Previously, I wrote about my experiences with my second year doing a Clean January. The goal is to start a habit or eliminate something unhealthy for at least one month with the hope of building it into your life permanently.
Some of my goals were surprisingly more successful than they were the year before. For those that would like to try something like this for themselves. I hope that my experience can help lead you in the right direction.
I already covered a large part of my adventure in another post. Food, however, was such a large change that I believed it deserved its own space.
My goal concerning food sounds simple: no fast food for the entire month. For this experiment, I qualified fast food as any restaurant that most of the food is delivered via drive-thru. It was both easier and harder than I thought it would be.
Before I talk about how I solved for this in a way that I think is very repeatable, I need to explain my very strange relationship with food. It’s not a unique story, but it’s an important one for understanding why this was harder than it sounds.
I grew up in the ’80s when parenting was a little different than it is now. Like many from my generation and generations before, I was told many nights that I wouldn’t be able to get up until I finished everything on my plate. This has been a hard habit to break. To make it even worse, I remember my dad scarfing down his whole plate of food and then downing a whole glass of milk. I looked up to that as a kid, and, as a result, being able to consume a lot of food at once was a status symbol, a way to prove that I was a man.
In the Army, there is a lot of discussion around food. You’re taught from the beginning to eat as much and as quickly as possible because it might be a while before you eat again. The reasons are obvious, but I took that to heart and never let it go.
Return on Investment
This one may be weird but stay with me. I don’t enjoy cooking, and I don’t have a decent foundational knowledge of it. Melissa has spoiled me for many years by being an awesome cook, but the downside is that I don’t personally know much about it. Honestly, I don’t care to know because the ROI on the time spent cooking is bad. You mean to tell me that I am going to cook for 45 minutes or more and then have a plate of food that I will demolish in 10 minutes or less? No thanks. However, this bias does not rear its stupid head when Melissa or someone else cooks.
Fast food is just too easy to get. I can work until the kiddo is hungry, go grab something quickly, then come back home and eat. The food is not healthy, and I notoriously order more than I need in a drive-thru, (why wouldn’t I add 6 nuggets a-la-cart to the combo meal I ordered?), so it is kind of a double whammy. Being almost 40, better nutrition has been on the wish list for a while.
Melissa mostly works nights now, so cooking is a lot more difficult for her to do. In the past, I have attempted to start cooking. Cooking gadgets, such as the sous vide, have helped me to prepare meals, but with my lack of experience, motivation, and free time, I still haven’t developed a strong discipline around cooking myself.
I was looking at companies like Blue Apron and Freshly for alternatives to fast food for January. Blue Apron was out because…cooking. Freshly looked like a decent option, but then I remembered Snap Kitchen.
A good friend of mine had gone all in on Snap Kitchen a few months earlier and had a great experience. Felt good, lost weight, and seemed decently affordable. Our location is too far for delivery to our house, but since I work near there quite often, it wasn’t too inconvenient. So, the kiddo and I decided to check it out.
Lupe helped me in the Fort Worth location, and she was great. She had a wealth of knowledge and personal experience with many of the dishes. The store was very clean and easy to navigate for shopping purposes. Near the end of the night, any food that is close to its expiration date gets marked down by 25%. This makes it an even more affordable option if you know they will be eaten quickly. Over the month, I think I purchased only two or three meals that were not marked down.
They have prepared meals for any kind of diet or nutrition needs: Whole30, keto, paleo, and everything is gluten-free and non-GMO. I wasn’t super concerned about any this, but the inclusiveness is nice for those that are. I just wanted to not eat fast food.
Over the course of January, I spent over $250 at Snap Kitchen, and it was worth every penny.
Now, this was only for lunches and dinners. For breakfast, I steam a couple of eggs in my egg steamer, have some toast, and I am good to go. I didn’t look too much at the breakfast plates. I work from home most days, so I only needed quick food for after the workday starts.
I went in there with a plan. I would buy meals that were 25% off even if I planned to eat them 1-2 days after the sell-by date. I don’t think Snap would advocate that, but honestly, I never had a problem with it. Melissa had one meal where the vegetables didn’t taste fresh, but that was it.
I’ve tried a fairly large variety of their food, but there are still plenty I haven’t eaten yet. My favorite dishes are the Bison Quinoa Hash, Chicken Chili Enchiladas, and Grass-fed Beef Enchiladas. Melissa loved both the Romesco Chicken and Romesco Salmon. There is such a large selection that I would recommend looking at their menu online before you go unless you have the time and desire to browse.
I normally spend way more than $250 a month in fast food. The average fast food combo meal is around $8 and most of the meals I bought were $9.99 before the discount. I actually saved money over the course of the month on that end.
I weighed myself on January 31 and came in at 232 for a loss of 9 pounds. I’m sure not all of this was due to the food. There were other changes (Jiu-Jitsu, bicycle training, better sleep, etc., more details to come) that contributed to the weight loss, but I’m sure eating better helped a great deal.
Everything I ate there was tasty and some dishes were downright delicious. For some of the lighter 360 to 380 calorie count meals, I would steam an egg and add it to the meal if I felt particularly hungry. Yes, I really love eggs.
I might have had the same results and saved money if I had started food-prepping on the weekends and was very hardcore about it, but I’m not there yet. More power to those of you who are. I know that essentially I am paying for portion control and the convenience of popping a meal in the microwave, which I am honestly okay with. Food-prepping is something I’d like to explore in the future, and hopefully, this was an important first step. We’ll see.
In the long run, I realized how much better I feel when I don’t eat until I am ‘full’, avoiding the food coma was refreshing, and being able to eat and feel good before training in Jiu-Jitsu is also a big plus for me.
Go try them out and let me know your thoughts.