Written by Nate Winkler
I began talking with my partner at Juggernaut, Chad Wesley Smith, in the Spring of 2011 about writing a diet plan from the shopping list that my budget had forced me into. For a few months I bought the foods on the $100 Diet Grocery List and made sure that I could get through a week, eating the number of meals I eat, and getting the number of calories that I need for $100. I then began to notice that a number of my clients had tight budgets and asked that I design plans that weren’t littered with filet mignon, fish, and other costly health foods. After months of doing this, I decided to write a basic overview of the diet and the lifestyle it benefits most. The response was tremendous; people were reading, posting questions, and most of all incorporating it into their daily routines and benefiting from it. About two weeks after posting the article, we got a call from the editor of Muscle & Fitness, Rob Fitzgerald, and he said they wanted to feature the article in the December edition of the magazine. So, we went back and added TONS of information: recipes, nutrient timing overviews, and meal plans for all routines types so anyone could follow the plan, regardless of lifestyle. The $100 Diet article that appears in the December edition of Muscle & Fitness is truly all you need to budget, plan, and prepare your way to the best physique and performance that you’ve ever had. Below is the original article that started it all, to get the meal plans and other info that we added for the Muscle & Fitness feature, go to newsstands today and get your copy.
The $100 Diet
Everyone has to budget, and in this economy, getting the most out of every dollar has never been more important. After my other living expenses, I found that I had approximately $500 left over to spend on food each month, and I love going out to dinners on weekends with friends. What did this mean for me? My budget to spend on food each week for meals was $100, and I’m not a light eater. I had a problem: How can I afford my weekly food and meal volume amounts while still eating the foods that my research has compelled me to eat? This problem led me to the grocery store with the goal of finding a solution. I knew I wouldn’t allow myself to eat junk food, and my body wouldn’t allow me to eat fewer meals. This is how ‘The $100 Diet’ was developed.
Making My Budget, and Schedule Work
My budget will not allow for Whole Foods, but I simply don’t trust many of the major food stores out there to make good on their promises of ‘Organic’ or even ‘Hormone Free’ products. If your budget will only allow for you to get the cheapest of all food products, I urge you to try cutting costs elsewhere, or find a local farmer’s market near you.
I also realized that I had to start preparing every meal at home during the week, no questions asked. There are countless benefits to preparing your own meals, money savings, and food prep quality are the two major perks for me. The major issue I found when getting started is having time to cook my meals, the 8:30 am-8:30 pm shift did not leave me with lots of energy every night to stand over a stove or grill preparing my chicken and vegetables. I would assume some of you might be staring at the same problem as well. What I found that worked for me was Sunday evening food prep. I would cook all my chicken and ground beef for the week on Sunday and slice up my vegetables for the next three days in one sitting. This ensured that I would eat high quality meals, and they would be prepared in 5 minutes or less. Finding ways to fit healthy foods into your budget and making meal preparation work with your schedule is crucial during the week.
[quote]Your body and organ systems are made up of irreplaceable parts, filling them with low quality, processed foods will not produce good results tomorrow or years down the road.[/quote]
Getting Your ‘Macros’ on a Budget That’s Micro
Each time I step into the grocery store, I’m on a mission. The last thing I want to do with my precious free time is travel each isle of the store, debating with myself if I really want that box of Little Debbie Cakes. So, initially I made a list, and never wavered from that list for any reason, this kept me on budget and got me out of the store in less than 20 minutes. You learn to create a path through the grocery store, and that path should mainly be along the rim of the store if you have any hope of staying on budget or eating healthy. Below is a picture of my grocery items for each week, grouped together for their macronutrient content and purpose. The items, while basic, allow for variety and unparalleled nutrition for $100 per week.
Animal proteins make up the majority of my expenses, you have to get quality and you should spend a little extra on these items. My favorite food is ground beef marinated in olive oil and cayenne pepper. Fats act as the stabilizers for me, I avoid carbohydrates in the morning hours, and fats provide me with the caloric intake I need until the time is right to introduce carbohydrates to my system each day. Peanut butter is great on anything, we even put it on our chicken breasts at Juggernaut! Another perk for peanut butter is how quickly you can get it into your body, I’m busy during the day, so food prep time can not take long. Fibrous carbs and nutrient rich foods are a part of every meal I eat, other than protein of course. Many nutritionists prescribe you to avoid vegetables and high fiber containing foods, I beg you to reconsider this. Whole food sources have higher absorption percentages than pills, and will add tons of flavor to your meals. I use fibrous foods as a hunger and insulin stabilizer as well with many of clients, and suggest you try this. Carbohydrates give you energy for explosive movements and increase aerobic capacity, no debating it. If your training regimen demands this from you (if it doesn’t then why not?) then you must include this macronutrient into your diet. Bananas, raw oats and sweet potatoes are my major sources of carbohydrates and provide me with all the energy I need, while maintaining good body composition. Herbs and spices are all I cook with now, if a recipe requires me to add milk, crackers, margarine, sugar or other fillers, I just won’t cook that food. Cayenne pepper and freshly cracked black pepper will give you all the taste your meal needs. My shopping list and expenses are shown below, every item, every quantity and every price so you can see where each dollar in the $100 Diet comes from.
[table id=7 /]
Each week, no matter what, you are going to eat food, what you choose to do when you get hungry will determine your health, your body composition, and how you perform. Eating healthy is a choice, you can do it easily if you will plan and put in a little extra effort in the grocery store and the kitchen.