, so rather than going to bars or cheap restaurants, we tend to go to one anothers’ houses for BBQs and dinner parties, and then splurge on one really wonderful, spendy restaurant meal per month.

    So yeah, ask me to go a month without buying any new clothes, and I’m out. I’d never last. But a month without eating out? That’s a breeze.

  13. Tallis November 5, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Eating out is the bane of my existence. I absolutely HATE to cook; if I can’t pick it up from a restaurant or nuke it in the microwave for two minutes, then no thank you. But I’ve been trying to refrain from eating out so much, since it is a major drain on the wallet, so this is a very timely post for me!

    But I did go and get Steak ‘n Shake this afternoon for lunch. FAIL.

  14. J. Money November 5, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    @C – Yeah, I think CPA trumps this little challenge right now ;)
    @Kevin @ – No doubt brother. If food/beer/dining out is something you like to spend your money on, keep rockin’ it! More of a project for those who want/need to cut back on it.
    @Karmella – Which was the hardest do you think? I’m going with happy hours… followed by networking events.
    @Brad Chaffee – Oh great! Looking forward to seeing how it’s all playing out so far :) That’s funny about the wife, seems like something I would do!
    @Doctor S – That’s a good point actually… I think 90% of all my non-house money goes to food and beverages too, that’s pretty much it. Cut back in so many areas where this one is such a nice perk to keep!
    @Tom Meitner – Well at least someone has faith in me ;) I know I could do it if I really tried hard, but just ain’t happening in the near future. Maybe come 2011 though. My goal is to have more “me” time then.
    @Nick – Oooooh I like that! And as far as the whole “saving money” aspect of it, it still falls perfectly within its purpose. Nice addition.
    @retirebyforty – I feel ya.
    @Serenity – I WISH I had the same kinda crew like that around us! All my friends are spread out and potlucks are very rare..actually, it’s never happened ever with them, haha… I do like the co-worker stuff bonding over home made meals though…. I could see how that makes it easier :)
    @Money Beagle – I look forward to eating out for dinner every now and then too :) We don’t do it much, but when we do it’s refreshing.
    @Evan – Haha… well you could still join NOW if you wanted too ;) But I wouldn’t advise it…
    @Michele – HAH! Any way I could convince you to come over here and plan some meals for us? Mrs. BudgetsAreSexy does a mighty fine job of feeding us, but she’d love a break for a month :) And yeah I get in trouble w/ clothes buying too if I’m in the right stores (TJ Maxx, Express). But if I don’t walk into one I’m safe! :)
    @Tallis – Haha…. I still haven’t ever eaten there yet. Although I couldn’t even tell you where the closest one is… I think I find them in airports a lot or something.

  15. Annette @daNanner November 5, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    I’ll start this tonight AFTER a date that I bought a groupon for that’s about to expire. No reason to waste any more money. Finally got my boyfriend to agree to do a budget with me.

  16. Curt November 5, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    I would totally do it – except for we’ve already planned to go out to eat for Thanksgiving (un-American, I know, but we’ll be out of town with family and there’s no way 25 people would be able to eat in my Uncle’s 800 sq ft condo). Of course…not too much of a stretch for me – our household budget for eating out is only $25…which we stick to pretty closely unless we are travelling.

  17. Yana November 5, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    It’s funny you should post about this, because in doing accounting for October, I found we did not eat out once! I was totally shocked. We already ate out for my birthday, early because my husband will be working that day, and it cost over $40 – just Mexican food and I had a margarita with the meal. I was so impressed with October that I told my husband maybe we should go out again the day after my birthday! LOL. I love eating out, but it is a treat and not an everyday thing.

  18. Briana @ GBR November 5, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    J, you crack me up! I told Brad that it’s going to be EXTREMELY HARD but I’m really going to try. Late start, but better late than never. Come on J, try it for a week at least.

  19. danielle November 5, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    if your co-worker buys lunch for you, does that count?

    personally, there’s no way i could do it. to be completely honest, i wouldn’t even want to LOL i can’t lie… i mean, i’d probably save a couple hundred bucks but that’s it. living as a single person doesn’t make things much cheaper unless you’re eating the SAME exact thing for a week straight. no way. can’t do it. maybe if i had a roomie…but I like variety when it comes to eating

  20. Brad Chaffee November 5, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    Great feedback!

    When I started this challenge I knew it was going to be tough, especially for us, but it’s something that we had to do. Sometimes you have to take extreme measures when things get out of control. How do you think I got out of debt? Haha!

    I will say this though. For those that say they can’t do it, it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s just that you aren’t willing to do what it would take to be able to do it — and that’s okay. I’m just keeping it real. :) Like Tom Meitner said above, “Don’t sell yourself short.”

    If you one day need to do it, for whatever reason, it’s good to know that you have the will power and determination to sacrifice in order to make it happen. I certainly don’t plan to make it an every month thing, but I do realize that I have some really important goals to accomplish financially and those goals are way more important than wasting hundreds of dollars a month in the name of convenience. Wait until I reveal the monstrous amount we wasted last month, which is what inspired this challenge in the first place.

    The funny thing is I love to cook but time and convenience seem to always get in the way. LOL

    I loved all the comments! Ya’ll are awesome! :D

  21. Nicole November 6, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    I always prefer February for these kinds of challenges. :)

  22. Pete (Sox) November 6, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    I love doing this one! I typically do a no eating out Lent. 40 days for some reason seems to sting so much more than 30 even though it’s well past that ‘hump’ where it should be easy. I’ve found that no eating out always affects my work more than anything. Eating at my lunch at my desk tends to result in me being less social which is hard to supplement. For those that run into this same issue, something I found I could do was use our conference room to watch tv shows on Hulu. It got to be a nice way to relax and just about everyone could participate if they brought a lunch or picked something up and brought it back to the office. I’m enjoying my Normal November before the fury of NoSpend December :)

  23. Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer November 6, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    I have two business trips this month so am immediately a fail. However, the cost is not coming out of my pocket. So, does that make it okay?

  24. Ashley November 6, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I am trying a modified version this month of only eating out 4 times in November. So far so good! We’ll see how it goes.

  25. Money Reasons November 6, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    How incredible clever! Kudos to Brad at EOD!!!

    I ran an experiment where I cut back eating lunches out at work, put the money in diidend stocks, and now have enough money from the dividends to go out to eat twice a week at lunch.

    But the kicker is now that it’s a habit to not go out to eat every day for lunch, I don’t crave it anymore, it’s not a habit for me anymore. Instead I use my time better by blogging, etc…

  26. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma November 6, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Cutting into my post? Or just generating interest? Funny that I’m reading this while waiting for a friend to get off work so we can go out to Red Robin! DW and I budget twice a month in and I typically grab coffee or a smoothie 1-4 times per month from my discretionary cash.

    @Danielle: try searching for “meals for one” or “meals for two” for smaller meals. Ideas: Soups can be divided and frozen. A large package of chicken breasts/ground beef/pork chops can be separated and frozen- just pull one out and thaw one out the day before. There’s about 6 million ways to cook chicken. You can do this with other cuts, too; if you ask, the butcher at the supermarket will cut a larger piece that you are buying into smaller cuts.

    @Nicolle: Actually, that’s the reason February is shorter than other months, when the Romans were putting together their calendar, Feb was the month of penance (like Lent or Ramadan) and they didn’t want to do that any longer than they had to, so they made Feb only 4 weeks.

  27. Brad Chaffee November 6, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    @Bucksome – I am modifying the rules because it’s a bit unfair for people who do business lunches/dinners or travel. There’s almost no way to avoid it in those situations. :)

    If you aren’t paying for it, go for it. :)

  28. J. Money November 6, 2010 at 10:23 PM

    @Annette @daNanner – Haha, that is awesome. Get ’em girl.
    @Curt – Damn, $25 is pretty low. Good work, sir.
    @Yana – Excellent! Eating out for dinner is a treat for us too :) Lunch every day @ work? not so much.
    @Briana @ GBR – How about I try it for a day? :)
    @danielle – I don’t think it should count if it doesn’t cost you anything. But I’m totally with you on variety and simply just not wanting to do it. haha…
    @Brad Chaffee – No doubt. ANY of us could do it when properly motivated :) If I were losing money every month and/or getting unhealthier by the week, I would totally make more of an effort. I LOVE hearing stories of others doing such extreme measures though! (Reminds me of my 90% 401k contributions earlier this year) And I root y’all on like crazy!
    @Nicole – Really? cuz there are less days in the month? :)
    @Pete (Sox) – Yessir, and then we’ll be getting a guest post from you on that, right? Gotta keep the challenges flowing! (and I’m not workin’ on anything like that lately :))
    @Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer – Yup! That would be okay in this case :)
    @Ashley – That’s a good idea. Limiting yourself enough to make a difference, but also not cutting it out completely. I like it.
    @Money Reasons – That’s an AWESOME idea! And totally true about getting out of those habits. The same thing happened to me except it was w/ drinking soda. Gave it up for Lent one year, and haven’t craved it as much since. NOw I limit myself to it only on the weekends, if I really want it.
    @Edward – Entry Level Dilemma – Hah! That’s interesting about the Romans stuff. Never heard that before… and haven’t even read your article yet!! haha… it’s on my list to do tonight though ;)

  29. Jaime November 7, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    no way, I eat out every day for lunch when I’m at work, usually at a deli and even if we do cook during the weekday we usually eat out on the weekend, I’ve learned that if I’m going to cook at home I need to use simple recipes.

    I love the crockpot, you can pretty much throw anything in and its done, cleanup is 5-10 minutes. I think cooking at home can be easy, you just need to keep things simple, don’t use recipes with 10+ ingredients, don’t use 5-10 pots and pans, I usually use or two, or the crockpot. I usually cook basic things at home.

    Cooking at home doesn’t have to be so complicated and its usually much healthier for you, but I like to eat out as well, I especially like to get food that I wouldn’t normally cook at home like lamb shanks or Indian food.

  30. ss4bc November 7, 2010 at 11:49 AM

    My challenge for 2010 was not eating out the entire year. I made it to august because I moved two states over. Hard to not eat out when all your cooking stuff is packed and you have a two day move. I ended up saving a lot but also lost 25 pounds. The weight I was not expecting at all, but was a nice bonus. :)

  31. J. Money November 7, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    @Jaime – We keep forgetting to use our crock pot. The few times we’ve done it we’ve loved it!
    @ss4bc – WOW! A whole year is no joke, man… well done making it so far! :)

  32. Lisa November 7, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    When I first started reading this post I said to myself, “No Problem”. Then you brought up your Thanksgiving Point and I then began to question my ability to achieve this not going out challenge. Plus, it doesn’t help that I am pregnant and I sometimes have some craving for something that I didn’t buy at the store and of course they don’t sell Taco Bell Bean Burritos. lol!

  33. J. Money November 7, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    Haha…LOVE Taco Bell bean burritos!

  34. MK November 8, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    I’d love to take on the challenge, but I’ve already got plans to go out to a restaurant at least once this month. DBFs parents are coming to visit the week before thanksgiving and we are taking them out one night… Maybe next month! ;-)

  35. TJ November 8, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    There’s no way I could do this. I go out twice a day at least. I generally do breakfast at home, but that’s usually cereal, pop tart or a granola bar. =D

  36. J. Money November 8, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    Mmmm… pop tarts….

  37. Yana November 8, 2010 at 10:31 PM

    Mmmm pop tarts is right! I thought I’d upgrade my old toaster last week, and ordered one from amazon. Then started reading more reviews on it, and one lady said the instruction book said not to toast pop-tarts in it. I cancelled the order. My old toaster takes care of pop-tarts just fine! :P

  38. J. Money November 8, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    haha… total deal breaker!

  39. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma November 8, 2010 at 11:09 PM

    Wait, pop tarts? People still eat those? Always felt like I was eating a spoonful of sugar. Besides, it doesn’t take any longer to scramble an egg on toast than it does to heat a pop tart.

  40. Pete (Sox) November 9, 2010 at 12:10 AM

    It’s funny how much spending is related to the ability (time and skill) to cook!

  41. LB November 9, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    I would totally do this any other month except this month. I am away from home and around some extremely good restaurants that aren’t around my area. No way I am passing up this chance to visit all of them. Thank god I can get easy access to a fitness center for cheap and/or free.

  42. J. Money November 9, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    @Edward – Entry Level Dilemma – hmm…. you can’t really just grab eggs on your way out when you’re running late ;)

    @Pete (Sox) – yup! which is why fast food joints are crazy popular.

    @LB – haha i hear ya on that!

  43. Yana November 9, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    I just have to clarify regarding the pop-tarts. We eat a real breakfast every day, not pop-tarts. Pop-Tarts are dessert! Never frosted. I like the doughiness of the unfrosted ones :D These days, I can only find the strawberry unfrosted, but I think there was a time when they made brown sugar cinnamon. I liked those, too. One of my husband’s specialties at work is cookies, chocolate chip being everyone’s favorite, and he brings some home to me when he makes them. I only took up my childhood habit of eating pop-tarts recently, because I was beginning to feel deprived when my husband did not bring home dessert from his work! LOL.

  44. J. Money November 9, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    i’m staring at a box of brown sugar pop tarts as i type! :) they are def. still making them! haha…. and i do usually eat them for breakfast as i rush out the door for football/soccer games on weekends. it’s either that, or nothing in my stomach. but i hope to change that one day.

  45. Yana November 9, 2010 at 11:00 PM

    J. Money, without frosting? If so, I will have to search next time. I see plenty with frosting, but don’t like those.

  46. Geoff November 10, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    That’s an awesome idea! I really should try that some month but I don’t think it’s possible for us as I get cravings even during the week I have to fight. However during the colder months, it seems that it would be easier since there is less desire to venture in the cold. I envy people that can eat out less. When I was a kid, I remember only going out to eat once a month and I was perfectly content. Why can’t I be like that anymore?

  47. Melissa Tosetti November 10, 2010 at 9:46 AM

    I’d like to say that I can easily do this, but the challenge is that I travel at least one weekend a month if not more. When traveling, the thought of stopping at a grocery store to purchase food to assemble seems too time consuming. However, I love a challenge and I also love the idea of not having to choke down another fast food burger on the road!

    Melissa Tosetti

  48. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma November 10, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    @J I still maintain pop tarts are only faster if you’re eating them straight out of the box, skipping the toaster. If I have to eat a cold breakfast on the go, I’d go with a dry turkey sandwich.
    And I can share two different egg tips to get you going faster. 1)Cook the eggs in the microwave. Crack and egg into a microwave safe bowl w/ a tablespoon of milk, a bit of salt & pepper (and cheese!) and give it a quick whisk to integrate the yolk. Then nuke it for 60 seconds. Not my favorite way to cook eggs, but they do come out nice and airy. If that’s not your thing, or your one of those weird people without a microwave, cook your eggs the night before and put them in the fridge. I’ll put cold eggs on bread and put it in the toaster oven to toast the bread and warm up the eggs.

    @Geoff The biggest thing my wife and I fought about when we first got married was eating out. She was used to bachelorette living that included eating out 4-5 times per week and I grew up in the country where the nearest fast food was 20 minutes away (stops being fast at that point).

  49. J. Money November 12, 2010 at 12:15 AM

    @Yana – OOPs. It def. has frosting ;) How could you eat it w/out??
    @Geoff – Haha yeah… going out WAS such a treat back then! I miss it too :)
    @Melissa Tosetti – You should def. try it then ;) Or at least do every single day except for the traveling one.
    @Edward – Entry Level Dilemma – Oooooh that’s not a bad idea. Esp for someone as busy/lazy/crazy as me! :)