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A Day In The Life of my Supposedly Frugal Stomach

Kicking Ass with Money is much like healthy eating and joyful living. It’s a series of daily habits that get you ahead, rather than a one-time heroic effort that fixes all your problems so you can go back to whatever you were doing before.

Because of this parallel, the subject of food is one of the nicest examples of Mustachian living, and one of the most powerful and efficient things to master.

Your eating choices will drastically affect your budget (especially if you are raising a family), but they also affect your health, energy levels, productivity, and happiness. The path to a great life goes directly across your dinner plate, so it is important to take this shit seriously and not mess around with your nutrition.

I’ve written about food several times before, sometimes with a focus on recipes or costs or general principles. But people often don’t believe me – they think I am either lying about my family’s grocery spending, eating a diet that is poor in nutritional value, or at least spending an inordinate amount of time on meal planning and preparation.

The truth is none of these things, although the actual story may still surprise you. So I thought that instead of issuing vague commandments like the preacher I am, I could share my functional and (somewhat) affordable eating style, even though it’s unusual and surely not for everyone.

So I’ll lay out a single day’s nutrition strategy, and why I think it is a good one. And then you can choose whether to ridicule it on Reddit, or adopt any tricks from it that you like for your own family. Are you ready? Then let’s take a trip into the MMM kitchen!

Alongside the Table Saw, the Cutting Board is also a favorite tool.

The first bit of crazy is that when I’m home, I eat almost the same thing every day. My son eats exactly the same thing every day* for now, and Mrs. MM runs her own show, perhaps with a bit more variety than either of us. This is a unique situation in our family that is different from most, and it adds extra complexity but fortunately not extra cost. You play with the cards you are dealt.

Most Important is your Eating Philosophy

For most people, food is just an automatic routine. They eat whatever seems tasty whenever they are hungry. People with stronger passions (sometimes known as Foodies), spend a large part of their day and mental energy seeking out perfect ingredients and flavors and meals. And for many, eating is an addiction – food calls to them (especially desserts and snacks), and they fight this addiction with varying degrees of success. People with a busy urban social life like New Yorkers get most of their food from restaurants, which throws both the nutrition content and the monthly cost into a randomizing hat.

The problem with all of these philosophies is that each is a huge gamble, with your life as the stakes. Because depending on your body chemistry and the foods you choose, you can end up anywhere on the health scale – I have met sweating car bound 25 year-old office workers who could barely stroll from the parking lot to the building, and also know a ripped 65 year-old carpenter who can still frame a three-story house by himself. The difference in the diets of these two men is as stark as the contrast in their physiques.

So my eating philosophy has always been that of the Engineer/Robot. Design each meal and each day’s food intake, according to my body’s current needs. Since my activity level changes drastically (yesterday’s mountain hike requires several times more calories than today’s work on this blog article), the food intake has to change accordingly. And since I don’t always get things exactly right, the mirror tells me when it’s time to make adjustments.

And finally, I’m a big fan of high standards and not fooling yourself. Stay lean and keep your body in condition to work hard. Learn to use the mirror, the measuring tape, and the scale as allies rather than generators of guilt and fear. If you’re not there yet, keep yourself moving in the right direction rather than being complacent. For example, if my abs get paved over with fat, I’ll adjust the variables below to go into fat loss mode until the problem is corrected. On the other hand, if I’m getting too skinny and trying to put on strength and weight, I’ll add the extra meals back in.

The Weird MMM Meal Plan

Breakfast

I have come to think of Breakfast as the time of Breaking the Fast.. but by now we all know that fasting is good for you, right?  So the design of your breakfast presents an interesting life-boosting opportunity: When you wake up, you’re already in a nice low-blood-sugar state, which means your body is beginning to think about burning fats as a source of energy (ketosis). This means that you can just prolong the fast by skipping breakfast and just enjoying some coffee or water, or take a softer approach and at least have a breakfast that is very low in sugar. So I do this:

  • Espresso Coffee with Whole milk and Coconut oil
  • A handful of mixed nuts
  • A few squares of dark chocolate (85%)

Subjectively, I find this breakfast is satisfying and delicious, but also keeps my body in low-sugar mode so I can begin a day of physical labor without hunger – and potentially work as long as I want, even skipping lunch and running on stored bodyfat if desired. (Note, I make the espresso with this cheap but good espresso machine and heat/fluff the milk and coconut oil together to get the result in that picture).

The end result is this nutrition profile:

note: all nutrient weights are in grams

At this point, you may be asking, “Wait, does Mustache really weigh and analyze his food?” – and the answer is “sorta.” While I endeavor to lead a relaxed, hippy lifestyle, the Engineer/Robot side is always in the background running the numbers. If you have at least a rough idea of the nutrition content of what you are eating, you will have a far easier time getting the results you want.

Mid Morning Snack

After breakfast, I usually bike downtown to a mixture of construction and weight training in the back “prisonyard” of the MMM-HQ Coworking space. After a few hours of this, I am ready for a bit more nutrition:

  • A giant salad
  • Plenty of water, or even the indulgence of a second cup of coffee

These big salads are a big part of my daily food expenditure and effort, but probably an even bigger part of my health. So they are definitely worth it. I make it easier by making salad in bulk every few days, and starting with a base of a pre-made $2.28 Kale Salad Kit from Sam’s/Costco. This provides a bunch of greens and saves much chopping. But I discard the crappy sugary dressing that comes with the kit and use my own olive oil-based dressing, also made in bulk from high quality ingredients also bought in bulk, (like 3 Liter Jugs of olive oil!)

I may throw in a protein bar (30g protein, $1.00) to this snack, depending on the intensity of the work.

Lunch

After the midmorning snack, I am back out for quality time with the saws and ladders for a few more hours, which feels great on a relatively light load of food because the body is burning clean and lean. The low carbohydrate nature of everything I have eaten so far keeps the hunger level so low that I could even work right through and skip lunch if needed, or if I were trying to lose fat. But since I’m currently at roughly right fat level and not wanting to be any lighter than I am, I break at around 2PM for something like this:

I have been on a bit of a Tilapia binge in recent months, because they are almost too convenient and tasty and easy to prepare. So much so, that I jokingly refer to them as “marriage savers” – there is no need to fret over whose turn it is to prepare dinner, if something with such a good nutrition profile is always in the freezer and just 15 toaster oven minutes away from your tongue.

While the nutrition profile is good, they are still a bit of an expensive source of protein. $2.00 sounds like chump change, but the same protein can be had for under fifty cents from other sources like bean and rice combinations, eggs, or even whey protein supplements.

A cost difference of just $1.50 per person per meal, multiplied over a four-person family’s 372 meals per month makes a difference of $558 per month, or about $96,000 per decade after compounding.

Yes, that is a hundred grand, and this is just the difference between a semi-frugal $2.00 meal component and a fifty cent equivalent from, say, your crock pot.

Imagine, then, the effect that impulse grocery purchases like those little $7.49 packs of sushi would make, if you casually toss them in the cart on a regular basis? A decade of a family’s innocent-seeming Whole Foods indulgence could pay for a house outright, while leaving them no better nourished than wiser meal planning with bulk ingredients.

Put a crock pot and a Costco membership to good use, and just watch what happens to your bank account.

Now, I took that sushi picture on my own kitchen table, so we too are guilty of this indulgence. But we are long past financial independence, and even then it is a rare purchase. The overall lesson is just, again, to take this shit seriously – make sure you appreciate every food purchase above beans-and-rice level as a conscious luxury rather than just a habit. And if you are in debt, no sushi for you!

Dinner

Another typical dinner – main dish is based on potatoes/veggies plus fancy sausages baked into a cheese-laden casserole.

Around 3:30pm in the afternoon, I’ll walk or bike home from “work”, so I can be there when my son returns home from school – one of the biggest rewards of early retirement. One of us parents will cook him a homemade pizza at this point (I pre-make the personal size shells and keep them in stacks in the freezer), so he can recharge with about 480 calories from a delicious meal that costs only about 50 cents to make.

Then us Adults will usually collaborate to make something like pulled-pork tacos:

 

On the side, we might add chopped fresh vegetables, more salad, or something more substantial as the appetites require. Like the filets, it’s not the cheapest possible way to get a meal, but at least it is reasonable. Also, we are omnivores, which is a more expensive and polluting way to get protein – but if you’re not badass enough to eat vegetarian you can at least make a substantial dent in your eco footprint by making beef your last choice of meats.

Adding it All Up

Although it took me quite a few hours to collect all this data on what I eat and add it up in a spreadsheet, the results have been quite interesting because I had never done it before. With just the stuff described above, I arrived at this point:

 

And the numbers were a bit surprising to me, in the following ways:

  • I am spending a lot more on food than I thought. If all three of us ate the way I do, our annual grocery bill would be $8600, not counting additional indulgences or food for parties. Since our real bill is closer to $6000, you can see that I am doing more than my share of the spending. Then again, I do weigh more than both Little MM and his mother combined , so perhaps this is fair.
  • My base calorie level is about right for my age and height for a moderately active person, but on active days I need closer to 4000 calories (if you look up a 185 pound male “athlete” for the baseline)
  • My base protein level is also about right for moderate activity, but on highly physical or weight training days I like to boost that to one gram per pound of bodyweight.
  • So while everything in this article is detailed and accurate so far, I tend to eat a variable amount of additional food to meet hunger needs, scaling it all up and down depending on what the mirror says. I use one or more of the following boosts.

Boosts

  • Handfuls of Nuts (1 ounce worth, 160 calories)
  • Protein Smoothie (banana, peanut butter, plain yogurt, tiny bit of milk, ice, water, and vanilla protein mix – about 1000 calories and 40 grams protein)
  • 2-3 simple eggs cooked in olive oil with a bit of cheese: 500 calories, 20 grams of protein, 50 cents or so.
  • Avocado toast: 3 eggs, some shredded cheese, avocado, all on a piece of whole wheat toast with butter. A truly decadent weight gainer of a snack, although quite cheap. Leave out toast if you are not trying to maintain or gain weight. 1000 calories, plenty of nutrients about a buck.

 

 

*and while I won’t explain this in detail here, parents of children with his personality type will understand without question. It is something people do tend to grow out of as they get older and gain confidence with new experiences.

 

  • Bill May 16, 2018, 1:32 pm

    I appreciate you diving into the nutrition minefield. Good luck and we’re all counting on you.

    Reply
  • Sean Merron May 16, 2018, 1:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing your diet Pete, I’m going through an in depth analysis of what goes into my body now and will share the results when done. So far I’m headed towards a 90% plant-based diet or possibly Mediterranean. The ultimate root of my problems have been centering my dish around animal protein vs. vegetables but right now I still see some benefits in animal protein consumption but at a lower level then I consume today. Too many studies contradict the other but some correlations do stand out to me like dairy ‘s link to cancer with Casein in the protein, making we want to avoid it almost completely and osteoporosis effects from acid intakes without appropriate alkaline intakes. Whole grains still make me nervous from my paleo days and I plan to remove supplements all together. Perfect timing on the post though as I go to make my first grocery shop adventure on my new diet. Hope all is well! Bon Apetite!

    Reply
  • Dan May 16, 2018, 2:01 pm

    This post was a good reminder to eat right. Today, I am doing computer training and quickly get bored with it. The food calls to me as a diversion. In a relatively short time, I will have a solid FI. I think it will be much easier to control my eating and exercise.

    I expect I’ll do as I did as a kid. I’ll forage wild nuts and berries, catch fish and maybe some venison sausage. There’s a lot of natural stuff growing in the woods that you can eat. Free food won’t impact the budget.

    Reply
  • Greg May 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

    Where are the oats, MMM? Cheap, filling, healthy, easy prep time, endless variations. Ultimate Mustachian food.

    Reply
    • Ms Blaise May 17, 2018, 3:48 am

      There’s a very long thread on the forum about oats for breakfast. We are a devoted lot.

      Reply
  • kz May 16, 2018, 2:17 pm

    I think of food as my daily medicine and as such, I make it nutritionally dense. I too eat the same thing for breakfast (late morning) and midday (late afternoon) meals. Fewer decisions – less stress and more energy for the decisions that genuinely require more pondering and wiser consideration. Lean protein & veggies are the bases of every meal, with some daily 85% cocoa dark chocolate and Greek yogurt, nuts, a few bites of protein bar covered in PB or another nut butter. BJs for us eastern US folks has several 1 pound salad greens mixes for <$4, plus lots of other ways to 'bulk up' and save $ and hassle. My love for IT batch processing extends into my kitchen, supported by my multi-cooker and a Vitamix. I haven't turned on my stove or gained an ounce in over 5 years…a recipe for good living. When I drive/road trip for vacations, I make sure my hotel room has a fridge and I haul my lunchtime salad ingredients with me – more savings, more picnics, more time I can spend in remote, natural areas that lack restaurants (and their associated monetary costs). I even pack my own picnic lunch salad if I'm on a midday flight…much healthier than most airport food (although that has improved a lot in the past decade).

    Reply
  • Jen May 16, 2018, 2:40 pm

    I rarely comment, (I love your posts) but just wanted to say that I, too, ate the same thing every day when I was kid for several years and eventually ate ‘normal’ :-)
    Thanks again for your great site

    Reply
  • Lisa May 16, 2018, 2:50 pm

    Pete, do you freeze the pizza crusts pre-baked? Or do you shape after rising, then freeze the crusts separated by layers of parchment? Guessing you add the toppings fresh just before baking? I’d like to know your details to compare to my method of homemade pizza, which I think is the best I’ve ever had…homemade sauce, too.

    Reply
  • Liz May 16, 2018, 3:08 pm

    Three things: 1) Our neighbors’ sweet kiddo has that same personality type as your son with the food. She has a very limited diet and eats pretty much the same thing every day. They don’t fight it and she is growing up just fine, and is perfectly normal! :) 2) That is a lot of work to measure everything! You are very committed. 3) I also tend to function better on a lower carb breakfast – I do coffee with coconut oil and cinnamon only and eggs and avocado for breakfast most days and I tend not to want to eat again until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I enjoy having that larger block of time to simply focus on whatever. I will say that when I do an early morning workout – usually a run or hot yoga, I crave some carbs for breakfast and will eat a limited amount as I’m hoping it’s simply my body telling me what I need. Since I’m retired, I have more time and only tend to do an early am workout 1 day a week.

    Reply
  • Oldster May 16, 2018, 3:36 pm

    I appreciate the effort it took you to compile this information. Very useful stuff. I’d have to add at least two beers to that total, so . . .

    Reply
  • Matt May 16, 2018, 4:23 pm

    I’m curious what percentage of your diet is organic or local? Cheeses/Meats/Veggies get incredibly more expensive even sourcing organic via Costco…let alone a Farmers Market.

    Reply
  • RevBob May 16, 2018, 4:28 pm

    Plant Garden. Weed Garden. Water garden. Weed garden again. Almost free food and exercise to boot. Learn to can your produce and you eat all year. Grow hops and brew your own beer and you save again…..but that’s another topic.

    Reply
  • Erik May 16, 2018, 4:44 pm

    I’m really curious… what is your salad dressIng recipe?

    Reply
  • Jessica May 16, 2018, 5:10 pm

    I want to hear more about the 65-year-old carpenter’s diet!

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugal Pharmacist May 16, 2018, 5:35 pm

    Wow! Oddly enough, your food profile looks eerily similar to mine! I guess frugal people think alike!

    Reply
  • Barrie Thesen May 16, 2018, 6:44 pm

    Everything looks healthy except for coconut oil, one of the highest oils in saturated fat. Check out the 2017 American Heart Association report advising people to avoid coconut oil.

    Reply
  • Melissa May 16, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Hi Mr. Money Mustache! Thanks for this excellent article about your eating habits. It definitely gave me some “food for thought” as I am a type 1 diabetic and should eat better than do.

    Reply
  • Nika May 16, 2018, 9:01 pm

    Good article! My eating has veered around and come out fairly similar. What I’m wondering though, is if you change your diet at all with the seasons, considering the great variety of vegetables out there, and how different ones get really cheap as they reach their peak season. I struggle a bit with finding a balance between simplicity/rotating the same meals, and taking advantage of what’s in season and coming out of my garden.

    Also, once you get into it, making your own condiments is pretty easy because most of them last a long time, so it might just be a matter of making one batch a year. I freeze pesto and make kimchi and sauerkraut as well as salsas, hot sauces, pickles and horseradish, and just keep the base ingredient around for Asian sauces (soy sauce, chili paste, fish sauce, ginger, etc.) rather than buying and pre-made bottled stuff.. I make mayo fairly often as well. This prevents a bunch of different stuff from languishing in the fridge, cuts down on the sugar and preservatives we’re eating and saves a lot of money and packaging. Example: we were buying Yucateco hot sauce @$2 per little bottle. Last year I grew a couple habanero plants, fermented the peppers with some salt, blended up, and have a year’s supply of habanero hot sauce which we dispense from re-used Yucateco bottles.

    Reply
  • KS May 16, 2018, 10:52 pm

    Dear MMM,

    Big fan of your blog for many years. I’m a physician in Los Angeles CA. I agree with most of your diet ideas, except for a few things. The latest medical evidence suggests that whole-food plant based diet, low in saturated fat, low in sugar, low in protein, is the best diet to maximize your health span (in my area, Dr. Valter Longo in USC is the expert on this matter). Processed meat (sausage) is a level-1 carcinogen that causes colon cancer in dose dependent manner. I used to make fun of vegans, then I lost 20 pounds and feels great after I became a vegan (plant based eater). Besides, plants are cheap compared to quality meats and fish. If you are curious, I’d be happy to send you scientific references. KS.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2018, 10:22 am

      Thanks KS, I am always looking for more science on the saturated fat issue, since it was a big surprise when I started seeing some meta-studies that it was NOT a problem after all (after a lifetime of assuming it was). If you can email me from the blog’s contact form at the top, or just send us any links by replying here, it would be great.

      The main point of the pro-sat-fat crowd (like Mark Sisson and Gary Staubes of Why We Get Fat fame), is that in most studies that found correlation of saturates and atherosclerosis, the carbohydrate factor was ignored, because nobody was looking at them as a potential problem. If you take a low-carb diet, and then vary the fats from unsaturated to saturated (according to these books), you don’t see any blood or artery problems. My own test results confirm this so far, too.

      But as I said, I trust scientific papers more than I trust my own anecdotal evidence, so please forward if you can.

      Reply
      • KS May 24, 2018, 7:00 am

        Dear MMM,

        Here you go; I explain it as the animals being the “middle men” that concentrate the plant nutrients, including protein. It’s always economical to cut out the “middle men.”

        1. “CONCLUSIONS: High animal protein intake was positively associated with
        mortality and high plant protein intake was inversely associated with mortality, especially
        among individuals with at least 1 lifestyle risk factor”

        JAMA, Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake
        With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality – https://prolonpro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/JAMA-Animals-vs-plant-based-Proteins-August-2016.pdf

        2. Dr. Volter Longo (USC)’s latest interview on his fasting/plant-based eating on longevity. Mind-blowing stuff if you’ve never heard of him speak. https://soundcloud.com/richroll/rrp367

        Reply
        • KS May 24, 2018, 7:11 am

          Sorry, I forgot to address the saturated fat issue. American Heart Association’s current position is, “Olive oil, nuts and seeds = good fats, Coconut oil = no good enough medical evidence to recommend it.”

          I explain it as “Fat you eat is fat you wear.” In general, you are better off avoiding saturated fat because they are so calorie-dense and they are (in general) associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

          Dr. Longo recommends whole-food, plant-based diet, and maybe eat fish twice a week for protein and omega-3. He also recommends twice-a-day meals – just breakfast and dinner.

          Personally I practice what I preach, which is all of the above.

          Reply
  • Black Raven May 17, 2018, 4:01 am

    Great article, MMM. Thank you for your contributions. I would suggest cutting down on dairy and eggs, though. In my research, I found out that egg are a cholesterol bombs and cause your arteries to clog. You do not need any cholesterol derived from animals, your body creates its own.

    I have recently found an interest in documentaries, let me recommend something to watch in your spare time:

    1) What the health (health problems like heart disease and diabetes how they relate with what we eat)
    2) Cowspiracy (environmental effect of animal agriculture)

    This is my first comment here, however, I am a long-term fan of yours. Thank you for trying to help regular people improve their lives for the better.

    Reply
  • Allison May 17, 2018, 5:01 am

    Im am far from mastering my food nutrition and cost goals…. that said, I have a few comments that I learned while crash coursing good nutrition. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and had incentive. I still have a lot to work on, my instructor was always giving me grief for eating meat at every single meal. But whats a simple Texas girl who’s grandfather owned a dairy farm to do?

    Olive oil has a low heat index (I use the vocabulary loosely as I created shortcuts for my memory). Cooking it at high temps causes the nutritional value to break down and can cause it to be a source of trans fats. I use it for salad dressing but have switched to avocado oil for cooking and roasting. It has a mild flavor and I havent been able to tell much difference.

    Tilapia are bottom feeders… I stay away from them. I keep cod filets and salmon filets in my freezer

    I also recommend Lundberg’s Organic Wild Rice. It’s delicious!

    Take from this whatever you want. I just wanted to share my thoughts as I read this article. I love your blog, it keeps me grounded and motivated!

    Reply
  • Married to a Swabian May 17, 2018, 5:21 am

    Great post, MMM. Our family of three became vegetarian over two years ago and that has been a huge plus for our health and wellness. Amazingly, however, it is still difficult to keep the grocery bill lower. We’re frugal, but really eat almost entirely fresh foods and often organic. Grocery bill is probably over $800 / month (need to check the numbers more closely!)
    Hey, MMM, please reconsider your consumption of Tilapia! This is a “man made” species of fish that didn’t even exist a few decades ago. Tilapia are raised in fish farms in gigantic numbers and at very low cost to feed the masses. A sort of biblical modern food technology development! I would question how healthy a food source like this is! As with most things: when man tampers with nature, it usually goes awry.

    Reply
    • Landon_Packrat May 17, 2018, 8:18 am

      Actually, man “tampering with nature” usually goes swimmingly well! Humans are hard-wired to look for the bad and ignore the good. This is an old survival adaptation from when missing one lion in the grass would kill you. So in reality, most “tampering with nature” never even gets noticed or recognized as such. It’s only when things go badly wrong that people take notice and categorize it as “tampering”.

      Reply
  • Eddie Jay May 17, 2018, 6:02 am

    Those are great eating habits. There are a thousand posts on the internet like the one I’m putting below but I’ll share because it’s one of my favs here. I found it helpful for planning (low cal) lunches to bring to work at an office job and some readers might too. I brew green tea to drink ($0.11/day) and snack on a low-sugar/salt trail mix ($var).

    How To Make A Week’s Worth of Vegan Lunches for $15 at Trader Joe’s
    https://spoonuniversity.com/recipe/vegan-lunches-for-15-dollars-a-week

    Reply
  • Faith May 17, 2018, 6:17 am

    I am surprised your calculations show no protein for your kale salad. Kale is very high in protein and while it’s not a big deal for you to leave it off, it does perpetuate the myth that vegan diets are low protein. There is an article in the NYT this morning about a fireman and his friend who switched to a vegan diet and killed their their previous Ironman PRs. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/17/nyregion/ironman-vegan-training.html

    If you don’t know any bodies you’d like to emulate who live on a vegan diet, you might increase your friend-zone. :)
    Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Ben Kurtz May 17, 2018, 8:31 am

    I think the scientist and engineer in you would really enjoy Harold McGee’s thousand-page treatise “On Food and Cooking.” It’s a cult classic among foodies — for a reason.

    By giving reasonably detailed yet accessible scientific explanations behind cooking techniques and the properties of various foods and ingredients, it can really give you a boost in the kitchen. It allows you to think through recipes and cooking techniques on first principles, rather than the usual cookbook approach of listing your ingredients and steps but with no deeper understanding of how and why things fit together the way they do. I also found it well written and entertaining to read.

    The frugality angle here is that it can reduce someone’s desire to visit restaurants for the sake of experiencing interesting or complicated dishes that such person would “never make at home,” by enabling and inspiring an ordinary person to make far more accomplished things at home than he would have beforehand.

    For example, after reading that book, my new party trick was to make souffles “on first principles” (read: without a written recipe) using whatever was lying around my host’s kitchen — the key things were very simple: butter, flour and eggs, mixed in the right proportions and handled correctly. Once I did a line of cocktail-themed dessert souffles which had flavors inspired by classics such as the Manhattan, the gin and tonic and the Martini. It’s easy to riff on a basic recipe successfully once you understand the essential moving parts behind the dish. I still haven’t found anything like that in any fancy restaurant I’ve every visited (and I must admit to still visiting quite a few, especially on business).

    Reply
  • WalterBob May 17, 2018, 8:35 am

    I am of the FIEW group. Financial independence and eating well. I must admit good sushi and sake is expensive but the experience of that type of meal is worth it. Or grilled sablefish. Or certain chocolates. Or macadamia nuts. I remember as a kid getting three macadamia nuts and a piece of chocolate for Christmas . I thought if I could get to place in life to able to have that everyday I would be rich and with FI I can do that.

    Reply
  • Meghan May 17, 2018, 8:53 am

    For the number of times you reference being an engineer, there is a shocking lack of units in those tables. It’s making me a little twitchy. Units matter ;)

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/462264.stm

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2018, 9:29 am

      That’s a very good point Meghan! Sloppy work on my part. All nutrients are in “grams” and energy is in “nutrition calories” aka “kilocalories”. But I might not be motivated enough to change the spreadsheet and re-capture those images from it :-)

      Reply
  • Frank May 17, 2018, 10:36 am

    Great post.. I tried going vegan, but it is too difficult to I didn’t feel that great. So I added eggs which helped, but I figured the best way to go is a happy medium and do some meat with tons of veg. This article has inspired me to adjust my meal plan though. I like your breakfast, and pre-lunch idea. I think it is easy to really load up on carbs in the morning (Toast, Oatmeal, and Potatoes). Now that I have a Bfs card buying raw nuts in bulk is awesome.

    I have heard of bullet proof coffee before, but don’t know much about it. Anyone have any credible data or health related info about it? Is there a difference between using butter or coconut oil? I tried it with coconut oil and it tasted good. Although I typically drink my coffee black so having some whole milk in there really dialed back the strength of the coffee. Can you get the same effects without the milk?

    Reply
  • Jen May 17, 2018, 11:54 am

    Do you or any of your readers have any further suggestions for frugal ways to use a crockpot and a Costco membership? My husband and I just got a Costco membership and feel quite lost when we go in there. We want to be wise with our purchases from Costco. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Sandy May 17, 2018, 1:38 pm

    It is amazing how when finances in a family get organized, how everything else also gets organized. For me that is exactly what happened. I retired 2 weeks before my 40 birthday (that was 5 years ago, and I planned for it for years), food in our home cleaned up like never before along the way. Just clean fuel for the body based on our daily activity. Our home itself also cleaned up along the way, sold all extra items and no longer have things that we don’t use. We are 2 people (no children) and our food costs $190 a month, and no we don’t eat junk just because the cost seems low. I bake bread from scratch, all food is planned as you said and made fresh daily. I buy organic produce from a local farm in Colorado a few months out of the year as the weather allows. It is one of those farms that you can buy a share and they deliver produce one a week. It helps the small farms in Colorado and I get great produce delivered to me weekly.
    But I just wanted to say when a person’s life gets organized, everything gets organized. I guess I want to say you can’t have good finances and just not care about food, health and so on. It is an awakening thing I think, more than planning. You are either awake or sleep, it just comes down to that. Once you awaken, you awaken in every area of your like, finances, food, health, and what goes on around you, and so on.
    As a side note, I got to thank you for a lesson you taught me a while back (may be 2 or 3 years ago). A question I had asked regarding repairing my car, or not, after hail damage in Colorado. I distinctly remember you responding, “congratulations of winning the hail lottery.” You went on to explain if I would not spend $2000 on a car on a regular day, no reason to do so after hail damage either given the fact that it will not matter in long term. I wanted to let you know that, your words, that lesson, came to save me, (and possibly my life, no joke), last year when I had to make a very tough decision regarding something else in my life. I just wanted to tell you this and thank you again. The reasoning you gave me regarding the hail damage, I was able to remember, and apply to another life situation and I came out of that situation on top. So thank you for taking the time to respond to my car hail damage question that day, it really really helped me last year when I was between a rock and a hard place. Just those few words made a life altering difference in my life.

    Reply
  • Christian May 17, 2018, 2:39 pm

    I’m curious what your diet would look like if you were still a desk jockey? Would there be many changes, maybe less calories?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 18, 2018, 3:45 pm

      Although I ate a much more bread-intensive diet back in my office days (which could be why I was noticeably fatter then), the calories were probably similar to now. Back then, I’d still do a long walk at lunch time each day, plus I had a more intense weight training regime, and a 16-mile roundtrip bike commute which included a 400 foot climb to get back home.

      Reply
  • Suzie Prince May 17, 2018, 2:49 pm

    Do you buy that Sam’s club salad in bulk? If so, I want to know about how you keep the salad leaves nice and fresh?

    We have successfully managed to reduce the amount of times we grocery shop (better things to do) while still maintaining low cost (yo frugal), fresh veggies (health for the win) and reducing our single use plastic (go world) but we rarely have salad at home. Every time we buy it (either loose, in a bag, or box) it goes mushy in a day or two.

    Please share how you rule the daily salad.
    – S

    Reply
  • benny lava May 17, 2018, 3:52 pm

    It’s lipolysis (not ketosis), when fats are burnt. Ketosis is an increase of ketone bodies in your blood.

    Reply
  • Denise May 17, 2018, 5:30 pm

    Lol, I thought I was doing well this morning with a small bowl of Cheerios with 2% milk until I found a can of “Nacho Sliced Jalapeno’s”… and I just kept eating one after another. It was a crazy combination, but it was sure good ! Your meal definitely looked better! 😊

    Reply
  • Nick May 17, 2018, 6:36 pm

    This post is awesome! Thanks for taking the time to write about the importance of tracking your diet not only from a health but also a cost perspective as well. I couldn’t agree more about the hidden costs (health and financial) of pre-packaged food such as supermarket sushi and restaurant meals along with your other articles about buying your food in bulk.

    As you showed with the tilapia comparison, the day-to-day costs make a huge impact. Based on prices in Houston, TX, I save over $2000+/yr just through meal prepping lunches for work! By combing beans and meat made in a crockpot with microwaveable frozen organic vegetables, it only takes about 1 hour per week to prep a week’s worth of healthy and affordable lunches and snacks.

    As you mentioned, coffee is also another huge area for cost saving. You can make your own cold brew by combining coffee grounds with water (1:5 ratio of grounds:water) and then leaving it in the fridge overnight. This takes your daily coffee cost to less than $0.10/day and results in a savings of up to over $900+/yr when compared to overpriced coffee shop cold brew and supermarket jugs. You can even learn to roast your own organic, fairtrade coffee beans in the oven or on the stove top and buy beans in bulk through Amazon from all over the world!

    There are also two other large costs savings from cooking to consider:
    -There are the long-term health costs that are associated with eating an unhealthy diet. Unhealthy eating leads to a shorter healthy lifespan and more health complications later in life. More health issues -> more unexpected $$$.
    -There are cost savings that come from cooking for others. Hear me out on this one. We all like to meet up with friends and often this is over food/drinks. By learning to cook you can do more hosting. By hosting, you build stronger relationships by giving back to those you care about (key for long-term happiness) while spending less on overpriced dinners and alcohol (key for financial independence)! For the price of one person’s dinner bill, you can easily provide dinner for 4 with plenty of wine!

    Thanks again for the great article!

    Reply
  • Val May 17, 2018, 8:05 pm

    A gentle reminder that humans have spread all over this earth because of our ability to eat ‘healthy’ on a variety of foods with different “percentages” of “macronutrients”. There are uber healthy people who have subsisted on mostly carbohydrates (potatoes-Andes Mountains) and ones that have subsisted on mostly fat (fish and seal-Arctic ocean regions). There is no “one right way” to eat.

    Eat less processed foods, try to figure out things that are grown seasonally in your bioregion and base your diet around that if you care about the environmental food print. I question the sanity of basing a diet in the dessert regions of Colorado on peppers, avocados, coconuts, and fish as much as I question driving too much. Just my 2c.

    Always be wary of unsolicited nutritional advice.

    Reply
  • Anonymous May 17, 2018, 9:24 pm

    I’m an avid MMM fan, but discouraged by your remarks about choosing non-organic, non-local, and eating animal products – like it’s no big deal. For all the long-sighted chastisements for people not giving a damn, we now know you have too have a short-sighted kryptonite. Love everything else you have say, but tarnished the halo a bit for me on this one.

    Reply
  • leanne May 18, 2018, 2:58 am

    Sounds delicious, Pete! My breakfasts and banana smoothie are nearly identical to yours, but I use whole peanuts and almonds in the smoothie and cocoa powder too ;)

    While eating nearly the same thing every day is a huge time saver and lets you save on the groceries by buying in bulk, just be extra careful that that one meal includes all of the vitamins and minerals (in addition to fat/protein/carb intake) that you need so you don’t end up nutrient deficient in the long run. Rotating through several favorite meals might better ensure you get some needed balance. I had a wake-up call after working with a nutritionist due to two allergies, and realized that I wasn’t getting enough of a mix to source my mineral and protein needs despite thinking that my diet was well balanced (and very similar to yours).

    For vegans out there, I as I have a milk protein allergy, note through working with my nutritionist I realized that it’s nearly impossible to get enough protein without eating meat and eggs every day :( So much to my disappointment i’m now trying get meat and two eggs every day. Also, avoiding milk products makes it very difficult to get enough calcium. I’m now trying to eat lots of cabbage, broccoli, take a calcium tablet and drink calcium fortified almond milk daily to come closer to meeting my needs. Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • Kiev May 22, 2018, 2:39 am

      I did not found a detailed description of the banana smoothie. Could you please tell me what you do insert for the morning shake? And roughly how much milk you add and the other ingredients. Is it one bananna? And how much cacao powder. At the moment I have never used powders such as protein. I prefer natural products.
      I just bought dark chocolate as recommended as well. It has 81% cacao powder. I did not get 85% in the supermarket. I may get it at another one. It tastes really good. I have avoided to eat chocolate at all. But two pieces of dark chocolate in addition to my Cappuccino sounds promising. However, I cannot stand to put coconut into into my coffe. I have a Faema E61 based espresso machine. I enjoy every cup of Cappuccino as much as I can. I drink only 2 cups a day. I do not need coffe. But I want it.

      Reply
  • Kiry C May 18, 2018, 8:05 am

    Great post, MM. Loved the Day in the Food life. Excellent suggestions.
    One small beef (hee hee) – the real environment killer is shipping all that produce by truck from California or other countries to our respective states.
    If one takes the time to find a local farmer and buy responsibly raised meat from that farmer, and buy seasonal veggies locally when available, that’s the optimal way of eating — other than growing and raising your own, of course.
    Eating meat raised in CAFOs, on the other hand, should be avoided for optimal health, animal welfare and the environment.

    Reply
  • Ana T May 18, 2018, 12:32 pm

    Hmm, buying pre-chopped salad and then throwing the bag of dressing away sounds a tad lazy and wasteful to me, MMM. I like all your suggestions, as always, but this seems to be veering into lamepants territory. Beware! hahaha

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 18, 2018, 3:37 pm

      YES! It is a tad lazy and wasteful. But not as bad as driving a car more than a couple of miles or ever taking an air travel vacation, both of which I do as well.

      I don’t lead a perfectly efficient life, just a Slightly less ridiculous than average one.

      Reply
  • Joey Graziano May 18, 2018, 6:17 pm

    I batch cook 3 meals for 3 hours every weekend. This effort, feeds my wife my dog and myself for about $80.

    Sometimes I go over but more or less I always spend less than $100 a week. Your post gave me some great ideas thank you!

    Reply
  • Anne May 19, 2018, 9:17 am

    You seem like the kind of person, like myself, who finds an alternative to something and will give it a try. Because hey, you won’t know the results until it’s attempted. I’m actually a bit surprised that I haven’t seen an experiment of trying a whole-foods plant-based diet for a period of time (unless I missed an article). It seemed like you readily gave the paleo-style thing a try. I saw you even experimented with fasting. I’m curious to see how you’d respond physically and financially. I only have my own experience that after going WFPB (2 years now), I experienced a pretty dramatic increase in my energy and physical abilities.

    Reply
  • CapitalistRoader May 19, 2018, 9:51 am

    Big Lots typically has coconut oil for $13/102 ounces and $8/60 ounces. Get on their email list and use the occasional 20% off the whole store coupon good on on a particular weekend.

    Reply
  • Consumer of None May 19, 2018, 10:51 am

    I want to get on the low-carb train, I really do, but every time I try to cut out carbs I end up starving with a headache. And this is having coffee with coconut oil, almonds, 3 eggs cooked in lots of oil with cheese – still feel shaky hungry even right after breakfast. I’m in my twenties and have always had quite a fast metabolism, so maybe my body just isn’t able to adjust?

    Reply
  • FIRECracker May 20, 2018, 9:06 am

    Love the calorie breakdown and comparison of a healthy diet to healthy financial habits. I’m a fan of low-cab too. My taste buds are super picky though so I wouldn’t be able to eat salad everyday–too boring. Ever time I start to get a little flabby from being in Europe too long, I just head to Asia and then automatically lose a ton of weight and gain lots of energy without trying. Everything is organic (they grow the veggies and raise the live stock locally), high in protein, delicious and cheap. I end up eating twice as much but still end up losing weight. Hooray for Asia!

    Reply
    • Tigermom May 22, 2018, 6:49 am

      The rice doesn’t kill your waistline? I just went to centre island and ate with Chinese and Korean friends something that was like a tamale, rice wrapped around meat and egg (cooked in banana leaf we think). So tasty! The rice though, there was a lot, mmmmmm

      Reply
  • SED May 20, 2018, 10:06 am

    Great post MMM! I like your focus on giving your body what it needs according to your activity level on a given day.

    I second several other commenters who mentioned The Blue Zones – a book about some very cool 100 year olds, and what we can learn from them. (Hint: they are the original Mustachians.) You can also watch the Blue Zones TED talk for a 20 minute summary. The author, Dan Buettner, is a National Geographic fellow and writer who expanded on the work of a team of demographers that had identified concentrated populations of centenarians in several regions around the world. The researchers had circled the areas on a map in blue ink, hence the name “Blue Zones”.

    Over a number of years, Buettner’s team identified common factors in these populations that contributed to longevity. One was diet – 90% plant based on average, with 10% from animal products (none were vegan, and almost all included a little meat) — but just as important was lifestyle: a lot of natural physical activity incorporated into the day, a relaxed pace of life, strong community and family connections with daily in-person interaction, and a sense of life purpose. Sound familiar?

    It may be that Mustachians are unknowingly forming their own Blue Zones!

    Reply
  • Melissa May 20, 2018, 10:56 am

    We had been trying, again, to wean from the fast food quick stops. We are not super athletic nor big eaters, i.e. calorie wise, we’re probably “average” on the need scale, and we do eat healthy-ish. I’m on a cobb salad kick right now and loving it. However, we do nab a cheeseburger in the drive thru. We could just as easily (and in the same timeframe as waiting in line in the car) go home and cook an egg on toast at a cost of what, maybe 30 cents? This article in particular made me think of our food spending, as aside from the fast food $1.40 burgers, we really don’t eat out in a sit-down/served by a waiter restaurant except for maybe 3 special occasions a year. My entire spending for two parents and a child in a year (I keep a spreadsheet) is about $4200. I feel we eat very well, preparing our own meals. We always have 2 big containers of salad in the fridge. Usually one is some kind of kale, the other might be potato or coleslaw or right now-cobb, and we enjoy cooking. However, our restaurant spending is around $1000 of that $4200. Which to me is far too much fast food -this is not dining, this is majority drive thru convenience eating. Ouch! Opening my eyes to the restaurant spending is helpful, and I will renew my efforts to go home for a healthier option instead of lazily hitting my perceived to be quicker alternative, drive thru.

    Reply
  • mle detroit May 20, 2018, 3:13 pm

    Totally off topic, but if someone’s about to finish sixth grade and move on to middle school, shouldn’t he be promoted from “Little” MM to “Junior” or maybe “-In-Training”? Hope y’all have a great summer!

    Reply
  • Ilmari May 21, 2018, 2:53 am

    Hey MMM, great blog post, and I like both your breakfast and salad options! Having said that, I remember you’ve promoted outmeal in the past. That’s my usual breakfast and it gives energy for the whole morning, especially if you add some fruits or nuts on top of it.

    Have you changed your preferences, or oats simply didn’t make it to the blog post this time?

    Reply
  • Joe May 21, 2018, 10:25 am

    Amazing post! I think the protein/fat numbers are missing on your mid-morning?

    How would you adjust this and the macro numbers for an athletic person (but hobbled by desk work life) looking to drop 25 lbs?

    Reply
  • The vintage Doc from the Tardis May 21, 2018, 12:45 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Mr Money Mustache. I pretty much agree with most of it, except that I tend to eat a lot more for breakfast and lunch and have a very light dinner and supper. I will briefly mention my working day routine because it is a bit radical and I would like to get some feedback specially on how to optimise it further. Here it goes: I wake up at 4am. Prepare espresso in an old Italian mocha maker (the sort that goes on the hob), pour it down a thermal flask and place it with my packed lunch and breakfast in my bicycle bag. Cycle 14 miles to work (about an hour), have a shower at work and then eat my breakfast. Breakfast always consists of about 300g of oats, 100g of walnuts, and about 200g of various berries (blueberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries, etc) all mixed up with half a pint of water and a teaspoon of plain cocoa. Lunch is about 5 hours later (midday) and is usually Salmon with roasted potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes. Then I cycle another 14 miles back home, have another shower and then have my dinner. Dinner is usually two cheese and spinach sandwiches with olive oil, 4 blood oranges or tangerines or clementines, and two bananas. Supper is just a glass of Turmeric latte (cold milk with a teaspoon of turmeric) for which there is some scientific evidence (needs more research) indicating that it might reduce the chances of you getting some cancers. What do you think? Moneywise, it is very economical (about £5 or £4 per day).
    Best wishes,
    The Doc

    Reply

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