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.