Over the past few months, I’ve discovered an amazing correlation between my debts and my waistline: they’re both shrinking.
Here’s how it happened. I started making a monthly “food budget,” where I decided to cap my monthly spending on all food, whether it be eating out or eating at home. Each month, I’ve tightened the screws on it just a bit to keep me thinking on my toes and planning ahead. This has had a few interesting effects:
First, I eat at home way more often. I rarely eat out any more. Instead, I prepare my food at home. The stuff I prepare at home isn’t necessarily healthy, but it is more healthy than pretty much anything one can get eating out without spending good money.
Second, I take my lunch to work. I used to eat out with coworkers almost every day, and it was almost unhealthy. Now, I bring my own lunch, consisting of leftovers or of foods I’ve already prepared for myself
I also buy much less prepared food at the grocery store. With a well-stocked kitchen full of basic staples, it becomes easy to prepare your own meals instead of relying on meals that are prepackaged. Most of my shopping now happens in the produce and fresh foods section of the grocery store, meaning I’m buying stuff that already has much less fat in it than I was buying before.
In the last three months, I’ve lost about ten pounds, with the only changes in relation to my diet and exercise being the food budget. A real interesting side effect, if I do say so myself.
So how does one get started? Many people are quite scared of cooking real meals for themselves; it seems messy and time-intensive and so they order take-out or make prepackaged meals. The amazing part is if you do it right, cooking at home can be very non-time intensive. I recommend reading How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It’s a long book, but one that starts off with almost no assumptions about you and the kitchen; the first recipe is popcorn, for example. It’s also full of instruction on basic techniques.
Don’t worry about choosing recipes that are “healthy,” especially if you’re just getting started with the transition into making your own meals at home. Most home recipes are better than the average prepackaged meal and almost all of them are better than the average take-out meal.
If you make a few basic things, start saving some money, and start feeling good about yourself, I’d recommend a stocking your kitchen well and moving on to more complicated recipes. There will eventually come a moment where it begins to seem easy, and you’ll eventually find some recipes that just make your mouth melt that just don’t take very long at all (like my rosemary-encrusted chicken breasts). Plus, since you’re doing it at home, you’re in control of what it costs and how healthy it is.