I'm already addicted to IKEA hacking, Swedish pop music and weird dietary challenges, so this was inevitable. Throughout this week, everything that I eat will be sourced from IKEA. Can I escape the fate of meatballs at every meal?
Long-time Lifehacker readers will know I have regularly trashed my diet in the name of saving money, improving nutrition or just seeing if it could be done. For Mastercheap, I tried to feed myself for $25 a week (verdict: eminently possible). For Mastercheap Raw, I repeated the experiment with the proviso that I had to cook everything from scratch (verdict: possible, but more hassle than it's worth). For the Takeaway Torture Test, I ate three meals a day from the same fast food outlet (verdict: I am a lazy shopper).
During the Takeaway Torture Test, I did spend a day eating food from IKEA. Over the past decade, I've noticed how much broader the range of comestibles offered in the Swedish Food Market has become. Once I noticed the freezers, the idea began to lodge in my mind: could I eat for a week using only food sourced from IKEA? Was there enough variety there to make eating for a week possible? Could I come up with options to eat easily in the office at lunchtimes? I've decided to find out.
So these are the rules: anything I eat this week (from Sunday through to Saturday) has to be sourced from IKEA. For the most part, this means buying from the Swedish Food Market, supplemented with a couple of visits to the on-site restaurant and the bistro. (Everyone complained last time that I didn't eat a hot dog, so that's definitely on the schedule.) I haven't got a fixed budget, but I don't want to spend more than I have to.
Pedant note: There are two meals I'll be consuming this week that won't be from IKEA: a work dinner and lunch I was already committed to. In the past, I have showed up at expensive restaurants and insisted on eating nothing, but the reality is no sane person would do this. In 2013, I am trying to be mildly more sane, this challenge notwithstanding.
The challenge in building an IKEA shopping list from the available food is this: there are too many sweet options and not enough vegetables. I'm not a big sweet tooth at the best of times, so the availability of various tarts and lollies and biscuits doesn't do much for me. Conversely, the options for actual vegetables are somewhat limited (and in practice turn out to be even more so).
Following good shopper practice, I made a list before I headed to my local IKEA. I also had breakfast there: the options for making your own breakfast from market ingredients aren't that broad, and it's hard to argue with paying $2.95 for bacon, eggs, hash brown and tomato. In any case, it's always wise to eat before you go shopping. I'm still annoyed that you no longer get free coffee on the weekends, but I need to get over it.
The Shopping Challenge
My list took one immediate hit. I had planned to purchase the Gronsakskaka vegetable medallions to increase the vegetable count, but they were entirely out of stock. (Indeed, they've disappeared from the site over the weekend, suggesting the line has been discontinued.) I was happy enough to substitute mashed potatoes instead, especially since you get a bulk discount for buying all the constituents for the meatball dish, but it makes for an even more carb-heavy week.
One useful bonus: if you spend more than $60, you receive a free freezer bag to carry everything home in. I needed it, though I received more than a few strange looks on the train carrying it home with a long pizza sticking out of it.
Here's the complete list, total price $60.47:
The Day 1 Menu: Søpërsïze Me
When you think IKEA, you think meatballs. The Kottbullar meatballs for at-home consumption come in a one kilogram bag, which meant that I had 62 of them. This is enough for four meals. That makes my Sunday lunch plan simple: cook all the meatballs, all the sauce and all the mash, add the lingonberry jam, then divide into four portions. One makes a hot Sunday lunch, the other three get put aside for easily-reheated lunches during the week. (And yes, I placed them in IKEA containers.) Bonus note: I didn't realise until it came up in the comments that my meatballs weren't actually scanned during the sales process. 1kg of meatballs for nothing! Win!
Dinner also involved bulk production: this time cooking up all the Pasttalgar elk-shaped pasta and serving it with the Sas Tomat tomato sauce and some grated Ost Lagrad semi-hard cheese. Half was for now, half is for later in the week. It's a very tasty meal, though my inner cheapskate can't help freaking out that the pasta costs four times as much as my regular Home Brand pasta choice.
Day one has been easy enough, and I'm pleased to have prepared a good chunk of my daily meals before the working week begins (a sensible strategy even if you're not forcing yourself to eat food from a mass-market furniture retailer). Tomorrow I face a different challenge: breakfast in the office and a sore lack of tea.