Free Food

Friday, March 20, 2009

As some of you may know, I’ve had sort of a bizarre month.

I did this weird project that somehow landed me in People magazine—wearing makeup, no less. (More than one person has looked at the picture and commented on my fabulous new figure-skater look.)

A friend I don’t talk to very often left a message last week asking about the name of a book I had loaned her a few months ago. Took a few days for me to get back to her. I called and gave her the name of the book and apologized for taking so long to return the call. Then I said, “I’m a celebrity. Did you know that?” She said, “You’re a celebrity?” I said, “Yeah.” And then I couldn’t remember if I’d told her about the project. I said, “I sent you the message about my blog, didn’t I?” She said, “Uh… yeah. I thought that was just some weird thing you were doing.” I said, “Yeah, it was. And last week I was on Good Morning America.”

Totally weird.

So one of the weird things I’ve had to do over the past few weeks has been to pretend I’m shopping for a dollar while being photographed or filmed. (When I was pretend-shopping last week for Good Morning America I saw my across-the-street neighbor, who was passing through the bulk aisle. She was like, “Hey… how’s it going?” I said,”Hey! Good to see you, what’s up with you?” She said, “Not much. You?” “Oh, not much here either, just doing a little shopping … with a Good Morning America film crew. The usual.”)

Totally weird.

So anyway…

With most of the pretend shopping, you can put back the stuff you’re pretending to buy when you’re done, you don’t have to actually buy it, but with bulk foods, once you’ve poured it out of the bin, you have to buy it otherwise it will go to waste. You can’t put it back.

So I ended up with a whole bunch of small bags of cornmeal and steel-cut oats and sunflower seeds and split peas, and I finally got everything organized and together to figure out what I had. Which turned out do be almost two cups of split peas, about two-and-a-half cups of cornmeal, about a cup of steel-cut oats, and probably a quarter cup of sunflower seeds. That’s like half a month’s worth of food for me at this point.

My mom is in town for a few days so I needed to actually cook something (I’ve been enjoying my culinary freedom since last Thursday, eating bagels and cream cheese and various other things that no one would be very impressed by if I put a picture of it up on a website) and decided to work through some of the media-provided food items.

So for dinner for my mom, I made split pea soup and cornbread and coleslaw. (The People shoot required a cabbage, in addition to the bulk-food purchases, so that was sitting in the fridge waiting to be used too.)

It wasn’t as cheap as I expected because I bought ham hocks, which seem like they should be cheap but the ones I got weren’t that cheap. (And you’d think I’d know where all the cheap stuff is but I wasn’t in the market for ham hocks last month so I don’t know who has the cheapest ham hocks in town, and didn’t have time to go more than one place.) But they had a lot of meat on them.

And I didn’t get a picture, but I thought you might like the recipe, which is very simple, and comes from Marion Cunningham’s The Supper Book.


Split Pea Soup

1 pound (2 cups) green split peas
1-1/2 pounds ham hocks, or a leftover ham bone with a little meat attached
2 medium onions, chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
8 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Put the split peas, ham hocks, onions, and celery in a soup pot, add the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and lightly salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occationally, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. The soup is done with the peas are soft. Taste, add more salt, if needed, and a generous amount of pepper. Remove the bones and any skin from the ham hocks, and shred the meat if the chunks are too large. If smooth soup is desired, remove the meat and puree the soup.


I pureed a few cups to make it a little bit thicker.  The ham I used was pretty salty so I probably would have been better off using less salt (the lesson being, if you use ham, be sure to taste before adding salt). But overall it was good.

And I just wanted everyone to know that the things the media bought for me won’t go to waste.

I know you’re all relieved.

7 Responses to “Free Food”

  1. fernando Says:

    Hi again, how’s being a celebrity like?

    I was wondering, I have an unanswered question and im really really intrigue to know, what did you drink all this time, water? (sorry if maybe you did answer, just missed it).
    Here where I live, you cannot drink the water form the water system, so you have to buy it and its quite expensive. You could spend a dollar a day just in water.

    Thanks for any comment.

  2. lessisenough Says:

    I drank tap water on the project, which is what I usually drink.

  3. Carrie Curvin Says:

    Shoot, I forgot to look for the PEOPLE with you in it. What’s on the cover? I’ll have to get it from the library if it’s already off the stands.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    It’s the People with the Texas cult children on the cover.

  5. Jennifer Price Says:

    I commend what you were trying to do with your $1 a day project, but it seems that you were not really successful, and felt deprived. To see an example of someone who actually lives on a small food budget, while eating gourmet, beautiful fresh food (and vegan!), go to

    Nice blog you have here!

  6. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for your comment Jennifer.

    I believe I’ve said this in other posts or comments (I’ve lost track of what I’ve said where) but want to say again that I’ve eaten for the past 10+ years for between $80 and $90 per month. It looks like melomeals is going for $3.33/day, which is slightly more than that ($3.33/day = $100/mo). I think that amount is totally reasonable to live on on a permanent basis, and I have no plans to increase my usual spending.

    What I did for the 30 days that I documented here was not intended to be long-term, it was a really extreme version of low-cost eating, based on some other, similar projects I had read about.

    If anyone hears of any of the other cheap-eater blog type folks taking on a project like mine (starting with no food and only a dollar a day, and using NO homegrown, foraged, or donated food) I would love to see how it turns out for them. I’m sure everyone would do it a little differently and it would be different in different parts of the country. Would be interesting to see what others were able to do under the same conditions I put myself under.

  7. Tom Says:

    as one of the miscellaneous Supportive Friends to this project I can attest to the fact that Rebecca never truly felt “deprived” in the sense that she went hungry. sure, she may not have gotten all of the essential nutrients recommended by the daily food pyramid (or whatever shape they’re using these days) but, after all, she was doing it on a dollar a day, starting with a dollar each day.

    there were a number of us who were checking in with Rebecca on a regular basis, making sure she really was doing alright and that her health wasn’t suffering for this project. (ironically, the greater concern for her became all of the unexpected media attention)

    the other idea here is that this was a month-long experiment, not a commitment to eating on a dollar-a-day as a lifestyle.

    – tom

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