I read once in Luxury Fever that it’s quite possible to get used to eating the same meal three times a day, day in and day out. As long as a diet is well-balanced, there’s no harm in repetition. I bet the reason that people are told to eat a varied diet is similar to the reasons behind index fund investing: If you’re clueless, eating a random selection which eventually averages out to whatever everybody else is reading is the most generic recommendation that’s likely not to harm you more than the average.

Can you say corn syrup?

The cheapest “base food” I can think of is rice pilaf. Here are the ingredients:


  • Lots of onions, sliced and sauteed.
  • Lentils.
  • Rice.
  • 1.5 times a much water by volume as the lentils + rice volume.

You can make this in a pressure cooker by first sauteing the onions, then adding the lentils, rice, and water, and putting the pressure on.

You can also make this in a slow cooker. Here you need an extra pan to saute the onions.

Fun fact: I don’t recall using the word “saute” in a sentence ever before.

To complete the nutritional balance, add fruit and vegetables as side dishes. If you go with this cooking will be very fast and your grocery budget will be almost solely composed of the cost of fruit and vegetables. Rice, onions(*), and lentils are ridiculously cheap.

(*) Onions store very well in a cool place like a cellar.

You may think this sounds like a boring diet but truth to be told, are you currently excited about what you’re going to eat for your next meal, even if you’re going out? I bet not—I’m sure there will be couple of dissenters in the comments though. The psychological benefits of this diet is that eating something different when you go out or visit others will be fun (again) whereas the pilaf will be a comfortable baseline which is otherwise given little regard—it won’t be boring.

Originally posted 2010-09-16 10:37:11.