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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 17, 2009

The Depression Diet

By Worker Bee
42 Comments

The Depression Diet? We’ve discussed the “Recession Diet” and we’re always on the lookout for food budget hacks and tricks for our readers, and the economy isn’t getting any better. And so, although commentators, pundits, and politicians are loathe to utter the “D” word, we just couldn’t resist the chance to alliterate and provide some helpful money-saving tips for our readers looking to maintain their Primal ways.

1. The Rule of 3

To keep things simple and inexpensive, limit meals to three basic components: a fat, a protein, and a vegetable. That covers your dietary fat and protein intakes (the most important parts of a Primal meal) while giving you enough leeway to make things interesting. Start with the three building blocks and dress them up with easy additions (garlic, salt, pepper, spices). Think:

Coconut oil, beef, broccoli
Butter, eggs, bell peppers
Olive oil, chicken breast (skin on), brussel sprouts

2. Make Meals Pop with Simple, Inexpensive Ingredients

Assuming you’ve gone the logical route and stocked up on the basics (meat, whole chickens, frozen veggies, frozen fish, etc) to cut costs, now it’s time to invest a little in some simple, inexpensive ingredients that can really make your meals “pop.” Buying in bulk means you’ll invariably be eating some of the same stuff on a regular basis, but keeping these ingredients on hand can make every meal a little different:

– Fresh garlic (not much needs to be said – featuring prominently in nearly every cuisine, fresh garlic is essential)
– Indian spices (garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon – all the flavor, none of the naan!)
–  Wasabi (most know it by the green clumps in sushi places, but powdered wasabi is incredibly versatile – add it to nut mixes, to mayo, or to salad dressings)
– Fresh ginger (there’s nothing quite like ginger, and if you don’t use it all at once, wrap it up tightly in foil and freeze it for later)
Chili peppers (whether you keep fresh, dried, or canned on hand, chili peppers will quite literally spice up your dishes)
– Salsa (either make your own or buy stuff made with fresh, whole ingredients)
– Vinegar (the foundation of most salad dressings – try to have red wine, balsamic, and white on hand)
– Citrus (citrus is another basic building block, this time for marinades and sauces – keep stocked with lemons and limes)
– Butter (maybe Grok didn’t have butter, but it’s full of healthy milk fat and it adds richness to dishes)

3. Use the Power of Google

Out of ideas? Not to worry – you’ve got a powerful recipe resource at your beck and call. Rummage through your freezer and pantry for all those forgotten food items that never seem to get made and Google them, adding a “recipe” at the end of the list. A search like “canned tomatoes olives green beans chicken recipe” will turn up dozens of results, if not more. You’ll never have to think again!

4. Be Adventurous

As the increasingly apt saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers. Necessity breeds change, so embrace it! Try new things! Approach the grocery store not necessarily with a rigid list, but with an open mind. Explore the perimeter of the store and consider items you’ve never considered before. If the beef heart is on sale, try it. If you’ve never had collard greens, pick up a bunch. Variety will keep you satisfied, especially with impacted finances. The cheaper cuts of meat are often the more “unusual” (and nutritious), so be flexible.

5. Be Prepared

Primalize your pantry and keep it well-stocked, and you’ll likely never go hungry or succumb to takeout. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating out, of course, but it’s definitely not the best way to save money on food (plus, the ingredients used are often decidedly unPrimal). Having plenty of good food on hand will “force” you to cook at home.

6. Plan Ahead

This is similar in spirit to “Be Prepared,” and utilizing Google can be a big part of it. Buy a dry erase board, a chalkboard, or put together a spreadsheet on the computer to plan your meals. Spontaneity is good, and you can always switch things up at the last moment on a whim, but having the week’s meals in writing will let you buy everything at once and avoid those last-minute trips to the grocery store for one or two ingredients that always seem to add up on the credit card statement.

How about you, readers? Anyone got any good money saving tips for Primalists on a budget?

Further Reading:

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Affording Organics

10 “Vegetables” You Shouldn’t Be Eating

TAGS:  mental health

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42 Comments on "The Depression Diet"

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Broseph
Broseph
7 years 6 months ago

Great ideas. Here’s a few cheapos from my cupboard:

Sauerkraut: Oh yeah, that stuff can fill out a meal.

Horseradish-mustard: Because regular mustard doesn’t always cut it. And they cost the same.

Protein shake w/ frozen berries: Makes a long lasting snack, and once you figure out the per-shake cost, it’s cheaper than a handful of almonds.

Mark Sisson
7 years 6 months ago

Good ideas, Broseph. I like the sauerkraut idea… I sense a blog post coming in the near future.

I’m with you on the protein shake. I use mine when I need a quick meal on the go, or my tastebuds are in the mood for a tasty high-protein treat.

http://www.primalnutrition.com/responsibly-slim-i-3.html

Adam Steer - Better Is Better
7 years 6 months ago

I’ve always believed in the importance of cooking as a skill. But recently Jamie Oliver really brought home the idea that now, more than ever, cooking is crucial. This is the first time that we are heading into truly troubled economic times without the skills to turn some kitchen scraps into a wholesome and tasty meal. Here’s the post:
http://tinyurl.com/clt9bo

Cheers,
Adam

BEE
7 years 6 months ago
Great suggestions- I have a great application on my iphone that has thousands of recipes (called BigOven) that also helps with inspiration. You just type in an ingredient or a dish and it’ll give you a recipe. I’m getting good at subbing primal stuff if need be. Speaking of- I find that a lot of the high priced stuff that’s primal and a replacement (like almond and coconut flour) are not only worth the investment, but also last a long time. Most recipes call for just a little flour so even though one bag is $8-15 they’ll last for a… Read more »
Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later

To your last couple of points Mark, I think freezing is a big winner, especially if you have to journey far to access good quality, wild meat or fish. Being prepared then means remembering to take things out of the freezer the night before you intend to eat, especially things like a large chicken which take a long time to defrost…

Marc Feel Good Eating
7 years 6 months ago

Mark, you;re absolutely right about the “cheaper cuts”. For example, check out “Top Blade” everyone. It’s very affordable and works great as stew meat, and if you remove the middle sinew, great for quick high heat grilling also. Make sure you grill it WITH fat. Like a yummy basil butter or similiar.

Marc

Jeff
Jeff
7 years 6 months ago

By “depression diet” I thought this post was about psychological depression.

If anyone wants to induce depression through diet, I highly recommend the “super carb” diet. Just eat lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of carbs and your serotonin receptors will fizzle (who needs them anyway?).

Mark Sisson
7 years 6 months ago

Good tip, Marc. And for everyone that doesn’t know, “Top Blade” is also (and I think more commonly) known as flat iron steak.

Mike OD - Life Spotlight
7 years 6 months ago

I’d also add cook and eat in large groups. In tough times people need to come together, it’s not about being alone. The support and company of others can make us all get through most anything (plus it’s more fun, relaxing and usually cheaper to buy/cook in bulk). As long as everyone takes turns cooking…could be fun and cheap.

Mike OD - Life Spotlight
7 years 6 months ago

that and $2.50 Trader Joe wine goes well with dinner. 🙂

madMUHHH
madMUHHH
7 years 6 months ago
First of all, I guess it would be appropiate to say “Hi!”, since this is my first comment here, even though I’m reading this blog for quite a while now. The last few days I’ve really been wondering how to cut costs a little, since well, I’m not really the one buying food most of the time. My mother does this and since my parents are still not really convinced of that whole “Primal”-thing, the fact that especially fresh meat or fish tend to cost quite some money, doesn’t really help when convincing my parents to buy the stuff I… Read more »
Mark Sisson
7 years 6 months ago

Welcome, madMUHHH! We talk a lot on MDA about the numerous stumbling blocks and hurdles associated with trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Skeptical parents hasn’t yet made an appearance. Until now!

Good luck and stay in touch.

Donna
Donna
7 years 6 months ago

One of my favorite ways is to cook more than you’ll eat, freeze the rest. This really does save money and time-works for me! Bon’Appetite’

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[…] Depression Diet – 6 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Strict Budget … […]

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[…] Depression Diet – 6 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Strict Budget … […]

Rodnay
Rodnay
7 years 6 months ago

I’ll second the sauerkraut idea. I make a huge crock-full at a time and put it in mason jars in the fridge after it is done fermenting. I actually make something closer to kimchi, with napa cabbage and any of a countless combination of other veggies and spices. Good probiotics, and very economical, not to mention very satisfying to make at home!

JohnL
JohnL
7 years 6 months ago

Mark I often use arrowroot to thicken gravies sauces etc. I know it isn’t exactly low carb (agoun 50g for half a cup) but at least it isn’t a grain and a very small amount is needed to thicken. (About 10th of a cup..heaped teaspoon) The trick with arrowroot is to let your sauce or gravie cool a bit before adding the arrowroot. Unlick flour it doesn’t need cooking to get rid of the floury taste. If you aadd it when it is too hot it doesn’t thicken as well. you get very clear sauces and gravies with arrowroot. Cheers

Fitness Forum
7 years 6 months ago

love the google suggestion. i always tell people when they’re stuck on their diets that google can spice things up 🙂

warren
warren
7 years 6 months ago

pack that lunch! I just bought a case of very primal wild sardines in olive oil for like a buck a can(25-case)at a “cash-n-carry”. Saurkraut rules! The only problem whith watching my budget is its conflicting with my desire to buy high quality meats.

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[…] The Depression Diet […]

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[…] Depression Diet – 6 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Strict Budget … […]

HelloKittyfan
HelloKittyfan
7 years 6 months ago

I have been making soups for dinner! It’s so easy and I just add frozen veggies, beans, onion and garlic and bouillon cube and lots of filtered water. It’s the easiest thing and so affordable. Sometimes you eat healthier in a recession because you have less to spend and the healthiest foods are the most affordable.

Stacey
7 years 6 months ago

Well that was disappointing. As a person who deals with hereditary clinical depression I saw “Depression Diet” and hoped it was somehow geared toward people like me and how to manage the binge eating tendencies, etc.

louise mollot
louise mollot
6 years 3 months ago

depression ,trauma & adrenal fatigue
good explanations in the book
adrenal fatigue- explains trauma & its effects on body – and how the writer helped his clients (including catatonic,
violent, addicted ,cravings, insomnia, etc.
good explanation of how nerves, glands, hormones,brain- and how they get damaged
good info on avoiding harmful people,or situations,jobs, family, etc to save yourself.-peace,hope- louise-member SIA

Rebecca
Rebecca
5 years 5 months ago

Me too, Stace.

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Ellen
Ellen
7 years 6 months ago

Hmm.. I posted a recipe but don’t see it??

Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 6 months ago

Some partly relevant ideas here

http://diabetesupdate.blogspot.com/2009/02/diabetes-on-budget.html

This is well worth a look

http://mendosa.com/satiety.htm

you can dilute expensive stuff with high satiety things to stretch them further

Also things which look expensive can be good value, that Proper Chicken may look expensive compared to the supermarket version but won’t be injected with extra water and due to the quality you may be able to get another meal out of it.

Likewise venison or game will be satiating with a smaller portion than the el cheapo meatlike substances more commonly available

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[…] To check for recalls, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or go to http://www.cpsc.gov/ . . Mark Sisson is going to save you some major moolah with his… . Depression Diet […]

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7 years 6 months ago

[…] To check for recalls, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or go to http://www.cpsc.gov/ . . Mark Sisson is going to save you some major moolah with his… . Depression Diet […]

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[…] To check for recalls, call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or go to http://www.cpsc.gov/ . . Mark Sisson is going to save you some major moolah with his… . Depression Diet […]

Chris
7 years 5 months ago

Great Information….

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[…] homemade version), but also incorporates a few of the tips and strategies we profiled in our recent Depression Diet post: this recipe only has a few ingredients, uses a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, makes good […]

ron t
ron t
6 years 6 months ago
This may be a bit off-topic. But I can’t find a more appropriate thread. I have just finished my baked chicken thighs with a glass of water and was wondering how “balanced” Grok’s meals were. Did the men folk bring in the wild boar and women dress it up with side dishes of berries and leaves or did they gorge on nothing but animal protein? Then another day, no boar, but found a berry patch, so dinner is nothing but berries. Conventionally we assume there is wisdom in “balanced meals”–Has anyone looked at the physiology of unbalanced meals? Might there… Read more »
Veronica
Veronica
6 years 3 months ago

When I can afford it I buy stuff that “lasts forever” (canned food for example). Then if I have a bad month and end up being broke I have maybe 15 meals just sitting in a cupboard. It’s a bit dull, but it will fill my stomach well enough until I get the next paycheck.

Also, some things like eggs and black pudding (and porridge (yes, I know, wrong site)) is cheap food with lots of “meat-type” nutrition.

Amanda
Amanda
6 years 25 days ago
One thing I do to save money and avoid throwing away veggies that I couldn’t eat before they start to wilt – I make soups with them. I call them my “kitchen sink” soups because they contain any and everything that I have on hand and don’t know what to do with or just plain need to use up. I made a great fish stew the other day loaded with parsnips, celery, onions, garlic, canned diced organic tomatoes, tomato paste, left-over chicken stock, 1 fillet of mahi mahi, 2 fillets of cod and some shrimp from the freezer. It was… Read more »
Alldietus
5 years 6 months ago

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Farah
Farah
4 years 5 months ago

i cant eat

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[…] Depression Diet – 6 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Strict Budget … – The Depression Diet? We’ve discussed the “Recession Diet” and we’re always on the lookout for food budget hacks and tricks for our readers, and the economy isn’t getting any better. […]

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[…] . . Mark Sisson is going to save you some major moolah with his… . Depression Diet […]

aradhya
aradhya
1 year 4 months ago

Even I lived in a constant state of depression. Reason can be anything but ultimately its the unhealthy thinking that makes us depressed. I was very very lucky to find thoughts from Pandit Sri Ram Sharma Acharya’s literature. His thoughts and teachings were enough to get me out of my depressed state of mind. I didn’t take any medicine for depression and now I’m fit. People do everything to come out of depression. I’ll suggest everyone to go through His literature. Maybe it can help you. You can find his thoughts and literature here- http://quotes.awgp.org/chintan.php?qType=1&lng_id=2

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