Last year I started to see articles about Soylent on the websites I frequent: and as an overweight guy who eats all the wrong foods – it caught my eye. The idea of ‘meal replacement’ foods isn’t new… but they’re trying to make something simple, cheap, and that you could eat 100% of the time and stay healthy. I liked the idea of making some breakfasts or dinners by just adding water and shaking things up, so I signed up for a couple weeks supply.
Sadly, they don’t ship out of the US yet, and Canadian orders may not arrive until 2015. But all the buzz about Soylent jumpstarted a community of people creating DIY (Do It Yourself) recipies to try to do the same thing: with one of the most popular right now being People Chow. (Great name! )., I read more about the DIY projects in the official and Reddit forums and decided to give it a try!
The ingredients list included some supplements I had never heard of before, but I ended up being able to find all but one of them (from GNC) in the mall below where I work:
Masa Harina (‘Maseca’ brand): $4.49 at Metro
NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate (vanilla): $48.58 at Nutrition Village
NOW Foods Calcium+Magnesium supplement: $14.68 at Nutrition Village
NOW Food Potassium Citrate: $15.81 at Nutrition Village
Choline Bitartrate: : $6.77 at Nutrition Village
Vegetable Oil (100% Soybean Oil): Store in my apartment building (or from Metro)
Salt: $0.00 from the cupboard
GNC Mega Man Vitamin (vanilla): $56.49 at GNC
(all prices Canadian, including tax)
All the ingredients came in different sized packages, and are mixed in different ratios, giving me between 6 and 80+ days supply. Plugging everything into a spreadsheet showed that it cost me about $8.50/day in food, which could quickly drop to about $6/day if I bought some ingredients in bulk (lots of them are cheaper in the US, where it could cost as little as $3.50-$4/day). One batch is 2000 kcals, and gives you 100% (or more) of your daily recommended intake of… well… everything . This is what I bought:
I made a couple mistakes: I didn’t notice that I bought some of the supplements in pill form (instead of powder) – so instead of just drinking the mixture I also have to take 3 pills per meal (2 Choline Bitartrate and one Calcium+Magnesium). I’ll finish them off in a few weeks and make sure to restock the powder form: I’ve already seen some of the ingredients much cheaper at purebulk.com (even when US shipping almost doubles the cost).
I’ve been mixing things up 3 days at a time (one ziploc holds one day of food). Right now I’m only eating 1-2 meals a day of People Chow to see how it goes – usually every breakfast and the occasional dinner. All I’m using is a scale that can measure down to 1 gram (my largest measurement is 345 grams, and the smallest is 2 grams), a small measuring cup, a small tupperware container (and the 3 ziploc bags):
Here’s 345 grams of the Masa flour: I measure it on the scale into a tupperware that’s a bit longer than wide…
…so I can fit it in the ziplock to dump it out.
Next by bulk is the whey powder. I move the ziplocs from left to right as I fill them with each ingredient, in case I have to stop, so I don’t come back and forget what I’ve already done.
This is after I’ve worked my way through all 7 ingredients (leaving the soyabean oil to be mixed when I add the water). I’ve prepared enough powder for 3 days worth of meals and I’ve dirtied one scoop, one tupperware container, and 3 ziplocs (which I wash and reuse):
You can mix some powder+water each meal (dump them in a water bottle and shake) or give everything a good mixing in advance. I’ve been blending one bag (3 meals) up at a time with the soyabean oil… then pouring everything into 3 1L containers that I can leave in the fridge. I borrow my sisters thermonuclear blender and it makes short work of it:
This is what I leave in the fridge. The ingredients don’t mix 100%: it’s more of a suspension of the corn flour: so I still give it shake before I drink it. The taste is very slightly sweet, and like drinking a bowl of tortilla chips. It’s also a bit silty, especially when you’re getting to the bottom of the bottle. There are lots of ways to flavor it (my mix has a bit of vanilla, but others add cocoa powder, or cinnamon, or brown sugar) but I’m going to stick with the original recipe for now:
Here’s 4 days of People Chow in the corner of the cupboard. One large ziploc can hold 3 days of food easily (in case you wanted to travel with it or something) but I’m leaving it as one-day-per-bag so I can dump it in the blender and not have to measure anything.
I still plan to try the commercial Soylent blend (which I’m sure will also change over time) – but until it’s available I’m going to try a few DIY recipes. Maybe none of them are 100% perfect and the community will tweak the mixtures over time as we learn more about what’s “healthy” – but I believe in all cases I’ll be eating better than I have been the last 15+ years. I’m going to get a blood panel done after a month to make sure I’m not pushing any vitamin/mineral way out of whack: but until then I’ll stick to 1-2 meals per day of DIY Soylent. So far it looks like a no-brainer for breakfasts, and I plan to take it to the RC tracks with me on weekends so I have an easy alternative to the fast food I normally eat.