What I Learned From A Week Of Eating Nothing But IKEA Food

When I announced my plan to eat only food sourced from IKEA for an entire week, most people had a simple reaction: "Why?" Leaving aside the two obvious answers ("meatballs are awesome" and "I'm a strange guy"), I figured the experience might actually offer useful lessons. These are those lessons.

Firstly, for those who have been tracking my eating habits throughout the week, Saturday's concluding set of meals was a mix of the familiar and the unusual. Lunch was meatballs, yet again; dinner was the other half of the pasta I'd eaten back on the first day. Both satisfying, but I have nothing new to report on them.

The most diverse meal was breakfast. Not because it was a new option, but because I ate in a different store. I'd always planned my final day to kick off with the $2.95 hot breakfast, as a treat after five days of non-stop cinnamon scrolls. However, at the last minute I was asked to appear on ABC News 24 around breakfast time. That made going to the second Sydney IKEA store in Tempe a better choice than my usual hangout in Rhodes.

The dining experience isn't any different of course (save that the newer Tempe store has the automated conveyer belt for used trays, and the older Rhodes store has Dyson Airblades in the bathrooms.) However, a change of scene is always welcome.

So this is what I learned:

It's not a stupidly expensive way to eat. My total take-home shopping bill for the week was $60. It should really have been $72, since my cashier forgot to scan the meatballs. Add in $11 for two breakfasts, $9 for one evening meal and $2 for a hotdog, and it comes in just underneath $100.

It's certainly possible to eat better than that for less than $100 a week, but it's not an atypical shopping figure for people living alone — and it does include two breakfasts and one dinner out as well.

Herring is not an unpleasant as people think. Add some dill and you're golden.

Pre-planning your meals is always wise. Working out my meals for a full week in advance is something I aim to do as much as possible in my regular life. This challenge reminded me how often I become slack with it and that I should be stricter. There are three big advantages to scheduling your meals:

  • You save money because you don't crack and end up eating out at lunchtime;
  • You save time on weeknights by doing a large chunk of cooking on the weekend;
  • You can avoid eating the same meal multiple days in a row by planning your leftovers.

A week of IKEA food does not give you the runs. This wasn't something I was planning to actively investigate, but people kept on asking in the comments. So let me say it again: my digestion is fine.

You need to look elsewhere for vegetables. The one area where I did feel my diet was lacking was in vegetables. There's very little on offer in the Swedish Food Market that isn't largely potatoes, so I fell on the vegetarian pizza with particular glee. That would make food shopping at IKEA inconvenient, but we shouldn't overstate it; half of Australia's vegetable purchases aren't made at supermarkets anyway.

I can't imagine I'll be repeating this exact experiment again, but I will be adding some of the IKEA foodstuffs to my pantry more regularly. Any suggestions for the next food challenge? Let's hear them in the comments.


Comments

    I'm not sure if this has been covered already: Can you survive a week on 'Lean Cuisine'/'Weight Watchers' ? I see a lot of people at work eat this, but I'm not sure if it really does improve your weight (obviously you need to physically active for any weight loss to occur)

      I think the biggest part of it is for people who are lazy and in bad habits to get pre prepared healthy meals which are portion controlled. Really most people eat twice as much food as they should.

      I thought this this morning - it would be a good to see if angus feels full or not after eating them for an extended period (since they could easily be negated by snacking) but there is really a lack of breakfast foods in that category....

      Yes, why wouldn't you be able to?
      You will be extremely tired and irritable due to such a low caloric intake however.
      Being physically active is not a prerequisite to weight loss although it will make a noticeable difference. Calories in vs Calories out.
      Just think, on average, an adult male will burn 2000 calories per day, just by being alive. All you have to do is eat less than your requirement for weight loss.
      Thats my Bro-science for the day.

      Complete myth Jack. Weight loss will occur if your body is burning more calories than it is consuming. A 500 calorie deficit is a good place to start. I do strength training at the gym and when I wanted to cut body fat I simply changed my total amount of calories and ate in a caloric deficit, did not increase cardio/work out intensity at all.

    I would actually be interested in what Subway for a week would be like. They try to make their stuff out as the healthier option of fast food, but I can't help but think you would have similar bloating and queasiness that you would expect from other chains like the results of Supersize Me.

      lol sorry I read this and I thought about the repercussions of a week of subway, given that I'm coeliac.... eeep! But in all seriousness, I'd be interested to see someone take on that challenge and see if they can replicate Jarrod's experience!

        I did a day of Subway once. Not a fan of the breakfast at all. http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/06/takeaway-torture-test-day-4-subway/

          I think they've changed the breakfast since you wrote that article.

      Subway is low in calories, but really high in sodium, especially if you are choosing processed deli meats, pickled vegies and a dressing - The healthiest option is the vegie delight without any dressings, but it's not very satisfying.

    I've been seeing a lot of advertising lately for HelloFresh. Maybe a week of eating only food that's delivered to your home, not just HelloFresh but also Aussie Farmers Direct, and other "home gourmet" type services but not takeaway?

    Next food challange blend up a big mac and fries, then see if you can drink it all. Imagine if you had a broken jaw and it was wired together and you were desperate for a big mac and fries, its the only way lol

    Gluten free (or allergy friendly) on a budget challenge. Mastercheap for the allergic. lol

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