For Jump of the Ladder 3.0 I have an exciting new challenge: giving up paid entertainment and substituting creative entertainment. Trist and I have noticed a cycle of entertainment among our peers. Especially with Summer starting and our friends now out of school, it’s an endless cycle of meeting up at a bar for drinks or a restaurant for food and drinks. Neither of these things are particularly healthy or appealing. While we enjoy the occasional drink, 100% of the time we both feel the negative effects of 1 or 2 beers for much longer than the euphoria. We keep our bodies very clean with fresh food, tea, exercise, and lots of water so our tolerance for things like coffee and alcohol is very low and always leaves us with upset stomachs.
We also don’t understand the food obsession of our peers. Trist’s company takes the employees out to lunch on birthdays, and his coworkers go over the menu beforehand, then discuss the meal for hours after its conclusion. My coworkers are obsessed with restaurants like it’s their job. Oh you’re going to X city? Make sure you eat at these restaurants when you’re there. Rather than activities, restaurants are their entertainment. They plan huge group dinners at the trendy new spot and get excited about eating in a way I don’t fully understand. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good meal but I tend to view it as sustenance, not as an activity in itself. Restaurant food also leaves us feeling very heavy and low energy afterwards because (1) the portions are so large you are bound to overeat and (2) restaurant food is cooked with more fat than you would use at home.
So rather than participating in these entertainment staples specific to 20 somethings, I am choosing to opt out of bar culture and food obsessed culture. Instead I will be choosing to partake in free activities such as hiking, biking, crafting, reading, etc. I want to participate in things that add value to my life, rather than things that make me feel crappy. To kick it off, here is a list of 59 Free Things to do to Feel Amazingly Alive!
For those who weren’t aware, for the past 20 days I have given up eating at restaurants for the Tshirts & Twine Jump off the Ladder Challenge. I won’t lie, initially it was pretty rough. I definitely had intense sushi cravings, and there were nights when nothing in the fridge looked appealing and I wanted so badly to cruise down the hill and indulge in an Indian buffet. But I didn’t. I stuck with it, I brought lunch to work, and I scraped together meals with what I had at home. Initially, I knew I would probably save a little bit of money from cutting out restaurants, but I gained so much more from the experience that I never expected.
- I lost two pounds. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but I am a very very small person. Two pounds is like 2% of my body weight. From a calorie and portion perspective, restaurant food and home cooked meals are not created equal. I was eating smaller portions of more wholesome food and without making any other lifestyle changes I overcame the weight plateau I’ve been at for months.
- I paid off my credit card. Since I wasn’t adding a bunch of restaurant bills to my balance, and I wasn’t spending money on more expensive restaurant food, I was able to pay the full balance of my credit card. This a feat I had not achieved in nearly a year.
- Grocery shopping became less stressful. Rather than a big Costco run every month, then relying on restaurants to fill the gap until the next Costco run, we mixed up our shopping habits. Tristan and I had adventures at Sprouts, peacefully browsing the aisles for things we needed for certain recipes rather than trying to battle the herds at Costco while maneuvering an oversize shopping cart. Also we were spending like $400 a go at Costco since everything there is HUGE.
- I learned new recipes and taught Tristan my favorite recipes so we can cook as a team. I even started a blog to catalog and share the recipes I love.
- Eating in has now become a habit. Initially, I was reaching for pre-prepared meals and cans of soup as a substitute for restaurants when I didn’t feel like cooking. Slowly that adjusted to cooking simple meals, then more complex meals in large enough quantities to take leftovers for lunch. And when I look in the fridge, I no longer find what is in there unappealing. I can always find something good to eat. Rather than going out as my go-to reaction to lunch or dinner, I think about what’s in the fridge instead!
So at the end of this challenge, I plan on permanently reducing the nights spent eating out to a few times a month. It’s been so beneficial I couldn’t even imagine going back to 4-5 days a week that I was at before.
I have a sushi problem.
Really, I do. There’s this awesome little sushi place around the corner from my apartment. On Monday they have 40% off all sushi and Friday they have 30% off after 9pm and a live DJ. I have tried every single roll. I will drink an entire large hot sake by myself, and share with the waiters if they are having 2-for-1 sake specials. Once the idea pops into my head, I turn to Tristan with a twinkle in my eye and a high pitched moan of “suuuuuuushmeeee” (our made up word for “let’s get sushi RIGHT NOW”). We end up getting sushi for dinner once or twice a week.
But it’s not always sushi. Tristan and I eat out A LOT. Like, definitely more days than we cook dinner at home. After an 8 or 9 hour day at work, an hour and a half at the gym, and a shower, it’s easy to enter a mindset of eating out. At a restaurant the food comes in less time than it takes me to cook. I don’t have to do any dishes. And it tastes awesome. Meanwhile at home, a drawer full of vegetables delivered to us twice a month slowly wilts in our refrigerator.
But it comes at a cost. I was looking at my Mint.com account that I use for budgeting and I was horrified. It has a feature where you can graph and trend your spending over time and this is what I saw for the past 12 months:
The orange one is how much I spent on food. I spent more on food than I did on my student loans and almost as much as I spent on rent. The actual number came out to around $6000 in 12 months. When did I let my eating habits get so out of control? So starting April 11, as part of the Jump Off the Ladder Challenge I am giving up restaurants.
Here are the reasons I’m giving it up:
- My restaurant spending is out of control. I’m racking up credit card debt, not on clothes or shoes or electronics, but on sushi and sake.
- We get locally grown, in-season, organic vegetables delivered every other week. On top of some kick-ass salads, it gives me a starting point for meal planning, and makes me explore new recipes.
- I love to cook. I’m actually pretty good at it too.
- Cooking is relaxing for me. I like to put in my headphones and play the M83 Pandora station on my iPhone while I bliss out in the kitchen.
- Home cooked meals have half the calories of restaurant food.
- We have enough groceries to survive for like three months. There’s really no excuse.
Giving up restaurants will extend far beyond just saving the money. I can sharpen my cooking skills, play with new recipes, and get myself organized. I’m going to have to creatively plan meals with the food we have at home. Periodic progress updates (and recipes?) may follow!