Mastercheap Raw Day 5: The Carb Crisis

Mastercheap Raw Day 5: The Carb Crisis

When I first did Mastercheap back in 2010, when people asked me “How are you coping? Are you hungry all the time?” I could honestly answer “Really well” and “No”. If I got asked those questions right now during Mastercheap Raw, I would have to prevaricate slightly. And the reason is mostly carbs.

Today’s menu

Breakfast: 1/3 cup of quick oats, cooked with 1/2 cup milk and served with 2 spoonfuls stewed apple

Lunch: Fried potatoes, mixed vegetables

Dinner: Home-made pasta, chilli green beans

Snacks: 3 pieces shortbread

Hot drinks: 9 cups black tea

I Like Carbs

Mastercheap Raw Day 5: The Carb Crisis

Loathing carbohydrates is fashionable. Carbs are often treated as the enemy, insulted as “empty calories”, deemed totally worthless. Like any extreme dietary position, this doesn’t make sense. Carbs are a necessary part of a balanced diet (and the major source of energy in most diets). And it happens that many of the foods I enjoy the most — bread and pasta in particular — are carbohydrate-heavy. I’m fine with that; I don’t overindulge, but I get plenty of them. But that’s not happening so quite much this week.

Obviously, my diet isn’t actually short on carbs. Between my breakfast oats, my dinner-time pasta, my fried potatoes and the shortbread, quite a lot of grain-based products are hitting my body. The simple fact of the matter is that I don’t enjoy several of those options as much as the ones I would regularly consume in my ordinary diet.

The potatoes I had at lunch are a good case in point. I sliced them fairly thinly, fried them in margarine until they were crispy, and then quickly heated them up for lunch. Very enjoyable, but I’d still much rather have had a couple of slices of multigrain bread and a simple sandwich filling. The point of Mastercheap Raw is to test whether taking a do-it-yourself approach to budget food works better than using packaged or manufactured foods. For me, the absence of bread means the answer is almost certainly going to turn out to be ‘no’. It wouldn’t necessarily be the case for other people, but that’s how I feel right now.

The enjoyment principle

Mastercheap Raw Day 5: The Carb Crisis

Both times I’ve done Mastercheap, I’ve made the point that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. You’re not going to stick with a menu plan (whether that’s for budgetary or nutritional reasons) if you don’t enjoy the food. Within the constraints of my $25 budget, I chose foods I liked. But the plain fact of the matter is that I enjoyed the items I had on my 2010 shopping list more than I have this time around. With two days to go, I really can’t wait until the whole experience is finished and I can eat some toast. I didn’t have that feeling anywhere as strongly the last time around.

And I’m saying this on a day when I got to eat pasta, which is my other favourite dish in the world. One definite benefit of doing Mastercheap for me has been reaffirming that making my own pasta really isn’t that difficult. It’s not as cheap as buying the dried stuff, and I’m sure I’ll keep doing that, but DIY pasta is something I will be doing more often. So that’s a win.

Mastercheap Raw Day 5: The Carb Crisis

Lifehacker’s Mastercheap Raw experiment sees editor Angus Kidman living for a week with a food budget of just $25 and only basic ingredients.


  • The point remains that if this ‘experiment’ was drawn out beyond a week it would become viable to make your own bread (and inject much more variety into the menu).

      • Economically that’s debatable, but IMHO if the point of Mastercheap Raw is to eat healthy on a budget, the small difference in expense to make your own GOOD bread is probably worth it. The supercheap supermarket bread isn’t much more than white flour and water – simple carbohydrates, empty calories. It wouldn’t be hugely more expensive to make good bread yourself using fortified wholemeal flour and a mix of seeds or grains. You can put almost any wholegrain or seed product into bread to pack more vitamins, fibre, protein and other nutrients into it (for instance, a handful of quick oats, some ground-up cheap trail mix, I even know of somebody who used grit-free birdseed bought very cheaply from a wholesale pet food supplier.) The resulting bread will make you feel fuller for longer and will contribute more towards your daily nutritional requirements than just some calories, meaning you spend less on other food. It’s also much, much nicer to eat. Worth it, in my opinion 😉

    • While it’s unlikely to happen, I’d genuinely love to see that series. It’s on the same level as testing the ultraman sleeping pattern, so why not?

      I’m a bit distant, but I’m sure there’d be some local enthusiasts willing to help train the lifehacker crew.

    • Because it’s bland and tasteless on it’s own..? That’s a pretty solid reason.

      I’ll take some good old fashioned natural saturated fat over excessive amounts of (read: over 150g/day) carbs anyday..

      • If your bread is bland and tasteless then you are buying the wrong bread. I love German rye breads with my favourite being the dark Bavarian style which is the colour of chocolate. Lots of flavour and tastes amazing.

  • Bread and rice create acid metabolic ash.
    If a person has a lot of wheat in their diet (pasta, bread), then this can be unhealthy.
    Luckily potatoes have alkaline metabolic ash as well as carbohydrates.
    Besides, the further back you go, the less our ancestors had access to carbohydrates in their diets. Rather than pitying them, I take this as an indication that eating a high percentage of carbohydrates might not be a good idea as my body might not be designed for this situation.

  • Congrats on sticking it out Angus. It does give a good understanding of the problem with sticking to one basic plan. RAW is not going to work for everyone. I think a balance between this and 2010’s would be best if you were going to do it long term. As you said before it is about varitey. To keep under 25 dollars every week with fresh foods could be troublesome as foods that are in season may not be things you would be willing to eat for a week.

    Good luck for the final days!

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