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

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

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.

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

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