Testing the Lenny Letter’s “Shop Like Your Mom” Meal Plan: Thursday and Final Thoughts

The dinner I made for myself tonight: scrambled eggs with cheese and peas, steamed spinach, toast with butter.

This week, I’m testing the Lenny Letter’s “Shop Like Your Mom” meal plan, as created by Sally Sampson. I already tested the grocery list and found that it came in under the estimated $75; I’ve also learned about trusting my instincts, you’ve learned about my intestines, and we’ve all learned that sometimes you don’t have 90 minutes to make a pot of soup.


Recipe #10: Avocado-Apple Smoothie

Prep time: 8 minutes

Recipe adjustments: not a smoothie

Rating: please do not eat this

I was ready to hate this avocado-apple smoothie, which essentially takes all of the leftover fruit halves that I’ve been saving in my refrigerator (avocado, banana, and lemon) and mixes them together with an apple.

I don’t have a blender, so I couldn’t go full smoothie, but I could mash up the (brown) avocado and (brown) banana into a paste with the yogurt, stirring in the lemon juice.

It did not look appetizing, I have to admit.

Don’t eat this.

But it tasted great. Very citrusy. I didn’t notice the avocado at all.

The stomach and bowel discomfort started about five minutes after I was finished.

Look, all of this food clearly fell into the “safe zone,” in that the lemon half had been in the refrigerator for four days, the avocado half for three, the banana half for two, and the apple half for one.

But my body did not want to digest this.

So I’m calling the project officially over at this point. There’s only one more recipe I haven’t tried making (Beanie Burgers), and otherwise I’m supposed to eat leftovers for the rest of the week, which—I just did that, and I’m still feeling the results.

That’s the thing that I found the strangest about this meal plan; not that you would use half an avocado on one day and the other half on another day, but that you’d use half an avocado on one day and the other half three days later.

I don’t know how you do leftovers in your home, but I try to eat mine as soon as possible so they don’t go bad. This does mean that I might have avocado on my sandwich for two days in a row, or eat the leftover chicken right away instead of telling myself I’ll put it in a soup later in the week.

Also, things like avocado and banana are so good when they’re fresh. Why wait until they’ve turned brown? Why wait until the sweet potato has shriveled, or the chicken gone cold and dry?

(At this point in my writing it’s been almost an hour since I ate the avocado-apple non-smoothie, and my stomach has calmed down. So don’t worry, I didn’t actually food poison myself or anything.)

Meal plan aside, the real point of this project was:

  1. To determine whether the grocery list was affordable, and
  2. To determine whether it was too much work for a single professional to cook “real meals” every day

The grocery list was definitely affordable. It would have been even more affordable if I hadn’t purchased the steel-cut oats and the sesame seeds, which combined took up 20 percent of my $72.33 bill.

It probably would also have been more affordable if I had gone back to some of my typical grocery habits, including:

  • Making my own bread instead of buying Safeway’s “pretend it’s a baguette”
  • Only pulling out a small handful of celery stalks and carrots from the produce section, instead of buying in bunches (the celery bunch in my refrigerator has already gone rubbery and I have to compost it)

The cooking also took me out of my comfort zone a little bit, which was good. I’m definitely going to add the berries and yogurt breakfast, as well as the sesame tofu recipe, to my repertoire.

I also really liked eating mostly fruits and vegetables at every meal; the two meals I made “off menu” (the broiled cheese, yesterday, and the scrambled eggs, pictured above) didn’t have nearly as many vegetables in them, so I want to rework my typical meals to include fruit in the morning, salads for lunch, and steamed vegetables for dinner—with a little piece of bread or scoop of rice on the side.

While it wasn’t too arduous to make all of these meals—although I spent a lot more time cooking and doing dishes this week—it was, as it turns out, surprisingly wasteful.

Part of this has to do with the amount of food each of these recipes created; if I were to make something like egg fried rice in the future, I’d try to make only enough for one serving. Like, a leftover scoop of rice, a few peas and a chopped up carrot, and one egg.

With this meal plan I made a big batch of rice on Monday, turned the batch (minus one half-cup) into egg fried rice on Tuesday, ate part of the leftovers on Wednesday, and composted probably two cups’ worth of egg fried rice today.

The meal plan would have me eat that egg fried rice tomorrow for breakfast, but that’s rice that I first boiled up five days ago, mixed with egg that’s been sitting in the refrigerator for four days. No way.

Also, cold, old egg fried rice sounds like a terrible breakfast.

So much of this food ended up going into the compost; the rubbery bunch of celery, the leftover scallions, the oatmeal. (I was supposed to keep that extra oatmeal for two more days and then heat it up again.)

Which, sure, I could tweak all of this to make it work better, but I get the point behind the Lenny Letter’s article: Don’t let grocery shopping and cooking scare you. You can make a variety of meals on $75 worth of food.

My grocery list for next week. I bet it’ll cost less than $75.

I’ll stand by that thesis 100 percent. My next shopping trip will include snow peas and tofu and broccoli and beans, and even though I’m still going to use store-bought salad dressing I’m also going to start eating fruit with yogurt, and sticking skillets of vegetables into the oven to heat up for dinner.

(I might even try that steel-cut oatmeal again. With a lot more water this time.)

How about you? Did you take away anything from this project that you’re going to incorporate into your own home cooking?

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