If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I accepted a frugal eating challenge when my partner was out of town for a week.
The basics of the challenge were simple: I had to survive on only the food we already had in the house and I wasn’t allowed to buy any new food (groceries or otherwise).
To give you some cupboard context, we hadn’t gone shopping in about two weeks and the fridge and cupboards would have been considered sparse by most non-minimalist standards. Basically, my partner didn’t think there was any way I could do it.
Well, challenge accepted! Not only did I survive, it was downright easy!
Food doesn’t get talked about a lot in the minimalist community. But, I think it has an equal place in our lives as any other ‘thing’. Since food has always been a part of my minimalism, I thought I would share some things I learned over the course of my frugal eating challenge.
1) Food is like a capsule wardrobe.
Capsule wardrobes are sweeping the interweb right now and for good reason. They make you think outside the box to make new outfit combinations while simultaneously building off key basics.
My week of frugal eating was the same. I essentially made a food capsule of key ingredients and then rotated in spices when I wanted some variety. This led me to use spices I forgot I had (looking at you, ground ginger).
The problem of a full closet and overflowing fridge have the same core issue – too many options. Once you pare back to the essentials (or in my case whatever was in the freezer), it becomes easier to identify what you want to eat.
My food capsule during my week of frugal eating was built around three key ingredients: veggies (mostly greens), protein (chicken, tuna, pork), and fat (coconut and avocado oil). (I actually ran out of coconut oil on the last day of the challenge!)
This might not look like your daily diet and that is totally cool. There will be no food shaming here!
If you think about it, most of your meals are probably built around the same key ingredients. But, your fridge is likely stuffed to the gills with one off ingredients you bought to make one fancy recipe and then forgot about or didn’t use fully.
Why go through the hassle of spending time and money on exotic ingredients? Figure out what your food basics are and stick with them.
2) You don’t need to grocery shop as much as you think.
The biggest thing I learned from my week of frugal eating is that I don’t need to go grocery shopping nearly as much as I thought.
American households, on average, spend $6,603 per year on food. However, American households also waste up to $2,200 worth of food every year (or 60 million tons). THAT’S A 33% LOSS! And the rest of the world (my beloved Canada included, is not much better).
Maybe this stat would be different if we focused on buying only what we need and eating what we already have. AKA being minimalists.
Depending on the number of people in your household, you might not be able to go as long without shopping. But, it might be interesting to see if you can scale back a bit. Your wallet and garbage can will thank you.
3) Repetition has always been my best friend.
When the frugal eating challenge left me with a food capsule of three key basics, I realized I’ve been eating that way since high school! As far back as 2004, I can remember eating the exact same things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every. Single. Day. The same rang true for university and grad school. And I loved it. I always knew what I was going to eat, so I always knew what I needed to buy at the grocery store. Only recently have I fallen out of this kind of meal repetition. This is primarily because of the aforementioned partner who threw down this challenge in the first place (living with people is the worst.. just kidding!).
Making decisions about food is stressful for me – don’t even think about asking me where to go for dinner. So, repetition is perfect!
We have to make decisions about so many things every day – minimizing your food routine can take one thing off your plate! (Yes, I made a food pun. I couldn’t help it.)
4) Your taste buds will find a way.
My Dad always used to say to us growing up “if you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat it”.
While he used to say this to rationalize us eating slow-cooked moose (yep, I’m from one of those families), I found it rang true during this challenge. Again, when my options were limited, I figured it out. Canned tuna wouldn’t be my first choice of protein, but given my limited options, it gave me some much-appreciated variety.
Sorry guys – this post was a long one! I think food is one of those areas that gets overlooked by people when they start on their minimalist journey. But if you’ve spent any amount of time here at Tiny Ambitions, you know I’m big on minimalism being about every aspect of your life, not just your possessions.
If you’re looking for some fridge clear out inspiration, my friend Lisa over at Simple Life Experiment has some inventive recipes you should check out!