Both Mrs. Frugal Hackers and I are ardent vegetarians and have been so since birth. As such, we don't really know what we're missing out on with regards to meat and seafood, and we don't intend to find out :) Meat and seafood are rather expensive commodities compared to basic vegetarian staples such as veggies, fruits, rice, quinoa, beans, and lentils, so we're glad they're out of our budget automatically.
If you'd like to learn why we've remained vegetarians all our life, take a stab at this Netflix documentary Cowspiracy. If you have the appetite for something more gruesome, check out some disturbing videos of how animals are being mis-treated inside large-scale farms (Warning: this video is quite disturbing).
Being vegetarian is one thing, but how do we double down on this diet from a life hacking perspective? As of the beginning of 2017, both Mrs. FH and myself have made a commitment to not just eating vegetarian, but also to being able to eat absolutely anything vegetarian. No more being picky about this thing or that thing. No more making food choices based on what's tasty and what's not.
Why did we decide to make this one of our life goals?
1. It's healthier for you
Providing a wide variety of nutrients to your body is healthier for you. When you're a picky eater, you tend to get the same set of narrow nutrients over and over. To be truly healthy, you want to be able to eat any non-toxic plant or plant byproduct, tasty or not. You want your plate to look as colorful and as random as possible. It tastes better too when it's a random mish-mash of several delicious and nutritious ingredients. Getting all the nutrients your body needs also help you avoid falling randomly sick.
2. It's more frugal
Not being picky about food is more frugal because you can eat just about any kind of or any brand of food, dairy, or frozen/packaged stuff. For instance, you can switch to private-label stuff which allows you to not pay for branded-label marketing. You can also eat what's actually in season and what grows locally which tends to be cheaper. Local stuff also tends to be fresher and free of preservatives. More importantly, you get to shop for all your food at your local farmer's market which tends to be cheaper since they typically cut out the middle men - the distributors and suppliers.
3. You learn to adjust with what's available
There's no more I MUST have this and I MUST have that, you just eat whatever's available in your neighborhood grocery store. We no longer have to drive 10 miles to visit a far away Whole Foods just to acquire some fancy food products that we can't live without. Not that we were doing that before, but I do know people who do that sort of thing on a regular basis.
We've also become less picky about pairings. No more "This thing MUST go with this other thing" business. We now go with "eat whatever with whatever" since everything is food at the end of the day. There are no real rules of what can be eaten with what, and what can't be.
We're hoping that this benefit will come handy when we travel where our food choices are more restricted, but more importantly, if we were to ever move between cities/countries/continents. We want to be able to adjust quickly and adapt to whatever the prevailing local food and diet scene there is over there.
4. You become a less pickier person in general
People tend to be the pickiest when it comes to food. By taming your pickiness with food, you can automatically tame your pickiness in virtually every other domain as well. I've learned to become less picky with my clothes, with my shoes, and even with the air I breathe.
5. You learn to tame your tongue
Some people won't eat certain vegetables or fruits supposedly because of their bad taste. That's a ridiculous reason to not eat something nutritious. Fruits and veggies are some of the best, most nutritious, and healthiest food items to put in your body. Even bad tasting fruits and veggies taste pretty good after eating them a few times and acquiring a taste for them. But you won't ever get there unless you let yourself try them at least a couple of times.
By setting a goal of being able to eat anything vegetarian this year and forever, we've learnt to enjoy all tastes and flavors provided to us by our planet. We feel our palate has expanded tremendously as a result. At the end of the day, we're careful about what we put in our bodies, but food isn't the primary reason for living, so it just doesn't make any sense to be picky about it.
If you'd like to try this mental challenge at home, try eating watermelon dipped in guacamole. If that was easy, try adding some hot sauce to it. Next, try eating watermelon with hummus. If these are all too easy, try eating the skin of an orange or a lemon. Can you do it? Can you break your mental model of what should be eaten with what, and what shouldn't?
Tame your tongue, and take control of your body! Food is meant for your body, not your mouth. Focus instead on the contents of what you eat, more than the taste of it because you know, substance over form. I used to loathe eating eggplant, asparagus and celery at one point in my life, but not anymore. Now I love them. Now, no veggie is out of bounds; no fruit too foreign, including the crazy stuff like durian.
At the end of the day, why should my petty tongue dictate what I can and cannot eat, when my mind is and should be the ultimate arbiter?
Happy food hacking!