Monday, February 2, 2015

Fast Food Challenge: Update

Instead of trying to have 57 New Year's resolutions and work to achieve them all at once, I'm focusing on one goal per month. January's goal was to avoid all fast food or food on the go. The exception was when I was going to sit down inside with a friend to eat. 

Like many goals, my excitement and stamina got me through the first 10 days with little difficulty. Sure, I still wanted to stop for a coffee or snack, but the urge wasn't too hard to fight and I started packing my food and bringing drinks. 

As the days passed, I started making more frequent stops at the grocery store. I still picked up "convenience foods" and sometimes would go inside to purchase a single meal (as if I was going to get fast food but instead had to park and go inside rather than just drive through), but the food I bought at the store was always healthier than the food I would have purchased out (and it was cheaper). The fast food meals I normally buy are packed with sugar, fat, and tons of calories. The food I buy at the store was fresher, healthier, "real" food and it was about half the price. Instead of $7 on a burger, fries, and soda, it was more like $3 or $4 for a salad, hummus, and pretzels or perhaps a green drink and a sandwich wrap. 

As the month wore on I did deviate slightly from my path. I purchased several coffees and sodas from fast food establishments. They aren't that expensive ($1-$2 per stop) and I still avoided the food, but they are marked up extremely high and can easily be purchased at the store ahead of time. I was definitely paying for lack of planning and convenience when I made these purchases. 

Overall, it was a great experiment and I plan to continue avoiding fast food and cutting my consumption in the future. It saved me money and the food I would pack myself or run into the grocery store and grab was yummy and much healthier. 

Tips for trying out the same challenge:

  • Plan ahead! Make grocery store runs and stock up. Have a lunch box and plenty of ice packs handy. Give yourself 5 extra minutes before leaving so that you have more time to pack your snacks and meals. 
  • Leave the cash at home. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay for my fast food habit in cash so that I don't have to be reminded of my spending later and others never have to know. If this is you, stop carrying cash. 
  • Go out with a friend. If you get the craving for a latte or just want some junk food, I get it. But invite a friend and make it a social activity. Don't just eat it to eat it. 
  • Track your spending. Keep a piece of paper in your car and write down your fast food habit there or keep a note on your phone. Seeing the amount of money you spend and the frequency of your purchases might give you motivation to slow down. 
  • Find quick foods you love at the store. Find convenience foods you can stock up on at the store. These will be cheaper and probably healthier. 
Good luck to those who have a New Year's goal. My goal for February is to finish my Postpartum Labor Certification. I am half a book and one essay away. There is no excuse not to finish! 

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