My Frugally Fit Diet

eatfishThe last time I discussed my dietary choices on this blog it was late 2011 and I was knee deep in ramen noodles. You see, when I first started this journey I decided to get pretty extreme with many of my expenses, and my food budget was one of the earliest victims. I temporarily sacrificed health for cost savings, and it’s a decision I actually don’t regret. While it wasn’t fun to eat ramen noodles for lunch every workday for a year straight, that level of frugality provided me an early springboard to save as much as I could while the stock market was still full of attractively valued stocks. I think focusing on the ‘Big Three‘ is important when it comes to saving as much money as possible so that investing regularly with relatively large sums of capital is possible.

However, these days I’m eating much better overall, and my fitness has improved significantly as a result. I’ve heard from some readers that have openly expressed interest in my revisiting this subject since the old post is outdated and so much has changed since then. So today I’m going to divulge the details on exactly what I eat, what kind of calories are involved, and how much it costs. Obviously, I don’t eat the same exact thing every single day, so this will give you a rough idea of what my day-to-day diet looks like. And I’ll do my best to maintain accuracy when it comes to calories, as it was the adoption of this diet that helped me lose 18 pounds last year. It’s important to note, however, that a regular exercise routine has been imperative to my success.

I have to admit that I eat much healthier during the week than I do once the weekend hits. I tend to allow myself to “cheat” and eat pretty much whatever I want on the weekends, most specifically on Saturdays. This gives my taste buds and body a much needed break, although it comes at an expense, as I generally spend much more money on weekends than I do during weekdays.

This is actually a dietary regimen that I’ve been using since I was a competitive bodybuilder back in my late teens. Eating strictly during the week tends to slow down your metabolism, and so cheating a bit during the weekends gives your metabolism a boost after the introduction of calories once more. This diet has been popularized somewhat by a Dr. Paul Rivas, who wrote a book on the subject titled: The Cheater’s Diet*. It works well assuming you stay strict during the week. If you’re unable to stick to a strict regimen during the week, then the cheating effect during the weekends loses its effect and purpose. Note: I’m not a dietitian and I’m not specifically recommending this diet.

The prices I’m quoting below are based on my real-world experiences. I typically shop at Walmart.

My weekday diet is pretty similar week in and week out:

  • Breakfast

I usually eat one bowl of granola-based cereal or oatmeal. I tend to alternate cereal and oatmeal from week to week so as to not get too tired of one or the other. This breakfast is typically low in calories, but provides lots of energy to start my day.

Two packets of Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar instant oatmeal with water: 320 calories, $0.50. 

  • Lunch

Lunch is almost always one Lean Cuisine entree (various flavors) and one Propel water (various flavors). It’s easy to microwave in the lunchroom at work, and also easy to carry around. As I eat lunch at work, it’s imperative that lunch be cheap, reasonably healthy, easy, and fast.

One Lean Cuisine box (Chicken Parmesan): 310 calories, $2.25

One bottle of Propel water (Black Cherry): 0 calories, $0.58

  • Dinner

Dinner varies more than the other meals during the week, but not by too much. I work a lot; a typical workweek for me is north of 50 hours. And once I come home I’m extremely busy. Activities like blogging, working out, managing investments, and relaxing soak up what precious little time I have left at the end of the day. So dinner is meant to be quick and easy, while also being relatively healthy and affordable. As such, I’ll be honest and admit I eat my fair share of sandwiches. I don’t always eat sandwiches for dinner during the week, but I eat enough of them to highlight them as a standard for purposes of this article.

Two roast chicken and cheddar sandwiches, topped with Miracle Whip: 1,146 calories, $2.41

One bottle of Propel water (Black Cherry): 0 calories, $0.58

So there you have my typical Monday – Friday diet. Adding it all up, we’re looking at a total of 1,776 calories and $6.32 in costs per day, on average. Not too shabby! If I were to extrapolate that diet out over the entire month I’d probably lose even more weight and spend much less than I do, but the weekends are also a significant part of my caloric intake over the week, along with expenditures. It should be noted that Friday nights are sometimes counted as part of the weekend, so the weekday line occasionally cuts off after lunch Friday.

The weekends are pretty loosey-goosey, so I’m simply going to give you an example of what I might eat typically. No two weekends are necessarily the same. It really just depends on whether I’m at home or not, and Saturday nights in particular are reserved for the occasional restaurant visit – we typically eat at restaurants twice per month. This is a concession I make to my girlfriend, as my frugality can wear her down a bit.

My weekend diet is much more expensive and less healthy than what I eat during the week. Of course, it’s also much more fun:

  • Breakfast

I don’t always eat breakfast on weekends. I know: shame on me! But I dig my sleep, what can I say? It all really depends on what time I wake up. Saturdays are usually a good day to really sleep in as I’m extremely burned out after working from 6:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. pretty much straight through from Monday morning to Friday evening. However, my girlfriend likes to eat breakfast together on Sunday mornings. I’m going to include a typical Sunday morning breakfast as an example, but it’s not necessarily what I eat all weekend long. I would say, overall, my weekend breakfast costs and caloric intake are quite low.

Two pancakes with margarine and syrup as topping: 608 calories, $1.35

One 8 oz. glass of 2% milk: 122 calories, $0.25

  • Lunch

Lunch is always eaten on the weekends, and again it may be my first meal of the day. It really all depends on what I’m in the mood for, as I don’t really limit myself in terms of caloric intake; however, frugality is always at the top of my mind when it comes to what I choose to eat. I’m going to include what I actually ate this past Saturday for lunch as it’s probably a pretty good example for any particular weekend.

One Hot ‘n Spicy McChicken sandwich: 380 calories, $1.07

One small Coca-Cola: 140 calories, $1.07

  • Dinner

This is probably the meal that varies the most. As I mentioned above, we typically visit restaurants twice per month. We also tend to get takeout pizza quite a bit; I’m a total pizza freak. I could eat it almost every day if I had my way. Cheeseburgers, sushi, and tacos aren’t far behind. However, on Sundays my girlfriend likes to cook a nice meal. So my weekend dinners vary probably as much as anyone else. I could include just about anything here, but I’m going to actually include what we ate last Saturday. We went to Applebee’s last weekend for the first time in many years, only because my girlfriend received a $25 gift card from work. So we put that to good use and ate pretty cheaply. I’m not going to include the gift card in my calculations here, but it’s important to note I always pay when we go out so my costs naturally double when restaurant expenses are calculated. I also always tip 20%. I waited tables in college, and I know how tough this job is. The costs you see below are taken from my actual receipt, including tax, tip, and divided in half for portions of the meal we shared.

1/2 serving of Queso Blanco – 525 calories, $5.12

One Chicken Fajita Rollup entree – 1,040 calories, $12.18

Two glasses of Pepsi – 200 calories, $2.49

1/2 serving of Brownie Bite dessert – 185 calories, $1.28

So there you have it. That’s my frugally fit diet. It actually hasn’t changed that much over the last few years, except for the fact that I kicked the cheap and unhealthy ramen noodles to the curb and exchanged them for Lean Cuisine meals. I know my diet could be improved in terms of my intake of processed food, but I’m not one of those organic food cheerleaders. I want cheap, quick, easy, and fairly healthy. And probably in that order. I don’t enjoy cooking even in the slightest, and my idea of torture is cooking a Sunday roast for two hours. But I will be honest and admit that one thing I’m really looking forward to is slowing down my meals once I’m financially independent. I enjoy good food, and my family loves to get together over long meals and talk over each other while we share news and make fun of each other. So I’m really looking forward to being able to do that more once I have the time.

I did want to include one nice resource before I end this post. For those of you interested in cooking cheap, healthy, tasty meals, I recommend visiting the site Budget Bytes. I’ve been by there a few times and I’m really impressed with the healthy meal ideas on the cheap. If I had any desire to cook whatsoever I’d be trying out some of the recipes from that site. In fact, I’ve showed my girlfriend some of the meals there and she’s already interested in trying out a few as she digs cooking.

How about you? Do you have a frugally fit diet? Enjoy cooking? Do you take time with food more than I do? 

Thanks for reading.

*Affiliate link to Amazon

Photo Credit: vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. says

    I’m glad ramen noodles were just a means to an end for you my friend. We have a dirty little secret too Jason. My wife and I often eat omelets, pasta (with ground turkey), or a sandwich for dinner also. They are quick, efficient, and inexpensive. We usually have 2 or 3 date nights a month where we eat out.

    Speaking of busy, we didn’t realize the meaning of busy until our son John was born this week. He has struggled a bit, but we’re optimistic he’ll keep getting healthier and stronger. Now if only I could get mama some sleep. Have a great week

    -Bryan

    • says

      Bryan,

      Oh, man. Congratulations! I figured you guys were probably having the little guy any day now. That’s awesome. What an exciting time!

      It sounds like we have pretty similar diets and views on eating. I guess I’m a bit sensitive when it comes to my diet because I receive a lot of flak pretty much every time I talk about it. For some reason there is this small subset of people who are pretty righteous about what they eat, and pretty forceful about their opinions. As if eating organic food is some kind of magic lottery ticket that guarantees you a longer life.

      I think eating fairly healthy, watching portions, and exercising regularly allows a balanced life. And I think I’ve got a great balance going on right now. I’m actually in some of the best shape of my life right now.

      Again, congrats on the birth. Really fantastic. I hope mama gets some rest. :)

      Cheers.

  2. Girish says

    So basically all u are saying is u eat processed junk food most of the time.
    I would look into cooking meals from scratch using natural ingredients

    • says

      Girish,

      I find it funny that investors come by here talking about investing in companies like General Mills, Nestle, McDonald’s, Pepsi, etc., but then when we talk about eating food they produce everyone calls it junk. With billions of dollars in profits for each of these companies, someone must be buying and consuming their products?

      You must not have read the part where I compared cooking to torture? Or you skimmed the article? Or simply judged it on the surface even though you’re not publicly disclosing your health, diet, and finances?

      Cheers!

      • Girish says

        Hi DM,

        First of all, love your blog and all the awesome info that I have learnt so far from reading your informative posts. For some reason, was expecting to see a much healthier options here specially since you switched from eating ramen noodles – so apologize if the previous reply came across as rude, that wasn’t the intention. Don’t want to preach, if you are happy with this diet, all power to you.

        >>I find it funny that investors come by here talking about investing in companies like General Mills, Nestle, McDonald’s, Pepsi, etc., but then when we talk about eating food they produce everyone calls it junk. With billions of dollars in profits for each of these companies, someone must be buying and consuming their products?

        :). Well by that logic, you have MO too in your profile… now only if we could add smoking to this.. just joking.

        Don’t have a blog of my own, am just a passive observer.

        Regards
        Girish

        • says

          Girish,

          I apologize if my own comment came across as rude. The last time this subject came up, I received countless comments and emails with nothing but criticism. Just based on statistics, some of these people were obviously lying, and criticizing me when their own diets must have been much worse. It’s as if everyone that reads these stories is a vegetable-noshing, organic-food-shopping superfood-eater. How about a little honesty?

          Based on some of the comments below it looks like we finally got some honesty. And I appreciate that. I actually wasn’t even sure about posting this article, but some readers asked for it, and I am determined to stay honest and informative during the entire journey. So I lay it out there.

          And I appreciate your readership. Didn’t mean to respond so negatively, but after a while even I get a little worn out on it.

          As far as smoking goes, I hear you. I didn’t mean to infer that everyone who invests in a company must also consume their products. But I would also submit eating is something we all must do to live, whereas smoking is a choice. And I notice that while there are countless articles promoting Nestle, Pepsi, and McDonald’s, you also get a lot of criticism when you reveal that you use their products. It just comes across to me as hypocritical, that’s all.

          Either way, I apologize if I jumped on you. Didn’t mean to. :)

          Best wishes.

  3. Bruce D. says

    DM, here’s a little secret from my “starving student” playbook. You can use ramen noodles, but add some frozen chicken breast tenderloins and frozen stir-fry vegetables to make it a really nice little meal. Basically just cook the chicken and vegetables in a little more water than the ramen would require, adding in the seasoning packet, plus a little soy sauce and sriracha, if you like spicy. Once the chicken is cooked or mostly cooked, you can either chop it, shred it, or use scissors and cut it into bite-size pieces, then add the noodles and cook for a few more minutes until the noodles are tender.
    I’m appalled at your diet! Come on, you can do better =)
    Just remember, your body isn’t any different than computer programming. Garbage in, garbage out. Treat it well, and it will treat you well!
    You’d be surprised what sorts of amazing things you can do with canned goods and “one pot meals” that you don’t have to be a cook to prepare. Speaking of which, a roast is one of the easiest things you can do — seriously. You buy a roast, buy some red potatoes, and some baby carrots. Put it all in a pan with some worcestershire sauce, a little water, and liberally apply salt and pepper. Cover it and put it on low to medium low heat for hours. “Slow and low” is your friend, and it’ll fall-apart tender. You’ll wonder why you were ever eating sandwiches and lean cuisine.
    Feel free to email me if you want more info/ideas

    • says

      Bruce D.,

      I appreciate the concern.

      However, I enjoy my diet. Much like Warren Buffett enjoys cheeseburgers and Cherry Coke, I eat what I want for the most part. And considering how long he’s been walking the planet, I’d say he’s done pretty well.

      I’m no damsel in distress. :)

      Considering my time and cost constraints, I think I’ve found a pretty healthy balance between time, calories, nutrition, cost, and taste. I’m in fairly decent shape, as the pictures that display recent images of me can attest to.

      There’s been many documented studies about nutrition that show organic food being no better for you nutritionally then non-organic food. And while processed food is typically high in sodium, I think the biggest problem people have is portion control. I get weird looks at work when I eat a little tiny Lean Cuisine, but, of course, this is from co-workers eating 12″ submarine sandwiches for lunch.

      And to be honest, and I mean no offense, but a pot roast with red potatoes and carrots sounds like something out of a nightmare for me. That’s just not food I enjoy. And what’s the point of living if you can’t eat what you like?

      I believe if you watch your portions, avoid excess, and exercise regularly you’ll probably do pretty well in life. It’s funny that with all the obesity we have in this country and the talk of food suppliers being the problem I never have to wait in line for a bench at the gym?

      Best wishes!

      • Bruce D. says

        I wasn’t intending to criticize you, just offer you easy alternatives to try out. I shudder at the idea of someone preferring a lean cuisine meal to a good, home-cooked meal, though =) You point out studies that say organic foods haven’t been proven to be any more nutritionally beneficial than non-organic; by the same token, whole, unprocessed foods have been proven to be much more nutritionally beneficial than processed foods.
        BTW, your response to Girish above about junk food reads a little hostile, but I can’t figure out why. I guess he struck a nerve somehow? Also, just because something is a good investment doesn’t mean you have to like their product. I’ve owned Altria/Philip Morris and MCD for many years, and I don’t use their products. You own Lorillard, but I haven’t seen you post anything about smoking menthols.
        All of this is to say, do what works for you. Anyone — including myself — who comments about your diet with suggestions of trying to eat more whole foods or natural foods is probably just trying to be helpful, not critical; if not, they’re just a useless troll. I enjoy checking your site, so I thought I would try to “give back” by providing some personal experiences that I thought might benefit you.
        Thanks for the discussion

        • says

          Bruce D.,

          I hear you on processed food. I wasn’t attempting to infer that it’s a more healthy alternative to whole foods. Rather, for me and my needs my diet works pretty well. And even if I lacked the time and cost constraints I would still try to find every excuse in the world to avoid pot roast and carrots. That is to say even if I were a billionaire I wouldn’t be cooking or eating vegetables. I’d probably just be eating out a lot more, and wouldn’t be eating similar things every day. :)

          And I responded to Girsih above about the smoking issue. I appreciate the point, but I still think it’s hard to compare eating to smoking. One is required to live, the other is not. And while investing in a company is certainly not the same as promoting the use of their products and/or services, I’d personally have a tough time having an equity stake in a company I despised or disagreed with. For example, I have no problems with someone having the right to smoke, and cigarettes are a legal product.

          And I appreciate you sharing your experiences. I’ve always considered this blog as a place where people can openly discuss their ideas and preferences. And I think dietary choices are incredibly personal. so sometimes it may be hard for someone to understand another’s choices. For me I have to consolidate extreme time constraints, open hatred for cooking, cost concerns, and my personal tastes. I feel this is the best version of what I can do right now.

          Thanks again for the discussion. I do appreciate it!

          Cheers.

  4. says

    Glad to see you are eating a little healthier these days… I spend about 200 a month on food not including eating out. I eat some what healthy and eliminated a few things from my diet.

    • says

      Investing Pursuits,

      Great job only spending $200 per month on food. I could get back down to that level myself if we didn’t go out to eat twice per month. Even though when we go out it’s usually lower-tier restaurants, a couple visits per month sure add up. But it’s a concession I make, and if I’m being totally honest it’s not like my girlfriend has to twist my arm about it. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Take care.

  5. says

    Hi DM,

    I’m a little surprised with some of the comments above. Nutrition is a huge subject. People tend to eat 2-5 times a day, everyday. We all have to do it to stay alive, so I suppose everyone has their own opinion on ‘how to do it’.

    I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, but I enjoy the cooking process, and it works for me. It looks like I spend more money than you do, but you have fewer calories. I would class your food budget as low, and as you’re trying to become FI, it completely makes sense (for you).

    I love my food, and I’ll have between 2000-3000 calories a day depending on if I’m training or not. I could make a saving here, but I enjoy food and I try to eat quality food for my body, so it works for me. It really is each to their own.

    I would agree with your point that portion control is widely overlooked. Eating an excess of complex carbs (rice, pasta, bread etc) can have a detrimental impact on your health, lead to type 2 diabetes etc. When looking at nutrition you need to review quality and quantity.

    Thank you for sharing your diet with us all. I can understand that it isn’t an easy thing to do. Although I wouldn’t choose to eat what you do, I’m sure you would say the same thing to me. I would probably say the same thing for most of the people reading this blog, as they would say to me. There are way too many factors involved with diet, and there isn’t one ‘right’ way of doing it.

    If we’re looking at a human’s health in general, this topic could be widened significantly to areas like exercise, daily movement, posture, social activity, stress management, sleep quality………… the list goes on! You can eat all the organic food you want, but if you have no friends or social activity, you don’t exercise and have a desk job you might be better placed to review other areas of your life to benefit your health.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your nutrition and that it’s meeting a financial need for you too. Keep up the good work!

    Huw

    • says

      Huw,

      Great comment there. I couldn’t agree more, especially on the fact that there isn’t “one right way” to do it. Of course, everyone has unique tastes. And cost is always a concern.

      Dietary choices are indeed extremely personal. I share mine because it’s a big part of my life, and also a big equation to living frugally.

      And it’s not to say I don’t enjoy food. I really enjoy eating. In fact, it’s because I love eating and food so much that I work out as much as I do. I eat the food I eat and then pay my penance at the gym. :)

      And I completely concur with expanding the idea of health out to an entire picture of one’s life. Diet is just one aspect. If you look at the top 10 causes for death, many of them that are somewhat controllable have stress in common. You can eat a great diet, but if you’re stressed to the max all the time you have an increased chance there at not maximizing your life span. It’s in fact because I plan to quit working so young in life that I think much of the stress in my life will be eliminated. Combine that with an active lifestyle and I hope my life will be long and my healthcare costs in retirement low. But genetics plays a large role in all of this too, so we’ll see.

      Thanks for the thoughts. I really appreciate it!

      Best regards.

      • Zol says

        Stress is such a huge intangibly measured factor to health it’s not even funny. As an engineer i tend to make a very decent living but boy do those corporations make you work for it. I love the work but the pace is absolutely grueling sometimes. Even worse the work never goes away. You are expected to be online during evenings, weekends, mobile. I know some of this is self inflicted pain but the pay is very good and i’m hoping the risk/reward of saving enough money to retire early is worth it. Made a few mistakes along the way but i think identifying that *stress point* was a pretty enlightening moment. Happens to be around the same time i discovered dividendgrowthinvestor.com and dividendmantra.com (not to mention all the great folks at seekingalpha.com like Chuck Canaveral, David Van Knapp, David Crosetti, David Fish).

        I guess that turned into a bit of a ramble. Either way, thanks for sharing, as always i enjoy reading your articles no matter what aspect of your journey they encompass. I see a great future ahead of you with writing. I wish i was half as thoughtful.

        • says

          Zol,

          I totally hear you. I relate 100%.

          Stress is a killer. I can actually feel it at work sometimes. I just get this knot in my stomach, and when this happens I know I’m stressing out. It upsets me that I even let work get to me like that, but I’m only human. I want to avoid these feelings as often as possible.

          And I’m glad you found the blog. I’m honored to be up there with some of the resources you use. I hope you continue to stop by and stay in touch! :)

          Best wishes.

  6. Erik says

    I have to say that this is a horrendous diet. Do you even cook? Instant-oatmeal for 0.5$ instead of just making your own! It is not even hard or even time consuming which i can admit cooking the rest of the meals are.

    I´m well aware that the prices in the US is rather low when it comes to take-away food or preprocessed so i cant comment on wether or not it would be cheaper to buy the raw ingredients or not, but this really comes out as extremely lazy. I´ll admit that i might be biased since eating take-away in Sweden is a lot more expensive…

    But instant-oatmeal… really?

    Regards from Sweden!

    • says

      Erik,

      I don’t cook, and it’s not just due to time constraints. I simply don’t enjoy it. I would actually go so far as to say I hate it. I find it an incredible chore. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is.

      I see nothing wrong with instant oatmeal. I literally have about 10 minutes to both make breakfast and eat it during the week.

      As far as calling me lazy, I’d be careful there. While I admit I don’t like cooking, even if I did I’d be hard-pressed to find the time. I don’t think you appreciate the lack of free time I have. I get home from work around 6:30 p.m. That’s after being there from 7:15 in the morning. So I then have approximately 3 hours to unwind, make dinner, work out, manage this blog, check investment opportunities, check in with my partner, possibly call a loved one 1,200 miles away, shower, and get ready to do it all over again in the morning.

      Cheers.

      • Anonymous says

        I shocked someone accuse you of being lazy. A lot of people would complain big time if they had to work 7:15 to 6:30pm and do all the other things you noted immediately above. Writing blog articles is not as easy as people think and responding to all the comments. I am impressed you can do your daily schedule and get to go to a gym on top of all this .

        I know people who work an 8 hours a day, and refuse to work more. They have no savings or investments and are in debt. They complain like constantly and are stressed out.

        • Erik says

          Alright, if you really truly hate cooking then i guess there are not that many alternatives besides buying pre-made food. It is a shame though that you hate it, it could probably save you some money and almost certainly be better tasting!

          I got mostly hung up on the fact that you where eating “instant oatmeal”, which is something that i´ve never heard of (i dont think it exists in Sweden).. Since oatmeal, the non-instant way takes me 2 minutes to make..

          Once you get the hang of it (practice makes it easier..) you can fix up a decent meal in less than 30minutes without any major trouble. It is trivial to cook bigger portions and have leftovers for lunch the next day.. I usually cook 4-6 meals at any given time so i only really need to cook every two days or so.

          And you can always cook while you talk to your partner or to you relatives on the phone ;)

          Anon: I´m not sure if that was directed at me or just a general comment.. But fyi my schedule is something like this:

          0630 – Wake up, breakfast NON-instant oatmeal ;)
          0700 – Taking my bike to work approx 3.5 miles (if i remember how long a “mile” is in km)

          I workout during my lunchbreak, the gym is only 5 minutes away, which ill admit is luxurious! I then eat my lunch that i made the day before.

          1700 – I usually leave work around 1700, its been a lot of over time lately but that doesnt really reflect a regular day so..

          I try to save 40-50% of my salary and cooking my own meals is a huge part of that cost saving exercise!

          Anyway i really enjoy your blog, if the choice ever stands between cooking a home-made meal and writing another blogpost, ill send you some of my leftovers so you can focus on writing! :)

          • says

            Erik,

            Congratulations on saving half of your income! I’m sure that’s probably even more difficult over there with the higher taxes. Fantastic. I know how hard it is firsthand.

            I’m not sure cooking my own food would necessarily save me more money. Would it taste better? Probably. Would it be healthier? Perhaps, but it depends on what exactly I’m cooking and how I cook it. But I’m not quite sure it would save me more money. My girlfriend cooks quite a bit and she spends a lot more money than I do on food. Of course, she also eats her veggies.

            And I’ll keep the offer in mind next time I’m in the mood for some leftovers from Sweden. :)

            Take care.

            • Erich says

              Hi DM. I understand the allure of simple oatmeal packets, which are obviously not expensive. BUT… consider using quick oats you can buy in huge bags at the grocery store for pennies a serving (especially on sale). You have to boil water for instant oatmeal anyways, which takes longer than this method:
              1/3 cup plain quick oats
              3/4 cup water

              keep a 3/4 measuring scoop and 1/3 cup near/in your bucket/bag of oats so you can throw these in blindly. you can pre-mix in some cinnamon and/or allspice (costs next to nothing at bulk stores) and a little salt in your oats when you fill a large container to keep handy.

              dump these in a bowl, put in microwave for 2 minutes. watch it the first time, because it “volcanoes” when cooked and you may find your microwave is done a little quicker.

              add a little milk and brown sugar. eat. MEGA cheap.

              • says

                Erich,

                You sold me. I’m going to give this a go.

                I remember trying oatmeal in the microwave a while back and it was nasty. Maybe I used too much water or it was just stale oatmeal. I can’t remember, but it was years ago.

                This sounds like a good way to save a little money and have a great tasting product, while also not increasing my time outlay too much. That’s a win-win.

                I’ll give this a shot when I run through all the oatmeal I currently have stocked up and report back. :)

                Although, I will say I don’t boil water for my oatmeal. It’s only in the microwave for a minute. But I’d be easily willing to spend an extra minute on great-tasting oatmeal.

                Thanks for the idea!

                Cheers.

        • says

          Anonymous,

          Thanks for the support!

          I’m definitely not lazy. I work incredibly hard every single day, and it’s because of this hard work that I’m in my current position. While luck plays a part as well, hard work is underrated.

          I feel bad for people out there that do not take the steps necessary to put themselves in a better position. Complaining is common because it’s easy. Actually putting in the work to improve your situation in life to where complaining is no longer necessary is much more difficult.

          Cheers!

  7. James Hoopes says

    Hi DM,

    I always sympathize when you get these challenges. Nothing too mean spirited about the comments, but some of them are judgmental instead of just raising issues for discussion.

    The main point is that you should be congratulated for keeping yourself fit despite (or because of?) your heroic work schedule — a full time wage slave job and then building financial independence through terrific self- discipline, maintaining the best personal finance blog on the web, working out, keeping up your relationship with your girlfriend, etc.

    Anything — foodwise or other — that helps make room for all this and doesn’t hurt you is only to be commended.

    I don’t know anything about Lean Cuisine. But I do have to agree with you that the fact that it’s a corporate product isn’t prima facie evidence that it’s poison.

    In the spirit of discussion rather than judgment, I wonder if you’ve thought about whether you’re getting enough green vegetables? Maybe you could put lettuce on the sandwiches. Bagged lettuce is cheap in that it keeps for a week or so, so you don’t end up throwing half of it out.

    Keep up the good work. Don’t let the small minded judgments get to you.

    Thanks for all the inspiration.

    Jim

    • says

      Jim,

      Thanks for the kind words there. And thank you for appreciating my time constraints. I have a rather unique schedule, and as such have a rather unique diet. I’m not recommending this diet, but rather sharing it in the spirit of everything else I share here. But in defense of my diet, I don’t think it’s poison as some people attempt to infer. Could it be improved? Absolutely. But it works for my situation right now. That’s not say I’ll always eat this way. I hope once I’m FI I may be able to change things up. Though, even with all the money in the world I’d simply never be the one drinking green shakes and getting my pot roast on. It’s just not in me. I could have Buffett money and you’d probably see me eating pizza and sushi. However, I’d probably just work out even more than I do now! :)

      I guess I’m a kid at heart in some ways? Maybe it’s to my detriment. We’ll see.

      And I really appreciate you suggesting this is the best personal finance blog on the net. That’s a huge compliment. I don’t know if I’d agree, but I put a lot of effort into this. Thank you for the support!

      As far as veggies go, I actually just bought some Tropicana Farmstand today. It’s actually really good. I think I’m going to incorporate this as something I drink after working out. I know it’s a bit high in sugar, but that’s because fruit is. It’s really the best I can do. I dislike eating vegetables strongly, and I wouldn’t have the time to steam them up anyhow. And I do occasionally add a little lettuce to my sandwiches. I know iceberg lettuce isn’t the most impressive vegetable in the arsenal, but it’s something.

      Thanks again for the kind words.

      Best wishes.

  8. says

    Jason, thanks for sharing your diet and putting up with the condescending attitudes. Your diet doesn’t sound all that different than mine and to be honest I’m in much better shape than many of my peers (at least according to their Facebook posts). I’m 45 btw and like you I eat the same thing during the week and stray starting Friday nights until Sunday afternoons. Portion control and exercise are key like you mention.

    One small suggestion for breakfast. I too eat oatmeal every morning and my brand of choice is called Coaches Oats. The texture is fantastic (not mushy). After pulling from the microwave and adding some some honey and cinnamon…oh man is it good. One bag easily last me two months. It’s cheaper at Costco than Amazon but still a good value.

    http://www.amazon.com/Coachs-Oats-Whole-Grain-Oatmeal/dp/B005EL6VOY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396178997&sr=8-1&keywords=coaches+oats+oatmeal

    If you do decide to give it a shot I would highly recommend buying a 1 quart size bowl. This way you can pop it in the microwave and walk away. You won’t have to worry about it overflowing and making a mess while it’s cooking.

    Good luck and thanks for your blog. It’s definitely one of the best.

    • says

      wes,

      I hear you on the Facebook thing. I’m not on there much, but there are many people that I went to high school with that frequent it. And many of them are on my friends list. I’m not the type of person to gloat or anything, but I’m in the same position as you as far as being in, let’s say, different shape than most everyone else.

      As far as criticism goes, it’s disappointing. It’s just that I’m an easy target because I openly share my shortcomings. But that won’t deter me from doing what I do. I’m fully committed to all of this. :)

      It sounds like we have a very similar diet and view on it. I guess for the longest time now I’ve just ate quickly during the week because I’ve been so busy. I was single for many years throughout my 20s, so it’s not like I had someone around to cook for me – and I wouldn’t necessarily want that anyway. So it was typically a lot of sandwiches and processed food. And while I’ve always recognized this wasn’t my healthiest choice, I always made sure to keep the portions small and stay committed to fitness. So far, it’s served me well.

      Thanks for the oatmeal suggestion there. I’ll have to check that product out and see how it tastes. I tend to eat oatmeal probably one week straight out of the ~4 weeks in a month; the other three weeks are typically driven by oat/granola cereal.

      I appreciate the support. I know you’ve been stopping by here for a long time now. Thank you for that!

      Cheers.

  9. says

    I applaud you for your diet. My biggest concern is the sameness of the meal for 5 days straight. My wife could never do it and I have trouble myself eating the same stuoffer’s frozen meal two or three days in a row. You have much better will power than me! I also find some people eat food for enjoyment (me) while some eat as a means to fuel your body. I guess that is why I’m a fattie.

    Do you eat in-between meal snacks? Yogurt, nuts, etc.

    Here is my horror show “diet”

    Breakfast: couple bowls cereal. Capt’n crunch with 1% milk. If I don’t do this then it would be an egg mcmuffin with hash brown patty and hot cocoa. Not the damn eggwhite mcmuffin but the real deal.

    Some times a doughnut when I get to work.

    Drinking 12-32 oz Pepsi between breakfast and lunch. Snacking during breakfast and lunch. Peanut butter m&ms, hi chews, mini candy bars, whatever is laying around. Don’t keep track :(

    Lunch. Stuoffer’s frozen meal. Usually chicken and mashed potato. I have seen the calories on this and it is usually 340+. Sometimes we go out for lunch. Arby’s chicken cordon bleu, pizza, chick Fil a. Will be accompanied by a 12 oz Pepsi. Maybe some cookies for dessert.

    Snacking between lunch and dinner. Same as above.

    Dinner. Whatever is made at home. Tacos? Cheeseburger surprise (on back of bisquick box), cheesy potato casserole and chicken or ham. I would hate to figure out the calories in the casserole. Lots of cheese, butter and sour cream. Just water to drink at this point.

    After typing and re-reading this. I hope I’m around for retirement :/

    I need to shape up.

    • says

      ed69,

      Thank you for your honesty. I’m happy to see someone finally open up and get real. It’s so old to see countless discussions on the internet and in real life about diet with this “holier-than-thou” undercurrent. It’s just not possible that everyone eats this healthy while all of these food giants continue to sell more products. The math doesn’t add up.

      In light of your honesty, I’ll do the same. Could your diet be improved? Yes. However, my view on all of this is that life must be enjoyed. If you enjoy tofu and grass, then by all means eat it up. But if you love tacos and cheeseburgers, but spend all of your time eating boneless chicken breast and rice, then is that really a life lived?

      I compare it to my girlfriend’s Chihuahua. Her dog is a couple pounds overweight according to the vet. And that’s because we occasionally feed him table scraps. So my girlfriend thought we should end that and only feed him dry food. But I posed a question to her: If you were him, and you had your choice to live one extra year, but it came at the expense of eating dry food every single day for your entire dog life would you do it? Or would you rather eat table scraps and enjoy your life but die one year sooner? She chose the latter scenario, and I think Diego (her dog) is happier for it.

      It’s really all about balance and portion control. I’m not saying eat whatever you want, whenever you want. I balance my diet out by eating somewhat healthy during the week, and then eat whatever I want during the weekends. However, even then I watch my portions. I don’t eat a whole large pizza by myself on Saturday nights. If we get a pizza I’ll have 3 slices and enjoy every bite.

      Life is to be lived only once. You have to enjoy it. But balance must be maintained or life will be much shorter than it otherwise could have been. I balance enjoyment, time, calories, and cost with my diet. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I thought it was important to share with those that might find it interesting.

      Thanks again for sharing.

      Best wishes.

      • says

        Well if there was some quantitative way to know that my diet will shorten x amount of years off my life and they were the years 85 and 86. I would be all for that (at least till I’m 84) especially if those were my housebound, depends wearing years :)

        I didn’t mention that I’m morbidly obese (which might have been guessed from that diet) and don’t really exercise ( my idea of exercise is taking the stairs vs elevator and parking the furthest away from the building when going to work or store. Too bad I only visit one story buildings). I just need to change my portion control and in between meal snacking. That is why I asked if you did healthy in between meal snacks.

        I realized my stomach is never empty. I am almost always eating something. It’s almost OCD. Besides the obesity I’m in ok shape. No diabetes yet, no high blood pressure yet, YET being the key word.

        I guess this article is making me think about getting my eating in control b/c what is the purpose of working/saving for FIRE if I’m not going to be around to enjoy it? It’s not that I’m ignorant about it (I work in healthcare) I just haven’t cared. I need to start caring. I always thought, when I retire I can start an exercise routine….

        • says

          ed69,

          Oh, I’m terribly sorry to hear you’re morbidly obese. The good news is that you don’t have other major health issues like diabetes or heart problems.

          However, if that’s the case I would definitely encourage you to start watching what you eat a bit more, and perhaps starting some kind of exercise routine at some point in the near future.

          Maybe you don’t live too far from work to where riding a bike to work is possible? I did that for quite a while down here, but the heat and rain made it very difficult for me, especially since I work around wealthy clientele.

          And definitely, I’d want to be able to enjoy financial independence if I’m going to work so hard to get there. For me, exercising is enjoyable. However, I understand that for many it’s not. Kind of comparable to the cooking thing. I look forward to working out so that I can hopefully limit my healthcare costs in retirement, look and feel good, and enjoy myself. Being able to do whatever I want without worries about physical limitations (especially later in life) is huge for me.

          I wish you the best of luck. I think you’d find a lot of progress can be made over time with just some portion control and moderate physical activity, even if you don’t change your diet dramatically.

          Cheers.

  10. Debbie M says

    I could totally eat your diet! Yum!

    In fact, my diet is very similar except I have chocolate milk for breakfast and vary between cereal and sandwiches for weekday dinner. Instead of Lean Cuisine, I make a big batch of something on the weekend (like spaghetti or chili) and eat that for lunch all week. I also bring spelt pretzels for a morning snack (they have some fiber) and graham crackers for a dessert/afternoon snack (they satisfy my sweet tooth without too many calories).

    So the big problem with my diet (and maybe yours) is the lack of produce. I try to grate up some vegetable (like carrots or zucchini) or chop up some frozen spinach to mix in when I’m making my lunch. But I also take a multivitamin to try to get some of the vitamins and minerals I’m missing. And I try to use all whole grains in my cooking (whole wheat pastry flour and white whole wheat flour seem to taste the same to me as white flour) to get the fiber I’m missing. and I take Vitamin D pills to make up for the sun I’m missing now that I’m applying sunscreen daily. And fish oil because I don’t eat enough fish (just the occasional tuna salad sandwich or fried fish-n-chips).

    • says

      Debbie M,

      I hear you on the lack of produce. I admit that’s a shortcoming for me. For a while there I was actually eating multivitamin and fiber gummies. But they’re expensive. I should probably get back to that, however. I think it was an extra $15/month on my food budget, if I remember correctly.

      And many months ago (maybe a year ago now) my girlfriend was helping me with making batches of food which I would then eat for lunch during the week. We did some tuna salad, which was elbow macaroni, tuna, Miracle Whip, cheese, and egg. It was good, but by the third day it got hard and kind of gross. And I hated the idea of her cooking this stuff up for me. So then I started to do it myself. And then it became this massive chore, so it ended. Thus, Lean Cuisine entered the picture and I’ve been fairly happy ever since. I actually found the costs similar. To buy enough ingredients to make a pot big enough to last all week would typically cost the same as five Lean Cuisine entrees. I guess it just comes down to taste and time.

      I think I need to take your advice and get back to the multivitamins and fiber supplements. It’s a small price to pay for better health.

      Best wishes!

      • Debbie M says

        Ha! Gummy vitamins! I’m okay with the cheaper kinds you just have to swallow whole. I used to have trouble swallowing pills (I could drink an entire glass of water and still have the pill in my mouth at the back of my throat) but finally got the hang of it.

        Sometimes cooking is more fun when you both do it together. And maybe if you then share it (so you each only get 2-3 servings), it won’t be gross at the end. But meanwhile, if whatever you’re doing works, that’s good.

  11. Ravi says

    I also enjoy oatmeal for breakfast especially in winter! I do tend to rotate my foods as well though since I get bored of the same things after a while.

    I wish I could say I was frugal but I’m really not when it comes to food/going out. I think I typically spend $200-400 on groceries and probably $100-350 going out for lunch/dinner/drinks with coworkers.

    I try to keep things from 400-800 per month depending on if I go out more or less with friends. As long as I am able to maintain a 40% savings rate I’ll try and enjoy myself a bit! Awesome that you’re able to keep things so manageable!

    • says

      Ravi,

      I think if there was any budget category that I’d rather not be frugal with it’s food. Even if I had all the money in the world I wouldn’t want a big mansion, nor a fleet of vehicles. I’d probably have a couple nice pads and maybe a sports car or two, but that’d be about it. But I’d definitely splurge on food. Sushi, or example, is extremely expensive, and something I enjoy to no end. If I no longer had to maintain this level of frugality I’d probably eat it multiple times per week. Same goes for pizza. And throw in some good Mexican food, and maybe some good Rib-Eye too! Ahh, I’d be a fat billionaire. :)

      Congrats to you for striking a balance that works for you. Being able to save 40% while throwing caution to the wind for the most part in regards to your food expenditures is pretty impressive. Keep up the great work!

      Take care.

      • Ravi says

        I totally empathize with that. There are many things worth being frugal, housing, entertainment, etc, but food/health is always worth a premium (of course, like anything else, if you can afford it).

        Btw, I had some sushi in Madrid this weekend. Fantastic! It may be just the novelty of Japanese food in Spain, but I’ll take it!

  12. Frank NY says

    Hi DM,

    If my wife didn’t cook I would be joining you with a Lean Cuisine, only I would be eating it for lunch and dinner.

    It seems like you are really good at analyzing very facet of your life and simplifying it which it turn saves you a lot of money.

    Would you ever consider switching broker accounts? I am also with Scottrade and the 7 dollar trades really start to add up. There seems to be a good amount of options out there that are cheaper than Scottrade, more secure, and better features.

    Lastly, would you ever open an IRA account to take advantage of the tax savings after you reach your desired dividend payout for the year? Say by 40 you reach a 25,000 annual dividend income, would start an IRA and put whatever you don’t use in it? That would be 20 years of tax free growth or would you continue leaving it in a tax account to grow?

    Thanks,
    Frank

    • says

      Frank,

      I’m an analyzing machine. Every decision I make is with careful analysis. I honestly don’t know how I have the time to think through things so much. You’d think it would get tiring, but it’s just ingrained in me. In fact, before I moved to Sarasota I spent a few days analyzing every part of Florida for the best possible city that would give me access to a high-paying job, public transportation, low probability of seeing a hurricane, great weather, attractive cost of living, low traffic, ease of access to an airport to fly home, beautiful beaches, low-cost activities, etc.

      As far as your questions go:

      I’m considering opening another brokerage account right now. However, it’s not just for saving on commission costs. I’m looking to diversify my accounts to reduce risk. I’m looking at brokerages that have physical B&M locations that I can visit if need be, great reputations, large sizes, and low costs. Right now, I’m looking at Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Schwab. In that order.

      As far as the IRA goes, if I were to find myself in that situation I’d definitely be interested in that. I honestly hope to be in such a fortunate situation to where I have more dividend income then I could possibly need, and I’m able to reinvest it into a tax-advantaged account. However, I hope that our tax laws remain as they are and I won’t need to worry about it. As is, $25k in annual dividend income, assuming from qualified sources, would be taxed at $0 anyway. However, in reality some of my dividend income will be considered ordinary income. But I’ll be in a rather low tax bracket at that point, so the taxation will be very minimal. And I plan to keep my REIT holdings to a small percentage of my portfolio.

      Cheers!

  13. Brian says

    Definitely not the kind of food I would enjoy, as it reminds me of what I ate in college when I had no money and just wanted something fast & cheap. But to each their own. Might I suggest one day a month your gf & yourself engage in a cooking afternoon which is something you both would benefit from and she already enjoys doing. For example buy some disposable pans at the dollar store, and buy several lbs of ground beef ( when on sale) and make a bunch of meals. We make in a typical cooking day, 3 shepard pies, 3 lasagnas, 3 pasta & meatballs, several stuffed peppers & maybe 2 or 3 mac & cheeses. We pour a glass of wine, talk, drink, & cook and make an afternoon out of it. Then freeze them & voila, we have ready made home cooking that just has to be reheated whenever we want it. We also have a slow cooker & before going to work put a roast in the cooker with potatoes, carrots, onion & garlic & when we walk in the door, dinner has been slow cooking all day & is good to go. For me, fast food is something I try to avoid but I’m with you on pizza. Every Saturday night is pizza & sangria night.

    • says

      Brian,

      We may try something like that, but to be honest I’m just not totally thrilled with the idea. I’ve tried cooking many times, and it’s a total hassle for me every time. Right now, my time is precious and better spent elsewhere. But perhaps once I’m financially independent, or even maybe not working full-time anymore, I might try to cook a bit more. Maybe I’ll change my view on it, but I doubt it right now. I honestly wish I enjoyed cooking, but it’s on par with scrubbing a toilet to me. Or maybe even worse than that. I can’t explain why.

      My best friend has been trying some slow cooker recipes lately. He just throws some ingredients into the cooker and it’s ready to go later on. Sounds appealing. I may give it a try, but then I have to contend with the fact that I enjoy eating a roast with carrots and potatoes like I’d enjoy pounding my head on a table. :)

      I’m digging the pizza & sangria night. Sounds like a good time right there! The pizza down here in Sarasota sucks though. I miss some of the good pizza from Michigan like Buddy’s. Even the small, independent places up north are way better than what we have down here. But I’m probably biased.

      Best regards!

      • says

        Love your comparisons here!

        It just goes to show how everyone is different. I’m thinking there are going to be a ton more suggestions for DM on how to cook his way out of his current diet. There are quite a number if us that think cooking us fun (I do, I wish I had more time. There are close to 100 recipes I have bookmarked to try sometime). Some that think it is an activity they can do once in awhile but that is it. Some where it’s an absolute chore (like scrubbing toilets) and it will be avoided at all costs.

        A slow cooked roast, potatoes, carrots, onions and gravy are a typical Sunday meal for our family ;). Brownies for dessert. :). No head pounding involved, ha, ha.

  14. says

    Interesting post! Balancing the costs and health concerns can be difficult. I’ve found that going for short bursts on the cheap and less healthy works alright. But bad health can lead to more costs, so its a difficult balancing act. Thanks for the really detailed breakdown!

    • says

      Hey Jason, good job on keeping the costs down. If there is one thing i will splash out on, it’s good healthy food and that’s about it for me at the mo. Just learning to cook efficiently, not throw out anything and make things go a lot further like making a huge batch of chilli that will last 4 days or something like that for me works out to be cheaper than buying even low-cost meals every day….just need a few hours at the weekend, it’s kinda fun to do but probably get sick of chilli at the end of it ;)…
      i found this helpful…http://www.jamieoliver.com/savewithjamie/
      cheers
      T

      • says

        Tales,

        Thanks for the suggestion there. I just checked out that site. Very cool information there! A lot of it is beyond me because of my lack of desire in regards to cooking, but some of that food looks delicious.

        I hope to one day either conquer my disdain for cooking, or perhaps live in an area where fresh, affordable, healthy, tasty food is readily available.

        Thanks for stopping by!

        Best regards.

    • says

      Leonard,

      I would never suggest sacrificing health for cost over the long haul, but my ramen noodle experiment worked out quite well because it was a short period of time. I wouldn’t try that over many years.

      My diet now is an interesting balance act between time, cost, taste, and convenience. I hope that once I’m financially independent time and convenience won’t matter so much and my dietary regimen can expand a bit. Who knows – maybe I’ll be living in Thailand 10 years from now and I’ll get to eat at some of the legendary food stalls where food is cheap, fresh, AND tastes good. :)

      Take care!

  15. says

    This is gold! Thanks for posting this, I think it will serve as the template of my diet in FI. I think we will first try to stay under budget any way we can. Afterward, we will optimize and tweak the diet and perhaps make it look more like yours.

    Lean Cuisine is our lifeline right now, but we’ll try to wean ourselves out by home cooking meals for the week.

    • says

      Spoonman,

      Ahh, another fan of Lean Cuisine. You tug at my heartstrings. :)

      I know Jacob from ERE wouldn’t approve of what I eat, but he’s certainly more DIY than I am in this department. I’m just not a stew/roast/pot food kind of guy. I guess I’m a kid at heart.

      Thanks for the support. I was hoping someone out there might have found some value in it, but I also know it’s not for everyone.

      I’d be interested to know what your diet looks like after you reach FI. If you eat somewhat similarly to me now, it’d be cool to know how much that changes once time is no longer a constraint. I understand health and taste will still be primary concerns, but certainly time is a big factor for me right now. Let me know how it changes for you!

      Best wishes.

  16. says

    Glad to see your diet is going better for you, but my wife already knows that when the next market crash comes a lot of things are going to change. We plan on cutting costs all around the board by as much as 20-25% to throw that capital at undervalued high performing dividend stocks.

    • says

      Marvin,

      If the market crashes anywhere near the levels of 08-09, I might have to start eating sandwiches on the weekends as well so that I have more capital to invest. :)

      We’ll what we get!

      Take care.

  17. Dydra says

    Well, yes, (BTW, I didn’t read all comments), DM’s diet is not great but then again his pic shows him in a great shape so what’s to complain here?
    I’m curious about the book mentioned in the article. Does it not allow consuming vegetables and fruit (too many carbs) or do you hate them yourself? It’s more for a guy than a girl, right?
    I think I eat very healthy diet (loads of veggies and fruit), but I bet those carbs are not helping me and then I have a sweet tooth that just doesn’t leave me alone :-P. I don’t look slim around my waist and my rear :-) anymore after having two children but my weight is the same as 20 years ago when I was in high school and constantly competing in various sports (marathons, basketball, sprinting, etc.). I’d love to be slimmer but I’m not gonna kill myself with strict diets. I use JM and Bob Harper’s DVD’s to exercise and stay strong and that’s enough for me (for now at least).
    Speaking of organic, I’ve always been a skeptic how truthful the “organic” label is but I did purchase quite a bit of organic stuff. Well, last week my skepticism was proven true when I got a snapshot of news that the EU commission is planning to review and tighten the laws of using ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ labels. Supposedly, the US might also step up and review its laws/rules. This means that I’ve been paying a premium for a regular food that probably had an “USDA Organic” label slapped on. Now I’m considering to reduce our spending on this stuff.

    Keep you your good work.

    • says

      Dydra,

      I’ve never read the full book to be honest, but from what I know of it a balanced diet both on the weekdays and weekends is recommended. Fruits and veggies are both strongly recommended as well. I would say the lack of vegetables is my biggest shortcoming in regards to my diet. I’ll likely get back to some multivitamin supplements again soon.

      It’s a shame that the whole organic food movement has prompted a lot of imitators out there for a buck. I was never that intrigued by it. I don’t need to know the name of the chicken I’m eating and how much space he had to roam, etc. While I’m kidding a bit there, there are billions of people around the world starving, and yet some people in developed countries insist that regular food isn’t good enough. I guess I just consider myself fortunate to not be starving.

      And congrats for weighing the same as you did 20 years ago. That’s a feat. And I don’t believe in killing yourself on a diet or at the gym is the answer. It’s all about balance in life. Watch your portions, avoid excess, stay regularly active, and moderate yourself.

      Thanks for the support. Much appreciated!

      Best wishes.

  18. Lila says

    I really liked this post. You should make food updates now and then.

    As someone who likes organic food, I laughed when you said you’re not an organic food cheerleader. I thought that comment was funny. I recently discovered Budget Bytes a couple of weeks ago and love it. I was actually going to recommend it until I came across your last paragraph.

    I don’t like to cook either. I think its a pain to grocery shop, cook, clean up, etc. I do cook though because I like home cooked meals better. I end up falling back on my slow cooker a lot, and I shop for already cut veggies and fruits. I like oatmeal as well for breakfast.

    Have you tried cream of wheat? They also make instant packets of it in various flavors. I sound like a commercial, lol. :D

    • says

      Lila,

      Glad you liked the post! I know my diet probably disappoints some, but I’ve actually given it a lot of thought. Considering all of the criteria I have to meet in regards to time, health, cost, and taste, I think I could do worse.

      I was actually just reading through some Warren Buffett archives today where it talks about how he avoids vegetables at all costs, and eats a lot of veal parmesan while downing root beer floats. And he’s getting around pretty good for his age. :)

      Ahh, cleaning up! I didn’t even mention that. That was in my mind as part of the “torture” involved with cooking, but I didn’t expressly talk about it. I go out of my way to avoid washing a bunch of pots and pans. And it’s not about being lazy, but washing dishes sucks. Life is short – why not avoid chores you’d rather not do?

      I’ve actually never tried cream of wheat. I’ll have to give it a go sometime and see if it’s a nice alternative to oatmeal. I enjoy oatmeal, but it does get old after a while.

      Best regards.

      • Lila says

        I have the feeling that even if you were some organic health food nut and ate only 1 junk food meal on the weekend with a can of soda and a small dessert that people would still judge you for it. Even among health food nuts there is a difference of opinion on what “healthy” is.

        Yes definitely check out cream of wheat at http://www.creamofwheat.com

        They have instant packets in different flavors, you can buy the original version and cook it on-stove but they said even that can be cooked in the microwave. Even if you get the original version which is plain, you can add a bit of sugar, butter, apples, bananas, cinnamon, etc. You can serve it anyway you want like you can with oatmeal.

        About Buffett…that’s so funny how he avoids veggies. There is something to be said for eating “healthy” however I think he also probably has good genes and stays active is what probably keeps him trucking on. :)

        • says

          Lila,

          I agree. Eating healthy is pretty subjective. While I agree my diet could be improved, I also think it’s probably far better than the majority, if for nothing other than strict portion control.

          I’ll definitely check out the CoW at some point. Sounds yummy. :)

          Cheers!

  19. Justin says

    I see oatmeal coming up a lot on these types of blogs. I haven’t had oatmeal in a long time (didn’t really like it as a kid, so never considered buying it one I started my own shopping.) But tastes can change, and holy cow is it cheap. So, I picked up a pound of it for a dollar last time I went shopping; we’ll see how it goes.

    • says

      Justin,

      Nice buy there on the oatmeal. It is indeed cheap. And it’s easy to add in fruit, nuts, or other cheap toppings to add flavor and nutrients.

      I also like my cereal, but I try to stay away from anything with too much added sugar. While my diet could be improved from a standpoint of processed food, it’s certainly low in fats and sugar when taken in its totality.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      Take care.

  20. Juanito says

    Come on, DM. You can do better than this even, if you hate cooking.

    There must be things like apples, bananas, carrotts, salad etc. available where you live.

    I am sorry, I am European – we are passionate about good food – so I am biased.

    Just treat your diet like your portfolio – first you filter out the crap, than you nicely balance out the things you decide to put in and whenever you feel like it try soemthing new.

    All the best!

    • says

      Juanito,

      Hey, I hear you. I’m passionate about food too. But I’m not passionate about cooking. And I also don’t enjoy vegetables. Fruit is something I can do with or without, but I tried some veggie/fruit juice made by Tropicana and it’s not bad. I should also get back to taking a multivitamin and fiber supplement to make up for my lack of veggies.

      I think when it comes right down to it even if money were unlimited for me I wouldn’t change my diet all that much. I’d probably eat a lot more sushi, because I can’t afford sushi very often as it is. If I had Warren Buffett money I’d eat like Warren Buffett, which is to say I wouldn’t be eating organic skinless boneless chicken breast and broccoli for dinner. :)

      If I could eat whatever I want, without any worry about calories, health, or gaining weight, I’d probably eat nothing but pizza, pasta, sushi, cheeseburgers, steak, Thai, tacos, and some good sandwiches. That’s just me. I’m weird like that, I guess.

      But to my credit, my calories are low and I don’t snack very much. I almost never eat candy, and very rarely eat anything other than meals – even during the weekend. And, of course, I work my butt off at the gym.

      Cheers!

  21. Trev says

    Thanks for posting your daily diet in detail (even the calorie intakes)! I love reading about people’s different lifestyles and what works for them. Luckily for me, I married a wife that loves to cook. But on the negative, she loves to spend money on food too. As I do our monthly expense report with her, I keep on telling her we need to lower our monthly food bill (average $500/month, I want it around $250/month). Good luck to me! Trying to be as frugal as possible!!

    In fact, we opted to move out of our apartment into my parent’s place temporarily to save $1,200/month (our landlord tried upping our rent 13% and making us sign a new 1 year contract, I said screw him! :)). On the plus side, my parent’s are rich with a nice big house and are never home (dad was king of his day in the market, worked for Merrill Lynch his entire career, and retired early). We’ll have our own living quarters w/ Kitchen and private space. But on top of it, a nice workout room (no more paying for gym pass), and my mom offered to pay for dinner if we do dinner’s with them (giddie up! :)) We could definitely still stay at our aparment complex and could afford to buy a house while saving 30%, but I rather save 70% and invest for FI!

    I was going to post what our daily meals consist of, but this post has already gotten too long! :P I will say, I pass up going out to lunch with buddies/co-workers and eat leftovers everyday for lunch to save the almighty $$$.

    Keep up the frugality living!!!

    • says

      Trev,

      I’ll echo Ravi: You’re doing pretty good at $500/mo for two people. I would say if you backed out any money I spend on my girlfriend for food I’m probably spending around $200/month on just myself right now. So, extrapolating that out over two people I’d say you’re doing great. Of course, there’s some economies of scale with food when you’re always buying and cooking for two, but I’d still say you’re doing pretty solid here. I’d think $250/mo for both of you would be pretty tough, but maybe $350 or so might be something to shoot for?

      Congrats on moving into the cheaper pad at your parent’s. I personally find nothing wrong with living with family, and it’s something I’ve quite enjoyed in the past. It’s much more common abroad than it is here in the US, but I admire families that can live together. Shows a lot of love and strength. I wouldn’t be opposed to it myself in the future if the right circumstances presented themselves.

      Keep up the great work! :)

      Best regards.

  22. Wade says

    I can’t say I eat “healthy”. For the last year or so I’ve been trying to include more healthy items into our diets. If you don’t have it where you eat, you won’t eat it. Costco has allowed us to stock up on healthier fare.

    Costco has a huge container of baby spinach for $4.99 (or is it $4.49?). It is 1 pound. That is a lot. It goes a long way and we use it as a “lettuce replacement”. Anywhere you would use lettuce, insert baby spinach. It makes great salads.

    I make a lot of wraps. Wrap, Lean turkey, spinach, a little shredded cheese.

    Other items we stock are baby carrots, Greek yogurt, apples and those little “Halo” oranges.

    I agree with the eating healthy during the week and let yourself splurge a bit on the weekends. There is always room for pizza.

    Exercise is the key to everything. Running allows me to stay slim and eat things I enjoy. Moderation.

    Great post.

    • says

      Wade,

      “There is always room for pizza” Amen, brother. Preach it! :)

      And I agree: Moderation and exercise goes a long, long way in terms of overall health. As does avoiding stress and good genes. Eating vegetables isn’t a panacea, nor is avoiding food that isn’t necessarily good for you. I think a balanced life is a life well-lived. Just my take on things. Other people would certainly disagree.

      And congrats on finding your own balance. That’s incredibly difficult when we’re pulled in every which direction by experts and fads.

      Best wishes.

  23. Ravi says

    $500/mo for both of you? Seems like you’re already eating on the cheap! That’s under $17/day for both of you.

    Then again, we all have different financial situations and goals. Good luck on the move!

  24. donebyforty says

    Those microwavable lunches were my go-to when I was working in an office, too. They saved me a lot of time, in addition to the money, as I could just throw that in the lunchbox with some fruit and be done with it. And some are pretty healthy, too.

    • says

      donebyforty,

      Yeah, it’s all about time and convenience for me when it comes to lunch at work. I’d rather not eat microwavable food if I could avoid it, but I hope that once I have a lot more time on my hands I can eat fresh food for lunch. Right now, it works because they’re extremely convenient and not totally unhealthy. The salt content can be a bit high in some of them, so I try to avoid those versions.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Cheers.

  25. says

    Hey Jason, glad you updated us on your diet. I was going to ask for more details. You must have read my mind. I’ve tried most of the diet lifestyles, vegan, mediterranean, paleo, low carb, high carb. I’ve counted calories, measured portion size and tracked every thing I put in my mouth. The point is, there is definitely more than one way to achieve your desired BMI.

    Thanks for sharing your diet. Now can you expand on your exercise program?

    • says

      luckydog17,

      Since you’ve tried so many approaches, what’s your favorite? Anything you’ve used that you found really worked for you?

      I remember in my late teens I ate a ton of boneless skinless chicken breast and rice. It was dinner everyday for a while there because I was actively competing as a bodybuilder. And I won my first contest at the 1996 Teen Michigan Championships. Of course, I don’t miss those days! :)

      I’d definitely like to talk more about exercise. I actually have plans to quit the gym membership very soon and give a home-based routine one last try. And this time I won’t give up on it. Once I set everything up I’ll go over it and maybe take some pictures. I’m excited for that. I hope to have that done in the next few months or so. I usually don’t do well when I work out at home because it’s tough to find the motivation, but the $30/mo fee is eating at me. I’m going to give it a great try this time around.

      Best regards!

      • says

        I lost the most body fat on the physique transformation diet. This is the web based program that requires you to plan your meals for the week by balancing your fat, carbs and protein and keeping your calories within a certain range depending on your weight loss goals. You had to first increase your clean calories to speed up your metabolism and then slowly start decreasing your calories to lose the body fat. This is a popular bodybuilders diet plan that I tried several years ago. It was a major pain in the rear to maintain, so I can’t recommend this one as a lifestyle.

        I can recommend the mediterranean diet along with moderate exercise to maintain your healthy weight. I felt the best, had more energy and looked better on this diet.

        Good luck on your home gym.

        • says

          luckydog17,

          The Mediterranean diet seems interesting. A lot of olive oil, fish, fruits, veggies, and nuts. The lack of red meat might get to me a little. I dig my red meat whenever I get the opportunity – which is generally just a few times per month. But I love fish. The veggies might also be a problem, as I don’t enjoy eating them at all. The occasional greenery isn’t bad, but that’s about it. :)

          Thanks for getting back to me and sharing. I really appreciate it. It’s always interesting to hear what works for other people.

          Best wishes.

  26. says

    Hey DM,

    As a fellow fitness enthusiast and a quite unskilled cook, I was very happy to read this post. I also have a “frugally fit diet” which mostly consists of lean meat boxes sold at supermarkets and whole-cereal carbs. It’s surprising how financially effective a healthy diet can be. I still spend a lot of groceries at the moment because I put great emphasis on my health as a product of my diet, but I am working on finding better bargains and I am managing to slowly reduce my spending month by month.

    I feel diet and exercise are a form of long-term investment in our own health, so they truly go hand-in-hand with monetary investment. For a long, healthy and happy life richly powered by dividends.

    Congratulations on staying fit and frugal!

    Cheers,
    DividendVenture

    • says

      DV,

      I know for sure that if I had an interest or skill in cooking I could get by for less, and eat healthier to boot. But I do what I can. The key is that you enjoy your life and what you’re eating, while also staying fit and watching costs.

      And I couldn’t agree more about diet and exercise. Who wants to be financially independent if they’re physically unable to participate in life’s adventures? :)

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Best regards!

  27. Ron says

    First, excellent post. This wasn’t an easy article to write. The criticism that came with it and how you stuck to your goals. Just shows your growth as a writer and more importantly how committed you are to the entire path to FI.

    We all place different values on different things. Though I don’t 100% agree with your diet, I am fully satisfied with your logic and reasoning with what you eat. I believe with your strict discipline, portion control, and exercise you will be more then able to consume what you eat and remain healthy.

    However, being who are, I think once you are FI, you will eat much differently. You are too smart & analytical and will come around to eating healthier meals in early retirement. And you will enjoy cooking. My money is on that :)

    Best of luck DM.

    • says

      Ron,

      Thanks for the kind words. The criticism comes with the territory, I suppose. I remember getting upset at the people who claimed that because I wasn’t eating organic food I was poisoning my body, but why be bothered by small-minded people?

      I appreciate the support. I’m sure my genetics allow some latitude in my diet, but I also stay pretty strict with food intake. I don’t snack very often and I’ve cut down the conspicuous soda consumption dramatically – it’s now just a weekend treat. I agree processed food isn’t the best for you, but I also keep in mind that there are billions of people around the world that are starving and would kill to eat what I eat. A couple hundred years ago you didn’t see people so picky with their food, but that’s a first world luxury to have for sure.

      And I agree with you in terms of my diet improving once I’m FI. I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy cooking, but I’ll have much more time on my hands to slow things down and enjoy every meal. At that point all of my meals will be for enjoyment rather than just a means to an end, instead of just the weekends. And I’ll be able to take my time shopping and being mindful about what I’m eating and how much I’m spending, rather than just zipping through the grocery aisles as fast as I can.

      BTW, do you have any tricks or helpful tips on how I could change what I eat now while still meeting my current cost, time, cooking, and convenience constraints?

      Thanks so much for the support. I really do appreciate it! :)

      Take care.

  28. Ville says

    Hi,

    first of all, I do admire the discipline you have over yourself in everything, I know I couldn´t do that ;-)
    The whole blog, and especially this chapter raises interesting questions about, well, the meaning of life in general as we never know if we´re going to be here in ten years time or even tomorrow. But yes, one has to be optimistic and if you can give up many of life´s small pleasures and even enjoy doing that, why not!

    I by the way enjoy cooking and the amount of saved money vs eating out is tremendous, especially here in Finland where food/alcohol prices are ridiculous.

    Thanks for the blog, I´ll be following you!

    • says

      Ville,

      The food cost difference between eating at home and eating out is pretty large here in the US as well. I try to make sure we visit lower-tier restaurants when we do go out to eat, which really isn’t even all that often. There’s some months where it’s only one restaurant visit. But it’s a concession I make to my girlfriend. I can understand how my frugality can get old for someone else.

      As far as life’s pleasures go, for me food is pretty high on the list. I get a lot of enjoyment out of eating a great slice of pizza, or a fantastic plate of fresh sushi. For me, that’s part of what makes life worth living. Put that great food together with good friends and family and now you’re talking. I think being able to afford the food you like to eat with the people you love is worth the stretch, and maybe that might mean working a little longer. But, again, it’s all about balance. You don’t have to go out to fancy restaurants with your family. Getting together over a couple cheap pizzas, or all pitching in in the kitchen with some cheaper meals can make the difference between a life well lived and a life just lived.

      Best wishes!

  29. says

    Are you open for some nutrition suggestions? Ways of eating that don’t cost more money – do take a bit more time? Really like your blog. Appreciate how you have shared your portfolio. You bring up some excellent issues.

    • says

      bfairest,

      I’m up for suggestions; however, I’m a bit limited with what I can do. For instance, there’s no “kitchen” at work. It’s pretty much just a microwave and a small refrigerator. And my time at night is very limited.

      But if you have any ideas I’m always open! :)

      Cheers.

  30. says

    oh man, the ramen noodle diet sure takes me back to college! That and 3 AM donuts, but I don’t think I could do donuts regularly anymore… too much sugar and my metabolism isn’t what it once was.

    Glad the diet is working for you. I am a bit surprised that one lean cuisine is enough to get you through the work day? I eat a big lunch and usually still rely on stacks throughout the day.

    And I totally hear you on SLOWING everything down post-FI. I want to be able to finally enjoy a slow 2 hour breakfast without feeling like the entire world is gonna come crashing down every additional minute I spend at the table ;)

    • says

      FI Fighter,

      Slowing everything down sounds great to me.

      I remember reading how people who are no longer working tend to fill their schedules in with their regular activities just by doing everything longer. So if you no longer have a full-time job, your might sleep an extra hour or two, spend an extra hour or two per day eating, spend a little more time at your hobbies and activities, take it slower when exercising, writing, reading, etc. Before you know it all the time you used to spend on a job is spent on doing the things you enjoy and you’ll wonder how you ever had time for a job in the first place!

      Best wishes.

  31. smbucky says

    One of my favorite frugal and quick meal sources is a nice rice cooker. We commonly cook the rice with some sazon goya to make spanish rice and serve some canned beans and salsa over it, which is about 10x tastier than it sounds. You can also add cheese, sour cream, chicken, cilantro, shredded chicken, etc.

    Another one pot meal I have just added to the repertoire is to cook the rice in broth instead of water and toss in some other herbs. Can tweak the seasoning depending on what you going for: cajun seasoning, old bay, or soy and fish sauces for an asian flare are good. Toss a raw chicken thigh on top of the rice and hit the start button. It all cooks up together and tastes amazing. The nicer rice cookers have an amazing non-stick coating so it basically rinses clean. All this stuff also usually tastes better as leftovers :)

    Btw, LOVE the blog! Always following your progress and your buys.

    • says

      smbucky,

      Great ideas there. I love the idea of some shredded chicken and cheese added in with the Spanish rice. That sounds delish!

      I hope I one day come around to cooking. My current diet is built around efficiency before taste, but if I could spend even less and eat food that’s even tastier I’d love to. However, I feel I’d then have to sacrifice something else to create the time necessary to make this stuff. Financial independence should allow me a little latitude here. :)

      Thanks for sharing. And I appreciate the support very much!

      Take care.

  32. Todd in VA says

    Hello,
    I guess what is prompting me to reply to this chain was that I found it interesting that you defended your stance regarding your eating habits even though you are a ‘fitness enthusiast’ and realize your eating habits need improvement. Moreover, I tend to believe that most of us reading these blogs about early retirement and finance have at least one thing in common – the discipline to make small, incremental changes and sacrifices to better our lives. Criticism should be welcomed in these conversations as so much of the content in these blogs continues to mature.

    Your blog is about changing our relationship with money. Change a few contexts and it could very well be about changing our relationship with food or interpersonal relationships. After all, most issues that people have with money/food/relationships are usually symptoms of something deeper.

    Like you, there is probably a nutritional blogger out there that was given basic advice that had to do with finance in one of his/her comments and refuted it because they knew no better. I, for one, completely understand the limitations that work, travel, etc. put on our day. Its all about opportunity cost. But as crazy as early retirement sounds to most people – I am sure that ‘proper nutrition is as important as financial prudence’ sounds crazy to others. They complement each other. No, they have a synergistic effect on another. What good is it to have money if you are not healthy or mobile? Then again, what fun is it to have great health and mobility after 40 but not have any money?

    I believe the same paradigm shift that occurred with you and your finances will occur once you start uncovering the truth behind food (or whatever the hell these companies pass as food) and your nutrition. Plus, eating healthy does not have to cost more than junk food. Once you realize that your current diet is equivalent to the adage ‘Invest 10% of your income and you will be fine for retirement’ you will scrap everything you have been taught about nutrition and become more frugal in what you put in/on your body.

    PS – thanks for the blog

    • says

      Todd in VA,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

      I hear what you’re saying. I don’t mean to come across as dismissive. I guess I’m still a bit sore from my last foray into this subject.

      I have what is perhaps an interesting perspective on this, as I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I was once a competitive bodybuilder, and as such took my nutrition extremely seriously. There was a lot of unflavored oatmeal, tuna fish, boneless skinless chicken breasts, rice, and water. I had my fair share. However, for me it was a means to an end. I did it so that I could win competitions, not because I enjoyed eating like that. And so I’m no longer a competitive bodybuilder, as well as for a myriad of other reasons.

      I now eat totally different. And while my diet is made to be as efficient as possible to fit within my time, cost, and taste constraints I’m quite happy with it. While I admit there are shortcomings to my diet, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m extremely interested in “improving” it. And I put that word in quotations because dietary advice is rather subjective. What works for me may not work for you, and likewise what may taste good to you may be disgusting to me.

      As I stated above, I could be a billionaire and I wouldn’t be eating rice cakes and veggies. I’d probably eat a lot more freshly prepared food, but it wouldn’t be “healthy” food specifically. And more to the point: What is “healthy”? To some it’s veganism; others it’s vegetarianism. To some people it’s a Paleo diet or something else. Personally, I like my meat, pizza, tacos, sushi, etc. But I simply make sure I intake food that’s low in nutritional content and rather high in calories in limited doses – usually on the weekends. And then I do 4-5 hours of intense physical exercise every week to make up for it.

      Overall, I think my diet is pretty decent. And I’m not saying that based on bias, but rather because I analyzed it before I implemented it. I am missing certain vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber. And for that I plan on taking supplements again, as I was commenting about above.

      Again, I keep referring to Warren Buffett because I admire and agree with his views on finance, society, life, philanthropy, religion, etc. And food could probably be added to the mix. Is veal parm and a root beer float good for dinner most nights? Probably not. But the dude is 83 years old and in better shape than most 70 year-old people I come in contact with at my job (I work with A LOT of elderly people). I’m not promoting or defending his dietary choices, but it’s an interesting point of reference. If I could eat like he does and live to 83 I’d probably be okay with that.

      Thanks again for the discussion. I do appreciate it!

      Cheers!

  33. C40 says

    Sorry if this has been said (lots of comments to check) but you might decide to change after some research on the Oatmeal packets you’re eating for breakfast. The oatmeal in them is highly processed, and it has a ton of sugar. The effect they have on your body is essentially the same as eating a candy bar for breakfast.

    As to their convenience, they offer very little benefit over eating what I’ll call “real” oatmeal. If you’d like a healthier option (that is also cheaper and can taste much better) try some Quaker OLD FASHIONED oatmeal. It actually takes the same amount of time to prepare. You like it interesting / flavorful? Great – try some of these:
    – Add half a banana and some cinnamon
    – Add strawberries (or blueberries, or any berries really) (experiment with adding them either before or after heating the oatmeal, it makes a big difference)
    – Add honey (if you have allergies, eating a spoonful of local and non-pasturized honey each day (year round) may eliminate your symptoms entirely.

    • C40 says

      And one thing I forgot – the price difference between the packets and the tub of oatmeal is huge. You can add fresh fruit, honey, cinnamon etc. and it will still be cheaper per bowl than the dirty little packets.

      • says

        C40,

        Your comment couldn’t be more timely.

        I actually bought a tub of Quaker oatmeal just today when I did my grocery shopping. However, I also bought a very small container of brown sugar, so I’ll try to use the sugar sparingly with a little cinnamon. We’ll see how it goes, but I think it’s an instant (pun intended) upgrade. Honey is a great idea too. I’ll have to try that.

        Thanks for the thoughts. I really appreciate the ideas here. I’ll definitely try them out as I change the oatmeal up from time to time.

        Best wishes.

  34. Dividend Investing Rookie says

    Wow. DM, you seriously impressed me. I started looking into and buying some shares KO, EDP and PG for dividend investing very recently, and came across DGI’s blog and then he mentioned about you and your way of dividend investing, but I didn’t know what involved from the start in you case, and this particular post totally blew me away. I kept thinking ‘This guy is crazy!’ while reading and then realized how committed you are. Especially you were an athlete back in high school, so you know what it takes in terms of intakes of protein and carbs, and oh gosh… Ramen noodles for a whole year truly attest to your true determination. I don’t know what got into me less than a year ago and I started lean body diet along with almost every day gym workout and lost 30 lobs in 3 months. Now everything has slowed down and I am sort of maintaining my current weight, by just 3-4 times at he gym and regular long distance running, which is pretty good. But when I started my very strict diet, about 2,500 calories per day was the target, which is pretty good for workout, could be modified as I skip a day or two for recovery of my muscles and whatnot. My point is that I just read what’s possible in terms of calories and finance (even to a little pennies) in your post and I will really rethink about my dividend investing strategy (as I am devouring DGI’s and yours every day and reading other investment books (checked out the public library – speaking of frugal living, ha!)). Gosh you seriously redefine the meaning of frugal living for me! I am not young, and I wish I knew about dividend investing when I was in early 20s, and actually was holding mutual funds but I ended up using a lot of it for education, and since then I haven’t saved up a lot. But still it is better late than never, and I am really gearing up as hard as I can since now that I have seen what’s possible. Not as much as compounding time as yours or the younger folks’ is on my side, but I should keep thinking that it’s better late than never. Let’s see how frugal I can be and how big the snowball of mine will grow. Thanks for the posts!!!

    • says

      DIR,

      Thanks for the kind words. Glad you found the blog, and enjoy what you’ve read so far!

      I’m indeed dedicated to my mission and this journey. I admit eating ramen noodles five days per week for an entire year isn’t the best idea in the world, but that level of extreme frugality in part helped me achieve what I have so far. If I had to do it all over again I’d do it the same exact way. I have no regrets.

      And my diet could certainly be improved. But in terms of efficiency based on my lifestyle and what I’m trying to do, I think it’s pretty solid. And I generally enjoy the food I eat. Would I rather eat a 10 oz. ribeye for dinner over a couple peanut butter & jelly sandwiches? Absolutely. But sometimes sacrifices are necessary to get to where we want to go, and I’m willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

      I hope you stick around and stay in touch! And I wish you the best of luck with your journey. It’s definitely never too late to start. I think it’s definitely possible to go from 0 to retirement in about 10 years or so on a middle-class salary, so even starting at 40 would mean you could probably get there by 50 if you worked hard and stayed persistent.

      Best wishes!

  35. says

    Can I argue that processed ready-to-go frozen meals and fast food is not healthy? Cheap, perhaps.. but not healthy.

    Actually, I wonder if it would be cheaper to just buy a chicken, roast it, rip it up and portion out 5 – 10 servings for the week and cook a few veggies on the side. It’d certainly be healthier.

    I do this when I work — I cook on Sundays for the entire week and just reach into my fridge to grab my lunch in its container before I go to work.

    • says

      save. spend. splurge.,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I think it all depends on perspective, and what your definition of “healthy” is. That’s a pretty vague word, in my opinion.

      Is a Lean Cuisine healthier than a pizza from your local takeout joint? Absolutely. Is it healthier than 7 oz of boneless chicken breast and a 2 oz. serving of rice, with no butter or salt? Definitely not.

      Furthermore, dietary choices are a function of one’s personal tastes, time constraints, convenience, and a number of other factors than just all-out health. My diet tries to combine health with a focus on caloric intake, cost, convenience, and taste, while also avoiding cooking. If there’s anything I enjoy about living in a first world country and having a number of conveniences available to me it’s not cooking. It’s simply something I don’t enjoy at all, but to each their own.

      However, I think when combined with my rigorous exercise routine, my diet isn’t so bad. Some of my co-workers wonder why I eat “frozen crap” when they’re busy eating triple cheeseburgers and 12″ submarine sandwiches for lunch. Fresh ingredients only go so far; portion control is also important.

      Best wishes!

  36. says

    Hey Jason! excuse me but your diet is seriously lacking fruit and veggies and plus by drinking Propel and coke or pepsi you do not invest into your health bank. Eat natural food, drink water or tea and your grocery bill will be even less. use natural butter not margarine! Eggs can be good for breakfast. please check my blog for some healthy food choices and some fast and healthy meals which actually will help you stay stronger and younger.

    • says

      Happy,

      Well, I equate my diet to my pursuit of financial independence. And much like working for most of my life is a form of torture, so is eating food that I don’t really enjoy. And high on that list is stuff like vegetables and most fruit, unflavored water, and cooking.

      My model is many areas of life is Warren Buffett. And I share his view that food is just fuel, and so if you limit your caloric intake via smaller portions you should be fine and you can eat what you really enjoy. It’s all calories in and calories out. I try to minimize calories in via portion control and maximize calories out via regular exercise. Sure, I could take in more vitamins and minerals and plan on supplementing this at some point in the near future. :)

      Now, if you actually enjoy broccoli and water then that’s great. It’s just not my thing.

      Best regards.

      • says

        yes, I agree that food is fuel. You are in your early 30s right now but same as you are thinking about securing your financial future by carefully investing your money, you should think about investing into your health. Or you might spend all money on repairing your health instead of enjoying life.
        I worked for couple of years at Wellness center and I could see transformation in people’s lives after they would switch from junk food. some people were able to get rid of chronic diseases just by switching diets.
        Plus you can train your taste buds as well. Its all in your brain. so if you detox your body, you probably will start enjoy the taste of plain water or even find that broccoli has taste too. It just depends how you cook it and which spices you use.
        Oh yeah and on Warren Buffett’s diet… Colon polyps and prostate cancer… read in the comments.
        http://www.fitmole.org/warren-buffet-diet/

        • says

          Happy,

          I agree that a good diet is better than a bad diet, but I think you’re overstating it quite a bit there. There are many risk factors for disease, with diet just being one of many. Citing diet without taking into account genetics, activity, and stress is ignorant, in my opinion. I’m not saying that one should eat whatever they want and expect to be healthy, but I believe diet is just one aspect of an overall lifestyle. Sure, if you ingest 5,000 calories a day of nothing but crap, sit on the couch all day, chain smoke, and drink an overabundance of alcohol you’re probably going to be in pretty bad shape. However, ingesting less calories than you burn through regular exercise, avoiding smoking and drinking, reducing stress, and some decent genes will probably paint a picture that isn’t bad at all. Your opinion will vary, but I think I’m a good example of the latter.

          As far as prostate cancer, we’re now relating diet to cancer? And prostate cancer, with how common it is for men? Maybe women who get breast cancer should be watching their burrito intake? I should be so lucky as to eat whatever I want for my entire life and get what amounts to highly treatable prostate cancer in my 80s.

          Steve Jobs is another great example. Died of pancreatic cancer at age 56 – vegan, and overall health nut.

          Cheers!

  37. says

    Health is wealth. Eating healthy food and working out is equivalent to investing in your health IRA. As one grows older (I’m 64) it gets harder to maintain weight. One has to eat less and exercise more each decade. I weigh the same and wear the same size as I did 30 years ago through healthy eating and regular exercise. I eat light at home, often making vegan stews and freezing individual portions for easy fast healthy meals. This is not to say one should never indulge. Eating light at home lets me enjoy pizza, burgers and beer when out with friends.

    I have always lived below my means and saved. I’m not rich but I think I’m financially secure up to about 95 (which is my mother’s current age). I bought a cheap condo for cash seven years ago and than makes living on the cheap much easier. My housing cost is a mere $300 per month, and I drive a 14 year old Honda Civic that runs great. I can get by on $1,000 per month, and for $1,500 I can live large! I am “retired” and collect social security but I work part time as fitness coach for minimum wage because I enjoy it I also still do some freelance writing for about 5k a year. My time is my own though, and I can chose to do what I want, and that is my definition of wealth.

    I saw two old friends a few days ago who a few years younger than me. They could never manage money and always lived paycheck to paycheck. He retired from a state job with a good pension and she is collecting SS. Unfortunately she is dying of lung cancer (money and health up in smoke!) and he has severe spinal arthritis and must use a walker. They have reached the stage of life when things could have been easy. But when your health runs out….well, quality of life is poor.

    I discovered your blog today, and will be a regular reader and a follower on Seeking Alpha. Keep up the good work and sharing your fresh ideas.

    K.

    • says

      K.,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      That’s fantastic stuff there. Paid-off condo, 14 year-old Civic. Getting by for $1,000/month. Tremendous. Congratulations for that. I’m currently trying to get my expenses back down to the $1,000 level, which I was at not too long ago.

      And I hear you on health. I think diet is important, and I don’t mean to trivialize it. However, genetics has a major part to play. It’s not like someone who eats broccoli and chicken breast is somehow immune from cancer. There’s been many, many cases of people who eat very well and exercise dying of cancer, and many, many cases of people who eat poorly and live into their 80s and 90s – like Warren Buffett. So it all depends. However, I do think that if you’re going to eat somewhat poorly that portion control is very important (when is it not?) and exercise/regular activity is imperative. I eat a diet that could certainly be improved, but I also eat rather small portions, watch my caloric intake, and regularly exercise. As such, I’m in excellent health. Of course, genetics are a big part of this. If I had poor genetics I’d probably be overweight and in bad health. I think one’s health is sometimes a roll of the dice, and luckily I’m in good shape.

      In the end, you have calories in and calories out. Food is simply fuel. And if I can enjoy that fuel, why not? As long as you make sure the calories in and out are somewhat equal and you stay active you should have relatively good health, assuming good genetics and low stress.

      And thanks for following along. I really appreciate the readership. I try to provide a unique perspective on things while also shooting for FI on a middle-class income. And now that I’m writing full-time that income is pretty meager. So we’ll see how I do! :)

      Stay in touch.

      Best wishes.

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