Here’s what you should know before you get started.
Hi! I’m Jaime. I send out a weekly meal prep newsletter called The Prep. (Sign up here!) If you read it, you probably know I’m encouraging readers to take on a “no restaurant” challenge with me for the month of January. Each week, I’ll be sending out seven dinner recipes, plus a big-batch breakfast and treat for you to make, and sharing my tips and struggles as we all try to avoid restaurants for the month. Want to join me? Here's how:
Why I Started this Challenge
Eating out at restaurants, ordering takeout, or breezing through a drive-thru is okay every once in awhile, but you probably already know those meals tend to be bad for you: Higher in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. And I don’t know about you, but the holiday season totally kills my healthy eating habits. So by January, I’m ready to get back on track and start cooking nutritious meals at home again. Plus, eating home-cooked meals saves a ton of money—and who couldn’t use more of that?
Each week, I’ll be reporting in ThePrep newsletter about my successes, favorite grocery store finds, and struggles. And if I—the drive-thru latte addict—can do this, so can you. It’s only for 31 days; Starbucks can wait. (Don't sign up alone! Send this to a friend and encourage them to join with you—the accountability helps)
Ready to Get Started? Here’s What You Should Know
Rule #1: No Restaurants
This rule might be kind of obvious, but for 31 days we will not eat at restaurants of any kind—that includes drive-thrus, fast casual joints, and white tablecloth restaurants. It also includes coffee shops or grab-and-go smoothie places (sorry!)
Rule #2: No Takeout
Not ordering in Thai or pizza for 31 days will be tough, but I know we can get through it together. Picking up food from a restaurant is a no-no, too, obvs.
Rule #3: Use the Hashtag #EatAtHomeJan
Find others on Instagram who are doing the challenge by using and searching the hashtag #EatAtHomeJan. Cooking Light will feature user’s photos on our Instagram account during the month of January, so get ready to be insta-famous!
What You Can Eat
This challenge isn’t all doom and gloom—in fact, there are many delicious things you can still eat, and it doesn't mean you will be slaving over a stove for hours every night! Essentially, anything bought at the grocery store is fair game. Remember, there are healthy frozen meals you can eat. And the grocery store salad bar makes for an easy grab-and-go lunch. Need a snack? Portable almond butter pouches and fruit are a sure thing. Don't forget rotisserie chicken and microwavable veggies.
The idea is to nourish your body with healthier choices such as lean protein, lots of fresh produce, and whole grains. By avoiding restaurants, your meals will naturally become healthier. But if you’re not sure you can cook for 31 days straight, that’s okay (and realistic!)
We’ve rounded up quick and easy lunch ideas and plenty of dinner recipes to get you inspired. If you’re in a time crunch, check out some of our favorite ready-to-eat snacks and meals from the grocery store:
- 9 Nutritionist-Approved Frozen Meals That Actually Taste Good
- 15 Nutritionist-Approved Trader Joe's Foods for $5 or Less
- 5 Ready-to-Eat Meals From Target That Are Actually Healthy
- These 8 Trader Joe’s Frozen Dinners Are Way Too Salty—Here Are 8 Alternatives
- Here They Are: Cooking Light’s 2018 Taste Test Award Winners
The bottom line: This challenge is exactly that—a challenge. It will probably be difficult to execute for an entire month, but I’m ready to try. I think it’ll make us healthier, better cooks, and I’m looking forward to all the money I’ll save by making my lattes at home.