I've Been Counting My Calories To Save Money
I was tracking literally all of my snacks (even the cherry blasters)
Yes, I know. Reading the title of this blog post makes you feel like you're stepping back into 2002 when Cosmopolitan was life and doing 100 situps a night seemed like a great way to get in shape. However, before you get all angry at the fact that I'm counting calories (because it sounds awful), my reasons are probably not the ones you're imagining. Raise your hand if food is the Bonnie to your Clyde. Raise your hand if the first thing you imagine buying when you get your paycheck is every type of carb in the world. Raise your hand if you love avocado, hot sauce, eggs and toast. Raise your hand if you particularly like all of those items as one delicious meal.
If any of these categories are you — welcome.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared all of my unnecessary purchases so far this year. It's safe to say that number will continue to rise because I'm all about enjoying the finer things in life. Like, say, a Friday night in my pyjamas, one hand covered in orange Dorito dust and the other hand sipping on a glass of the most affordable vino I could find. Just me and the Riverdale gang repeatedly asking ourselves (out loud) why we are still watching teen dramas at 27-years-old.
I spend a majority of my "wants" category dining out at local cafes or grabbing a variety of meals on the weekends. During the week, I'm pretty well-behaved, and I eat relatively healthy for someone who loves a good dessert after, well, every meal. To be honest, part of the reason I work out as much as I do is that I want to be able to enjoy all of the foods I love while still living an active lifestyle. It's a work in progress, but we're getting there. I'm healthy, I'm happy, and I am living my extraordinarily average but best life.
So, why the hell am I counting my calories?
It all started a few ago while I was binge-watching YouTube videos about people trying to eat 10,000 calories in one day. I know right, I have found some really incredible ways to spend my free time. Anyways — as I was watching these videos I noticed that most of the fitness buffs who were going overboard on their cheat days were using the My Fitness Pal app to track the foods they were eating. I had a flashback to 2010 when I was trying to become my own version of a fitness model (before the Instagram kids were doing it) when it hit me. I had that app at one point, and it was seriously... awful. So, why were all of these seemingly intelligent and nutritionally conscious people using it now? I had to check it out.
After downloading the app for the second time in my life, I found that much like Map My Run and some of my other favourite workout apps, My Fitness Pal had been purchased by Under Armour, and it was BEYOND better. I could scan all of the foods I was eating within seconds, enter my workouts, track my fitness goals and also keep myself in check when it came to sugary sweets.
Keeping a food diary has always held me accountable. I've typically kept a food diary during times I was dealing with illness, my many allergies or just to see what I actually eat in a typical week. Every time I do it, I tend to eat healthier and avoid a lot of bad foods. I also found that it revealed my insecurities of eating things that I thought I shouldn't be eating. This time, and with this app, things were different. I was tracking literally all of my snacks (even the cherry blasters, popsicles and cookies I tend to slip into my daily snacks) without embarrassment. Does this mean I'm growing up and starting to accept that if I restrict myself, I won't feel satisfied?
That's when it hit me. This app could seriously change my spending habits.
Over the last week, I tracked everything I ate to see if I would keep myself from dining out as often as usual. One of the reasons this task was easier than I thought is because tracking calories and nutritional information is much more manageable if you're aware of what's in your food. Another reason that this task was particularly successful was that I was finding that I need to be more conscious of sugar consumption and focus more on my protein intake. Because my husband and I eat vegetarian at home, it became apparent that although I was saving a ton of money on not buying meats, I also lacked some serious proteins.
In just one week of using the My Fitness Pal app, I only purchased two meals out of the 35 breakfast, lunch, dinners and snacks I ate. I also attempted to increase my proteins while still eating a mainly vegetarian diet. In fact, I only had one meal that included meat over the full seven-day-period. In the week before this, and during a period when I wasn't tracking my calories, I ate out an average of three meals per week and anywhere from four to five snacks per week.
Why did I choose to calorie-count over keeping a food diary?
I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who are reading this post and thinking to themselves that counting calories is not a good idea or not an option for them. I totally understand that point of view as well. Counting calories can be a dangerous game for some individuals.
The reason I personally chose to calorie count over keeping my typical food diary is for three reasons:
I need to make sure I'm eating enough on days that I do physically exhaustive workouts
I would like to continue to eat vegetarian meals at home while still getting enough protein
Food diaries don't provide you with data and data is what I need to convince myself of things
Writing down that I went to Freshii for dinner three nights one week doesn't seem as bad as me attaching a number and ingredients to a meal that I eat. While I realize that this kind-of-crazy-idea isn't for everyone, it's been an eye-opening experience for me both health-wise and financially. Some people need to track their shopping trips, and clothing hauls — but all I need to track is how many lemon loafs a girl really needs from Starbucks before she can just make her own damn lemon loaf at home (and actually know what's inside).
I'll obviously still go out for dinners, enjoy the occasional latte and splurge on my favourite smoothies from Booster Juice every now and again — but I'd like to continue challenging myself to see if I really need to spend as much money on food as I currently am.
To see exactly what I ate in one full day, check out the video! It also includes a small grocery haul courtesy of my hilarious and charming husband. Enjoy!
Would you ever consider counting calories to help yourself stay on budget? Let me know in the comments!