One way to save your food budget: Ditch the food

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One way to save your food budget: Ditch the food

Finding the time to cook healthy meals can be tough — often, you find yourself at work hungry without many nutritional options around you. It can be tempting to grab a burger on your way home instead of taking the time to go grocery shopping and cook.

So how can you eat healthy without breaking the bank? Some people have turned to Soylent.

Named after the food in science fiction movie “Soylent Green,” (the real-life version does not contain people) Soylent brands itself as a complete meal in the form of a shake or powder. At $3.25 a bottle per pack of 12, it’s cheaper than eating out. (If you can't live without takeout, there are ways to save.)

Soylent isn’t the first meal replacement shake on the scene. 310 Nutrition, GNC and other wellness companies offer their own versions. The product is basically the same: a portable meal alternative that can help you maintain your nutrition.

Who drinks Soylent?

Soylent markets itself as a drink for those constantly on the go, who may not have time to cook.

“It’s my dinner on the nights I work late,” said John Harris, sales associate at Policygenius. “I think it tastes pretty good.”

Harris, who is vegan, has been drinking Soylent as a meal replacement on and off for about three years. He uses the powder, which allows him to decide how many calories he wants to eat.

One bottle of Soylent is around 400 calories, roughly one-fifth of the daily amount recommended by the FDA. Harris said he drinks around 30% to 40% of his recommended daily calories each time he uses the Soylent powder.

“I’m not sure if I feel any healthier, but I do eat it in part because I think it’s healthy,” he said.

Is Soylent a healthy meal replacement?

“They are a convenient alternative, but I would be wary of replacing all your food with shakes,” said Skylar Griggs, registered dietitian. “It would be difficult to get all of your nutrients.”

Though meal replacement shakes typically contain adequate amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fats, the essential macronutrients for any diet, they are often high in sugar and low in fiber, which can negatively affect health over time, said Griggs. But Soylent isn't inherently bad for you.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and for some, a meal replacement shake from time to time running from place to place may make sense,” Griggs said. “But I wouldn't make it an absolute.”

Soylent says that while the shakes can be a good alternative for an unhealthy snack or meal, they shouldn't make up someone's entire diet.

"People ask us all the time if we’re trying to replace food. The answer is no — we love food." said Alex Leon, spokesman for Soylent.

Harris says for now, Soylent is the perfect option for someone like him.

“It’s for someone who is somewhat health conscious, but also cheap and maybe a little lazy,” he said.

How to stay healthy on the go

While it’s easy to order delivery or grab a shake on the go, buying groceries and cooking for yourself is typically better for your diet and your wallet.

Griggs recommends meal prepping for the week to save time, and buying groceries in bulk. Having a game plan before you get to the grocery store can also save you time and money. Here’s a list of ways to save on grocery shopping.

If you are a shake lover, consider making your own. Here's a healthy milkshake recipe that costs only a buck.

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Image: Rachaphak