The Ingredient Experiment – Save Money And Eat Better

by The Happy Rock on September 1, 2008

On the heels of Debt Defier’s commitment to attempt a cash only month I have a food related experiment that I am doing for September.   Hopefully, the Debt Defier has better luck with cash only spending than I did.

I will be attempting to buy only ingredients for the whole month of September.   I know that might sound a little vague, but here is the idea…buy only items that are naturally occurring and can be used to make meals.   The goal is to cut out things like crackers, chips, expensive veggie burgers, and ice cream to increase my intake of fresh vegetables and fruits while being able to control the exact quality and quantity of ingredients on all the food that I eat.

The main goals are :

  • To Save Money. Ingredients are cheaper.  A box of chips ahoy is $3.50 while you can make a batch of much more healthful cookies for much less, especially if the oven is already hot.  A Lean Cuisine is $4.00 but you can make a healthy pasta meal with vegetables that will feed a family and have leftovers for the same price. A Snickers from the vending machine each day costs you about $200 a year plus it will add about 20 pounds if you don’t burn the extra calories.   Eating healthier will also save money on medical bills.
  • Gain Energy. With the reduction of simple processed carbohydrates and sugars and increasing more healthful foods I will should feel better rested and have more energy.  The food we ate is closely connected to our physical nature.  I have noticed a large increase in energy and motivation as my eating habits have migrating to a much healthier diet over the years.  I can now see the effects of a loose eating weekend and how it affects my overall energy and even my sleep. Hopefully there isn’t a major detox period from all the snacks and sugar.  So far the psychological need to snack is the biggest hurdle.
  • Promote Healthy Habits. Treat my body better in order to improve overall healthfulness.  Also changes like this tend to inspire other healthy changes like more physical activity.   I hope to pick up with the 100 push up challenge were I got side tracked.  Energy, rest, and health also contribute to overall happiness.
  • Encourage More Experimentation. Experiments keep you on your toes.  They make life and change exciting without a long term commitment in case you don’t like the experiments outcome.  Experimentation also breeds more willingness to change.

With that said the experiment will have to be a little vague, because I can’t anticipate the full range of ramifications.  I will try and adhere to the guidelines and the spirit of the experiment as much as possible and make executive decisions as I go.   I know ingredients for some are prepackaged food for others.  Things like bread and pasta can be made at home, but for most they would count them as ingredients.  For me, for now, they are ingredients as they don’t constitute a ready to ate food/meal.  Maybe I will try my hand at baking my own bread, but for now I found to focus on the low hanging fruit like vending machines at work, expensive frozen foods, protein bars, etc.  Anyone feel inspired to embark on a similar journey?

For those that want a crazy challenge The Happy Rockette is attempting a 100% raw vegan diet for the month of September.  I wasn’t quite ready for the type of discipline needed for full raw foodism, but I am interested to see if The Rockette gets the reported major improvements in mental clarity, weight loss, energy boosts, libido burst, other overall health benefits.  She isn’t planning a life long switch, since from her professional opinion(Registered Dietitian) it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle, but I love her willingness to try an extreme experiment!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Sid Savara September 1, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Interesting idea. I think for the most part it should go well, just be careful about “pseudo-ingredients.” Items like bread and pre-sliced deli meat for sandwiches are relatively expensive, but would you really make bread and slice meat from scratch? I think it’s a good experiment nonetheless, and I’m sure you’ll learn interesting things from it that you wouldn’t expect. Looking forward to hearing your results.


JBO September 2, 2008 at 6:52 am

Good luck with this – I am a firm believer that healthy eating comes from using natural, non processed ingredients.

This will ultimately cost a lot less though the things that holds me back from doing it myself is the time it takes to prep this type of food.

Once again, good luck!


John September 2, 2008 at 2:36 pm

I recently did something similar and I can confirm you should gain energy from this experiment. However it is not a money saver for me, because when I go to the extent of getting ingredients I wanted the healthiest ingredients and end up buying organic, which has also caused me to increase my spending on the things where I am not going with just ingredient.


The First Creditor September 2, 2008 at 4:04 pm

THR, good luck with your experiment. If you find you do need a detox, might I suggest a juice fast. I did this for about 4-5 days a while back and the cleansing effects were noticeable. You would also be able to maintain your ‘only ingredients’ goal. The Rockette’s experiment is also intriguing. What’s her plan, what foods is she concentrating on? Good luck to you both.


money funk September 4, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Can’t wait to hear the follow-ups to your experiment. And the raw vegan diet, too. How fun! I would embark, but I don’t think my family is ready for the challenge. No chips in the lunchbox? No premaid snack bars? hehe. Good luck with this one.


Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet September 4, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Interesting. I can’t wait to see how it goes. I would think you would save some money. I bet you learn some new recipes, make sure to share them!


Diana September 5, 2008 at 3:35 am

Great idea. It is not only good for pocket and wallet, but also fou healthness.


Glory September 9, 2008 at 4:31 am

You know I started to cook on my own two years ago and found out that it is the best way to save money. But the disadvantage of it is spending too much time on preparing the food. However my family is really happy to eat prepared meals and cookies


Funny about Money September 9, 2008 at 10:05 am

LOL! This post tickled me, because this is how I shop all the time: not out of frugality or any sense that the food is healthier (though it probably is), but because I don’t care for the taste of processed foods — they’re almost always oversalted, oversugared, or redolent of chemicals.

Betcha it’s not cheaper. You can get coupons galore for processed, prepared foods, but you rarely see cents off (and certainly not dollars off!) real food.

If you live in an area where you can cook out most of the year, get a grill. The two biggest time-savers when it comes to cooking meals from scratch are the slow cooker and the gas grill. With either approach, you just toss the food on and let it cook. The grill has the advantage that it doesn’t dirty up any pots & pans. 😀


BW September 14, 2008 at 11:04 am

Here’s a good resource for raw food diets:

I’ve never gone raw myself, but books I’ve read (like Eat to Live) show that dramatically increasing vegetable intake while lowering the amount of grains/processed carbs a person eats can lead to a huge reduction in weight.


The Happy Rock September 14, 2008 at 10:07 pm


Ingredient month has been a bit of a rough go so far. With both the Rockette, myself, and the each Pebble on different diets it seems like we are all fighting against each other and no one seems to be too happy. I think we are all learning a lot, which is the point. Thanks for the support.

@BW – I followed Steve’s 30 day raw, that is what originally sparked my interest in it. The Rockette did not see and withdraw or negative symptoms not has she seen and positive benefits either.


Sid Savara September 15, 2008 at 12:02 am

I have the same problem with my roommates – some months we all eat the same things, but if we veer off in different directions it is hard to buy food together. My parents often have house guests and cater to their needs, which results in the same thing – nobody is happy =)


Jonathan Gibson October 5, 2008 at 9:51 pm

What a great idea! I think that we all need creative ways to eat better, spend smarter, and live more economically. I’ll be interested to see how this works for you! My wife and I run a similar site that is meant to get people to use ingredients that they might not ordinarily use to mix up their cooking habits. Good luck!


Ed January 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I always go on the low carb diets and it seems to work pretty good for me…. 1 month of less than 100 carbs a day usually loses me about 10-15 pounds… But then I always go back off it and then put the weight back on :-(


Mike March 4, 2009 at 4:50 am

it’s also good to throw in negative calorie foods as well.
There are a lot of fruits and vegetables in this category. But I like your approach as well.
Creative eating is always the best.


ZenRaw August 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

This is a great idea – I often find the best challenges are accomplished when setting a shorter term goal such as a 21 day or 30 day challenge. It is definitely doable, and I do believe that eating much healthier will increase your energy, awareness, and creativity! A win-win situation.


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