I have recently moved to Copenhagen, Denmark to pursue a MSc in „Medicine & Technology“ at the Technical University of Denmark. So far, the city has been wonderful – offering an incredible bike lane infrastructure, charming neighbourhoods with laid-back locals, people with a great taste for fashionable clothes, and supermarkets full of EXPENSIVE FOOD!
Back in Germany, the prices for groceries are some of the lowest of any insdustrialised country in the world. This meant that in the past I was able to afford many high-quality goodies like wild-caught salmon, specialty cheese, organic produce etc. So coming to Copenhagen, I am forced to restructure my diet due to the high grocery prices. I have to rethink my buying strategy in the supermarket and budget down while still getting in enough calories and eating a diet composed of whole foods.
Basics, Basics, Basics
Just like in training where the big basic movements will be always be superior to isolation movements, the same also holds true for diet. You don’t need the latest craze of superfoods from some exotic jungle or consume the most advertised protein powders. All you really need is to stick with the big basics of diet – i.e. get the most nutritious calories for the lowest price possible.
This means that my diet will be mainly centered around what I like to call a „Modern Peasant’s Diet“. Low-budget eating with the purpose of still filling me up and providing enough calories and important nutrients. It’s not so much a medieval version of the peasant’s diet because I exclude breads and will consume more meats instead (meat nowadays has never been that cheap in human history).
Protein Sources: Beef, Tuna, Whey
The protein portion of my diet will suffer the most as I have to watch my food budget. Grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish are crazy expensive here in Denmark and also harder to get by. I would love to afford these meats but for the time being it’s out of the question.
My absolute number #1 go-to protein source will be grain-fed ground beef. It’s not ideal but still relatively affordable and the additional fat content in the beef offers extra calories. My most common method of preparing the ground beef is quick & dirty: frying the beef with some tomato sauce and serving it on Basmati rice.
The other cheap staple protein source to come by is tuna. I usually just dump a tuna can on some rice, add some carrots/tomatoes/broccoli/spinach – a very unsexy meal with wouldn’t please a gourmet’s taste buds but it’s get the job done of getting me full and keeping my protein intake moderately high.
Other protein sources will be eggs, chicken thighs, cottage cheese and curd cheese (see my homemade protein pancake recipe HERE where I explain what curd cheese is).
Carb Sources: Rice, Potatoes, Oats
Basically, 80% of my carbs will come from white rice, white/sweet potatoes & oats. I think these two sources are super cheap while doing what they are supposed to – refilling glycogen stores in the muscles after workouts and giving me the carb satisfaction at each meal. I will also start including more legumes into my diet: mostly in the form of kidney/ black beans. Decent protein content too.
Fat Sources: Butter, Peanut Butter, Avocados
When I was living in Vancouver last year, butter was outrageously expensive. Luckily, butter in Denmark is rather affordable. This means that most of my fat intake will come from this holy grail of fat sources. I usually just melt the butter over the rice/potatoes – that way you can consume more butter calories and your food just tastes a thousand times better.
Avocados are an obvious fat source to include for their nutrients and calories. At the moment, I eat roughly one avocado per day. Pricewise, when you buy them in bulk when they’re still too hard to be eaten, you can get a pretty good deal on them at the grocer’s.
Peanut butter is full of inflammation-causing Omega-6’s but for the time being I won’t care so much about that. The obvious reason I include peanut butter is for their extra calories. Powerlifter Jim Wendler also loves penaut butter and includes it as part of a high-calorie shake after each meal to gain weight. Here’s his recipe:
„After each meal, make this shake: 2 cups of whole milk, 3 scoops of protein powder, a banana, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. And after you make this shake, drink it. Three times a day. Don’t miss a day.“
There you have it – my version of a low-budget/high calorie/nutrient-dense „modern peasant’s diet“. If you have any tips on what other foods I could include, share your thoughts in the comments.