At the request of a reader, I’m posting here a day-by-day summary of what I bought, what I cooked, what I ate, how much I spent, and the running total of how much over/under I am on the dollar amount.

[Note: I’m cutting and pasting this from day to day and sometimes fail to update everything properly—usually I catch it eventually, but let me know if you see anything that looks wrong. Also note that the cumulative total changed on 3/2 as I had $2.17 for Day Ten when it should have been $2.19, so everything from that point was off by $.02.]

Day Thirty (Wed 3/11)

  • BOUGHT: [nothing]
  • COOKED: toasted sunflower seeds; stir-fried cabbage
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats; toasted sunflower seeds; tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: chicken noodle soup; stir-fried cabbage
  • ATE—MEAL THREE: peach yogurt
  • SPENT: $0.00
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$1.40

Day Twenty-Nine (Tue 3/10)

  • BOUGHT: peach yogurt; blueberry yogurt
  • COOKED: [nothing]
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats; toasted sunflower seeds; tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: chicken noodle soup; Jiffy bran muffins
  • ATE—MEAL THREE: blueberry yogurt
  • SPENT: $1.10
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.40

Day Twenty-Eight (Mon 3/9)

  • BOUGHT: steel-cut oats; sunflower seeds; strawberry yogurt
  • COOKED: soft-boiled egg; steel-cut oats; sunflower seeds
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: bran muffins; tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: yakisoba; black beans; soft-boiled egg
  • ATE—MEAL THREE: steel-cut oats; toasted sunflower seeds; yogurt
  • SPENT: $1.00
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.50

Day Twenty-Seven (Sun 3/8)

  • BOUGHT: Jiffy bran muffin mix
  • COOKED: Jiffy muffins
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: soft-boiled egg; bran muffins; tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: yakisoba
  • SPENT: $0.60
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.50

Day Twenty-Six (Sat 3/7)

  • BOUGHT: 5 tangerines
  • COOKED: Jiffy biscuits; scrambled eggs; yakisoba
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: scrambled eggs with biscuits and a tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: yakisoba
  • SPENT: $1.01
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.10

Day Twenty-Five (Fri 3/6)

  • BOUGHT: chicken leg (.93 lbs); carrot (.21 lb) ; steel-cut oats (.18 lbs)
  • COOKED: steel-cut oats
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: pasta with tomato sauce and spinach
  • SPENT: $1.32
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.11

Day Twenty-Four (Thu 3/5)

  • BOUGHT: Jiffy biscuit mix, tangerine
  • COOKED: biscuits
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: soft-boiled egg; Jiffy biscuits; tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: black bean tacos with salsa and cabbage
  • SPENT: $0.70
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.43

Day Twenty-Three (Wed 3/4)

  • BOUGHT: angel hair pasta (1 lb), tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • COOKED: scrambled eggs; pasta; tomato sauce
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: black bean tacos with scrambled eggs and fresh salsa
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: angel hair pasta with tomato sauce
  • SPENT: $1.11
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.13

Day Twenty-Two (Tue 3/3)

  • BOUGHT: 2 tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, orange
  • COOKED: toasted sunflower seeds; salsa [not cooked, but prepared fresh]; scrambled eggs
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: black bean tacos with scrambled eggs and salsa; cornbread muffins (leftover from Day Nineteen)
  • SPENT: $0.96
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.24

Day Twenty-One (Mon 3/2)

  • BOUGHT: cabbage; tortillas
  • COOKED: toasted sunflower seeds; black beans
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: black bean tacos with cabbage; cornbread muffins (leftover from Day Nineteen)
  • SPENT: $1.81
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.20

Day Twenty (Sun 3/1)

  • BOUGHT: [nothing]
  • COOKED: steel-cut oats, toasted sunflower seeds
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: millet pilaf with chickpeas and spinach (leftover from Day Seventeen); cornbread muffins (leftover from Day Nineteen); orange
  • SPENT: $0.00
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$1.01

Day Nineteen (Sat 2/28)

  • BOUGHT: potato; Jiffy cornbread muffin mix; one dozen large eggs
  • COOKED: cornbread muffins; soft-boiled egg; Idaho sunrise
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornbread muffins, soft-boiled egg, orange
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: millet pilaf with chickpeas and spinach (leftover from Day Seventeen); Idaho Sunrise [baked potato with egg]
  • SPENT: $2.40
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$.01

Day Eighteen (Fri 2/27)

  • BOUGHT: 2 oranges; 1 lime
  • COOKED: toasted sunflower seeds
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats (leftover from Day Seventeen) with toasted sunflower seeds and a tangerine
  • ATE—AFTERNOON SNACK: spinach chicken soup (leftover from Day Sixteen)
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: millet pilaf with chickpeas and spinach (leftover from Day Seventeen)
  • SPENT: $0.51
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$1.41

Day Seventeen (Thu 2/26)

  • BOUGHT: millet (.33 lbs), chickpeas (.20 lbs), steel-cut oats (.49 lbs); 2 tangerines
  • COOKED: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds; chickpeas; millet pilaf with chickpeas and spinach
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds and a tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: millet pilaf with chickpeas and spinach
  • SPENT: $2.15
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.92

Day Sixteen (Wed 2/25)

  • BOUGHT: [nothing]
  • COOKED: scrambled eggs with spinach; biscuits; chicken soup
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: scrambled eggs, biscuits
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: chicken soup with spinach
  • SPENT: $0
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$2.07

Day Fifteen (Tue 2/24)

  • BOUGHT: frozen chopped spinach (10 oz.)
  • COOKED: pasta with spinach and marinara sauce
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats (leftover from Day Thirteen), soft-boiled egg, banana
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: pasta with spinach and marinara sauce
  • SPENT: $1.01
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$1.07

Day Fourteen (Mon 2/23)

  • BOUGHT: [nothing]
  • COOKED: [nothing]
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds (leftover from Day Thirteen), tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: chicken fried rice (leftover from Day Thirteen)
  • SPENT: $0
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$1.08

Day Thirteen (Sun 2/22)

  • BOUGHT: banana (.27 lb); raw organic sunflower seeds (.05 lb); organic steel-cut oats (.32 lbs); 2 tangerines
  • COOKED: steel-cut oats; chicken fried rice
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: steel-cut oats with toasted sunflower seeds, tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: chicken fried rice
  • SPENT: $1.12
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.08

Day Twelve (Sat 2/21)

  • BOUGHT: chicken leg (1.2 lbs); carrot (.11 lb); red onion (.23 lb)
  • COOKED: biscuits; chicken; pasta
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: biscuits, scrambled egg, orange
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: pasta with chicken and marinara sauce
  • SPENT: $1.40
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.20

Day Eleven (Fri 2/20)

  • BOUGHT: Jiffy biscuit mix
  • COOKED: biscuits; pasta
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: biscuits, hard-boiled egg, tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: pasta with marinara sauce
  • SPENT: $0.50
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.60

Day Ten (Thu 2/19)

  • BOUGHT: 1 orange, 1 tangerine, pasta (1 lb), tomato sauce (8 oz), Italian-style tomatoes (14.5 oz)
  • COOKED: pasta with marinara sauce
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornbread muffins (leftover from Day Seven), cabbage/wheat berry/split pea stew (leftover from Day Six) with a small side of raw cabbage
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: pasta with marinara sauce
  • SPENT: $2.19
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.10

Day Nine (Wed 2/18)

  • BOUGHT: [nothing]
  • COOKED: [nothing]
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornbread muffins (leftover from Day Seven), soft-boiled egg, tangerine
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: curried eggs over rice (leftover from Day Eight)
  • SPENT: $0
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$1.29

Day Eight (Tue 2/17)

  • BOUGHT: tomato sauce, curry powder, garlic, tangerine
  • COOKED: curried eggs over rice
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cabbage/wheat berry/split pea stew (leftover from Day Six) with cornbread muffins (leftover from Day Seven)
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: curried eggs over rice
  • SPENT: $0.70
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.29

Day Seven (Mon 2/16)

  • BOUGHT: Jiffy cornbread mix, one dozen extra large eggs
  • COOKED: cornbread muffins
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: millet
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: cabbage/wheat berry/split pea stew (leftover from Day Six) with cornbread muffins and a side of raw cabbage
  • SPENT: $1.97
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: +$0.01

Day Six (Sun 2/15)

  • BOUGHT: millet (.29 lbs); wheat berries (.31 lbs); green split peas (.24 lbs)
  • COOKED: millet; cabbage/wheat berry/split pea stew
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: millet
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: cabbage/wheat berry/split pea stew
  • SPENT: $0.98
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.96

Day Five (Sat 2/14)

  • BOUGHT: [nothing]
  • COOKED: cornmeal mush
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornmeal mush
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: black beans /cabbage/rice stew with jalapeno (leftover from Day Four)
  • SPENT: $0
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: -$0.94

Day Four (Fri 2/13)

  • BOUGHT: cabbage (1.6 lbs)
  • COOKED: cornmeal mush; black bean, rice, and cabbage stew
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornmeal mush
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: black beans/cabbage/rice stew with jalapeno
  • SPENT: $0.80
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: +$0.06

Day Three (Thu 2/12)

  • BOUGHT: white rice (1 lb), jalapeno pepper (.06 lbs)
  • COOKED: 1/2 cup rice, 1 cup black beans
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornmeal mush (leftover from Day One)
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: black beans with rice and jalapeno
  • SPENT: $0.98
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: +$0.26

Day Two (Wed 2/11)

  • BOUGHT: black beans (1 lb)
  • COOKED: [nothing]
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornmeal mush (leftover from Day One)
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: wheatberries with split peas (leftover from Day One)
  • ATE—SNACK: sunflower seeds
  • SPENT: $1.02
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: +$0.28

Day One (Tue 2/10)

  • BOUGHT: organic cornmeal (.47 lbs), organic wheat berries (.39 lbs), green split peas (.20 lbs), sea salt (.07 lbs), organic raw sunflower seeds (.07 lbs)
  • COOKED: 1 cup cornmeal; wheat berries with split peas
  • ATE—MEAL ONE: cornmeal mush
  • ATE—MEAL TWO: wheatberries with split peas
  • ATE—SNACK: sunflower seeds
  • SPENT: $1.26
  • CUMULATIVE +/-: +$0.26

[Note that for Day One, I allowed myself $2 to spend, to be made up later, but I only spent $1.26. I’m marking that as $0.26 over, even though I wasn’t technically over according to the rules I set.]

37 Responses to “Summary”

  1. caryesings Says:

    I notice no dairy yet in your diet. Is that personal preference or too expensive so far?

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Sort of a combination. I don’t generally use a lot of dairy, and dairy is fairly expensive without being very filling, so I haven’t thought about trying to get any. Not sure if I’ll get any during the 30 days or not, I’m just going to see how I feel. It’s definitely not a priority for me.

  3. Crystal Says:

    Thanks for the great blog and I really like the summary too. I’ve forwarded it to a friend and bookmarked it. This is one of the better attempts I’ve seen at living on a low budget. Imagine how much better you could do if you had a garden!

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the comment and glad you like it.

    I know gardening is a great way to get a lot of really good food for not very much money, but I specifically excluded homegrown food from this project because a garden is something that it takes time and energy to set up and maintain, and not everyone has the resources (or interest) for that.

    Also I don’t particularly like gardening (I know, that’s like not liking mom and apple pie but I can’t help it), and I don’t deal well with the abundance of food you get when things are ready.

    I have friends who garden and I have a deal wih a few people — they give me produce and I cook things with it and give them half of what I cooked. Works for everyone.

  5. Tom Says:

    You marked the date as 2/24 on both Tuesday and Wednesday. This caused your Thursday date of 2/25 to also be off.

  6. lessisenough Says:

    It’s the curse of the cut & paste. Thanks for the heads up on the date problem; should be fixed.

  7. Hooray for you and your project! I read that same ridiculous article a while back and offered a few budget-minded food tips on my HealthyLivingDIY blog. In my opinion, it is preposterous to think that chemical-laden processed foods are actually cheaper than the home-prepared real thing. I’ve just linked to your project from my blog. I hope people will realize that they have more options than they may have originally thought.

  8. vad Says:

    I just wonder were she shopping @? Even if she would shop in walmart (cheap) she would spent a lot more then she says.
    For example:
    She BOUGHT: tomato sauce, curry powder, garlic, tangerine and SPENT: $0.70 ????!!!!
    Tomato sauce alone cost $0.59 for a small can (off brand)

  9. lessisenough Says:

    The summary gives the totals — to see exactly where I shopped and what I paid for what I bought, look at the post for that day (which has the name of the day, e.g., Day Seventeen). I’m posting pictures of my receipts for every day.

    The day I bought curry powder, tomato sauce, garlic, and a tangerine, I went to three different stores. The SuperTarget near me sells 8oz cans of store brand (Market Pantry) tomato paste for $.24, I bought about two teaspoons of curry powder from the bulk bins at the local Whole Foods, and the garlic and tangerine I got at Compare, a local Latino supermarket chain. All of those were much cheaper at the stores I got them than they are at other stores. Look at the receipt to see the exact prices and where things came from.

  10. Alecia Says:

    I am wondering how is it possible to buy 2 oranges and a lime for 50 cents. I live in NY and 2 oranges are 50 cents a piece unless there is a sale 4 for a $1.00. I assume you bought the chicken leg from a butcher so maybe its cheaper but a chicken leg should be at least a dollar then the carrot and red onion would put you over $1.40. I know eggs cost at least $2.00 and up so i don’t get how you could spend less than that when you bought eggs. I am curious to know where you are shopping because you’ve mentioned whole foods and they aren’t cheap.

  11. Alecia Says:

    Okay I’m back i looked at the receipts and noticed you buy items like seeds and oats in portions not the full bag or can they come in. I have a question is fruit cheaper in NC because fruit can be grown on trees and in NY fruit has to be shipped?

  12. lessisenough Says:

    I’m lucky in that I can get bulk grains (and seeds and legumes), so I can buy just as much or as little as I need. As I said to a friend when I was talking about the project when she asked how I could get $0.20 of chickpeas, “I could buy one chickpea if I wanted to.”

    I think everything in NY is more expensive because store overhead is higher — rent, taxes, salaries, etc. In preparation for the project, I discovered that ethnic markets/grocery stores have much cheaper prices on produce. So I would suggest looking at different stores around you, especially ethnic markets and see if things are cheaper.

  13. Jessica Says:

    Two questions:

    Are you supplementing your food with free stuff? e.g. Freegan-style dumpster diving, using food banks or soup kitchens

    What was in your pantry when you started this project?

  14. lessisenough Says:

    Since this project is about what you can do with a dollar, I’m not supplementing with anything. I’m eating only what I can get with my dollar, and have documented everything I’ve eaten.

    For the purpose of the project, I started with nothing. (I have food in my regular-life pantry and freezer, but it’s off limits.) I’ve eaten only what I’ve bought since I started on February 10.

  15. Jeremy Says:

    This is a very interesting project and I applaud you for taking it on! It reminds me of my college days when money would get tight and I would have to try and subsist on $1-3 dollars a day, depending on how bad things got. You have definitely done some things that I never thought of that would have certainly helped… It’s funny how often we get tunnel vision when we go shopping.

    I am curious as to whether you are charting any physical changes that may occur as part of this experiment? It looks like aside from the chicken on day 12 you haven’t purchased any meat (excluding the eggs). Is your normal day-to-day diet primarily vegetarian? Have you experienced any drop in weight, body fat, etc? Do you feel that you are getting enough nutrition that this could be a healthy, sustainable lifestyle?

  16. lessisenough Says:

    See the posts Are You Hungry and Health/Food for a fuller explanation of how I’m feeling and my perspective on the health implications of the project. Also I’ve noticed I’m getting some of the same questions coming up, so I’m going to try to put together a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page and get that up soon.

    In general, I don’t eat a lot of meat, and the project diet isn’t hugely different from my normal diet, but I don’t think I would want to live forever on $1 a day, just because the quantity of food is limited. I could definitely get more food, but I decided I’d rather have less food of higher quality than to work to get more calories.

    Also the way I structured the project (getting one $1 each day, plus whatever I haven’t spent from previous days) makes it difficult to bake, which is the best way to get a large volume of food for not very much money. So that problem is actually much more a function of how I set up the project than it is cost, but in terms of the project, it’s added to the challenge.

  17. supergrover Says:

    Alecia, I live in New York as well and would like to point out that fruit also “can be grown on trees” here rather than being shipped. Why do you think New York is called the Big Apple?? In the last year, I personally have seen and eaten from real, live, fruit-bearing trees hanging with apples, pears, and cherries here, so I am fairly certain that your botanical argument is not the reason for less expensive produce.

  18. With all due respect, your diet here looks deficient in overall calories and protein. if body doesn’t have adequate protein, lean muscle tissue will begin to waste, etc. Has a registered dietician vetted your diet for adequate calories/protein/nutrition? thank you.

  19. lessisenough Says:

    The diet was very low in calories, but if you read through the rest of the site, you would see that this was a self-contained 30 day project that I chose to do for the very reason that I didn’t know if it was possible — starting with no food, using nothing in my pantry, and spending only a dollar at a time. I was actually a little surprised that I was able to do it at all, and it turned out that I was much less hungry than I would have expected looking at what I ate, I think because I didn’t eat a lot of refined sugar or flour, and relied largely on whole grains and legumes. I actually felt quite good, in some ways better than I usually feel (when I’m much more likely to overeat than undereat).

    [Also I feel the need to point out that when I started this project, no one was paying attention except a few friends, and it’s not like anyone was going to give me a million dollars if I finished. If I really felt like I wasn’t getting enough food, I would have either given up on the project and said it can’t be done the way I set it up, or I would have altered my strategy so as to get more food.]

    I think the amount of protein was actually adequate, between the eggs, chicken, beans etc. (Americans seem to be somewhat obsessed with the idea of getting enough protein, I don’t know if it’s all the Atkins stuff or what. People keep commenting on the protein when in fact the problem with the diet of most Americans is far too much protein. I think most people should probably work on that problem from the other direction, try to figure out how to get less.) The main problem I had was actually getting anything with fat in it, which is why the calories count is so low.

    I did not have a dietitian review the project because I wasn’t trying to make the point that you can be perfectly healthy for a dollar a day. Rather I was trying to make the point that it is possible to get healthy foods for hardly any money, and to highlight some shopping strategies that I thought could help people who would like to spend less on food (e.g., shop frequently, buy a little at a time, etc.).

    The post “A Few Lessons” linked in the sidebar outlines some of the things I was trying to demonstrate with the project, and the lessons I feel came out of it.

    My next project will be focused specifically on low-cost nutrition and will be done in collaboration with a registered dietician. I will not be limited by the extreme conditions that made the thirty day project so difficult, and will be eating a diet that is much more similar to what I usually eat.

  20. thanks very much for providing that feedback and I look forward to following your next experiment: good luck – thank you, again.

  21. Leyli Says:

    Did you walk to these places? If not you wasted much more than a dollar in gas to drive to three stores to puy garlic powder and tomato paste.

  22. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for asking. I actually commented on that early on in the project when one of my cycling friends asked about the transportation cost issue.

    I did in fact walk or ride my bike for nearly all the trips, unless I was out in my car for another reason (i.e., on my way home from somewhere or to somewhere). Things got a little hairy when the media got all excited about the project, which made it hard for me to get much of anything done, so I did drive a couple of times when I would have liked to have walked or taken my bike. But at that point, I sort of felt like I was doing triage and the choice was driving or no food so I drove. But really, that was only one or two days.

    The day I went to the three stores for the $0.70 worth of food, I biked to Target and Whole Foods, which was about a 12-mile round trip, and stopped at Compare in my car on my way to a meeting. (I was running late that day, and by the time I could get to Compare it was nearly dark, and it’s not a great ride/walk in the dark because you have to go under the interstate and cross some busy, not-very-well-lighted roads where people aren’t really looking for cyclists. It’s okay during the day but not a good nighttime ride.)

    Also I have a 20-year-old Mazda 323 that gets 35-40 mpg, and with gas at $2/gallon, I don’t actually think I would have used more than a dollar in gas that day. Would have been a little less than a dollar I think. But definitely it would have added up had I driven every day.

    And just wondering… do you drive to get food, or do you walk/bike/take public transporation every time you go to get something at the store?

  23. Melissa Says:

    What is millet? What are wheat berries? Where do you find bulk bins? Is that where you bought your spices, too?

    It must be nice to live in an area that has so many options. I live in a rural area and it’s a 45-minute drive to the closest grocery store–so even a weekly trip is often difficult to schedule! And since that’s the only store around, we’re kind of hostage to what’s available there.

    Ironically, produce around here is more expensive than it is for my friends in other parts of the country because most of the local growers sell their stuff to national companies who send it elsewhere. We use a lot of frozen produce for that reason!!

    This was an interesting project! Although some of your tips wouldn’t work for people in my situation, still you have inspired me to look at food shopping differently. Thanks!

  24. lessisenough Says:

    Millet is a grain, it looks like couscous. It’s eaten a lot in Africa, and is a relatively high-protein grain. I had never had it before the project. It wasn’t my favorite, but I’m going to try to cook it again and see what I think; it was dry the way I ate it on the project, but I think if I were able to cook it with olive oil it might be good.

    Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels. Sometimes it’s called just “wheat,” or “hard red winter wheat” or something like that.

    I got all the grains (except the rice on Day 3) in the bulk bins at my local Whole Foods. The bulk section in the store keeps getting smaller, and I’m preparing for the day when it disappears altogether, but for now it’s a great resource. Also bulk spices are an incredible value. I know in a rural area you probably wouldn’t have that option, but if you ever have friends come out who live in cities and can go to natural food stores or ethnic markets for bulk spices before they come visit, it would be worth asking if they could do a little shopping excursion for you. One of my friends said she went to the local Indian market for mustard seed to take to her mom when she visitied just before canning season and said it was incredible how much more she was able to get for how much less than what her mom would have paid buying the little jars.

    I know I am lucky with the variety of stores I have, though I will also say that one of the reason I chose to live where I do is because of that — many interesting things are walkable from my house.

    I have some friends who live in rural areas, and am going to see if they have any suggestions on what people in that situation can do. Or if any readers have suggestions, feel free to post them.

  25. I’ve been enjoying your comments to this project! I live in a smaller community in a relatively-speaking remote area. Actually my community is big for here, but smaller compared with most metropolitan areas. I’ve lived here for 7-1/2 years, coming from a large city.

    I have found that there are trade-offs. While I do not have access to a Whole Foods or anything similar, I do have room for a large garden. I grow and then can, freeze, or store lots of veggies, including potatoes as a starch. Some of what I grow can be sold or traded for other things; not necessarily food but still useful. I can get meat and eggs from the farmer that produced them. There’s a bounty of fresh foods in season at the farmer’s market.

    It’s a different style of buying than I was used to, but I feel fortunate to have access to all these fresh ingredients! While I “stocked up for the winter” this year, I haven’t had to spend too much since; just for some staples and perishables. When I went to visit my brother at the holidays, I did pick up some bulk foods (spices, rice) to bring back.

    It would be a challenge on $1 a day spent daily, yet I think when a person averages it out, I do get very good quality food for what I spend — which is not all that much (but more than $365/yr).

  26. Catherine Says:

    I noticed your menu is heavy on grains which is understandable since they are cheap. I cannot eat eggs, chicken, oats or flour which would seem to make a project such as this even more challenging.

  27. lessisenough Says:

    That is true. My menu is heavy on grains, and also I ate a good deal of chicken and eggs. This is mostly because these are things I like, that are flexible, and that I eat most of the time, so I already had recipes and strategies for eating them. I wasn’t doing a lot of new things on the project, it was basically an extreme version of what I do normally.

    Different people have different dietary needs — some people need more protein, some less; some have trouble with too much carbohydrate or too much fat. Some people avoid meat and animal products for ethical reasons; some have food allergies or intolerances. Everyone is different.

    I wasn’t trying to tell people what they should or shouldn’t eat, or to develop an ideal menu. My main purpose was to outline a strategy for shopping and cooking that could be done very cheaply. The ideas I highlighted on the project can be used by anyone, regardless of their particular dietary needs or restrictions.

    Most people could not eat spending a dollar at a time (my eating plan was very low calorie, and if I had been doing it for more than 30 days and/or was not 10-20 lbs overweight when I started — or if I were a larger person with higher caloric needs — I might have done things differently). However I was primarly trying to outline a strategy for eating for less, one that involves focusing on whole foods and buying small quantities at a time, paying attention to your body and being flexible and creative as you go along. I wanted to show that you could do that, and still buy healthy foods, regardless of how little money you have, and in doing so, my hope was that people could put those ideas to use to work for themselves, working within their own particular needs.

  28. dave smyth Says:

    My analysis of your purchases by food group and the amount you spent and some ideas to think about for next time. My goal was to spend on average less than $1.50 per day, about $10/week.

    You could have made your own cheap yogurt using reconstituted milk powder, a starter and real fruit.

    A large banana has percentage less skin wastage than two small ones and can be frozen for later use, say with hot oatmeal. Black banana skins may not accurately reflect the quality of the contents.

    Plain lentils are not very expensive, and great served mixed with rice.

    Jumbo eggs are only slightly more expensive than extra large. One jumbo carton I bought were all double yolkers. What a bargain!

    Low cost soups and pasta sauces can be made in bulk made with shredded/blended vegetables, grains and a variety of pureed cooked beans. Freeze them one serving baggies. Sweet potato, turnips squash, cucumber, pumpkin and eggplant are often on sale for bulk buying and freezing for soups.

    I priced out each meal portion or snack and averaged $1.14 per day over a six week period and just under a dollar a day for the last four weeks. I tended to buy any food that cost, or was on sale for less than $1.00/pound, fresh, frozen, cooked(and drained) or dried(beans/grains). I had dried and frozen food left over at the end of the experiment

    Your purchases:




    split peas


    biscuit mix
    wheat berries
    white rice






    curry powder

    You seem to have spent about $28.60. Well done.

  29. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for your analysis. I did spend $28.60 and your suggestions are all good. The main limitation I had was that I set up my project so I could only spend a dollar each day (unless I had spent less than a dollar on a prior day) which made it difficult to get things like bulk potatoes or dry milk (the smallest box I could find was $3+, which for a 30-day project wasn’t cost-effective) and other items that could be saved and frozen. But most people, even those trying to eat for a dollar a day, are able to spend more than a dollar at a time, so they have more options and can take some of your suggestions.

    Interestingly, lentils were not the cheapest legumes in the bulk aisle — split peas were, so that’s what I bought. I think I bought large eggs once and extra large once. I was wondering what the calculation would be to determine at which price point going up an egg size makes sense. That was a bit of a dilemma for me, is it worth the extra 5/10/15 cents to go up a size? I wondered if Amy Dacyzyn had ever done a calculation for that in the Tightwad Gazette, but I couldn’t remember.

  30. Chris Pratt Says:

    You should write a book. I’m amazed that you eat healthy at 3.00 a day let alone 1.00 a day! Your blog is really inspiring and puts things in a different perspective. Last night I I went to the grocery store at the wishes of my daughter to pick up a bag of corn chips, salsa and cheese for en evening treat. Before I left the house my wife yells out, “while you are at it pick up a gallon of milk” Whwn I was shelling out the 20 dollars at the cash register all I could think about that that was 3 weeks of food budget at a dollar a day or even 8 days worth of food on your “normal” budget!!

  31. Amy Says:

    I just discovered this blog. Great work and very inspirational! I’m going to start this tomorrow.



  32. Claire Says:

    Ok, maybe it’s me, but on the last day, meal 3 was a peach yogurt? Not exactly what I would call a meal.

  33. lessisenough Says:

    No, not much of a meal, but I have sort of a weird schedule and I actually only eat 2 meals a day. (You might have come across this explanation already by now on other parts of the blog — many people have commented on it but that’s how I always eat and I decided not to change for the project, since it was already disruptive enough the way it was. And also I wanted to make the point that people should eat as many or as few meals as they want — you shouldn’t feel like you have to eat three meals every day just because everyone else does.)

    So any kind of “Meal 3” would probably be called “dessert” by anyone else. And peach yogurt seems to be a perfectly fine dessert.

    Also the last day of the project was kind of a mess because I had a meeting and then had to go meet the Good Morning America camera people at the grocery store so they could film me buying food and everything got all screwed up and I ended up not even spending my money. Then the interview didn’t finish until 8:45pm and it was totally frustrating. And then they ended up giving one of my tips as “buy in bulk” which is in fact the opposite of what I actually said. Grrr.

    Anyway, if you look carefully you’ll note that there aren’t really Meal 3s for any other day, and that was kind of a throwaway that I ate late, after the tv stuff was done. Hope that answers your question.

  34. Deb Says:

    On day 7, you get Jiffy mix. I was reading the directions and it takes milk. Did you buy milk too or did you try it with water? And it says to grease the pans. How did you modify the recipe? This is such a great blog. Thanks for your hard work.

    Also trying to see how you cooked your wheat berries with the split peas. Did you cook them separately and then put them together or did you cook them together?

  35. lessisenough Says:

    Sorry for the delay on responding to this! I’ve been lulled into the idea that no one is commenting at this point.

    I definitely did not buy milk, so I must have just used water, and it was fine. Also it works okay without greasing the pans, though it sticks a bit so you lose some in the pans.

    For the wheat berries and split peas, I’m pretty sure I cooked the wheat berries first and then added the split peas once the wheat berries were partly cooked. Because wheat berries take a while to cook, so if you cooked them both at the same time, you would just have mush for the split peas.

  36. adddaline Says:

    I think it would be a better idea to spend $31 dollars on a month supply of food instead of literally spending a dollar a day. That way you would get more bang for your buck and be able to eat decently.

  37. lessisenough Says:

    Sorry for the delay in responding to this. Summer vacation!

    I’m pretty sure I addressed this issue in some of my strategy and commentary posts, but I specifically did the project spending $1 at a time beause I wanted to do it the hardest way possible, partly to see if that could even be done and also to demonstrate an approach to shopping, cooking, and eating that doesn’t involve large, up-front cash outlays or a lot of advance planning.

    You may give up some economies of scale, but for small households, the economies of scale are often a false bargain — you spend less per unit to get more units than you need or can easily consume. This causes you to either waste food or to eat things you don’t want to eat simply because that’s what you have and all of your food budget has been spent.

    This is especially a problem if you have a very limited food budget. If you read any of the blogs by elected officials doing a “food stamp challenge” they always end up with a really odd assortment of generally unappealing things at the end, because, for instance, they bought sweet potatoes on special and now all they have left is sweet potatoes and no money to buy anything else to eat with them. They probably would have been better off with less sweet potatoes and more cash in reserve, to buy a banana or some frozen peas or whatever it was they ended up with not enough of.

    By spending a little bit a time, you are able to adjust your purchases to what is available and how you feel at the time. You may spend more on a per-unit basis, but you spend less overall, and you eat better, because nothing is wasted and you can work with what you have at any one time to maximize its value.

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