Project Rules

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

  1. I start on Day One with no food.
  2. On Day One, I can spend up to $2. Each day thereafter, I can spend up to $1.15, but I can’t spend more than a total of $30 in 30 days. (I was going to do a straight dollar a day, like the Price is Right, as close as you can without going over, but I’m concerned about the vagaries of scales and such and don’t want to have to disqualify myself for being over by a few cents. Decided a little breathing room would be okay. And since I’m making up this project, I get to set up the rules however I want. So there.)
  3. I will eat only food purchased during the duration of the project—no food from my freezer or pantry (including spices and oils), no foraged food, no food given to me by friends (or strangers for that matter). AND I WILL NOT STEAL CONDIMENTS FROM FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS. Because stealing is wrong. And even if it weren’t, that would be cheating.
  4. I will not eat lentils, because I loathe them.
  5. I will attempt to continue my normal life of exercise and work. Typically I eat two meals a day, so I will probably stick with that, unless some other approach seems like it will work better.
  6. I will not concern myself at all with the actual unit cost of anything, how many meals I eat, or how “balanced” or “unbalanced” the meals are. I will not concern myself at all with the Food Pyramid or USDA dietary guidelines, because I have philosopical problems with those and think it would be silly to make myself adhere to things for the sake of this project that I ignore in my regularly scheduled life.
  7. The project applies only to food. I am not attempting to live on a dollar a day, just eat for a dollar day. I don’t have to stop heating my house, or washing my clothes, or taking meds.
  8. I will go for the full 30 days unless I am not able to get enough calories or if I feel physically ill or if I become so much more cranky and ill-tempered than usual that I am unbearable. (Not sure who gets to be the judge of that, presumably someone will send out a memo.)

My initial thought was that I should have to eat 1,200 calories a day, but I’m not positive I can do that. Also I’m hoping to drop some weight, so I think that should be fine either way.

My goal is to eat as well as I can under the circumstances. My ultimate goal is to eat well. If I have 30 days of bad food—even if I have enough to eat while staying under the spending limit—I will consider it a failure. (That being said, I’m definitely expecting a few rough days in the beginning. But hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel soon.)

4 Responses to “Project Rules”

  1. juliet Says:

    How do you factor in left overs from previous days on the project? will you be building a Less is Enough pantry as you go along?

  2. lessisenough Says:

    I can definitely use leftovers from previous days. That’s actually one of the main points, to show how you can spend a small amount (for instance, buying a tomato and an onion) to supplement previous purchases (such as rice and beans in the pantry, and lime juice in the freezer) to make a good meal with a very small cash outlay.

    I really do not like to eat the same thing for more than three meals, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do the “another day, another dollar” approach rather than the strategy of stocking up on larger quantities up front and making them last a month. Keeps my options open.

  3. Marco Says:

    Ok, so is there a list of “healthy” foods that you can purchase for $1 a day?

    I go to the grocery stores and markets routinely, and the only stuff I see that can feed you more than once per day, that’s less than $1 is Ramen, which is not at ALL healthy.

    Maybe a couple of pieces of produce, but that’d be a one meal kind of thing, not 2, and definitely not 3.

    You say that if you had bad meals for those 30 days you’d consider it a failure, but I can’t imagine that once can eat that many healthy foods in any kind of quantity for that price each day. I struggle to make due with just $5 a day and get 2 meals out of that….

    Inquiring minds wanna know what you suggest!

  4. lessisenough Says:

    If you read from the beginning, starting at Day One, you can see what I ate. If you read the summary page, you can see exactly what I bought, cooked, ate, spent each day. If you read the post called “A Few Lessons” you can see some of the specific lessons I feel were demonstrated on the project,

    One of the key things to note is that my approach advocates buying the building blocks of meals rather than attempting to buy complete meals together. I bought grains (cornmeal, rice, millet, oats, wheat berries), pasta, legumes (black beans, split peas), vegetables (cabbage, carrots, tomatoes), fruit (tangerines, oranges, bananas). Those are the types of “healthy” foods I recommend, all of which can be purchased at very low cost.

    You’re not necessarily going to be able to go into a store and buy one single thing that is a complete meal for less than a dollar, but you can buy a number of different things very inexpensively that can be combined to make cheap meals. For instance, I bought a dozen eggs for $1.42 and Jiffy biscuit mix for $0.50 and 10oz of spinach for $1 and a tangerine for $0.20. I didn’t buy them all on the same day, but on the days I bought them, I didn’t use all of them so I had them available to eat on later days. So one day I was able to spend $0.50 on Jiffy mix and $0.20 on a tangerine and combine that with previously purchased eggs and spinach to have a breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach and Jiffy biscuits and a tangerine.

    The key is making things from scratch, using very basic ingredients rather than buying pre-made items. (Also note that pasta is actually cheaper than ramen — near the end I made a bare-bones version of yakisoba, a Japanese stir-fry dish, using pasta and chicken and carrots and cabbage. It was cheap, made a lot of food, and was definitely better than ramen.)

    Note also that I did this project in February/March. If I were to do it now, the fruits and vegetables I woud be eating would be different because different things are cheap now.

    If you read through from the beginning reading both my posts and the comments, you might get some ideas. Lots of people had really interesting things to say. People also posted links to other websites where people were writing about eating cheaply. If you keep reading, I think you might have your main questions answered.


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