Giving up something is sometimes hard to do. Even when it's something you really want for yourself. Diets, saving, exercising every day are all things I find myself wanting to excel in. It's good to have a goal and go forward to achieve it, even when it’s a challenge!

In 2012, we decided to agree on a New Year’s resolution to give up something that would really make a difference to our family in a big way: Dining out. We realized that going out to eat affects our calories, wallet, and family time.

We have not been out to eat for the past 12 months and have saved over $300 a month! And who knows how many calories we have saved within that time! We also have spent more time at the dinner table as a family. Even out of town friends have enjoyed eating at our child-friendly house, where the kids can play while we chat and barbecue, rather than going to an overly-crowded restaurant.

At the beginning of the year most people thought I was a little crazy and expected us to fail miserably. In actuality, the sacrifice was much easier to accomplish than anyone expected. Having to be a little creative every now and then was a challenge, and stepping up to the challenges made me feel like a better person and mom.

Here’s how we made it work:

Out of Town

I packed a cooler of yogurts, fruits, veggies, cold homemade pizza, and crackers so we could have options for breakfast, snacks, lunches, and dinners.

Night out with Friends

We hosted barbecues and invited everyone to bring something.

Lazy Nights

I would cook a frozen pizza that I had purchased with a coupon!

Dinners

They had to be more creative, so I started using recipes from magazines I had lying around the house. "All You" magazines always have easy and quick dinner ideas that can often be made with things I already have in my cupboard.

Running Errands

I found some amazing Zip Lock containers that have three compartments (two small and one large). I fill them with snacks and/or lunches for a quick pick-me-up in the car while I run errands. I call them “Mommy Lunchables.” Not to mention, these are so much healthier than store-bought options. I carry a backpack full of quick snacks, water bottles and protein bars for myself if I know I will be out for a while. It saves me from the temptation of a quick stop at Starbucks.

Date Night

We actually took long walks on the beach, enjoyed nights in, worked out together, and took advantage of local events.

Since we decided not going out to eat was our choice, we didn't allow others to buy our meals or bring us our favorite Starbucks. We have also shown our kids that we don't need to eat out every time we are out and about.

With all our savings and hard work we have been able to pay down our truck! I am so proud of the goals we have achieved!

For 2013 think about giving up something that you feel is less of your best, and make a resolution to make it your best year ever!

When eating out, we spent too much money, ate way too many calories to count, lost family time, and developed bad habits. By redirecting our habit we were able to reach a goal, save money and calories, and we brought back a table of four at dinnertime (at home)! Not to mention my cooking has improved (I think?)!

This is a guest post by Nicole from Eureka, CA
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