My brother, Alex, is a real culinary inspiration. He’s a hard-working 22-year-old entrepreneur and CEO living in San Francisco, CA. Alex works from home, which makes cooking easier. But, he’s had to get creative about making sure he doesn’t overeat.
In this interview, you’ll learn how Alex only spends $200 a month on groceries, makes healthy, tasty meals in 10 minutes or less and how he hacked grocery shopping.
The TL/DR quote from Alex is this: “I’ve lost weight, gained confidence and my cost of living has gone down. Cooking for myself is a win/win/win for me for roughly ten minutes of my day.”
Scroll down to learn his cooking secrets.
- I’m the founder of a small tech startup. I work from home or sometimes an office basically 24/7.
- I cook all my meals at home and go out to eat once every two days, usually for lunch or dinner.
- I grocery shop once every three days and spend $50 a week on groceries maximum. I love Trader Joe’s.
Why do you cook for yourself?
A: I can control exactly what I eat. Cooking is also cost effective. I live on less than $10 a day when I don’t go out. Yeah, I could accomplish that by living on Doritos, but I’m watching my weight.
I feel AWESOME when I look at my credit card bill and see that I spent less than $300 on food. Cooking also helps me get away from my work and give my back a break from sitting at the computer. I also schedule my calls during cooking. Plus, it’s a good time to reflect.
Most guys my age don’t know how to cook for themselves. I’m not great, but I’m good enough. And when I have a 2nd or 3rd date with a girl, I can really impress her by crushing a nice homecooked dinner.
When do you cook?
A: When I’m hungry. I never make big batches because my stomach is a bottomless pit. So if food is available to me, I’ll eat it. When I cook one meal at a time, I end up eating less and dropping weight. Because I know myself and like to snack, I don’t keep anything in the house I can eat without cooking it.
What do you make for lunch and dinner?
A: The dinner I’m making myself tonight costs $1.50. It’s a chicken burger and frozen veggies from Trader Joe’s. It’s a time saver because I can use one pan for it all, and that’s less to clean up.
Do you prep ingredients before cooking?
A: It depends on how busy I am. Like, I don’t ever eat an entire onion in one meal, so I usually cut up a whole onion or lots of garlic and save some in a bag. But if I’m busy, there’s no way I’m chopping the rest of what I’m not using.
What’s your diet like?
A: Every morning I have the same smoothie: banana, spinach, kale, protein, spirulina + water as a base. I don’t get bored of it because I have a very high tolerance for repeating food.
I rotate between three meals for lunch and dinner based on my mood. None of my meals require a recipe or take more than ten minutes to make.
- Chicken burger + vegetables = fast & easy
- Fish, vegetables + tomato sauce w/ pasta = indulgence because it’s flavorful
- Breaded tofu + seared veggies = if I feel like I need a lighter meal after a night of drinking
What foods do you avoid?
A: Red meat. But, once every two weeks I’ll cook something with it. I had high blood pressure and don’t feel the need to eat red meat a lot. If I know I haven’t had red meat in like, five days, I’ll go for the burger at a restaurant.
I also avoid food with a lot of sodium and rarely bring bread or grains into my kitchen. I eat whole wheat pasta instead.
When did you start cooking?
A: I didn’t start really cooking until I was living in a rural area without a car in Napa. Once a week, I got groceries. I started off eating frozen meals, but I felt gross and it was expensive.
How convenient is grocery shopping for you now?
A: It’s highly convenient. My Trader Joe’s is on the way back from my gym. I can’t go home from the gym without passing it, so I just stop in. I don’t even need my credit card because I have Android Pay.
Running out of groceries forces me to work out, so I exercise as often as I grocery shop, which is around three times a week. Grocery trips are quick because I’m not wandering around the aisles anymore. I know where all of my staples are.
Do you think cooking for one makes sense financially?
A: I think eating out makes so much less sense, financially. Since I cook every day, nothing goes to waste. I can honestly say I throw out less than 1 percent of my food. Based on my hunger level, I can portion correctly and not waste anything.
What were your fears around cooking when you started?
A: None really, but cleanup sucks. When I started, I just searched things like, “easy pasta” and “easy meatballs.” And if the recipe said I needed seven different spices, I would just use salt and move on with my life.
I used to cook basic, bland things and then started using Trader Joe’s premade sauces. You can’t screw anything up if you’re using good stuff like sriracha and roasted garlic sauce.
How does it feel knowing you have your food handled?
For a CEO of a young startup that has to handle a million things, it makes a huge difference. It’s like the difference between not having a shower in your house and having a shower in your house.
Being able to cook meals is one less thing to worry about. If you live a busy life I can’t imagine doing it another way. When I was buying lunch and dinner and eating pizza every day, I felt (and was) 20 pounds heavier. Cooking helped me lose those 20 pounds.
Hey! I’m doing these “case studies” because I want to show you how other busy 20-somethings make room for cooking in their lives. If you’re interested in being interviewed for one, contact me.