Yesterday, I cleaned the carpet in our apartment. I didn’t rent a machine. I used one that has belonged to my mom for more than 20 years. It is in pristine condition, so afterwards, I spent nearly as much time cleaning it as I did cleaning the carpet. Why? Because it costs a lot less to take care of what we already have than it does to replace it. Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without. This was our grandparent’s philosophy on “stuff” and one that we believe is still just as valuable today.
“Stop showing me pictures of food! I’m starving to death and that looks delicious!” my sister said yesterday, as I scrolled through the photos on my phone.
“You can have this deliciousness in your life too,” I teased , stopping on a picture of our dinner from the night before – stir-fried veggies sizzling in a cast iron skillet. “It’s available every day, right from the very store where you work.” (She works at Aldi.)
“Right! After you cook it!” she scoffed. “I honestly don’t know how you have the time or money to eat like that every day!”
I’m not picking on my sister. In fact, she’s not the first person to wonder what and how we eat. Month after month, the most searched terms on this site are always “minimalist diet”, “minimalist meal planning” and “what do minimalists eat”. The short answer there is food. Minimalists eat food.
My sister considers herself a minimalist and she most frequently dines at the drive-thru. She works full-time and has a 16-year-old son with a bottomless stomach to feed, so it’s easy and convenient for her. My mom, also somewhat a minimalist, could eat peanut butter and bananas every day, with the occasional bowl of soup thrown in for good measure. Minimalism isn’t really about what you eat.
As minimalists, Angie and I believe in simplicity in all things. For us, good health is the cornerstone of a simple life and food is the fuel that powers good health. From the multitude of medications that clutter your cabinet to the doctor’s appointments that take up your time, from the drain on your physical energy to the stress on your family, there’s nothing simple about battling chronic disease. I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on this blog) but I do believe that many of the diseases we face today – diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure – are related to what we eat. If eating well reduces the risk of these diseases, that’s about as simple as it gets. So…with that being said…
We eat food, mostly plants, the occasional piece of fish, and whatever my mom makes for us on those rare occasions when she cooks. This might include meat but more often it’s a dessert. She loves to bake and we’ve just learned to accept that. We eat three meals and two snacks a day, consisting of mostly the same menu items all the time.
We make most of our food from scratch – including non-dairy yogurt, sourdough bread, and crackers – but this did not happen overnight. It has taken us almost 5 years to get to where we are today. After watching Food, Inc. in 2015, we started reducing our meat consumption. Next we cut processed foods. The quick meals and packaged cookies were easy but it took a lot longer to cut out things like chips and cereal (which are still sticking points for us at times). Then we joined a CSA to increase our exposure to different veggies. For most of our lives, the only veggies we knew were potatoes, carrots, green beans, broccoli, and salad fixings. We now eat more veggies than I can list. Which led to the garden. The next step in our food journey was to grow part of our own food. Last year, we grew tomatoes, squash, peas, eggplant, okra, blackberries, peppers, onions, sunflowers, and microgreens. Recently we started eating more fermented foods for good gut health.
We don’t follow any particular diet. No Keto, no GAPS, not even the Mediterranean Diet. We generally eat what we want, even chocolate chip cookies. We don’t really practice moderation either. I have, in the not so distant past, eaten an entire pizza by myself. Okay, so it was only 10 inches and it was homemade, but the point is…we don’t put much thought into what we eat anymore and it seems to be working just fine.
A typical menu in our home might look like this:
- Oatmeal with apples, blueberries, or cranberries and nuts (sweetened with honey)
- Sourdough toast or an English muffin with jelly and fruit
- Non-dairy yogurt, a banana, and dry toast
- Sourdough waffles, pancakes, or apple fritters with maple syrup
- Soup and salad*
- PB&J or a veggie wrap with homemade potato chips
- Grilled hummus or grilled cheese sandwich with a salad or raw veggies
- Pasta with any one of a variety of sauces, including marinara, pumpkin-goat cheese, sweet potato puree, stir-fried veggies, or olive oil and garlic
- Mexican, including veggie burritos, mushroom fajitas, fish tacos, or just a bean and rice bowl with salsa
- Veggie stir-fry with brown rice
- Veggie plate, comprised of whatever is in season or pulled from the freezer, with biscuits (lately it’s been pumpkin or sweet potato biscuits)
- Homemade pizza
- Baked potatoes with vegetarian chili
*Soup and salad is our go-to lunch combo. We make a big pot of soup every Sunday – either vegetable, black bean, tomato, potato, or chili. We pair it with whatever salad items are in season. In winter, that may only be lettuce, carrots, and celery 🙂
Every lunch is served with a fruit, usually an apple or orange. Our snacks mainly consist of air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit, dried fruit, peanut butter and crackers, or occasionally, that dessert my mom made for us.
Keeping our menu items roughly the same all the time helps tremendously with shopping and meal prep. At the end of last year, we started ordering bulk groceries once a month online (and picking them up curbside) and shopping weekly only for fresh foods. So far, this has really worked in our favor. We spent only $90 on bulk groceries (from Walmart/Sam’s Club) in December and less than $100 on fresh foods, including a produce box from Misfit Market (something we’ll discuss in more detail next week). The fresh foods also included items for two holiday meals, so I imagine the cost will be even less this month.
My sister is right about one thing. Eating well does take time, but I’d argue that the amount of time it takes to prepare a healthy meal is nothing in comparison to the time it takes to recover from being sick. We spend 1-3 hours every Sunday morning in the kitchen prepping for the week ahead. We pre-chop our veggies for salads and stir-fries. We also make soup, spaghetti sauce, beans, rice, or bread products in bulk (depending on our needs). A lot of this we freeze for those times when we want a quick meal. With our prep work done, dinner usually takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.
So what do minimalists eat? We eat food from the garden, the Farmer’s Market, the grocery store, and sometimes even restaurants. We eat organic when we can. We eat food that’s fun to prepare and fun to eat. Yes, chocolate can be good for you! We eat pizza. We even eat birthday cake…at least twice a year anyway. But always, always…we try to eat food that nourishes our bodies and our minds and gives us the best shot at a long and happy life.
Are you following a particular diet plan? Does it work for you? What are some of the most frequent menu items in your home? Do you bulk shop? We’d love to hear your thoughts and/or questions.
We start our day the same way every day – with a cup of dark roast coffee and a book. Angie and Caesar curl up on the loveseat (sometimes with James Patterson; though of that fact, I am never jealous!) and I take the couch for a wake-up routine that has been our thing for nearly 8 years now. We find that reading is a great way to open our eyes and our minds first thing in the morning and to set the stage for a positive day to come. Especially when the book is interesting!
Between the two of us, we read 63 books in 2019. We read travelogues, biographies, mysteries, crime novels, memoirs, and more. Some were good, some were not, and a few were simply outstanding. These are the ones that we still refer to, talk about, and steal ideas from most often and these are the ones we want to share with you today.
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Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living
I’ve been a follower/fan of the Frugalwoods for years now and really enjoyed the story of their simplicity journey. For three years, Elizabeth and Nate lived like no one else and today (yep, you guessed it), they live like no one else. I was most inspired by the fact that they lived on just 30% of their income and never lost focus of their dream of exiting the rat race to live a quiet life in Vermont.
Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer
Heather Lende is one of my favorite authors. She lives in the small town of Haines, AK, where she is an unconventional obituary writer. Instead of giving the details of a neighbor’s death, she tells the story of their life in each column. Through short anecdotes about real people, Heather shows readers how to find the good in the world again by seeing the positive in every situation.
The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
I love a good 365-project so this book about not shopping for a year was right up my alley. As with any book about minimalism, I always find myself decluttering as I read, and this was no exception. I think I got rid of 50 items that week! What I liked most about the book was Cate’s honesty. She talked openly about her addictions (to alcohol, shopping, and food), framing their role in her life in a way that I could identify with.
It’s Not About Money…except when it is
This was probably the best book about money that I read last year. Except…it’s not really about money. Amy Dingmann is a Minnesota farm girl who speaks my language when it comes to spending, saving, and just living every day in a monetary system that doesn’t always fit a minimalist’s mindset. This book won’t teach you anything about money but it will make you think about how you think about money.
A Thrifty Good Life: Reflections on My Unexpected Journey Toward Homegrown Simplicity and Healing
This book made me want to buy a house just so we could dig up the front yard! Sarah Sailer and her family live on 1/5 of an acre just blocks from downtown. They grow all of their own food, plus enough to supply a neighborhood CSA. As folks who aspire to grow our own food too, Angie and I were inspired beyond measure by this book. If Sarah can farm 1/5 of an acre, we can surely make better use of the space we have.
The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick
I picked this book up mostly to prove a point – that getting sick is not “just a part of life”. I believe most illnesses can be avoided. This book tells the story of 25 people who each take a different approach to better health. Some believe the secret is a cold shower, others (like us) think it’s what you eat. Regardless of what you think already, you’ll likely find some things you’ve never even heard of in this book…and a few you’ll probably never want to try!
Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating
Did you know that Parmesan cheese (the kind in the shaker) can contain cardboard? Or that nearly 70% of all sushi sold in restaurants is made with a cheaper fish than what’s listed on the menu? Or how about the fact that a cow might just have nibbled a blade of grass once in it’s life to be considered grass fed? I did not know these things. (Okay, I knew about the cardboard, but not the rest.) This book really opened my eyes to the fakery in our food system.
Do you have a morning routine? Does it include reading? What was your favorite book of 2019?