Onto week three, with the home cooking experiment well underway, and lots to report by way of progress and setbacks. While it has been quite tasty and satisfying to eat meals prepared at home, what has emerged as a challenge is keeping up supply to meet the demand as the week wore on. The good news? Financial savings were substantial. The bad news? Slim pickin’s by the end of the week… especially for lunch.
Before beginning the experiment, I counseled my client to spend some time on Sunday, preparing some easy recipes that he can take to work during the week, or freeze for easy dinners at the end of a long day. Having had this habit myself for years, I know how far a little prep work on a leisurely Sunday can go in regards to staying on point during the week. I have long spent an hour or two on a Sunday making big pots of soup that I freeze in portioned containers, or making a batch of fresh hummus for quick lunches and snacks. It is the crux of maintaining a practice of eating home cooked meals, unless of course, you have a chef at home that can prepare you for the day. Most of us don’t have that luxury therefore a little planning can go a long way.
Easy recipes were a key point. Not accustomed to cooking at all, he needed things that were tasty and could be made quickly without a lot instruction or need for sophisticated kitchen appliances. Armed with a bunch of quick recipes, he set out for Whole Foods to stock up and get going for the week. That first Sunday he made seven batches of raw granola, six servings of Mediterranean Tuna Salad, two batches of kale pesto, and marinated and froze individual chicken breasts for fast dinners. Vegetable omelets made with asparagus that he chopped up the night before, with boiled potatoes he made in large batches and kept refrigerated and reheated, started his day off with enough protein and carbs to sustain his energy needs. Two pints of Mediterranean tuna salad (made with mercury-free tuna) and a sleeve of rice crackers served as both lunch and snack options as did the raw granola. He kept his work refrigerator stocked with hummus and apples for more options. Yet by that first Thursday, he was down to bare bones, trying hard to stay with it, but quickly running out of food. To give you an idea of how much food he needs by comparison to someone that does not train at an advanced level, the amount of food he prepared could feed an average person 10 to 12 lunches. He was going through all of that in three and a half days. Clearly, we underestimated his needs. That, or there was something else going on. I suspect there is…. Perhaps the cleanliness of the food was helping his body metabolize it more efficiently than the on-the-run, overly oily foods that he was eating before… to be discussed in part 3 next week.
This was less of a problem for me than for my client. While I do exercise and stay fit, my need for fuel is not that hard to navigate. A couple of oat bars with some almond butter or a container of Mediterranean tuna salad with rice crackers and I am good to go in regards to lunch. Making sure that breakfast is hearty with either a breakfast burrito or some raw granola, I can get by on smaller meals throughout the day. Dinner is often some soup or kale pesto with a bit of brown rice pasta~ nothing big or labor intensive. But for someone that is both a life-long athlete and accustomed to eating high fat meals on the run, the transition was harder to navigate. Yet he was reaping the rewards of his efforts with increased energy levels, greater focus and clarity and was adding time to his runs, noticing that he felt strong enough to run, on average 75 to 80 minutes at a time, up from 50 to 55. Not to mention the fact that he was saving on average $150 a week on food! That’s before factoring in weekend meals out in New York restaurants, which if included would increase his savings by another $100 to $150 per week! These results are what steeled his resolve and had him reaching out to me for more suggestions and strategizing in order to stay with the plan.
I suggested he add some avocado and nut butters to his repertoire to allow his body to feel full longer. Fats, along with proteins, take longer to digest, and can help increase time between meals. I also had him keep pre-made, frozen brown rice in his freezer, that he could quickly mix with steamed or sautéed broccoli and pair with marinated chicken breast or occasionally, a sliced steak. I encouraged him to boil up some brown rice pasta and toss it with sautéed broccoli for quick carbo-loading snacks or meals on his running days. I also sent along the recipe for apple compote, a great treat he could add to his raw granola or to a bowl of Rice Dream Ice Cream for the occasional treat. He also offered that he was going to buy a rotisserie chicken (he was not yet up to the task of baking his own), shred the chicken so he could add it to his eggs or rice dishes or use as an alternative to tuna for the Mediterranean salad, for an additional quick protein boost. He kept a couple of pounds of boiled potatoes in his fridge at a time to add to breakfast or to bring as part of his meal for lunch. He also mentioned that he was making an attempt at keeping salad supplies in the house in an effort to increase his greens daily. All good. By week two, he was on track to creating a routine that he could sustain and sustained him. He loved the foods he was eating and was enjoying the results. I’m creating a convert, I see, and his results so far are surpassing his expectations. The time invested at home on Sunday is time saved during the week at work, allowing him to stay at his desk, generating more business rather than running out several times a day for food. His mind is in a good place and his motivation is fierce.
That is before we even discuss the benefits to his body. My body has benefitted too from the continuous home cooking. There are advantages to eating from home that extend beyond improved energy levels and greater clarity. But more on that in next week’s post….