• Zach

Munchies in May: The Conclusion

Updated: Feb 22, 2019


Food is beautiful, in more ways than taste.

A month has come and gone. The experiment to see how much money I could save by not going out to eat (only 5 times all month) or ordering in (at ALL!) has born strange fruit. I learned how to make some new dishes, but I learned more about myself and my relationship with food and people.



Let's start with the cold, hard data for any financial voyeurs out there! The Good News is that I did save money doing this. Yay! The Bad News is I really didn't save THAT much. The four months previous in 2018 my food costs (going out and groceries combined) averaged 2680 AED ($730), with February being the outlier and skewing the data a bit downward because I was in Kenya for a week with no food costs.


In May I spent...drumroll please... 1880 AED ($513), for a total savings of $217 over my previous average. So, was it worth it? Should I continue this experiment? Let's take a look at the pros of the experience first.


Pros and Positive Lessons


I cooked some damn good food!

Highlights included Nashville Hot Chicken (one of my favorite things to cook and have dinner parties around); Pan Seared Salmon with Roast Carrots, Tuna Steaks with a sesame seed crust; Chicken with Eggplant, Olives, and Couscous (which was my first time cooking couscous, and I nailed it!); and the one I'm proud of, I learned how to make Buffalo Wings! They were super authentic, and hit the spot. There was plenty more that I made, but those dishes stood out.


I did save money

$217 more is not a huge amount, when I usually save over $2000 a month. It's practically a rounding error. I could have saved more if I were willing to eat beans and rice all month, but that sounds like torture. If I did this for 10 months a year, that would be an extra $2000 saved a year, which letting compound interest do its thing, would get me about $6000 extra in my account when I retire in 15 years or so. Using the handy Compound Interest Calculator, if I did that every year until I retired, it would get me an extra $59,000. Then, with the 4% rule, that would get me about $2300 a year of income.


It inspired me to write a song

I'm going to post the lyrics here. They're mostly fictional, but the underlying lesson feels very true. If it helps, think of it sung to a Southwestern Country song.

I Want My Crunchy Tacos


When I was young I rambled

Doing wrong and living hard

I smoked and drank, and didn’t think

Of how my liver scarred


I partied every evening

And woke up to a beer

Got blitzed at night and didn’t fight

For what most would hold dear


But eventually my life wore on

I Took a family and wife

My freedom and my vices carved

Away by adulthood’s knife


And now I am at home by five

Tucked in to bed by nine

My son and daughter kissed and fed

My wife loves it just fine


I long for a rebellion

Some taste of banned excitement

But my old drinking buddies won’t even

Answer to my enticement


The bar is too expensive now

Ten bucks just for a beer

And clubs are filled with bland douchebags

their body spray fills me with fear


All that’s left is the tacos

They make me feel alive

Guacamole, salsa, hot sauce

I can get 3 for just two twenty five


O, O, O, I love tacos

I eat so so many I burst

I know it’s not the fun that I’m used to

But they’re the only thing quenching my thirst


It was inspired by the idea that for many responsible adult types, the only vice they have left is food, it's the only connection they have to a rebellious, fun, and freedom filled youth. Like I said, it's fictional, and it's not Dylan, but I do think that one reason so many people struggle with their weight (including me) is that in their sped up, stressful adult lives, food is one of the few joys left them, and one that's very easy to overindulge in. That is not the most positive message, and that's because, for a lot of this challenge, I was NOT the Happiest Teacher.


How I usually felt during this experiment.


Cons and Wisdom Gained


I felt like a prisoner to this experiment.

I'm not necessarily an undisciplined person. I save every month. I show up to work a half hour early, and have done that for 13 years. I've learned to play pretty much every percussion instrument to a decently high level (with the exception of drum kit, which I'm learning now). But I enjoy my freedom, especially when it comes to food! If I want to go to a new restaurant or order from my favorite spots, I don't like something arbitrary like this holding me back. I felt like I was living in handcuffs the whole month, which also taught me the second lesson...


A lot of my social life revolves around food, and by not being able to go out, I felt trapped in my house and antisocial.

I have a natural tendency to be a bit of a homebody these days. My couch is comfy, and I get A LOT of social interaction at work, so on many days, I just come home and enjoy the peace and quiet of my simple life. My two normal social things are playing music with my band, which is filled with some of the best people I've ever met (who are also great musicians), and going out to eat with them or other friends. That's not all I do, but that's the definite majority. Many times this month, I was invited to go out to eat and turned nice people down so that I could stick to this experiment. Sometimes I cooked for everybody, but other times I just didn't do anything. I did NOT like this. I don't need any more help staying at home, I've got that mastered. This experiment exacerbated that trend.


It was not very satisfying to cook every day.

No matter what Mr. Money Mustache says, I didn't get a profound feeling of accomplishment by doing this myself and being the master of the hassle. This was probably because I already knew I could cook. Most of the dishes I had already made before. I did get a feeling of accomplishment when I learned a new recipe, like Buffalo Wings, but besides that, it was just another thing to do. Another thing to plan, and a whole lot more time spent cleaning.


I Spent a TON of time doing dishes.

To me, this was worse than going to the grocery store, chopping veggies, or staying around the slow cooker to make sure it didn't burn my apartment down (the neighbors tend to frown on that). My hands are permanently wrinkled from soaking in the water. This and the daily cooking were just tedious chores.


The Verdict: I'm glad that's done!


Phew!

One of the main purposes of this blog is to document the journey to Financial Independence. I'll try different things, sometimes those things will be winners, but other times, it's fine to just have the data and move on. This is one of those times. I'm going to happily go back to my normal life of culinary freedom, ordering food on my favorite apps, and doing WAY FEWER DISHES! Quite frankly, the monetary gain is minimal compared to the headache of lost freedom and missed social outings.


Do you think I'm misguided? That I am giving up too easily? Feel free to comment below and as always, subscribe for more content!


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