Day #350: Eating Healthy on the Cheap

Now that my workouts have increased in frequency and intensity, it seems that I am hungry ALL of the time.  However, I’m worried that I’ll get so hungry that I’ll eat junk because it’s fast and easy.  My solution?  I rarely eat at all.  I was sharing this dilemma with a friend this morning and she was horrified.  “Won’t your body just start digesting your muscle?”  she asked.  I’m not so sure about that, but I’m probably not being very responsible.  On top of that, two hours a day of exercise on an empty stomach is leaving me incredibly sleepy.  Something has to change.

Here is my challenge.  According to my research, I need to consume 2,000 calories per day between three meals and 2-3 snacks.  That sounds to me like none of the meals (or snacks) will be fairly substantial — not to mention it is a far cry from the 8,000 to 10,000 calories that Michael P scarfs down each day.  Apparently, you are supposed to eat breakfast every day and drink lots of water.  This will not be easy.  I’ve come up with a decent rotation for breakfast of bagels, English muffins and whole grain cereal.  Fortunately, all three of these were on sale this week, so I was able to scoop up all three for $4.75.  At just one serving a day, these should last me at least a month.  My coach is suggesting peanut butter (for protein) with my carbs, but I think I’ll have to alternate that with some good old fashioned butter.  If I add in a quart of milk each week, this should cover breakfast for a little over $10 for the month.

I’ve got snacks figured out too.  Because I need a little extra fuel for my workouts, those will be Clif bars and yogurt with granola.  I can get a month’s supply of Clif bars for about $30 and yogurt is usually on sale for about 50 cents per cup.  That should put snacks at about $50 per month.

Now comes the hard part.  What do I do about lunch and dinner?  Clearly I’m going to have to start packing my lunch.  The $8 it costs me to pick up a sandwich or salad at a fast food joint is probably not the best use of my cash on a daily basis.  I think I’ll be better off packing my own salad.  I ought to be able to cobble together enough ingredients from the weekly produce box to come up with a decent lunch.  With a few extra items I should be able to handle lunch for the month for about $100.

This is crazy!  I haven’t even eaten dinner (or any meat) yet and this will cost me over $35 per week!  Something isn’t right here.  For comparison, I checked out a local company that offers a meal service that conforms to the dietary recommendations of the healthy eating program at a local hospital.  For a 1,200 calorie, breakfast, lunch and dinner plan for seven days a week for one month (20 days), they charge $519.  That’s $120 per week.  Perhaps that should be my barometer.  Over the next week, I will attempt to configure out how to feed myself 2,000 calories per day for (significantly) less than that.  If I can’t do it or find that the convenience of having someone else do the work is too attractive, I’ll be the first to admit it.  Wish me luck!

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