Nuts, bolts and dietary minimalism

There’s been some debate about what to call this style of eating. It’s not strictly vegan, since we still eat animal on occasion. It’s not Paleo, since we don’t eat nearly enough animal. On top of that, we only eat once per day. So, I’ve decided to call our way of eating ‘dietary minimalism’: keeping everything as simple as possible, and paring meals down to the fewest possible.

And one of the best benefits of dietary minimalism is also the least expected, though not entirely unexpected. It makes sense that eating less overall, as well as virtually no animal protein, will have a positive effect on the grocery bill. Meat’s costly, and quality, humanely-raised meat is three times as much. Same goes for non-battery eggs. Then multiply that by two adults, three times per day. Holy smokes!

Before we started, we had about $100 per week in the budget for groceries. Often as not, we’d edge up, or even over, that number. And that’s not including any snacky foods or meals bought outside the grocery store (or alcohol, for that matter). We were eating all the time, and as a result were bleeding from the pockets in addition to making ourselves fat.

Just this past week, we spent about $48. That’s a bit of an outlier, since it includes a couple of off-plan dalliances. For a more realistic picture, let’s look over some numbers. Tonight, I’m making a vegetable soup with a side of dressed baby arugula. The full batch of soup should make at least two meals, while the tub of arugula should do three.

Tallying up the costs based on the bill, we arrive at a total of $2.75 per meal for the soup, and $2.33 for the arugula. That’s just over $5 of food for both of us for the day. Now that doesn’t include the dressing, because the cost is so minimal. It also doesn’t include the cost of the broth that goes in the soup, since I made it using scraps, so it’s effectively free. Even so, we could round up to $6 or even $7, and we’d still be in the realm of exceptionally cheap. Heck, at $10 per day, we would still have seen a decrease of 30% to our overall grocery spend.

As it stands – we’ll make it $7 per day to feed two grown people – we’re spending less than $50 per week. We’re eating well, we’re feeling fine, and we’re spending half of what we used to. There’s no stress surrounding meal preparation, or making sure there’s enough to go around. In fact, I’ve had a bit of trouble making little enough. When we shop, I’ll buy too much food, so we end up stuffing ourselves to avoid waste.

Some information to keep in mind is that these are average figures. I rounded up our total for a couple of reasons. One was to account for little extras like dressing, or seasonings generally. And another was to account for more costly foods we might eat, like splashing out on something out of season, or for taking advantage of a sale on pantry goods (canned items, rice, etc.) Stocking up one week will shoot up the bill, but looks better when amortised (spread out) over the bills for the month – or year.

Why post about finances on a blog about eating healthfully? Well, I think the potential positives of nutritious food by way of dietary minimalism can be a bit difficult to imagine. But one thing it takes no imagination to understand is facts and figures. It’s hard to argue the benefits when they can be laid down in black and white, plus I think many more people find money a potent motivator than they do ‘feeling good’. Taking our exemplary case study to its logical conclusion leaves just one question: what would you do with an extra $2600 per year? It’s like we gave ourselves a raise and didn’t even have to update our resumes.