(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)
I found variety in my breakfasts and lunches, but in order to conserve money while also getting a nutritious meal, I found myself eating the same dinner over and over again: organic chicken, broccoli, and cheese, recipe courtesy of foodhero.org. Here's what I learned from eating the same dinner for a month.
1. My stress levels decreased.
I wasn’t worried about what to eat. I wasn’t worried about making grocery lists or when I would go to the store. I wasn’t worried that the store might not have what I needed. Cooking healthy meals for myself became simple, and something I didn’t even have to think. After slightly tweaking the original recipe, I could walk inside and buy five items:
1. Organic chicken
2. Organic broccoli
3. Organic chicken broth
4. Organic cream of chicken
5. Organic small shell pasta
Imagine leaving work, heading to the grocery store, and not having to fight with the hundreds of tired people also leaving work and trying to buy groceries. Ten minutes, in and out. What would you do with all your extra time? Go on a run? Watch Stranger Things? Both???
2. I learned how to get creative.
Even for a bachelor, the same meal gets boring. The experiment forced me to get creative with different food items and garnishes in order to spice things up, an invaluable lesson for someone just learning to cook. Think of how you learn anything—you practice the basics and slowly add complexity over subsequent iterations. By the end of the month, I knew how to use every spice in my cabinet, from chili powder to paprika, and was even comfortable experimenting with fruits, cheeses, and fresh herbs. Chicken and shells with Manchego and basil? Chicken and shells with goat cheese and spinach? Night to night, I felt like I was eating different meals.
Related: 10 Herbs To Grow Inside Year-Round
3. I knew I was getting a warm organic meal every night.
Need I say more?
4. I had more money to spend on other things.
Before my experiment, I found myself blowing about $70 per week on groceries, which gave me food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days per week, plus snacks. That’s $11.67 on food per day, almost double the $6.09 that I allowed myself to spend on the USDA’s Thrifty Plan. After four weeks of buying organic chicken and shells, I knew where to get the ingredients most cheaply (hint: Trader Joes is a good bet), and could buy myself a week’s worth of dinners for $13.34: $7.09 for the chicken, $2.99 for broccoli, $1.99 for the soup, $.28 for the garlic, and $.99 for the pasta. That left me another $29.26 to spend on breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, which wasn’t such a stretch.
Related: 7 Ways To Eat Organic Meat On A Budget
In other words, by basing my monthly meals around a simple chicken and shells recipe, I was able to stick to the Thrifty Plan, which saved me $27.40 per week, or $109.60 per month. A year might be a little too long for me to eat the same recipe every night, but if I kept it up or traded off with another inexpensive option, we’re talking a savings of $1,315.20 per year, or 87 yearly subscriptions to Organic Life (By the way, have you subscribed yet?).
5. I got really, really good at cooking organic chicken and shells.
Try writing about your right fingernail every day for a month. A weird example, but I guarantee that you’ll notice details on Day 28 that were invisible to you on Day 1. Chicken and shells are the same. At this point, I could probably write you an essay called “The Effects of Cooking Water Composition on Stickiness and Texture of Organic Chicken and Shells.” The dish is a hit at parties.
Am I telling you to eat organic chicken and shells for a month? No. But if you’re interested in lowering your stress levels, learning how to cook, saving money, and guaranteeing yourself a warm organic meal every night, simplifying your meals for a month at a time is not such a bad idea.