Why I'm Only Eating IKEA Food This Week

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.

The Challenge

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.


    this will be a good challenge.. great start, but how do u feel? are you getting enough energy. is the food tasty, leaving you satisfied after a meal, or does it all taste like cardboard?

    You wrote lingonberry ham when you meant jam. It is weird to see you say things like "Sas Tomat tomato sauce" when that literally means "tomato sauce tomato sauce", although the word is actually Sås. Kötbullar (pronounced shirtbullar) means meatballs, and ost means cheese. "Søpërsïze": none of those different letters are in Swedish. The ø is in Norwegian and Danish. The letters in Swedish are å, ä and ö.

    Last edited 08/07/13 11:30 am

      Ham fixed. I bow to your superior Scandinavian linguistic knowledge.

      I logged in just to up your comment. :D

    Meatballs baked in the over are always a good idea, even when made from scratch. We would normally put a sheet of baking paper underneath so as to reduce the amount of washing up (and reduce fat down the sink too).
    This way they don't stick to the frypan, or get too charred on the outside.

    This is a very interesting challenge, I await to see how you go in it as this is something I would like to try myself if yours is successful.

    Is it just me or are the meatballs missing from the docket?

    I hear the LACK coffee table legs are chock full of fibre, ..and only $29.99!

      If I was going that route, $9.99 for the smaller table makes more sense.

        Hi Angus,
        I realise that you did this challenge a couple of years ago now but have only just come across it recently, so apologies for the two year gap in commenting, not unlike the Lakehouse movie actually! :)
        Anyway, I just wanted to leave a brief comment here so it is attached this way, as I made some comments below but wasn't sure if they do come back to you as I think I got a message saying my comments were starting a new feed or something similar? Not really familiar with how Lifehacker works, sorry!
        So rather than repeating myself here, I just wanted to mention that I have put two separate comments below at the end of this page explaining why you were only eating Ikea food for a week, and would love it if you could reply to those comments as I'm very interested to learn more.
        Thanks in advance! :)

    Just because every other eating challenge has some sort of hate message on there...
    It's not acceptable that you're eating at lunch you've already agreed to in advance!
    You should make bread.
    That doesn't work for me because IKEA isn't close enough to my house.
    and of course, You should buy it all from Aldi because it's cheaper.


      I know that you placed this message a long while ago now but I have only come across this Ikea challenge recently. I just wanted to say that I understand where you're coming from and agree that if this was a challenge that was something being done nation wide you should adhere to much stricter rules and it wouldn't be acceptable to eat a lunch elsewhere, however from what I can tell Angus set this for himself just as an interesting personal experiment so therefore can sort of make his own rules, plus he couldn't make bread as I doubt there'd be ingredients from Ikea to be able to do this successfully. So then if you're suggesting that he makes bread from ingredients he has at home that's conflicting with the 'rules' of the challenge also, as he'd be using ingredients he has at home to make the bread and not items from Ikea.
      Also, just on the suggestion of buying things from Aldi, I too am an avid Aldi shopper, and yes it's definitely cheaper there, but there wouldn't be much challenge really in doing it this way as Aldi is obviously an actual supermarket, so it wouldn't be much of a challenge to be able to find enough things there to feed yourself for a week as it has all of your basic needs, all of your food groups etc. On the contrast most people wouldn't walk into the Ikea food and 'grocery' area and think, 'Hey, I could shop for food here for a week and wouldn't need to shop anywhere else!', hence I'm sure the reason for Angus wanting to see if he could! :)

        Hi Lakehouse,

        I agree with your comments here, although the comment that I made was a satirical view on messages left for other challenges. It was quite common to see many comments that Angus could have made the bread for less than the dollar he spent on it at the supermarket, or that one supermarket was better than another. :)

    "And yes, I placed them in IKEA containers." :-)

    I live 5 minutes walking distance from IKEA Adelaide. It's a wonder my diet hasn't devolved to this!

    2 ikea hotdogs and a cup of coke...ultimate hangover destroyer

    If you look up the meaning of oxymoron in the dictionary, it gives "Swedish cuisine" as an example.

    at least the hot dogs taste better than big macs

    Just wanted to say I find your challenges that you set for yourself very interesting and enjoyable to read. I came across you when I first did Live Below the Line and so really enjoyed reading your Mastercheap experiment.
    Was curious to know if you had done any others other than the ones mentioned here? I'm new to Lifehacker so am not sure if there is a way to check that I don't know about, but would love to have a read through more if there are any available.
    Was curious, did IKEA have cake mixes available? I remember you having made one chocolate one during the Mastercheap challenge and thought that was a very smart way to get an inexpensive sweet treat into your weekly food allowance.
    Good on you for doing these and allowing us readers to be part of the journey by getting to have a read about each day and what it was like. Very inspiring and interesting!

    Also had one other question. As I can relate to the not driving and needing to utilise public transport side of things, I was wondering how you went getting frozen items back home without having any health risks?
    I didn't know with items like your pizza and such that you weren't cooking up and consuming right away, how did you go storing them safely? I didn't know whether you just took the risk and popped them into your freezer, even though I am assuming they would have thawed by the time you got home, or whether you just put them into your fridge instead?
    I ask because after reading this I was really inspired to go to Ikea and buy some of the frozen things that you got to try them out for myself, but didn't like the idea of re-freezing things once they'd thawed, worrying that this might make me sick having had that experience once before, so just wanted to know how you got around this issue?
    I know Ikea now have vegie balls as an alternative option to the meat balls, and would love to get some to have at home but don't know about having them out of the freezer for two hours or so while I may the journey home, and then re-freezing them again afterwards, so if you could give me any tips on that, that would be great!
    Thanks :)

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