My wife Winnie has 3 loves: food, photography, and me.  I’m fairly certain that is a prioritized list.  If we are ever headed towards the lifeboat of a future Titanic, there either better be extra room for her camera and cookbooks or I better be a great swimmer.  I’ve been swimming daily for the past month, just in case

The love of food has lead to some amazing meals on the road, as we seek out high quality restaurants everywhere we go.  We fell in love with El Petit Four in San Miguel de Allende, Lu Cocina in Morelia, and Turtle Bay Cafe in Puerto Escondio.  Each of these restaurants delivers delicious food based on the freshest and highest quality ingredients, and you can feel that the chefs love what they are doing.

One of the beautiful things about Mexico is that everywhere you go the food is great value.  What you might pay for a greasy gut-bomb at a Chili’s or Applebee’s in the US gets you a 5-star meal in high-end restaurants in Mexico.  It almost brings a tear of joy to my eye just thinking about it

During the first quarter of this year, we dined to our hearts content wherever we roamed.  We’ve been living a luxurious lifestyle for not that much money, spending about $30/day on food for two.  This is easily supported by our investments and could continue indefinitely, but isn’t necessarily something that everybody can or would want to spend.  Being a naturally frugal person, I was also feeling that this hedonistic dining extravaganza might be a bit excessive.  If we spent less, would it really matter?  Would we experience any less joy and happiness?  I was ready to try, if for no other reason than to stretch my comfort zone which is the only time people really learn anything

But what about Winnie?  How could I get her on board with a plan of cutting our food spending in half for 2 weeks, down to $15/day total?  That would be long enough to really know the effect of spending less, and would stretch our comfort zone sufficiently.  In other words, enough time and enough of a cut to truly experience a lifestyle change.  We would still be spending substantially more than local families

After some convincing, which I’ll explain, Winnie was on board. We spent 2 weeks eating out nearly everyday and eating great food.  We had fresh seafood, a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables, and several great meals Winnie prepared at home including home-cooked pork ribs, chicken and wild rice soup, and a fresh zucchini-flower frittata.  Of course we also snacked on some locally harvested mangoes

A normal week for us includes a trip to the local market for produce and this week was no different.  On this trip we picked up fresh spinach, lettuce, basil, and cilantro, avocados, zucchini, carrots, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, corn, garlic, shallots, ginger, peppers, bananas, plums, peaches, and apples.

The Motherload

The Motherload

This whole collection of fruit and vegetables was less than $20.

One meal out to the previously mentioned Turtle Bay Cafe set us back $26, but included an amazing serving of roasted octopus that melted in your mouth and a side of green beans with just the right amount of crunch.  We also had a delicious serving of seared tuna in a mango and avocado sauce.

Roasted Octopus

Roasted Octopus

Going more local, we also had a great meal out of pozole, which is a stew made of chicken, hominy, chili peppers, and coriander leaves.  Total cost was less than $6

Chicken Pozole

Chicken Pozole

Two weeks later when I crunched the numbers, we had average spending of just a little over $15/day.  Neither one of us felt the least bit of deprivation, and in fact felt quite good about the whole experience.  It was a fairly normal couple of weeks.  We ate well and lived well, and I may have even lost a little weight.  That’s a lot of benefit for taking on what seemed like a difficult challenge, which turned out to be no challenge at all.  As a bonus, carrying this forward we would spend $450 less a month

Now, how did I convince Winnie that we should give this a try?  What were my master strategy and negotiation tactics?  I simply asked:

“Hey Winnie, how would you feel about cutting our food spending in half?”

“OK”, she said.

She’s just awesome like that, and that is why on my list of loves, she comes in 1st