Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2015: Introducing the £3 Real Deal

I decided to set myself some vaguely realistic goals for 2015, given my track record of making New Year's resolutions every year and never keeping any of them. I think I've been vowing to give up junk food for 15 years, but somehow pizza just finds its way into my mouth and I can't do anything about it. Finishing off the chocolate coins and swearing, "I'll definitely cut out bad food tomorrow after I eat the last of the Christmas junk". But tomorrow is the same story, and all we're left with is defeat and little foil wrappers.

Sure, we could all do with eating a little less rubbish, but cutting out nice food completely isn't the answer. I've looked into those popular fitness diets that the internet loves, like keto (aka Atkins 2.0) and paleo - but these diets, aside from really only being suitable for high-activity lifestyles, really don't appeal to me. For one thing, I point blank refuse to cook with coconut oil (I'll stick to removing my makeup with it thanks). But that aside, let's be honest with ourselves. Cake isn't the same without wheat flour (the only wheat-free cake I've ever enjoyed is the Meringue Girls' flourless chocolate cake at the Hackney Picturehouse - gooey perfection). A rich, tangy pomodoro sauce is defeated when poured over spaghetti made from courgettes. If you like it, more power to you, but it's not a lifestyle I could get into. (And I've tried it - I went gluten free for a month to see if it helped my eczema. It didn't, and it was rubbish.)

It's my (entirely unqualified) belief that you don't need to go Soviet to eat healthily. An occasional slice of cake or sneaky brownie is not going to make you suddenly inflate into Violet Beauregarde.

Oompa Loompa doompadee-doo, you shouldn't have had that pizza should you?
Cooking with butter is OK now and again. Low fat often means low flavour, and sometimes can be just as bad for you as the full fat versions. But eating things like pizza, pasta and sandwiches day in day out is going to do you no favours. You don't have to entirely cut out the things you love in order to be a bit healthier (unless the thing you love is meth, in which case it's probably best to) but be reasonable about how much you eat. Cut down portion sizes - I'm not talking Masterchef size portions here, but don't eat for two when you could freeze the other half and get two meals out of whatever it is you're eating. And despite what your parents may have told you when you were growing up, you don't have to finish everything on your plate. You're supposed to eat until you're not hungry any more, not until you feel stuffed. And for god's sake, go for a walk. Get off the Tube a stop earlier. Walk to the station instead of getting the bus. Get up off your arse. (This is directed at myself more than anything else.)

So what's the easiest way to eat healthier? Make it yourself. No contest. A homemade dish is not only better for you but also 900% less depressing than that Tesco microwave lasagne. Eating out, while a lovely treat once in a while, isn't great for the waistline if done regularly - one reason it tastes so good is that chefs use lots of butter in their dishes. And ditch takeaways. Make it yourself, it tastes better, and it's not full of neon coloured mystery oils.


But most importantly, don't beat yourself up about it. Food guilt is poisonous. It can lead to all sorts of problems and a really unhealthy relationship with food. Food is wonderful. It's tasty. It should be exciting. You just need to do it right.

And, well, I haven't been.

This year I started a Masters course, and I've just dropped the ball. I'm back to my student ways and I'm committing the cardinal sin of convenience eating. I need a quick fix, something that I can chow down in 15 minutes to satiate my hunger and get on with my day.

You've done it. I've done it. I'm talking about the Meal Deal.

These days, for a mere £3 you can get an entire meal from a supermarket. The problem is that we all seem to forget that you can make a fantastic meal for a whole lot less than that. Don't tell me you don't have time - in the evening, take the 20 mins you'd spend on Reddit or Netflix and chuck together something in the kitchen for your lunch the next day. You can even do it WHILE you are watching Netflix. I KNOW RIGHT.

It's a choice between 20 minutes of your time and delicious goodness, and two pieces of soggy bread with soylent green in the middle and little nutritional value.

This is my New Year's resolution. Death to the Meal Deal. I'm going to make my own lunches. I have my arsenal of food storage at the ready.

Sophie's Angels
On the left we have the Sistema Klip It To Go salad box. This is fantastic for transporting salads as it has a little shelf that sits in the top with a pot for dressing and space to put extra veg. I put tomatoes in the top to be added to the salad at time of eating, so they don't make the rest of the salad soggy.

In the middle is my trusty mini Thermos - a Paperchase one - although it's a little on the small side for soups. It fits half a Covent Garden soup, and let's be honest, they're lying when they say 1/2 a pack is a portion.

And on the right, the newest addition to my team: a Thermos food flask, courtesy of Santa. I don't have microwave facilities at uni so any means of transporting hot food is a blessing - it's also a massive time saver for preparing lunch as all I need to do is heat up leftovers in the morning. This should comfortably fit a portion of food and keep it toasty.

So for me, this is an exercise in not only saving money but also eating healthier. I'm going to try and keep this blog updated with interesting lunch recipes that I make (and find) to hopefully inspire others to do the same. This, friends, is the dawn of the £3 Real Deal, my quest to show you that it's possible to make an infinitely better lunch with the £3 you would have spent on disappointment and cardboard.

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