As I depart the kitchen to take a break in my living room,1 surrounded by the aroma of fresh garlic and onion sizzling in anticipation of being added to the kale and chicken quinoa soup that will provide one of two daily lunches for Mrs. Vigilante and I this work week, I can’t help but wonder: Why the hell isn’t everybody doing this?

The house smells great, no $50 scented candles from our friend’s pyramid scheme “multi-level marketing business opportunity” necessary. We’ll be eating food all week that will have our coworkers asking “What smells so good?” and, in my case, telling me I’m so lucky to have a wife who cooks for me.2

We’ll be eating healthy. This stuff is packed with nutrients, good calories, and basically muscle-rebuilding juice perfect for the evening of my heavy-weight leg workout.

We feel productive and alive – far preferable to the feeling of languishing on the couch while the laugh track on today’s sitcom tells us when to be entertained. We’re talking, our brains are working, and the electric meter isn’t working overtime while we stream a bunch of media of questionable value on our devices.

On top of it all, we’re saving a ton of money. Between growing several of our own herbs, receiving a gift of garlic from a friend who grows too much of it to keep up with herself, buying quinoa in bulk on, and buying the rest of the ingredients either at Costco or a cheap local grocery store, we’ve spent less than $10 on this whole batch. That’s under $10 to feed two adults one meal each day of the week. For you mathematicians, that’s under $1 per meal per day. Something Subway simply isn’t prepared to offer.

Where’s the downside?

Your grandparents already knew this.

Ok, maybe the Great Depression era wasn’t flush with people concerned about the sugar or fat content of their food, or the possibility of mercury in their fish, or the gluten sensitivity they knew they had despite it not being a scientifically verified medical condition. But I’d be willing to bet that each of your grandparents cooked anyway. And probably a lot.

It might have been out of necessity. Maybe they lived on a farm and preferred to grow or kill their own food and prepare it for safe eating. Or, maybe they just had reduced access to store-bought options before reliable, mobile refrigeration and microwave ovens were commonplace, and before a McDonald’s occupied every street corner…diagonal from a Burger King. But optional or not, I’d bet they cooked.

And you should too!3

Today, we are swimming in an overflowing infinity pool of wealth, and it’s easy to think there’s no need to cook for yourself. Why bother, when you can just buy ready-made food? Save yourself the trouble and spend time spoiling yourself, right? YouTube isn’t going to watch itself!

And while that’s certainly one way to stave off your inevitable death by drowning in wealth, I prefer simply learning to swim. Managing my own finances, and allowing the wealth to flow my way. And the single biggest change you can make to encourage that flow is to live life like it’s a round of golf. Which is something your grandparents instinctively did, by taking care of themselves as much as possible.

They made many mistakes, to be sure, but this is a time not to ignore your elders. Nowadays, just doing some of the same things your grandparents used to do out of necessity can make you a millionaire. Take advantage of that!


Bonus life pro tip!

As a post-meal snack to a future meal, I’ll be having some suburbia-foraged shagbark hickory nuts I gathered this morning.4 Once these little suckers dry out, I’ll crack them with a hammer and dig out the crunchy little nut meat inside, like your grandparents might have done for a little evening activity while chatting it up with the neighbors. I describe the flavor as “walnut-y, but like a walnut that’s been roasted in brown sugar.” And this stuff is free, laying ignored in the public park just down the street! Ain’t life, heh, grand?

You’re understandably probably interested in the recipe for that amazing kale and chicken quinoa soup, seeing how it fuels the superpowers of myself and Mrs. Vigilante. I won’t keep you waiting:

Kale and Quinoa Chicken Soup

  • 2 chicken breasts, thawed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • ¾ c quinoa, dry
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp rosemary
  • 7 c chicken broth (or veggie broth, but we often use the broth from chicken we’ve already made)
  • 4 cups kale, chopped
  • 3 tbsp parsley
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese as desired

Add chicken (bottom), onion, garlic and celery to crock pot. Drizzle with olive oil. Add quinoa, thyme, rosemary, chicken broth and salt & pepper to taste. Cook on HIGH for 3.5-4 hours or SLOW for 7-8 hours to let the flavors get to know each other, fall in love, and make delicious flavor babies.

After some time, remove chicken and cut into small pieces before returning to crock pot. Add kale, parsley and lemon juice and cook on HIGH for 10 – 20 minutes or until kale is soft. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese (but it’s totally not necessary).

  1. Full disclosure: Most of this was actually written a week ago, so it shouldn’t be in the present tense. Have a little imagination!
  2. Sexist much? Vigilante men can do everything women can! (Except that one thing Mrs. Vigilante’s doing right now.)
  3. Whew, is it feeling a bit preachy in here, or is it just me? But then again, I assume you all screamed in unison “Preach on!”
  4. Actually this morning!

4 Comments on "The Million-Dollar Secret Your Grandparents Knew"

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Miss Mazuma
Damn… it’s 90 degrees here and I am craving soup thanks to you!! That looks amazing. Oh, and after my soup I am going to go look for nuts at the park. Yesterday we discovered a black walnut tree at my sister’s new house so I will add this to my foraging adventure. 🙂 My grandparents are extremely frugal, despite being secret millionaires (I happened upon a bank statement). Grandam wastes NOTHING when she cooks, they bought and sold real estate (grandpa always dong his own repairs), and they didn’t lead an extravagant lifestyle. What they did do is instill… Read more »
the Budget Epicurean

That recipe sounds divine! We have more hickory nuts than we know what to do with, with 3 trees in our yard. Any NC vigilantes are welcome to them! Grandparents knew best. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” was our mantra growing up, and I try to stick to it to this day. And cooking… I like it maybe a little too much…