Thursday

So Here’s The Deal…

[note: this experiment took place November 2006]

For the month of November, I’m only spending $30 on food. The only exception will be things that are freely available to the average person (salt taken from restaurants, sauce packets from Taco Bell, free coffee from an office). Buying in advance is fine, but at the end of the month, it all has to add up to $30 or less.

NOTE: This blog is organized according to date, which means you’ll see the last day of this thing before the first. It might make more sense if you start from the beginning (click and scroll to bottom).

128 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting read. A couple months ago my wife and I decided to spend as little on food as possible in order to sink some extra cash into the credit card. We spent maybe $45 for the 2 of us. Granted we had food already at home which helped, but still not a situation I'd want to be in month after month. The rice cooker definitely got some use that month. Overall though I was quite surprised that for such a small amount of money spent on food we never really wanted for anything. Sure the meals became a little boring, but we never went to bed hungry.

Source: http://digg.com/health/How_I_ate_for_only_1_a_day

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool, I read through a couple of posts he made, it's an interesting idea, I'm glad he pulled it off.

Source: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=256888

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read the whole thing. Totally cool. Don't think I could do it...when I saw the picture of his first batch of groceries that was going to last him 2 weeks, it looked like something I eat in a day.

Got me thinking on cool challenge type things that I could do in that sort of realm though...

Source:http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=256888

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was nice of him to donate that extra money to the food bank.

Source: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=256888

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, nice one him. Lost 18 pounds, not a bad effort at all. Thought starving yourself is never a good plan really...

Source: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=256888

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post but I'm really curious about what happened at 12:01 on the 1'st? How was taco bell?

Plus we will need some updates to see how your normal diet has changed since going off your cheap diet..

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic read. Something about the minimal, no-frills style of your writing made it a complete pleasure to read. I'm have a very hard time coming up with why this struck me so much, but it did. Thanks.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you've done is highly commendable. You're a pioneer of frugality.

Here's another pioneer, going to a pricey city (Paris), and living on the cheap:

Frugal living in Paris

3:46 PM  
Blogger oscabat said...

I'm ready to watch your 31 days of cartoon drawing!

5:51 PM  
Blogger C. Maoxian said...

So how much weight did you lose in the end? Do you know your before and after body fat as well? Thanks.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can go on $40 a month and cook you can eat pretty well. That was my food budget for a while.

Statring on a budget like that was hard to begin the one time expenses were killer. #50 of flour, 10 # of cheese, 10# of sauce,yeast, sugar and pans. Once you are out of the first month it becomes sustainable.

Then you can add 25# of rice, spices, meat(beef or turket),beans,veggies.


Really the first month is the worst and it seems like it was especially difficult for you.

Congrats on making it the month. What a difference 33 cents a day makes!

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not link us to the first day then?

Why make us find the archive, click it, then scroll down to the very last post?

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have got a nice spirit. Thats the way for chairty .. a sacrifice !!!Goood work.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog... Just read the entire thing from start to finish.

I found it on reddit.com .

This is crazy stuff youa re doing but its really cool to see the progress.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Redzilla said...

Curious--would you consider do a month without a car?

12:30 PM  
Blogger AbbaMoses said...

Thanks! A really interesting blog about a thought-provoking and inspiring project. I'm tempted to try it myself.
If I were doing this, maybe the only change I'd make would be to invest in some onions, garlic, herbs and spices. From your experience it sounds as if a person could do that and still stay within budget.
Thanks again for this blog, which I've recommended to many people.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a MOM, i would tend to think that buying a turkey would have been your best start in your food thingee. at maybe 69cent per pound, add the Ramen for a few+ days and then make soup. A bunch of carrots and a stalk of celery are about 69cent each. Add saltines.I would think that it might be more pleasant than the "potato mash".

3:02 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

There's been a lot of people making some good points in the discussions going on on digg.com and reddit.com, so I'm going to be transfering some of them over here, just to keep things in one place.

-Evan

5:06 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Pure meat is too expensive, you can't have large quantities. Use about an ounce for flavour when you are making stir-fry. Bones make good soup stock, and good for stew too (practically free in stores). There's always vegetables that are going to go bad soon at the end of the day that they will sell off for cheap. I'm talking major grocery stores. Local grocers will almost give them away at the end of the day, since they will go bad anyways without refrigeration. In Chinatown, they will sell bags of 12-20 apples, oranges, vegetables, for a dollar a bag. Some are bruised and almost going bad, but if you refrigerate them promptly, can last a while longer. Or you can blend them for juice.

Onions and garlic are cheap. You can buy a few bulbs to give more flavour to your food. Spices are a bit more expensive, but will last you far longer than a month.

You do need oil and fat in your diet, or you will end up loading on carbs without feeling full. Mom told me about living through a famine in 1959-60. Just try to buy raw ingredients, don't shop at a large grocery chain, and try making larger portions of food that will last you several days. My dad told me about neverending stew where you add a new ingredient every day to a large pot of stew (and more water) - the stew gets tastier every day as you reheat it and the flavours blend.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctbjm

5:09 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Silly rabbit, trying it on a white man's diet. I think a Chinese person could do it easily by buying only raw ingredients. Shop Chinatown, bag of rice is $10 and would last a person more than 1 month. Often a huge bag of vegetables is discounted to a dollar (5lb bag of string beans, near closing time). Fish heads and bones for soup, pork bones (with some meat still hanging on), for protein. You can easily make lots of "chou" (rice gruel) to fill you up, it's standard Chinese breakfast/lunch food.

Ethiopians and other mediterranian/arab peoples eat couscous with sauce/vegetable puree almost every day of the year.

Great experiment, and I'm sure you learned a lot, but many immigrant families live like this for years. Part of the problem with hunger and reliance on food banks is lack of skill to make food. My parents were poor immigrants 30 years ago, with neither time nor money, but they still raised a family on very little.


Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/cta86

5:10 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Yeah, I thought this too. In season vegetables are cheap. Most seasoning is cheap. He didn't seem to know how to cook, nor did he show much creativity.

Hell, even just potatoes (healthier than rice) would have been better, and you can do all kinds of things with them.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/cta8s

5:11 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

I was pretty much with you until this statement was made. I found your experiment charming - maybe a little naive - but earnest and heartfelt.

After graduating from college, I choose to live at the poverty level for a few years whilst I pursued my profession of choice. Fortunately, my parents were 2nd generation Americans who grew up during the Great Depression. As a result, just by observing my mother, I knew how to feed an entire family for about $3 a day. Many of the great suggestions above from different cultures give a clue.

Interestingly enough - even though my family of origin was upper middle class - there where "traditional" favourites that my Mom used to cook on holidays like Oxtail Soup, Pigs Feet, Tripe, Greens and Black Eyed Peas and Rice. My brother and I found these particularily disgusting, but, my Dad was always excited for these special meals.

Many of the foods - we as Americans - find exciting from other cultures have been developped after centuries of poverty or making do with what is available. In actuality it is peasent food. Just because a person is poor, doesn't mean they haven't got clue about nutrition. If more us cooked like our grandmothers did, we'd all be a lot healthier (Although sometimes adapting traditional recipes is needed, such as using margerine rather than lard.)

Even though we eat everyday - dinner time often seems to come as a surprise to many people. So - we have a strong industry which provides crap to people who don't seem to remember that they eat everyday and forget to plan for that eventuality

Cooking healthy food in advance like soups, stews or casseroles and then freezing them allows busy people to have "convienence food." (It's how my mother was able to work over 10 hours a days as a corporate executive and still manage her household and our health economically.)

I'd like to see you redo your experiment with a bit of research, planning, bulk purchases and a slew of recipes from traditional cultures. Or better yet, try this one. Cook all of your meals for an entire month in one day. http://members.aol.com/oamcloop/articles.html

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctbyb

5:13 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

You're highlighting the benefits of cultural, social, and network memory which is an important contrast to what elmuchoprez is saying.

He just took an idea and ran with it - an experiment that was both voluntary and, crucially, based in ignorance. Except for the record of the project, it seems to have been almost internet-free.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctd9s

5:15 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

That's pretty much how I ate during my freshman year at college ($4000 for everything, including rent, for a year). But I didn't know a thing about cooking, or how a washing machine worked, for that matter. Parents do their kids a disservice by sending them out into the world helpful.

Now I would know how to use beans, brown rice, carrots, lentils, flour (for homemade bread, less than $.40/loaf and better than the $3 loaves at the grocery store), beans and garbonzos to eat healthily for $1/day.

A young person can get away with spaghetti and Little Debby's for a month, but it would take it's toll on your body eventually, especially as you get older.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctcek

5:16 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

A lot of our grandmothers' nutritional knowledge has been apparently lost, not to mention the thrift of those who lived through 2 world wars and a depression.

Some people have Twinkies & coffee or Mt. Dew for breakfast day after day, fast food for lunch, and the same for dinner. It's how they were raised and they see nothing wrong with it. No wonder kids don't do well in school (but that's another topic.)

People are both physically and emotionally distanced from real food. Sometimes it's not their fault--real food just isn't available at the local convenience store and there's no grocery store for miles and no car to take them there.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctd8u

5:17 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Good experiment. When I was in undergrad, from 1984 - 1988, and living in LA Co., I was truly poor (less than $5,000 a year annual income). I gave myself a budget of $10 a week for food and toiletries and I stuck with it for the most part. I didn't get a credit card until after I graduated from vet school in 1992, so not having that available as an out helped. Mostly, I lived on rice, potatoes, those giant bags of stale popcorn and those 5 lb rolls of cheap hamburger or whole chickens with green beans and lettuce.

It's not easy, but it can be done. However, none of my friends or roommates wanted to do it. They preferred going into debt.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctb14

5:19 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

This is worth looking at, if for no other reason that they're some cool photos. What the world eats: http://survivalacres.com/wordpress/?p=437

5:23 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

While I think it's an interesting experiment, I don't know how relevant it is to the lives of poor people. I've seen figures that the amount of disposable income spent on food (admittedly by the average person) tends to be getting lower and lower, and is around 5%. So even poor people today don't tend to get hit there so hard.

Still, kudos. In uni I sometimes imagined living on peanut butter (protein), Kraft dinner/rice (calories), and vitamin pills....

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/cta5r

5:24 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

It is undeniably difficult to eat on a dollar a day, but it is clearly much harder when you don't buy the right foods or know how to cook.

I mean, why did his pot break. Cooking on $1 or $100 per day should not make your utensils fail. He clearly had not been cooking for himself in the past.

Why buy white rice? Brown rice is just as cheap, yet contains fat, protein and fiber.

Buy dry beans. A pound of dry beans costs less than a dollar, will produce several meals, and will provide all of your protein needs, especially when combined with rice.

The hardest part, in my mind, is getting enough fruits and vegetables. I am not sure you can get anywhere near your 5-9 servings for less than a dollar.

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctb2t

5:26 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Does this include the cost of energy to cook that rice?

Source: http://reddit.com/info/t9us/comments/ctaa2

Answer: No, it didn't. One step at a time.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Moh said...

Great idea and posts. A joy to read.
Respects.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Abhijit said...

Hi Evan,

Great post.

I am from India, here, as in most other parts of Asia, rice is eaten for two or three meals every day of ones life. And we never find it boring at all.

Not plain rice of course, we add lentils (dals), many green vegetables, fries, fish curries and occassionally meat, if one is a non vegeterian.

In fact, a staggeringly vast majority of over the 1 billion of India (including me) live on meals which are always less than Rs 46 a day. (the current rate of a dollar). Its not entirely fair to see in Rupee dollar terms, but then the key secret is the same. Raw ingredients bought from farmers markets. If we buy from Supermarkets it would be twice as much.

But certain prices did surprise me. 59 cents for a dozen eggs is cheaper than its here.

You could make an egg curry to go with that rice. I find it delicious.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Paul Eres said...

I have to agree that you didn't seem to show much creativity and it seemed like you didn't really know how to cook (the broken pot and also your surprise that beans take 2 hours to make).

If it were me I would have gone with potatoes, sweet potatoes, chick peas, and lentils. Would have been much healthier and tastier than your diet, and probably even easier to make (because they don't dirty plates and cookingware as much as rice does).

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Hustlermoneyblog.com said...

awesome site..very interesting

8:36 PM  
Blogger AnnMarie said...

Anyone else interested this might check out Hillbilly Housewifes month long food plan for 4 people for $45. It includes *everything* as though your cupboards were completely bare. And you would have eaten a lot better--3 meals a day plus a snack! Note that she found these prices in her area; some items might be more expensive in other areas. But let's say they all cost 3x as much--that means you could feed one person for $30 on the menu. You could also skip a few things--I wouldn't do the tea, spinach, or pancake syrup, for instance. You coul dskip the milk if you aren't concerned about calcium for a month, too.

I'm disappointed that you never cooked anything from scratch like pancakes or breads. But it was interesting to see what you did do and how it felt!

9:52 AM  
Anonymous knifethrower said...

First time reader, forgive me for not reading through very far, but you are right along with some brilliant minds. We just viewed Morgan Spurlock's 30 DAYS , first season (he of Supersize Me fame). He gets a minimum wage job and tries to cope for 30 days. Through his various trials and tribulations, one sees how difficult it is to live on such meager wages and budget constraints. I applaud your experiments. I shall read on your site periodically and see how you are doing. Bravo!

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Goethe Girl said...

Welfare in NYC allocates $18.00 a day per child. Food stamps bring in much more than that a day per child. Adults on welfare receive more. What you did was interesting, but anyone who has the wherewithal to have a blog like this has vastly better personal resources than the people you thought you might be imitating. If the "poor" had your discipline, they wouldn't be poor.

1:01 PM  
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7:53 PM  
Blogger Aline Correia. said...

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3:29 AM  
Blogger Aline Correia. said...

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3:32 AM  
Blogger Aline Correia. said...

Great idea. Converting to brazilian money, I can spend RS70 - I used to spend it in a week. I would like to spend my money on other stuff, that's why I want to try it. I already have some food at home, am I "allowed" to eat it (considering your experience and not my wish to spend less money on food)? ( :

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really good story and congratulations for making it through. The only thing I might add is that your experiement ignored the cost of cooking the food. For example, cooking starches typically requires more energy than cooking vegetables. Thus the cost of those foods may actually be somewhat higher than you think.

Apply this to a homeless person who does not have a stove or microwave and they would not be able to eat the same foods as you and thus need to spend more than $30 per month.

That said, you proved an excellent point.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Hey Evan,

I just wanted to say that I started reading your site due to a link on Digg.

At first I thought it was a dumb idea that was intended purely to get attention.

Well, it was...or rather, should have been, save the "dumb" part.

I think it was awesome that you learned what it's like to have to eat on such a small budget, thus, walking a mile in the shoes of the poor.

The topper for me was that fact that you gave the money you saved to the food bank.

Many people might not think that $200 or so dollars is much so I want to tell you and them what you really gave to the food bank.

Aside from the obvious, hope, caring, etc. you gave more than you think.

I tithe at work. I give 10% of my income to local food banks. I am fortunate enough to have an emplyer that pays this out directly every month to a chosen food bank (and many coworkers contribute to this also). A donation of $1 to a food bank is equal to $5 or more of food because they are buying in bulk, are given special pricing and often know where to purchase for better deals.

Furthermore, many food banks have corporate sponsors. My employer, for example, matches every dollar that the 3 main food banks get in donations.

Chances are pretty good that the Lansing food bank has a corporate sponsor or numerous sponsors that match a percentage. Your $212 probably spent like $1000 without any funds being matched.

Good job. And your timing was great, during the holidays, when it is most needed.

Thank you for sharing your story. Like I said, you helped more than you probably know.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous journomom said...

Good post. It took a lot of will to get through your month of tasteless meals. I enjoyed the insights you had along the way (you ate to live instead of living to eat). But your experiment reminded me of that Carl's Jr ad: "Without us, some guys would starve." We do our sons a disservice by not teaching them the basics of cooking. If Evan had even an elementary grasp of how to make meals from scratch, his month would have been a lot tastier.

1:36 PM  
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1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a starving student, I had a few tips and tricks that would be worth passing along.

Find a cheap pressure cooker. _ got one for $1.29 at the thrift store. Cuts cooking time for beans to something more reasonable.

If you are a student, sniff around your campus food services for opportunities you may be missing. Once a week I would eat at one of the upscale dining halls that had cereal in little boxes. It was all you could eat, and if I timed it right, I could eat a late breakfast (pocket the cereal boxes), do homework for a couple of hours, go back through the line for an early lunch of soup, salad and a sandwich, (pocket the sandwich) and go home with two more meals in pocket for $4.75.

The faculty dining hall had full size condiments out including tabasco, mustard, ketchup steak sauce, vinegar and TEA! They also had sugar, coffee creamer packets, and crackers. Once a month, I'd schedule a meet with one of my professors there. Often they'd pick up lunch and, scamp that I was, I'd leave with a sack full of condiments.

Popcorn and a hot air popper was a cheap, fun snack and occasionally a christmas decoration.

I never did it, but aisan families in married student housing would go in togethere and buy vegitables from the resturant supply houses. Many a Saturday morning saw them dividing a 30 lb bag of onions or a 50 lb bag of rice. I'll bet that saved a ton of cash.

And for two weeks in my life, when I was in high school, I lived on three cans of pork and beans and all the popcorn I could eat at movie theater where I worked. I'm not reccomending it, but I did it.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had done this (very big if),I would have gone out and bought the cheapest box of multivitamins to supplement the food.

other than that ,excellent work!!Im surprised to see that in this land where wants become needs, someone can try this and win!!
I read an article about people who eat less than the 2000 cals per day.They grow thin(just like you did) ,and live longer(The scientist types inferred that from monkeys..).

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting experience

7:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Wow, great job. It sounds the way my parents described college. I'm begging to wonder if it's a good idea to do this before I go to college...

Anyway, great job and good luck on further month quests.
-DJS

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Shirley Buxton said...

Excellent reporting of an intriguing experiment. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Blessings,

Shirley Buxton
www.writenow.wordpress.com

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evan,
Thanks for one of the most interesting blogs I've read this year.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Karn said...

Evan,

Great blog. You are a very good writer. Keep it up!

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I'm impressed at the sincerity of the idea. There is some interesting similarities to the stress we have in our daily lives compared with how stressful it can be just to try and get enough food for the day.

Good Job.
Thanks for making me think.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous the ulterior epicure said...

Great exercise! I have a question: how has your weight been affected by such a regimen?

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Evan I really liked your blog, I linked it in my own blog on myspace I wanted to give you my url in case you have a profile there.

http://www.myspace.com/wnaomi

I lived very poor for three months with no heat, I can understand that something like this can create incredible changes in a persons life, I would love to read an article about your insights from this experience :)

Anyways it was nice to read

Naomi

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done this several times; it's not that hard.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I'd like to see this guy do this experiment while getting stoned 3 times a day. He'd never make it!

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read it all. Wonderful. I'd love to do the same but seeing as how I'm a 110lb college freshman male... probably not a great idea. If I lost 18lbs I'd be in serious trouble. Congrats. & well done.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Belgian chocolate said...

This kind of experience teaches humility.

During my student's years I've choosen to go to a close university
to home ( easy I leave at less than 5m from one and less than 20 from the second one) to avoid to cope with less than 1$/day to feed me.

But as an unemployed I've been quickly confronted to that kind of situation.
Damn, just 5$ and 10 days before the next unemployment benefit, how will I do?

The authorities and local NGO of Belgium had made estimations about the contains of the average trash can, I've been highly surprised to learn that around 15% of the can was uneaten food rest of meals, impulsively bought products, products whose use-by date has been reached. Conclusion just spend for the necessary.

So I've been living for a long time with the minimum minimorum.
After when things got better it's still difficult to spend money for the things that you would have previously judged useless.

Just remember that eating for less than 1$/day doesn't absolutely mean
unhealthy food or junk food.

A French TV anchor-writer, journalist specialised in gastronomy, Jean-Pierre Coffe has written a book: A table en famille avec 15 € par jour ( Feeding a 4 persons family with less than 20$/day ).I don't know whether it'has been translated or even sold in the US. Here you will find his blog ( unfortunately english is not available ) http://www.jeanpierrecoffe.com

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, this was a good concept poorly executed. I think it's admirable to set a budget based on the poverty line and try to measure up to it, but given $30 for a month it seems like he should have at least attempted to eat healthfully. Instead, he didn't eat because he chose to purchase inedible food. There are plenty of produce marts that are willing to sell old veggies and fruit for next to nothing, and these can be cooked into awesome soups and baked goods.

1:02 PM  
Blogger logic said...

I see a lot of people criticizing the execution of this 30-day effort, but that's the brilliance of it. He didn't plan it ahead of time, and got wrapped up (like most people would in a situation like this) in the dollars-and-cents of it.

If you've ever been in a situation where you're picking change out of the couch to buy noodles, you can probably understand not spending a whole lot of time thinking about flavor or nutritional value. It's just not on your priority list.

It's easy to think of this kind of thing after the fact, but would that have really been a realistic simulation? I think there's more to be learned here from executing it poorly than there would have been from him making all the right purchases and planning his nutritional choices perfectly.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NOTE: This blog is organized according to date, which means you’ll see the last day of this thing before the first. It might make more sense if you start from the beginning: November 1.

I'd love to. How. I see no easy way to do it. A link to the beginning would be nice.....

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'd love to. How. I see no easy way to do it. A link to the beginning would be nice....."

Nevermind. Figured it out. It's obviously past my bed time ;)

10:36 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I'm glad to see that you made it and that you donated the money you saved to charity. But dude, you really don't know how to eat well on little money.

We live like this all the time. Under $200/month to feed 6--this includes "splurges" for holidays like Thanksgiving. We have lots of veggies. Protein is dairy, beans and a smidgen of meat.

To get cheap produce, find a local produce store. Ours offers steep discounts on stuff that is starting to get soft spots etc. (We just cut off the bad parts.) It sounds bad, but really, it's no worse than if we bought fresh stuff & left it in the frig for a week. We pay 20-50 cents per pound for most produce. (This is in a very expensive area of California.)

We make everything from scratch & garden. That helps too. We even have some sort of treat for dessert probably 5 nights a week.

My husband and I do not lose weight. Our kids are healthy and growing well. We'd eat like this even if we made more money--why waste money on junk food?

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the past hour or so, I've been reading these blogs from day one and now i don't even remember how i got here... That was really inspiring... and it will definitely give me something else to contemplate as I pray tonight before i go to bed...

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heres a question... If you can live off of $30 a day for a month could you live off of $365 for a whole year?

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
I salute you.
I agree that the exercise is useless in simulating actual empathy, but if it gets someone to donate a bunch of money by giving them that smug, self-satisfied feeling of virtue, then doesn't the good outweight the harm?"

Thank you for that! I posted something of a rant on Day 28 (copied below), and have been ruminating about my words for the past several days. I agree, there was definitely some good to this experiment, if only for the fact of the donation to the food bank. The experiment came from a good, if somewhat misguided, place. That in itself is commendable even if the insights made me think, "Yeah, get real. Try living it."

Anyway, here's my Day 28 Rant:
*********************************

Anonymous said...

Yeah, along the same line as many of the respondents here, you could so easily and cheaply (or free!) add flavor to food.

I suppose you could interpret it as offensive that to be poor means you eat nothing but rice and ramen. That's a mode of thinking that I think must be more common among those who were raised with a more comfortable financial situation.

When you *really* have to live that way, you get way more resourceful than you are in this project. Even the poor comprehend the fact that nutrition is an absolute necessity for life, and it's absurd to think that eating the way you are is the way you have to eat when you're poor. Sure, many people do, I imagine. I've never had ramen, though, and have lived in poverty nearly to the point of homelessness. What'd I do? Food banks, Red Cross, charitable organizations, churches, and absolutely never pass when invited to dinner.

I've been reading this from the beginning, and was finding it interesting at first. The more I read on, however, the more I feel my face flushing with irritation at the concept of eating rice and ramen to know what it's like to be poor. Such a typically sedentary approach to surviving on a budget.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep seeing everyone using the word "frig" as the short for "refrigerator". It's supposed to be "fridge", unless you're trying to say "jack off", cuz that's what "frig" means. Look it up! :)

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Goethe Girl said...
...If the "poor" had your discipline, they wouldn't be poor."

Gurl, don't *even* get me started on that one.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a commendable thing to do and hopefully others will be inspired to do that same.

It has happened to my husband and I that we had very little money for food and we've eaten for $40 a month, and actually ate very well.

For those who want or need to do something like this, the key is big batch cooking, and soups. If you plan to make a big batch of something inexpensive (e.g. vegetarian chili) and an inexpensive soup (e.g. ministone) every week you will find yourself with several dinners and lunches. Add to these a couple of other inexpensive meals (such as burritos) and you'll find you spend far little than you do now.

You could also cook a few dishes once a month and freeze them, but this would require space and containters.

1:10 PM  
Blogger the Prince of Thrift said...

I have taken on a simaler project at http://budgeteating.blogspot.com

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my, $1 worth of food a day. That is indeed a challenge. That is even less than the Hillbilly Housewife's "Emergency Menu" for $50/week (serves 4 people). Check her out at www.hillbillyhousewife.com

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very noble of you to donate the money to charity.

Great read and makes you think about things. Its not a healty meal, but on the other hand eating Pizza and going out everyday is not that healty either.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting. very very interesting...a pretty good read...thanks

3:39 PM  
Anonymous TERESA said...

Wow! This blog is so inspiring! I have to be honest, I don't think I would ever have the will power to do what you did.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting read and inspiring project. I like that you donated the money saved to the food bank.

Sure, it might have been poorly executed, but it's not like you researched anything. Besides, sometimes life throws unfortunate times at you without warning. I had to eat for 2 months on mostly Ramen and cheap bologna to keep the heat on a few years ago because I lost my job. It happens.

I commend you on your inspirational journey.

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be interested in hearing what his eating habits look like in a couple of months...I would probably be back to wasting $$ on food like it was going out of style.

I bet somewhere in there is a happy medium that most of us could follow (and eat a lot better for our bodies, too), and then have a bunch of $$ left over to make some donations to those who REALLY need it.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The average South African Lives on less than this. The average african, far less.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how was the tacobell??!?!

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Bébé said...

I just came across your blog today. I am rapt. I have been going through the entries sort of haphazardly, jumping around. I'm enjoy it immensely. It's such a wonderful, thought-provoking and inspiring 'experiment'. Though the word experiment seems to belittle what you actually did ...

8:55 PM  
Anonymous julien said...

this is probably the most interesting blog i've read all month. thanks dude, i'm very happy to have been able to take part in your experience in this minor way.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Sanchit Reggae said...

Thats a really unique concept dude

best luck for the web comics

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Tight Fisted Miser said...

I'm going to try this myself for February. Yes,I did intentionally choose the shortest month of the year.There will be daily updates on my blog-tightfistedmiser.com.

10:23 AM  
Blogger lubo said...

here,learn to cook Chinese foods:
Yuanxiao
Egg Bubble Soup
Oil - Braised Prawns (Beijing Style)
Chengdu Stir-fry Shredded Carrot
Sweet and Sour Pork
Style Fried Fish

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say I was inspired by this blog. Lately I've been leaning toward a much more minimalist lifestyle, which in my case has just meant having a coffee every other morning and maybe not McDonald's every night. But now that I've read this, I am planning on giving it a try myself.

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

My first review on my website at http://reviews.red-icculus.com is about your webage. This was a unique and insightful experiment.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:32 AM  
Anonymous bryan said...

Hi,
i cant resist myself to comment here after seeing your blog in DebtCC Blog Hunt.I am really astonished how a person can live with $30 in a month.Its really awesome thing.Can you please give me the concept behind this.

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Sure, you CAN live for 30 a month. But, you keep mentioning health in your diet - news flash your diet was NOT healthy. A person can't remain healthy feeding themselves this way for years. Especially, if they also have children to feed who need WAY more fruits/veggies than you were eating. Processed hot dogs are the worst type of food around. Ramen noodles and ready made pizzas - also, essentially junk that provides no nutritional value. White flour (pasta) and white rice are the worst type of carbs - with little nutritional value.

You didn't experience the whole energy rush because your diet was so unhealthy.

I think this would have been more interesting if you had committed to eating in a healthy way for $1.00 per day. Which, you would have found is impossible.

Ever wonder why America's poor is also the least healthy and also overweight? It's because you go to the fast food restaurant and get a huge burger that's over 800 calories for 99 cents. Then, later on, go to the 99 cent store and get huge bags of chips (over 1,000 calories each) for 50 cents. Or a huge box of cookies (over 1300 calories) for 99 cents. You'll never starve. In fact, eventually, you'll wind up overweight and completely unhealthy.

Now, go to the farmer's market and try buying fresh fruits and vegetables for $1 a day. Try getting whole wheat pasta or whole grain foods for 50 cents. It's impossible!

If you had done your diet for 6 months, you'd have seen your health deteriorate.

Every poor person knows you won't starve in America for 1 a day. But, you sure as heck aren't doing yourself any favors in the health department.

Food is not about feeling full ... it's about HEALTH. So, for me, your experiment was focusing on the wrong thing.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous cardiogirl said...

Wow! Good for you, for giving the money to a worthy charity!

5:09 AM  
Blogger K said...

I read this blog for the first time a few weeks ago, in my perpetually-late-to-the-party fashion. This was a pretty fascinating experiment. Sure, you probably could have eaten better on $1 a day, but I found it more interesting without any intensive planning on your part ahead of time. A learning experience is better reading than someone who knows exactly what the score is ahead of time, after all.

Good work on donating the money you saved to a food bank, too. I was hoping for that.

(I'm starting up a project at http://sweetnothings2007.blogspot.com that was partially inspired by this. I've pointed a link your way.)

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Siena said...

Interesting, but I think knowing how to cook would've made the experiment much easier.

My suggestion would've been to buy a roast chicken at Costco ($5) (or buy a raw chicken and roast it yourself for $3).

The roast chicken itself needs to last 2 meals, then you put the leftovers and bones in a big pot, add a lot of water, salt, and boil. Near end add 2 cups of white rice (at $0.42 a pound) OR cook rice in separate rice cooker--this is enough for 6-8 servings in my family. Fridge or freeze leftover servings for individual meals. For breakfast you can eat eggs (cheapest at my store is $1.18 for 18 eggs) so you can have 2-3 eggs a day (hardboiled, fried, etc . . .). For a week on my plan you get more tasty food, some protein for only $6.60 a week which would've been within your budget and would've been $5.00 a week instead if you had roasted your own 3lb chicken). With leftover money I might've gotten a 5 lb bag of potatoes ($0.98) and made hash browns, potato pancakes (eggs and potatoes) or eaten baked potatoes with salt (no butter). Or I might have splurged and spent a dollar on cheap fruit (in season I can get fruit as cheap as $0.50 a pound) so let's estimate I got 2 pounds of pears or nectarines or apples. Not a lot but enough to give me a piece of fruit almost every day.

While I think the blog illustrated how hard it is to live off of$30 a month, I think the real experiment would've been to show how one can still eat good while living off of $30 a month for food.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Siena said...

I just want to add if you ate cooked vegetables and rice you could've eaten a lot of cheap meals. I know how to cook napa cabbage into soup, into a stir fry, into a fermented dish. If I buy a 3lb napa cabbage for $1.17, spent $0.50 on spices (I can because my grocery store sells spice in bulk by weight) and $2 on white rice, I could make enough food to last me a week. That's only $3.67 for 7 dinner meals--and I'd probably supplement my other meals by buying 18 eggs ($1.18) and some cheap fruit/veggies.

Again, my point is $30 might be enough for a person in one month if they knew how to cook.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous weight loss said...

Funny! This has got to be a joke! I hope so at least because you should know that this is horrible for your health.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love food experiments and plan to do a review of your page at http://red-icculus.com . I think this really puts into perspective what people have to go through.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Mommy2aSweety said...

WELCUM 2 MY LIFE!!!!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think being a bloke affected your experience at all, i.e. due to male culinary skills or lack thereof?

Have to say I think I could have made more appetising meals e.g. homemade bread with 60 cent own-brand flour and free supermarket yeast, prioritising cheese over other minimal luxuries (cheese makes everything taste better, even in tiny quantities), tomato and garlic paste to make bean rice and frozen veg soup taste better.

But you did it, I didn't, so kudos to you! I'm not doing a bootstrap-yanking sneer at people living on that food budget. yep, been there myself. just noting that such a tight budget makes every tip, trick and skill even more important.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this site googling "healthy frugal food". Not so healthy here, but interesting nonetheless. ;)

I'm curious as to whether you gained back more weight than you had started with. Severely restricting calories (i.e. dieting) often has this effect.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Gluon the Ferengi said...

I have been unemployed for a few months now living off of credit card, but living with friends has prevented me from experiencing absolute crisis as of yet.
Still, I've learned some things about eating nutritiously on a budget.

-Spices are expensive but one bottle usually lasts for months and adds flavor and nutrition. Garlic is worth its weight in gold. If you're living off of potatoes, there's nothing like garlic, thyme, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

-Canned meats are a cheap source of protein. A 14.5 ounce can of mackerel costs about 88 cents at wal-mart and lasts me about three days. Delicious with aforementioned potatoes and vinegar. Also quite nutritious.

-Cooked barley or wheat mixed with honey, canned fruit, and spices makes an ideal breakfast.
Cinnamon, allspice, and cloves are ideal.

Ethnic staples are a good buy:
-Coconut milk costs around 1.50 per can. It's pure good fat, can be stretched over 4-5 days no
problem. Excellent for cooking things in.
-Hominy can be bought in huge drums for about 2 bucks apiece. Probably considerably more
bang for buck than nutty bars. Best to rinse the stuff before use. Get rid of some of the salt.

Corn meal and whole wheat flour ideal for baking up biscuits and quickbreads. About 2.50 for 5 pounds.(Stoneground wheat flour about the same cost as corn meal.)

Keep in mind:
Lots of grocery stores have bins of bargain fruit and vegetables they're trying to get rid of before they rot. At wal mart a few weeks ago, got a huge papaya (about 3-4 pounds) for less than a dollar.
-Grapefruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew also good bang for buck.

-A bucket of plain yogurt costs a couple bucks and can be stretched out for as long as a week.
Has pretty much infinite uses in food preparation.

-Oats are dirt cheap and make my tummy feel great. About 1.60 for every 2 lbs, 10 ounces.
Probably more economical than ramen and FAR more nourishing.
(Ramen is not as cheap as people
seem to think it is.)

-Also: In baking section a pound of almonds or walnuts is about $7 but with judicious consumption can be made to last 3 weeks to a month.

-Unsweetened chocolate. Even ghiradelli is about 1.88 per 110 gram bar. When the cocoa content is that
concentrated, 10-20 grams a day is more than enough. Can be stretched out over 5-6 days. Great with tea and almonds.

-If you're living off of a poor diet, having some kind of tea daily will help out the stomach and
suppress the appetite.
At end of the day, with dinner, some cheap wine great for clearing away heavy tastes from starchy foods.
A month's suppy=8-10 dollars.


My diet costs way more than 30 dollars a month, yet it still costs much less than average and is
quite nutritious.

Finally keep in mind, eating on a dollar a day is hardly a terrible thing in countries with a much lower cost of living. Only a westerner could possibly think supermarkets are cheap. Goods are sold pre-packaged in small quantities, ultra-processed, and shipped from all around the world.
The truly poor are going to eat animal products they raise themselves, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and whatever they can grow. Foods they buy are going to be straight from local farms. No shipping to pay for, no packaging cost, no processing cost, no middlemen such as supermarkets. I'd wager a twenty pound sack of potatoes, millet, sorghum, yams, peanuts, or rice costs next to nothing by our reckoning. The third world diet while limited, is far more varied and wholesome than one might think.
I've done a considerable amount of traveling and even much poorer people in other countries generally appear more healthy than the average American.

In America, food is a fairly small expense next to fuel, car payments, insurance, and housing. Inability to pay the bills is going to bring someone down financially before food does. There are not many situations aside from homelessness where it's really worthwhile to live a lifestyle of crappy food and a constantly irritated gut.
If you can't make the rent in a high cost western nation, eating refined starch until you suffer from beriberi isn't going to save you.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I read through it all. I guess mostly because I am going through it now and found this while searching for some cheap meals. My situation is a bit different. I have 7 bucks to feed me and my dog on for the next seven days. And My husband is in the field(army), So anyways, we exppected to be payed sooner than we were, and thats my situation. However I have done this before when I had dog food and just me to feed. I had like 20 bucks to last a month. It sucks but it is interesting what you learn and how your body changes. Oh and I can completly relate on the anorexia idea. Its not that you consider it but it puts a new perspective on things.I just want to say you did a good job. Especially considering you could have ducked out at any time cause you had the money to. And what you did with the money was great.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Rice, beans, and oatmeal would have gotten you through this, eating until you were stuffed full each and every day, with money to spare.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Brittany said...

Have you ever tried e-mailing companies for foods you like and complementing them? A lot of the times, they will send you coupons for free items and you can do this about every 3-4months. Bar-S usually sends a $5 off your total Bar-S purchase coupons, along with a bunch of $.25 or $.50 off any products...this means in the summer the hot dogs at places that double coupons will be free to $.50. You should try it. You might be able to stick to that $30 per month and actually be able to have some yummy food(not just rice:) ) I can usually do $200 or less each month for my family of 4(including buying Pampers diapers for 2 kids)

8:14 PM  
Blogger Skyler Reep said...

Congratulations. I tried a similar experiment, but I abandoned it on Day 10. I did not allow myself to take freely available food, so I was only getting 1,046 calories each day. I am already near the bottom of the safe BMI range, so it wasn't safe for me. I love the lessons you learned, and I feel like I know how you feel. Great work! Incidentally, mine was called www.30DaysFor30Dollars.blogspot.com

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Haley said...

I've done the 30 hour famine, I've raised money for starving kids, I've donated to food banks... this, however, is new. I'm definitely trying it over the summer, and will have to see how my friends and family react.

You're quite inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey and your insights. :)

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I am trying on a similar project here
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know eating food like this is hard, but i have eaten this way for nearly a year. About two months ago i increased my weekly food budget to 10 dollars. I eat a lot of boiled stuff and eggs are a must. Ramon is cheaper when you buy the 12 pack. I can get 28 slices of bread for $.73. Overall you could have eaten a little better. I still congratulate you for what you did for whatever reasons you did it.

9:01 AM  
Blogger - Daniela - said...

great read.
honest and simple. loved it.

11:03 AM  
Blogger plumwalk2 said...

Believe it or not, the idea is not an original one. I am a retired teacher living on a fixed income. I grew up on a farm where stocking up was a way of life. My friends think I am crazy when I tell them I spend less than $50 a month on food in winter. And that is on fresh produce. (I need the extra for medication) I shop at Costco. I only eat fish. I buy salmon, cut it up, season it and package it in very small portions. It last several months. Most of what Americans eat is junk food filled with empty calories anyway.
I begin planting vegetables as soon as the ground can be worked.
http://www.growyourownproduce.blogspot.com

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Blogger Amanda Seevers said...

i think everyone is forced into this situation one time in their life. mine was my first year out of the dorms. i was used to a full buffet cafe. then when i moved all i ate was ramen, peanut butter sandwiches, cereal, and soup.
every interesting article. also i saw you were from lansing...im a MSU student :)
go green!

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told the poor worry about how much if any; middle class worry about taste; and upper class worry about the presentation, or how food looks.
You literally said just this in the post about thinking of food all day.
Thank you for caring enough about those that struggle to want to understand, educate and teach others what it is like. It is nice to have appreciation, that is what I have after reading this. Thankful for what I have. Thank you

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this is old, but I've been reading it and other blogs like it lately, and I've been inspired to cut my food expenses down to $10 a week and put my saving towards paying off my car. (Sorry I'm not going to be noble and donate it to the food bank like everyone else, but living on $8.25 and hour can be rough sometimes and I am determined to have one less bill to pay by this time next year!)

I figure the extra $3 gives me a little wiggle room, but even on $1 a day I imagine I could eat better than this poor guy...I admire his dedication and all but reading about his rice/potato glue actually made me nauseous. I mean, rice is a given on this kind of a diet, but as others have stated, you are aware that onions, garlic, bell peppers are dirt cheap, right? Cabbage and REAL potatoes are also your friend, I wouldn't wish instant potatoes on my worst enemy. Chili powder or soy sauce would likely be within your budget as well. Hell, if you want to keep it REALLY simple, half of a 79 cent can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom mixed with about 10 cents of rice makes for a heck of a more appetizing meal than anything I saw this guy eat. Canned tomatoes or salsa have a lot of versatility as well. And if he was really skipping breakfast and lunch I don't know how he was getting through the day.

Protip: oatmeal is cheap and extremely healthy, apples, peanut butter and bananas are also cheap and go well with it in any combination. Sugar and sweet n low packets are FREE at any fast food place.

I'm hispanic but love asian food...I make a version of jook (congee) with a very small amount of rice, soy sauce, green onions (cheap all year round and free in the spring if you have access to a park...you can pick enough for weeks in a couple hours and chop them up and freeze them) and chicken bones.

And speaking of chicken...please put away the nine cent hotdogs. I buy a whole chicken for $6, roast it, shred the meat and toss the bones in a crockpot for stock. You only need a small amount of meat or broth for a soup or rice that actually tastes GOOD. Eggs and tuna could have played a much bigger part in this diet...and for goodness sake, use coupons!

Giant bags of frozen vegetables are also your friend, that and a little soy sauce are all you need to make rice or ramen a decent meal.

For my own challenge, I grow rosemary, cilantro, and oregano at home and so if all else fails this alone will help a lot in the flavor department...even if your living situation doesn't allow for a full garden (which would obviously be the ideal way to tackle a challenge like this) anyone with access to a window can grow herbs.

To be fair though, I have yet to read a single one of these blogs where the person attempting the challenge actually knows how to cook, so I hope I don't sound like I'm singling the owner of this one out.

Realistically though, unless you're literally just looking to save money, I'm not sure how useful an experiment like this is to prove some kind of point about what it's like to be 'poor'....anyone (in America at least) in circumstances that would force them to live on $1 a day would also have access to food stamps, food banks, and free hot lunches at a shelter if worst came to worst. Most of my co-workers have kids and as consequence actually eat better than I do with the amount of assistance they get.

Ramen night or weekends of rice and beans is not a thing that exists for them. The problem is more in budgeting in other areas...a woman I work with starts every month buying beer and cigarettes for her boyfriend, new shoes for herself and Xbox games for her son, and then is crying and stressed and trying to borrow money by the end of it because 'life is hard and it's just so tough to make the rent' Poverty in America is just weird and backwards that way. v0v

7:11 AM  

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