I’m six weeks into an experiment of how long I can live off the food in my house. This experiment was prompted because I had stocked up on food items during the Pandemic of 2020 and two years later wondered just how long I could live off this food if I had to. I also grow a lot of my own food so had a freezer full of fruits and vegetables too. In this post, I’ll tell you how it’s going, the lessons learned, some surprising repercussions, and how much longer I think I can do this.
Now, for my update. Wow, so much to say here!
Mindset & Strategy
Let’s start with my mindset and what has changed in that regard. It’s kind of weird because I have struggled with food addiction throughout my life. I have approached this experiment like a competition. I want to last as long as possible without buying groceries. I’m just a little (well, maybe a lot) competitive so this is working in my favor.
I started by decreasing my serving sizes. Hey, if I’m living through an apocalypse, I need to find a way to make the food last, right? I pretty much cut all my portion sizes in half.
That being said, I’m still eating more than I would if I were in an actual food shortage situation.
I’ve never really cooked a lot. I’m pretty basic in that department. But hey, you can only eat black beans and rice for so many days before being damn sick of black beans and rice.
I have learned how to bake bread, make my own crackers, and figured out some creative solutions to eating 5 quarts of pureed beets.
I’m enjoying cooking as I can make things just the flavor I like, limit the ingredients (compared to store-bought), and have food on hand when I need it.
I’ve tried foods I would not have otherwise eaten. For example:
- Chia seed pudding made with leftover pumpkin puree.
- Beets and cutie oranges added to quinoa and other root vegetables.
- Bread made with oat and nut flour.
- Mushroom coffee (gifted to me and utterly amazing)
- Home-made hot cocoa made with almond milk and cacao and cinnamon.
- Vegetable stirfry with quinoa and beets.
- Coconut flavored yogurt (I’ve always asserted I hate coconut – until it was free and I’m doing an experiment to last as long as possible)
- Cherry puree on toast, in chia seed pudding, in smoothies, and in Oatmeal (I’ve also always asserted I hate Cherries. See a video about this below).
- Making my own ice cream with bananas, chocolate, almond milk, etc.
I’m cooking in batches and freezing into smaller portion sizes. Because it’s winter, I’ll make a huge crockpot of soup or black beans and rice and then freeze it in smaller containers. This has been so helpful as I’ll just pull out a bowl of two different kinds of food and that way if I’m not really feeling one of them, I can eat the other.
I also do this with bread. I’ll make a couple of loaves and slice them up into individual servings and then put just enough for a couple of days into a container. I don’t eat a lot of bread but I do find it nice to have on hand for an occasional treat.
Produce vs Meat
I’m not a hunter or a big meat eater. That means I’m dependent upon fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts. This wouldn’t be a problem at all if it wasn’t January in the middle of the US (i.e. difficult to grow anything right now).
Nutritional Value is of Primary Importance
Maybe one of the most unusual mindset changes I’ve had is the importance of the nutritional content of each meal I make. Because my health is so important to me, I’m seeking to pack as much nutrition into every meal I make. It’s very rarely pretty to look at but I know it is packed with nutrition.
A good example of packing as much nutrition as possible is my morning Oatmeal. I generally have oatmeal about 4 times a week. Before this experiment, I just made oatmeal and ate it with a little honey and cinnamon. Now that I know the oatmeal will be one of two meals I have for the day, I pack it full of nutrition and flavor – a tsp of chia seeds, a tsp of almond nuts, a tsp of flax seeds, some raisins or cherries, vanilla extract, a tsp of butter, some almond milk and cinnamon. Then I take about a third of the serving and refrigerate it. When I’m feeling a little hungry throughout the day, I just have a spoon of supercharged oatmeal.
On the flip side of this, I used to eat a ton of saltine crackers. Well, I’m out so I had to figure out how to make them. When I realized they are basically just flour, water, salt, and some seasoning, I knew crackers would soon be off the menu for me. There is literally no nutrition in a cracker. How could I not have known this?
Bartering is King!
Back to my 5 quarts of pureed beets. I’ve never been great at bartering. I like to just give things away. But I’m realizing when I do that, it deprives the other person of the feeling they have contributed. A friend of mine said she loved beets and I hooked her up. Guess what she had? Eggs and Butternut Squash. Score!
Another friend of mine asked me to write a letter for her to send to her lawyer and of course, I was happy to do so. To my surprise, I found Oatmeal and Bananas on my kitchen counter the next day!
Outcomes & Surprises
There are so many surprising outcomes from this experiment.
Food is Abundant & People Throw Out A Lot of Food
I’ve only told a few people locally about my experiment and am amazed at the food that has shown up on my doorstep because they were going to throw it out, didn’t like it, didn’t know what to do with it, or it was going bad. And this was quality food – organic cherries, SoBe Yogurt, etc. Maybe there isn’t a food shortage but just a “getting food to the people who need it” problem.
Of course, if there were an apocalypse they probably wouldn’t be giving their food away.
Ingredients Are Much More Important to Me Now
I’ve always been someone that read the labels on food items so this outcome is a bit surprising. I moved to a location that is basically a food desert about 4 years ago. The grocery store is Dollar General. While I grow a lot of my own food, I had gotten lazy regarding snacks or warm meals in the winter. If I didn’t feel like cooking, I’d run down to the Dollar store and get a chicken pot pie. Do you have any idea what is in the chicken pot pie at Dollar General? Yeah, it’s not pretty.
Now that I’m cooking things and realizing how few ingredients are needed for most items, I’m hyper-aware of what is being put into store-bought pre-packaged meals. As a single person, I found it difficult to cook for one and I’d overeat. So, I’d go buy a single serving item and cook that thinking I was doing myself a favor. When I think of the ingredients I was ingesting, it makes me kind of want to throw up in my mouth.
I just looked up the ingredients list of saltine crackers – 3 ingredients (4 actually because I added a flax seed topping to mine) when I made them, 8 ingredients for Nabisco. And then there’s the whole packaging waste thing to add to that and how that impacts our environment. Geez, what was I thinking?
People are Generous
I am constantly amazed at how generous people are. I’ve listed throughout this post, others are very willing to give, barter, and help me with this challenge in any way they can.
My Relationship with Food
You’ll see in some of my other posts that I’m also on a weight loss journey. That’s not why I’m doing this experiment but it’s been interesting to see my relationship with food change almost overnight. This is completely the result of a mindset shift. I now view food as a nutritional fuel for my body. It’s no longer my best friend and confidant. This is so weird for me.
I do still find if I get especially stressed or tired, I want to eat. But I don’t think about eating all day like I used to. It might be because I know the food options are limited but mealtime is just a task for the day, something I need to do to keep my body working efficiently.
Saving Money, Time, and Mental Space
Of course, I’m saving money on groceries but a surprising outcome is the additional savings of fuel, time, and mental space.
I’m saving money on fuel because I’m not driving 20 miles away to get groceries every week. But I’m also not getting exposed to all the Covid germs of all the people milling about in the store. This is a bonus in my opinion as more and more people that I personally know have gotten pretty sick with Covid. Additionally, I’m not putting mileage on my car and I’m not having to drive in adverse weather. All bonuses in my book!
You’d think this experiment would be taking more time out of my day because I’m cooking but that isn’t the case. This is because the cooking I do includes throwing what I have into a crockpot and letting it cook all day and then freezing it into individual servings that last me weeks. My cooking generally consists of heating something up in the microwave twice a day.
Let’s talk about mental space. I’m not thinking about food as much. I’m not thinking about how I’m going to stop by the gas station to get a Cliff bar after I’m done hiking. I’m not thinking about a grocery list. I’m not thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner (it’s going to be one of the two options currently in the refrigerator). I’m not thinking about how good an ice cream cone would be right now because there is no sense in thinking about things I can’t go get. It’s been really surprising how I just don’t think about food or meals much anymore.
Trash and Decreased Impact on the Planet
I’ve been cognizant of my impact on the planet for a while so I’ve always paid attention to waste and tried to recycle. I am surprised at how very little trash I have now. Mostly what I do have is recyclable. This feels good and also makes me aware of how much is being put in landfills because of our propensity to purchase food from stores.
How Much Longer?
I just finished my 6th week and I’m not gonna lie, there are days I just want to be done with it. Then I think about all the positive outcomes I’ve had by doing this. I for sure have enough food to last two or three more weeks, maybe even another month depending on what I cook and how much I eat of it. I don’t feel deprived at all and I still have plenty of toilet paper. As an interesting but kind of gross side note, I don’t poop as much now that I’m not eating as much so yeah, I didn’t anticipate that either.
I want to keep doing this as long as possible because I like the impact it is having on some of my bad habits. I also like knowing exactly what is in my food. I also like the challenge. I even took a road trip and packed my own food and coffee. I like knowing I can do those things.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this experiment and any tips you have in the comments.
Final Results Update
Well, I made it 8 weeks without groceries before I ended the experiment. You can find out how it went, why I ended it (because I still had plenty of food), what I learned, and my recommendations for you by watching this video.