Eating Experiment No. 2: Preliminary Findings

Eating Experiment No. 2: Preliminary Findings

Eating Experiment No. 2: Preliminary Findings

Outrageous experiments in sensible eating.
Jan. 16 2011 11:35 AM

Eating Experiment No. 2: Preliminary Findings

Ellen Tarlin Ellen Tarlin

Ellen Tarlin is a former Slate copy chief and writer of the "Clean Plate" blog. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBrooklyn Bridge, Bark, and  the RISK storytelling podcast. Follow her on Twitter.

to spend as little as possible on food while still getting all my nutrients. Total failure!


My daily and per-meal cost of eating isn't all that high, though it could be lower. So many commenters made great points and posted amazing perfect-eating-day plans, which I'm still plowing through and hope to compile soon. Loved the fried rice I made, the kale omelet, and lentils! I also love the way that my more healthful eating has made me practically immune to chocolate temptation. I kind of love MyPyramid's analysis tools, though I could see getting really obsessed with them; so I wouldn't recommend them for everyone, and I wouldn't take the numbers too seriously.

Hated: I hated being sick, obviously.

Learned: I learned a lot this week. Some of my favorite foods (pineapple, Cara Cara oranges) are pricey, but I don't seem willing to give them up. However, I did learn that I've been spending $7.19 on a 28-ounce can of McCann's Steel-Cut Oats at (my grocer of choice--yes, not the least expensive place to shop), when the same amount at Trader Joe's costs $4.99! Also, 75 cents for an apple is a lot! However, if you are buying for a large family, it makes sense to buy larger, less-expensive bags of fruits and vegetables. Since I'm only buying for two, it still ends up being cheaper to buy fruit by the piece though the per-ounce cost might be higher. I should be buying my dry goods in bulk. Who's got a recommendation for a good, inexpensive bulk-foods Web site?

On a separate note, I need to work harder to get vegetables into my daily eating. And beans are a wonder food: They're inexpensive; come in many varieties; supply protein, carbohydrate, and loads of other good things; and are very low in fat. And there's nothing wrong with beans for breakfast!


As always, I need to plan ahead more. It's not realistic or fair to expect myself to cook a meal from scratch when I get home from work at 7:30 at night. (I haven't practiced guitar once since I started this project.) It would be great to have some meals banked for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week. Obviously I need to make a frittata, as several commenters have suggested. What a great idea!

Foods I like I need to order more of, like cottage cheese. Why do I order only one container of it each week?

Surprises: A lot of commenters mentioned that I'm not eating very much. Part of it was due to illness this week, but I wonder if my appetite is adjusting. I was surprised at how god-awful my coffee is.­ I'd obviously grown numb to the taste of it and should work on making it better and drinking less of it. I really love green tea--that's not surprising; what's surprising is that I usually drink that before coffee in the morning. I'm still surprised at how much I like kale. Some of my photos look much better on my black dresser than on my farmhouse dining table. A homemade salad costs more than I thought.

Conclusion: Spending as little as possible on food apparently isn't a huge priority for me. I suppose if it had to be, it would be, but I prefer to make healthier choices and choose foods I like, even if they are out of season.


My grocery order this week came to $120, a little lower than my usual weekly total cost, but I made better choices. I used MyPyramid to choose foods by group, so I made sure I got items from each food group (grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, dairy, fats), each subgroup (for vegetables: leafy greens, orange, starchy, other), each color group (red, orange and yellow, green, blue and purple, and white; see chart below), and for each meal. I also came up with dishes to cook this week; I'll be precooking on the holiday tomorrow.


Next Up: Tomorrow I discuss one of the greatest healthy-eating obstacles of all: time.