Welcome to 2018, Burqueños! This first week of the year is a time of making resolutions for many, and those resolutions often involve food. “Eat better, drink less,” said my sister-in-law when I asked her about her goals for 2018—things that all of us could benefit from doing. However, if I’ve learned anything from the self-help gurus of the internet, it’s that resolutions are most likely to be stuck to if they’re specific and measurable. It’s not good intentions that get things done, it’s hard numbers and regularity.
If you’ve told yourself that you want to change your eating or drinking habits for the better this year, here’s a few ideas for specific goals or resolutions you could pursue. Each of them requires regular effort and discipline, and it won’t be easy for you to kid yourself when you break them. But that’s what you want, right?
There are plenty of good reasons to go vegetarian: Vegetarian diets (if based on plant foods) are low in fat and cholesterol, which helps prevent heart disease; most meat is full of hormones and chemicals that are bad for you and the industrial-scale agriculture that’s practiced in the US is terrible for the environment and for individual animals. Read up on healthy and sustainable ways to start this diet change, and make sure you don’t just replace all the meat in your diet with vegetarian versions—most of them aren’t very good, and shopping too much from the frozen aisle isn’t generally a healthy choice. Instead, use this change as an opportunity to work a lot more veggies, beans, whole grains and nuts into your diet. A few good resources to get you started with good vegetarian recipes are: Vegetarian Times magazine, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison and theveganstoner.com.
Limit your drinking
I think it’s fair to say that none of us have a perfectly healthy relationship with alcohol—there’s always room for improvement. That said, there are specific ways to limit your drinking that don’t involve quitting altogether. Last year I decided to stop keeping liquor in my house, for instance, and I felt a lot better about my life and saved quite a bit of money as a result. If you feel that you could stand to drink less this year, make that goal something specific and set in stone: don’t drink at home, or only drink on the weekends, perhaps.
Try a new recipe every week
Tired of cooking the same four dishes for yourself, night after night? Yeah, me too, man. If you’re really strapped for time, one easy way to incorporate some new home-cooked food into your life is by subscribing to a recipe box service like Blue Apron or HelloFresh. Another is, you know, just finding recipes in cookbooks and on the internet. For plenty of cheap and easy-to-make recipes, check out Leanne Brown’s cookbook/free online resource Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day.
Cook at home x nights per week
Cooking at home instead of eating out is the simplest but biggest positive impact you can make on your monthly budget, and it generally helps you eat healthier, too. Decide on a number of meals per week you want to cook at home, then stick to it: ask housemates, partners or friends to help keep you accountable; invest in good but basic cookware; then pick a few staple dishes that are easy to throw together when you’re feeling lazy or haven’t been to the grocery store in awhile.