Over at the Simple Dollar, Trent is talking about his recent move to a vegan diet. He addresses the misconception that a vegan diet has to be pricey but he does admit that food preparation now requires more effort. Specifically, because he cannot obtain good vegan options at restaurants, he’s finding himself preparing many more meals at home.
While I may not be a vegan, I believe this lesson applies to almost all healthy diets. Simply put, modern American restaurants are not healthy. Even the ones who bill themselves as “fresh” and “organic” will add ingredients to their meals which you want to avoid or give you portions which are too large. I recently went to a lovely new burger place which billed their meals as healthy, organic and fresh. They were in fact all of those things, but they were also three times as large as I needed. While I may occasionally enjoy a large meal, I don’t really need a 3/4 lb burger for dinner with a lb of fries on the side.
These days, especially as I try to maintain the 4 Hour Body diet while also going back to a more vegetarian focus, I’m finding that restaurants have less and less appealing options. Yes, I still enjoy the occasional foray to Chipotle or a fun outing with my fiance once a week, but most restaurants just don’t deliver that kind of food I enjoy at the level of quality and price point that I want.
What I’ve realized is that, if I want food which combines quality, quantity and price, I need to make it myself. This realization sounded intimidating at first. I’m not the world’s best cook and I’m quite busy most of the time. How was I ever going to find time to make good food? However, I was willing to try and my fiance, ever the good sport, was willing to try with me.
Yes, my first few attempts were somewhat disastrous. (Note to self, stir fries only LOOK improvisational, they actually requires quite a bit of thought as to what ingredients and sauces to include). However, I think I’ve unlocked the secret to good, cheap and healthy food.
First, a bit of background. Three weeks ago my girlfriend and I moved in together. Two and a half weeks ago we got engaged (I was going to wait longer but I got impatient). Needless to say, the last two weeks have been hectic. We’ve been arranging our house, shopping for furniture and getting the dog to stop waking us up every 15 minutes while also trying to celebrate our engagement with friends and family. In the middle of all that we’re still trying to spend some quality time with one another, and it was this quality time that helped me discover the secret. Are you ready for this?
Plainly put, good food doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, my fiancé and I have found a new morning ritual which we now enjoy on a regular basis. We wake up and march off to the kitchen. There we spend some time together, chatting as we eat breakfast and prepare lunch. We bought a few sealable pyrex containers and, as we munch on breakfast items, we fill these containers with items we’re going to eat for lunch. We don’t actually prepare much food, we just combine items. For example, today’s breakfast consisted of a bit of hummus, some carrots, a few pumpkin seeds, a bit of spinach and some cheese. While we ate those we also filled our lunch containers with similar items plus some dried fruit and bread for her.
All of these items are premade and delicious. We try to source our ingredients from places like the farmers market and wholefoods but we’re not above the occasional trip to safeway either. On occasion, some preparation is required. For our lunch today I made delicious grilled chicken breast and a very quick salad. However, most of these meals require less than 5 minutes to prepare. The best part is that even the preparation time is fun because we spend it together.
Our average cost per meal has gone down from about $20 (we ate out A LOT!) to about $7, and the health quotient of the meals skyrocketed! Gone are the days of coming home at night after a big restaurant dinner feeling so bloated that I can barely stand. Now we eat our simple meals and then go for a walk.
A few sample meals:
- Breakfast – Spinach, chopped cucumbers, chopped mushrooms with a bit of hummus and pumpkin seeds.
- Lunch – Chicken prepared in a pan with some olive oil and garlic. Tossed salad similar to the one above but with a bit of cheese added to it.
- Lunch – Carrots, mushroom, chopped zucchini, cherry tomatoes and spinach with some pesto dressing. Black beans for me, afghan flat bread for her.
- Dinner – Turkey sausage bits mixed with a fresh green salad
You’ll note that fresh greens now feature prominently in almost every meal whereas sides like potatoes and rice have pretty much disappeared. This was intentional and fits right in to the Tim Ferris diet. The fresh greens are tasty, nutritious and have almost no calories. I’m now trying to remove more of the meat and add in dairy products but we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, we’re eating healthier, wasting less money and spending far more quality time with one another.