“I Don’t Want to Spend All This Time Thinking About Food.”

I don't want to spend all this time thinking about food. I just want to get dinner on the table.

This is a comment you'll often see online (and hear in real life) whenever the subject of food and frugality comes up. It's a fascinating comment because in one fell swoop it both over-complicates and misses the entire point of everything.

To see what I mean, I'll share with you a recent trip I made to the grocery store, at a time when I really didn't want to spend any time thinking or cooking. And I didn't want to spend a lot of money either. So, I bought:

1 pound of generic white beans,
1 pound of generic lentils,
Carrots and celery,
2 cans whole peeled tomatoes and 1 can diced tomatoes.

These items enabled me to make a hug pot of Lentil Soup and another big pot of hilariously easy White Bean Stew. Voila: Dinner and lunches for several days at a total cost of maybe ten bucks, and done literally without thought.

There's a catch, however. I can do this without thought because at one time in the past I spent some time thinking about exactly what makes a given recipe cheap, easy, healthy and good. Then, I spent time looking for (and in some cases creating) many such easy and cheap recipes.

And yet our hypothetical person making the statement above doesn't have to worry about this catch: He doesn't have to spend any time thinking about this at all. He doesn't have to figure out what qualities make for easy and cheap recipes, much less does he have to come up with them. Those recipes and those ideas are already here, waiting for him!

In other words, the high-level thinking only has to occur once. Just once. Better yet, the thinking doesn't even have to happen in his head--it has to happen in mine, so I can render the ideas here, in writing, for you.

You then get to use the concepts, the ideas and all of the recipes to make your own hilariously easy and cheap meals whenever you want to.

The notion of "spending all this time thinking about food" is a canard. It's just pushback. The solutions have already been figured out, and they're waiting for you. If you're willing to see them.

Read Next: The Top Lame-Ass Excuses Between You and Better Health

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Janet C. said...

This article reminded me of tonight's dinner. It was a simple pea soup. But the catch was that when I made the soup (I actually made it on Sunday expecting to eat it today) I didn't mean to make pea soup. I was craving old-fashioned lentil soup with mushrooms. So I started the soup: sauteed onions, carrots, celery, orange bell pepper (for the zeaxanthin:-), mushrooms, etc then added a little boxed veggie broth, water and some dried herbs and seasonings...Then it was time to add lentils. Now, I was SURE we had lentils in the house. Nope. So rather than waste the start of a perfectly good soup, I added some dried green peas. And it turned out to be one of the better soups I ever made! (Although I am glad that we didn't have any canned tomatoes in the house..not sure how they would have tasted in pea soup..) Once you understand the basic recipe, you really can make all kinds of easy and yummy soups! The secret is not to think, just to do. We have decided to keep basic soup ingredients in the house all winter long. Soups are satisfying and warming and really do take little thought!

Marcia said...

Yep. I think the issue is that a lot of people haven't learned to think outside the box, or experiment, or anything.

It's like health and weight loss. A lot of people want "the answer" not "a formula". So they want a menu plan and grocery list - these absolutely abound these days for sale - vegan, vegetarian, paleo, general healthy - whatever.

For $5, you buy a week's meal plan with recipes and a grocery list (I even have a book or two with similar plans in them). And depending on the site, you can even get a specific workout plan too. "Just tell me what to do."

For me, I'd rather have a FORMULA instead of a specific plan. I like workout plans, but they have to be flexible because my time is short (and valuable). My meals have to be flexible. I prefer "recipes" that I can work into my week. I buy what's on sale, and during 44 weeks of the year, my produce is whatever I get from the CSA, so a specific "go buy this" won't work for me.

I still think people need to think about it - not ALL the work is done for them. But the thinking can be done in baby steps. One week, figure out a cheap bean soup recipe. Little by little you get new plans, recipes, and tweaks. It still takes thought, but not necessarily a huge amount all at once.

Rebecca said...

This seems analogous to my thinking on money (which is probably quite similar to yours). I spend very little time thinking about money now (and almost no time worrying about it) because I did a lot of thinking and reading about it when I was starting out in my career. It took a pretty serious investment of time up front, but now almost everything is automatic, so I just sit back with my glass of box wine, and think about all the awesome things I want to do, instead of worrying about how to make ends meet.