Week one of my experiment to eat 3200calories and 160g+ of protein per day using high quality foods for under $7.50 is in the books! If you haven’t already read the introductory article for this experiment you can read it here.

Every Monday I will publish a post breaking down how much my food cost each day, what my staple meals consisted of, and what lessons I learned along the way. I will also address any questions that you leave in the comments.

Before we dive into how this week went- I have been sending out exclusive content to my Grocery Hackers email list.  You can join by clicking here to get notified about new posts, and to receive valuable tips that I am not publishing on my site.

The Good

On the upside I enjoyed meal prepping again and getting creative with ingredients, but this actually took me longer than expected.

The food tasted great and I stayed under budget. I was never hungry and I started and ended the week at 188lbs of bodyweight.

Eliminating the question “what should I eat” somehow removed a ton of stress from my life that I didn’t know was there. It was so nice to just grab a meal container or two from the fridge and bike to work with it. Choices kind of suck sometimes…

An added benefit of this experimetn is that I only threw 30 grams (1oz.) of food packaging in the trash and the remaining 115grams (1/4lb) of package waste I generated was recyclable. I also bought a big water filter and eliminated waste from water bottles!

The Bad

Cleaning up after meal prepping was one major downside. The food prep itself didn’t take long, but the clean up did. If anybody has cleanup hacks to share that don’t involve disposable aids I am all ears! Drop a line in the comments 🙂

The other source of friction for me was that I ate so much rice & beans that I felt like I had to cook a new batch every day (because I did). Solution: I am going to get the biggest rice cooker I can find to save my sanity.

At first adding the cost of each meal in my notebook was taking me a long time, but in just 7 days I have internalized the cost per serving of my staple foods and can do the math quickly.

The Different

I also added a mini-goal for myself to eat at least a pound of vegetables per day. This happened every day which was exciting.

If I didn’t have a citrus fruit allergy or a watermelon sensitivity I think buying these foods in bulk could have kept my fruit costs lower and I could have managed 1lb of fruit per day as well.

Next week I have set a mini-goal to incorporate salmon and grass-fed beef (which are expensive per gram of protein) in the protein rotation.

Although the diet I ate over the last week might be a small step backwards in quality from my previous habits which include pounds of fruit, vegetables and pasture raised animal products per day, it is definitely a step up from a standard American diet and I have not experience any deleterious effects thus far.

Here is what my daily food costs and calorie/protein intake looked like this week.

Monday: $7.86 (3200 cal, 183g Protein, a kiwi off budget!)

Tuesday: $7.57 (3300 cal, 181g Protein, no kiwi 🙂

Wednesday: $6.98 (3550 cal, 193g Protein, lots of beans & peanut butter!)

Thursday: $7.54 (3200cal, 167g Protein, added more greens to breakfast smoothie)

Friday: $8.01 (3200cal, 160g Protein but ran out of beans, didn’t plan well, ate too much fruit & veg.)

Saturday:$7.47 (3200cal, 196g Protein)

Sunday:$6.62 (3200cal, 160g Protein, minimal protein powder and still under budget 🙂

Total daily food cost in week 1: $51.97

Average daily food cost in week 1: $7.42

Below are some of my staple meals from this week, their cost, and protein content.

  • Eggs w/ Rice, Beans & Zucchini Noodles– 4 Organic Eggs ($1.17 at Costco, cheaper next week, 24g Protein), 4oz. Zucchini Noodles ($0.43, 2g Protein), 1C Cooked White Rice ($0.11, 4.5g Protein), 1C Cooked Beans ($0.22, 15g Protein)
    • Total Cost=$1.99/Total Protein=45g Protein
  • Protein Green Smoothie- 1.5 scoops plant based protein powder ($0.90 36g protein), 5oz. Organic Greens ($0.67, 5g Protein), 4oz. Organic Frozen Strawberries ($0.62, 1g Protein), 2tbsp Chia Seeds ($0.08, 4g Protein), 1tbsp melted coconut oil ($0.07, no protein), water (free).
    • Total Cost=$2.34*/Total Protein=46g
    • *I add a non-caloric organic greens powder from Trader Joe’s, this isn’t factored into my daily cost but comes out to an additional $0.66 per serving that goes into my supplement (not food) budget.
  • Fried Rice & Beans w/ Spiced Ground Turkey or Braised Lamb Leg- 2 cups cooked & cooled white rice ($0.22, 9g Protein), 2 cups cooked beans ($0.44, 30g Protein), 4oz Turkey ($1.25, 22g Protein), 1tbsp Olive Oil ($0.11) or Grass-Fed Butter ($0.32)
    • Total Cost=$2.04/Total Protein=61g

Below are my staple snacks:

  • Peanut Butter w/ Honey & Chia Seeds- 3 tbsp Organic Peanut Butter ($0.30, 12g Protein), 1tbsp Chia Seeds ($0.04, 2g Protein), 1tsp Honey ($0.05, no protein)
    • Total Cost=$0.39/Total Protein=14g
  • Sauteed Carrots & Honey- 8oz carots chopped ($0.27, 3g Protein), 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil ($0.14, no protein), 3tsp Honey ($0.15, no protein), cayenne pepper, chili flakes and salt to taste
    • Total Cost=$0.56, 3g Protein

Some of the key lessons I learned this week:

  • Buy foods in bulk that have a low cost-per-gram of protein and low cost-per-calorie and construct your meals around these foods.
    • Lentils, black beans, rice, chia seeds, flax seeds, peanut butter all have low cost per calorie and low cost per gram of protein.
    • If you are on a low calorie, low carb diet for body fat loss you can keep costs down without copious amounts of rice and beans by consuming coconut oil, chia and flax seeds, nut butter, and other cheap fats.
  • Even an extra ounce of meat, fruit or vegetables can increase a meal’s cost greatly. Consumption of these three food groups should be budgeted for in advance.
    • These food groups also spoil quickest, so have a plan to preserve them. I froze extra fruit (kiwis), froze extra meat  cooking, and bought any vegetables frozen that were cheaper frozen. Carrots are inexpensive fresh and hold well so they can sit in the humidity controlled drawer of a fridge.
  • Dry black beans are slow to cook on stovetop even when soaked overnight. Like 3 hours slow. I will use my slow cooker next time, and will always cook the maximum amount my sauce pan or slow cooker will allow. They’re delicious with onions, garlic, cayenne and clove!
    • Lentils cook faster and have more protein, but black beans are a nice change up.
    • *Always soak beans overnight before cooking to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort*
  • It pays to have plenty of pyrex/glass storage containers and meal prep containers. I didn’t have to purchase any because after about a year of eating Power Supply meals and saving the containers I had plenty to work with.
  • Organization is key to fitting 150lbs of food into a 1 Bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. Accomplishing this required me to take everything out of my pantry, come up with an organization scheme (bulk bags on bottom!), and reload it. From there I also took inventory of my fridge and freezer’s contents and completely reorganized them. I have ample space left over, and I’m not working with a big fridge, freezer or pantry.

I’m looking forward to next week and correcting the mistakes I made in week one! If you’re not already, join the Grocery Hackers email list to stay updated on my progress and receive exclusive content I am not posting publicly!

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