For the last few years, we have been exploring minimalism here at Allergy Towers. So what is minimalism? Well, according to The Minimalists, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom”. It certainly has been a positive force in our lives. We have decluttered considerably (still a work in progress) and reduced the amount of decoration around the house so that everyone feels calmer here. I have emptied out my wardrobe so I only have clothes that I wear rather than clothes that make me feel vaguely guilty. We have even extended minimalism to our calendars so we plan to have empty space and down time in our lives rather than filling every minute with activity.
So what has this got to do with food allergies? Well, thanks to the Allergy Brothers’ needs, our kitchen has become quite sparse too. It turns out that there is a minimalist challenge for the kitchen. It was invented by Courtney Carver and is called The Capsule Kitchen. The Capsule Kitchen concept is that we should cook with 33 ingredients, changing our choices every 3 months. This does not include water or items that you would use less than one tbsp of at a time, eg salt or spices.
The obvious criticism of the Capsule Kitchen might be that we need a variety of foods to be healthy. That’s true. That’s why there are thirty three foods and not three. Thirty three items leaves plenty of space to eat a rainbow of nutrients. We do need a variety of foods, but not the variety that we are confronted with every time we visit a supermarket. Frankly, too much choice is a bad thing. We end up with decision fatigue and then we make lousy decisions. Have you ever wondered why Barak Obama and Angela Merkel wear the same clothes all the time? It’s because they don’t want to waste their thinking time on which shirt goes with which trousers; they have bigger things to be dealing with. On a much, much smaller scale, I used to faff around deciding what I wanted for breakfast every morning when I really needed to be getting everybody clean, dressed, fed and out the door with their packed lunch. Now, I have gluten free muesli if the weather is warm or gluten free porridge if it is cold, and we all get to school on time.
I like the fact that there is flexibility built into the idea as your list changes every 3 months so you can eat seasonally. I have to be honest that we haven’t stuck strictly to the 33 items for 3 months guideline. I built a cheat into our original list because item 33 for us was “a new thing that we want to try”. Our version has slowly changed into adding a rhythm to our meals through the week. On Tuesdays, we have tacos (thank you, Lego movie!). On Thursday, I bake with Allergy Little as he is at home during the day so we have pizza or rolls. On Friday night, we have chips and popcorn to eat from a bowl while watching a film. I think the Allergy Brothers find this predictability comforting.
The biggest benefit of The Capsule Kitchen concept is that it shows that limiting your foods can be good. Nobody would choose to have multiple allergies, but there might be some benefits to it nonetheless. For example, you might have to use the ingredients you can eat more creatively. One thing I noticed was that my “too small” kitchen became a “just right / bit big” kitchen as I was no longer trying to store such a huge number of ingredients. Linked to this is that it will save you money as you are more likely to meal plan and less likely to be left with food going off. You might have more time as food shopping takes less time. You might simply have more “brain space” for thinking about other issues. It might be that it is easier to eat healthily. If you are limiting yourself to thirty three foods then it’s unlikely that you are going to waste six of your choices on six different types of biscuit. So only one packet of biscuits goes into the trolley at the supermarket, and it’s easier for you to make the right choices at meal times.
If nothing else, then it’s good to concentrate on what you can eat, rather than the list of things you are forced to avoid by your body. Making a list of what you or your family member can eat might be just the kind of positive thinking you need right now. I know it helped the way I thought about our family’s eating. It just so happens that we have three months left in 2015. I would love to hear in the comments what your thirty three items would be if you did this challenge!
P.S. Look out for our blog’s first birthday celebration competition. Coming very soon.