New Project for a New Year

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A friend of mine — who shall remain nameless because I know he values his anonymity — participates in the Word of the Year project started by singer/songwriter/creativity consultant Christine Kane.

I’ve been thinking about that lately and decided I kind of like that idea, and decided that my Word of the Year for 2010 should be Finish.

I feel like I have a lot of things I’ve started or talked about starting or considered starting that just haven’t gotten done. They’re either hanging around partially completed, or sitting forlornly on an old to-do list somewhere, not even started yet. And some of them are things I decided I don’t really care about, but some are things I would actually like to finish, even if only so I can stop thinking about them. Or so I can have my mom stop saying things like, “You need to fix your screen door,” every time she comes to visit. Which is only once a year. And I think she’s said that three times now.

So I started the week with high hopes, and on Monday began working on finishing a few work things, and after working at my desk for 8+ hours, I had gotten through about 20% of one thing and 30% of another while at least three new things had come in that now need to be finished.

So I’m not sure how this is going to work out. Perhaps the Word of the Year needs to be No for a few months, before I can get to Finish.

But anyway, one of the things I’d like to Finish is the food project, so I can be done with it and move on.

I’ve read a bunch of diet and health books since the end of my first fabulous project, and have tested out some things to see how they work, and it’s all been very interesting.

At first I was thinking that any project that lasted more than a week would kill me, so my initial idea was going to be to go for a week of the best nutrition I could manage and see how much it cost. But then I got hung up on what the “best nutrition” would be, and then other things came up, and at this point that project isn’t so appealing to me anymore.

So what I’ve settled on is a project that will be good for me and I think will help other people, but that won’t be very disruptive to my normal life because it’s not very different from what I normally do. And I’m pretty sure it won’t be interesting enough for People magazine, so that should make things easier too.

I’m going to go for three months eating a “nutritious” diet — one that is low in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white rice), high in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables), and moderate in fats, with an emphasis on “good” fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). This is basically what I’ve decided is the most sensible approach to good nutrition. I’ll write more on that later.

I will shop primarily Whole Foods, which is where I normally shop — though I reserve the right to pick up things at other stores, especially Compare, which, like Whole Foods, is walking distance from my house — and I will spend approximately $100 a month on food. This is slightly more than I normally spend.

I will post receipts, and I will give general information on what I ate, but I’m not committing to giving a detailed accounting of every meal I eat for the next three months. Though perhaps I will warm to the exhibitionism aspect as the project goes on.

Eating out won’t count as part of the $100, though I tend to not eat out that much so I don’t think it will affect things too much either way. But if I have visitors or take a trip or whatever, the money I spend on food during that time won’t be included in the $100 total. If people think that’s “cheating” or somehow invalidates things, I can report on that separately.

I am not starting from scratch the way I did on the other project. Everything in my pantry and freezer is fair game, but I’ll report on what’s there for starters, so everyone knows what I have to work with.

One of the purposes of this project is for me to eat better — it’s easy to get lazy and just eat the same things and not ever try anything new — so I plan on trying some new foods and new recipes, and I will report on that. I will also post at least one recipe a week of something I made that meets the above nutritional criteria. Hopefully the recipes will be good, but as far as I’m concerned cautionary tales have value too, so I’m not committing to that. How things turn out is how they turn out.

So that’s the project: a healthy diet from Whole Foods for $100 a month.

Alert the media.

10 Responses to “New Project for a New Year”

  1. fivecats Says:

    hey, i thought you only had ONE friend. that Ann must feel betrayed now or something.

    Three Months, Three Hundred Dollars, Whole Foods. while i get the intention of Eating More Healthy for three months i think the ‘better’ challenge would be to do so at FoodWorld, or whatever generic big food store is nearby.

    here’s my thinking on this: most of us couldn’t manage to feed ourselves, much less feed ourselves well on $100 a month (roughly $3.30 a day). then toss in shopping at a high dollar place like Whole Foods? fuggetaboutit. doing this through Whole Foods is like doing free advertising for an Elitist Gourmet Edibles Emporium while not giving The Average Shopper any help in how to eat better as they’re living their lives now.

    that’s my 2¢.

    –Someone who values anonymity, which is why i use Fivecats in most places online.

  2. Heather B Says:

    Hooray! I look forward to regular posts from you again. Good luck.

  3. Laura Morrison Says:

    I look forward to seeing how your project goes! I have also chosen a “Word of the Year” and my word this year is FOCUS which is a lot like FINISH.

    Here is hoping we both succeed with our new words!

    (Now…back to answering e-mail!)

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Dear Mr. Fivecats —

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my blog, Less Is Enough.

    I did indeed consider the implications of doing a project that involves shopping at a store that most people do not have access to, and my first thought was to make the project as accessible as possible by shopping healthfully and cheaply at Food Lion.

    There are several problems with this, one of them being that the Food Lion is about 2.5 miles from my house, making it a 5 mile round-trip walk, which is Not Convenient. Another is that I do not particularly like shopping at Food Lion, and there are limits to the sacrifices I’m willing to make for the sake of my adoring public. However the main factor actually had to do with Whole Foods itself — and the perception of it as an Elitist Gourmet Edibles Emporium — which is something I feel very strongly about and will address shortly in a full post.

    So stay tuned for more information on this important topic.

    Faithfully yours,

    Less Is Enough

  5. Tom Says:

    Dear Ms. Less Is Enough,

    Thank you for your quick response to my thoughtful comments.

    It was my misguided belief that you were hoping to Educate the Public at Large with your eating experiments, to show them that eating “differently” was not only possible but could be done practically and without much effort or money. I did not realize that Your Convenience was paramount to these experiments and that the “learning” being communicated was only as good as the Average Reader’s availability to an Elitist Edibles Gourmet Emporium.

    I had thought that you were One of the People, striving to Make a Positive Difference in the World. I now see that you are, obviously, a shill for the Elitist Edibles Gourmet Emporium who merely pretends to blog as “a normal person” and not as an Elitist Edibles Gourmet Emporium paid staffer.

    Either that or you are desperate to re-catch the wandering eye of People Magazine and/or be invited back to The Rachel Ray show.

    It is a sad, sad thing to see what the slightest hint of fame can do to a person.



  6. Valerie Says:

    I guess I’m seeing this experiment a little differently; we live in the middle of nearly nowhere, and I’m figuring that if Less Is Enough can shop at Whole Foods and eat well for three months for less than $300, I should be able to do as well or perhaps even better at my local IGA.

    Our closest grocery store is 20 miles away, so my shopping has to be carefully planned and fresh fruits and vegetables are often chosen based on their ability to store well. Fortunately, many of these are also among the least expensive. I cook for two, my husband and myself, so I will be following this with interest.

    Thanks for being willing to take on another project!

    Peace, Valerie

  7. Sharon Says:

    Thanks for doing this! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with on this round. This is also pretty close to the average food stamp amount that has been used for many of the food stamp challenges.

    For people that would like the challenge done with access to a different set of grocery stores, how about taking that on and posting a link to your blog? In addition to different grocery stores, it would also be helpful for the challenge to be done in different parts of the country, since various regions have different frugal local foods and vary in their cuisines.


  8. lessisenough Says:

    It would be great if other people want to try the project at their local grocery store. I’ll definitely put up links if anyone else wants to write about it.

    Like I said, I did think about the general applicability, but grocery stores are so different everywhere that no one really has the same experience — even people living in the same town have different experiences based on which store is closest and where they prefer to shop.

    There are other reasons I’m sticking with Whole Foods (which, as I noted, I will outline in detail in a full post), but one of them is definitely that Whole Foods is pretty much universally regarded as the most expensive grocery store out there. So it seems to me that if I can do the project at Whole Foods, other people should be able to do it other places for less.

  9. CherylK Says:

    This is a great idea which could easily be adapted for most anyone. The bottom line being eating healthier. I’m not sure I could do it for $100 a month but certainly a lot less than I’m spending, now. I’ll be following along!

  10. Marcia Says:

    Hey, I’m looking forward to seeing your progress, in part because we just got a whole foods. I understood the point of your challenge almost immediately – the idea that Whole Foods (aka whole paycheck) is pretty expensive, so that if you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.

    I have done similar projects in my blog over the last couple of years…never to the detail that you have. I have the advantage of being able and willing to drive to many stores to get the best prices. Which I think is useful for some people, but not for others.

    As far as the critic goes – Whole Foods vs. Generic Grocery Store – I would say the big difference will be in How You Shop. The “standard” method of grocery shopping, which works for families, is to buy in bulk. This is how you could follow Less Is Enough’s plan for a family. Most certainly, a 5-lb bag of pinto beans on sale at your Mega Mart is going to be cheaper per lb than buying in the bins at WF. (though I have found the bulk bins at WF to be a very good deal).

    The difference here (and something she said she wasn’t going to handle) is that her method is to buy only what she needs for a given week – or at least, that’s how she handled the last project. If you want more information about the “method”, you’ll have to look elsewhere. There are legions of blogs and books out there on different methods of eating healthfully on a budget. Some really good ones that I’ve found are The Grocery Shrink and Cook For Good. They handle the shopping/eating methods differently from each other and from this blog.

    I am looking forward to seeing what you can do. I know my experiments are limited to what I am willing to do. I have an annual share in a CSA. It’s $20 a week. I could get the food cheaper by comparison shopping, but I am not willing to give up my local, organic, CSA (I’ve been a member for 10 years) for the sake of an experiment.

    Likewise, if I were you, I wouldn’t be willing to drive just to do my shopping. In fact, we have a really well-priced wholesale produce store that I simply don’t shop at anymore. Why? Well, because it was near my son’s daycare, and now he’s in school. I have no reason to drive to that end of town.

    Good luck.

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