The dreaded “D” word. It sounds terrifying but it’s not nearly as bad as you think. We’re using the term “diet” here to refer to the kinds of meals you eat, not your weight. Anyone can tell you that a healthy diet is absolutely essential to a long and active life.
We should all be mindful of what we put into our bodies, and a minimalist diet makes it easier to do that.
What Is a Minimalist Diet?
The level of discernment we use when deciding what to declutter is the same level of discernment we should be using to decide what to ingest.
It’s our responsibility to guard our bodies and nourish them with the things they need to function at their best. A minimalist diet (as with all things minimalist) is the simplest and most straightforward way to do that.
Cooking is something most of us have to do almost every day. But occasionally we become reluctant to do it because it requires too much time, too much attention, and too much effort.
However, a minimalistic approach to meal time ensures that you don’t have to dedicate as much time or energy to putting a good meal on the table. The simplicity and nutritional value of minimalist meals make them perfect for parents and kids, or busy professionals.
Once you get the hang of minimalist food choice you’ll readily use it in your everyday life. That’s because it narrows down the choice factor that makes mentally sorting through food options such a pain. Decision-fatigue is never fun, so let’s avoid future headaches and explore what a minimalist diet is.
Minimalist diet – Explained
There are several aspects to a minimalist diet. In a nutshell, a minimalist diet is a very simple method of meal prep that endeavors to craft flavorful and nutritious meals with only a few core ingredients.
As minimalists, we should only incorporate things into our lives that are conducive to a healthy and productive living. Few things can contribute to a healthy living as much as what you eat. Therefore, we try our best, like a lot of people, to consume meals that are well-rounded and nourishing, but to do it minimally.
That’s why minimalist meals only consist of basic ingredients. Too often we consume food with no idea of what’s in it. Even if you read the ingredients, “proprietary blends” and ten-syllable words keep us from knowing the whole truth about what’s really in our food.
The benefit of making your food out of simple core ingredients is the comfort of knowing exactly what’s going in your body. This familiarity will also allow you to accurately follow up on any health concerns you might have in the midst of your transition to minimalist eating.
To place a quantitative standard on a minimalist meal (for the number people) minimalist meals generally consist of 5 ingredients or less. (Note: A wide selection of soups and pasta dishes meet this criteria.) There are plenty of ways to tailor a minimalist diet to your life—get a little creative!
Minimalists might choose to stick to an essential, balanced triad of a meat, a grain, and a vegetable for every meal. Or they might choose to only cook what’s presently in the kitchen and to only make scheduled trips to the grocery store to replenish.
How often you go to the grocery store is an important factor to your diet. A good minimalist diet pars those trips down to a minimum. There are a couple ways you can make your presence at the store sparse while still enjoying mouth watering meals consistently.
How To: Eat Like a Minimalist!
What’s the secret to a minimalist kitchen? Simplicity, of course! Specifically, it’s keeping your panty and refrigerator full of basic foods. Just like your closet is stocked with an assortment of basic core pieces meant for mixing and matching, your kitchen should work much the same way.
The idea is different combinations of simple foods. This ensures that all your food is constantly being used and nothing’s just sitting around.
How often do we buy special ingredients for certain meals then never touch them again until they go bad? Experiment and find out how many different ways you can flip one food (it’s honestly astonishing).
But what are basic core foods? They include, but aren’t limited to:
- Jars of pasta sauce
- ~3 of your favorite fruits
- Rice (or quinoa)
- Tortillas (or rice wraps)
- Common veggies: Onions, potatoes, lettuce, peppers, carrots, tomatoes
- Common meats: hot dogs, bologna, chicken, turkey, beef steak
- Common condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, tartar sauce, soy sauce, vanilla extract
- Common spices: salt, pepper, sugar/brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, oregano, cumin
You don’t need everything on this list. Of the foods listed, only invest in the ones that you actually like. You also don’t need only what’s on this list, but this is a good foundation. Add or subtract to this list as it fits you but think practically.
By keeping our kitchen simple, we keep our eating habits simple. Minimalist recipes make cooking easier, quicker, and healthier, and make meal-prep day efficient and manageable.
Meal time can be hectic so even if you’re not a minimalist you can benefit from some of these minimal kitchen to-do’s.
Only buy what you need
If you do have to buy outside of the basics, stick to buying only as many as you need. You might be tempted to buy extra “just in case”, but when you don’t use the extra it’ll likely sit around in your kitchen and eventually go to waste if you don’t use it at a later time.
Shop with intention—purchase extra ingredients with the intention of using all of whatever you buy. Shopping that way saves you money as well.
Write things down
You don’t have to stow it all away in your head. When you successfully execute a genius recipe (which is destined to happen!) write it down so you don’t have to fumble around with your memory at a later date.
If you don’t want another notebook sitting around the house, document it on your phone. Then recipes are that much easier to repeat.
Eat the same meal repeatedly
It isn’t broken so why fix it? If you enjoy them, there’s nothing wrong with cooking the same meals back-to-back in order to make sure all your leftover ingredients get used. Warming up leftovers from the previous night is also encouraged.
Another option for yesterday’s leftovers is to remix them into a different meal! This skill allows you to stretch your food so much further.
A great example is a baked/rotisserie chicken. Even with a family, we rarely finish off a whole baked chicken. Put it in the refrigerator and warm it up in the oven the next day. (Note: You’re just warming it up, not cooking it more.
Don’t leave it in too long or you risk it drying out or burning.) Fry or bake the chicken skin until it gets crispy and use it as a garnish on a salad or sandwich (or eat it by itself—crunchy!). Pull the rest of the meat from the bone and shred it in a bowl.
Then you can do a number of different things with it:
- BBQ bacon sandwich: (1) Toss the shredded chicken in BBQ sauce. (2) Spread shredded BBQ chicken on bread slice or bun. (3) Optional: Melt on cheese and add bacon. Or add lettuce and tomato. Add your favorite combination of any two additional ngredients (remember we’re aiming for 5 ingredients or less).
- Chicken salad wrap: (1) Mix chicken with mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and finely-chopped celery (and spices to taste), or just mix the chicken in your favorite salad dressing (aim for a thick dressing like caesar). (2) Put chicken salad on a tortilla, along with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, zucchini, carrot, red cabbage (we can make an exception to the 5 rule for some nutritious veggies). (3) Wrap up your chicken salad filling in your tortilla and lightly sear outside if preferred.
- Put shredded chicken: on a salad; in a soup; sprinkle it on a creamy pasta dish; make chicken tacos; put it on a pizza; or in a minimal chicken pot pie.
You should only eat leftovers that are less than a full 4 days old. Anything older than that is putting yourself at risk for foodborne illness. The great news is that if you want to save something long-term you can freeze it.
Reduce the waste you produce
Purchasing minimally-packaged food is an awesome habit to adopt. Fruits and veggies are unpackaged so naturally they’re the best choice for reducing waste! Also, use totes when you go shopping to combat the need to bring home disposable bags.
You can eat great and save the planet?
The aim is for minimally processed food. Minimally processed food is food that has been modified in some way solely for the purpose of its preservation, and in a way that doesn’t affect the nutritional value of the food.
If you don’t have access to minimally processed food, don’t worry, stick to the idea! Limit your consumption of processed and unhealthy foods by reducing or eliminating takeout/fast food from your diet.
Make your meals filling
By using hearty ingredients, you get fuller faster and don’t have to eat as much. Starches and grains are heavy foods. Potatoes, pasta dishes, rice-based dishes, breads, and thick, creamy sauces.
Keep your kitchen tidy
Having food items and snacks laying around on counters promotes unhealthy eating habits and more frequent snacking throughout the day.
Keeping all your utensils and appliances in their proper place keeps your cooking experience frictionless and quick. No clutter also means more cooking space. Not to mention that a dirty kitchen attracts pests.
Keep your kitchen clean and organized when not in use. While you’re cooking, use the old “wash as you go” rule: at times when your food doesn’t need to be tended to and your hands are free, wash the dirty dishes that you’ve already created.
Continue to quickly wash dirty dishes as you make them, instead of waiting until the end to tackle a boatload of dishes.
It’s a decision we have to make every day. Honestly trying to decide what to eat after a long hard day when you don’t feel like thinking at all can be frustrating. Disagreements over dinner time don’t feel any better. And it’s true that following a minimal diet can be tough (it’s even tougher if you’re trying to do minimalism with kids!).
However, a minimalist diet gives you the flexibility to incorporate a little bit of something everyone likes and the choice to pluck from your favorite common foods and combine them into a meal.
If you’re lacking inspiration there are apps where you can input what ingredients you have or wish to use, and it’ll pull up dozens of recipes for you that you can make from those ingredients.
What’s even more fun: experimenting with colors! Fill your plate with three different yellow elements or three green elements. It is called culinary “arts”—when’s the last time you gave a single thought to your lunch-time color palette? Make meal-time fun (even get the kids involved) by using minimal ingredients and simple techniques!