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December 9, 2008 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Two social justice teachers decide to start eating on one dollar a day.

See also: Food Cost Index.

Day 3: $5 toothpaste, $0.97 meal

Day 21: We have ventured into new territory. Soup! We are eating a good deal of bean, rice, chickpea, and tomato based foods. (Dinner: 1 Bowl of Southwestern Tortilla Soup - $0.18)

Day 27: We had ramen noodles today. It was hard to find something ready to eat, so we took the lazy way out. Despite the fact that I was longing for it earlier, I now realize that we have been lucky to avoid it. It is filling, but it has very little nutritional value, and too much salt.

A little dated (from September), but still worth checking out.
posted by puckish (42 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
We'll all be doing this once hyper-deflation kicks in.
posted by gman at 8:23 PM on December 9, 2008


This is interesting for those of us on a budget, but the self-indulgence can be a bit much at times:

In high school, I repeated math every summer.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t learn how to do it; I just didn’t care. What did math really have to do with life anyway? I was too busy booking concerts, playing music, and developing my passion for activism.


The self-righteous vegans in the comments don't help either. I appreciate what these and people like them are trying to do, but they're often so sanctimonious and unreformedly self-satisfied that I can't read anything they write without feeling the overwhelming urge to put my fist through the monitor.
posted by Electrius at 8:24 PM on December 9, 2008 [16 favorites]


I definitely don't have the self discipline to even attempt such a feat. I think I would cheat within 12 hours. 36, tops.
posted by lunit at 8:30 PM on December 9, 2008


Oh my god you guys please stop fucking blogging about every breath and shit you take and thing you think and eyelash you lose and piece of lint you flick off your sweater and nail you break and meal you eat and cupcake you frost and blog you blog and and and..........
posted by tristeza at 8:34 PM on December 9, 2008 [12 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, it's a lot of work for our housemaid Gabriella...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:35 PM on December 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


Serious question: What is a "social justice teacher"? I couldn't find out from the bio information.
posted by bardic at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Looks like a great candidate for Stuff White People Like under a category like "Blogging Arbritrarily Self-imposed Limitations"
posted by lottie at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


At least Morgan Spurlock has a bit of charisma. Not much, but a little, at least.
posted by item at 8:41 PM on December 9, 2008


This is all really interesting, but as they point out, it takes a certain amount of money saved up to really eat this cheaply. It's a bit counter intuitive at first, but when you are scraping by and have so little cash you buy the smallest of anything available, which really screws you in the long run. Barbara Ehrenreich noted something similar in Nickel and Dimed when she originally had fantasies of making large lentil stews to ration out and live cheaply on, and quickly realized it wasn't easy to start out doing or typical at all.
posted by piratebowling at 8:42 PM on December 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Mme, can you spare a dollar? I have not eaten in 3 days.

I admire your iron will, young man.
posted by dirty lies at 8:45 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


What is a "social justice teacher"?

A white person with a college degree.
posted by dhammond at 8:49 PM on December 9, 2008 [24 favorites]


Serious question: What is a "social justice teacher"? I couldn't find out from the bio information.

Christopher Greenslate, the $1/day guy founded a social justice program for high school students which includes scholarship in Human Rights, Animal Protection and Environmental Ethics. Here's his site which features a video about the discipline.
posted by terranova at 8:50 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those meals sound good. This highlights a major accomplishment of our civilization: food is extremely cheap relative to the productive output even of poor people.

There are some caveats: some of the cheapness is artificial (farm subsidies, energy bubble); some people can't take full advantage of it (piratebowling's point about liquidity constraints); some parts of the world aren't included; and so on. But compared to standards of living prevalent throughout human history, it's amazingly great.

I didn't see anything about this in the links; apologies if I'm redundant.
posted by grobstein at 9:00 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is all really interesting, but as they point out, it takes a certain amount of money saved up to really eat this cheaply.
...

From the first comment: "The total for 1 of each thing on this list is $156.47" They go on to properly break down how you'd actually eat daily on almost $1 a day, and it's much worse.
posted by odinsdream at 9:00 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I did this when I worked at a certain major US amusement park one summer, though to be fair, it was close to little over a dollar. Typically, depending on if I got the opening-5 p.m. shift or 2 p.m.-closing shift, I'd eat a meal of about $1 from the employee cafeteria (like an order of cheese fries, nachos, or if I was lucky 3 hot dogs for $1). My other meal would be a peanut butter & jelly sandwich made with a $1 loaf of bread I got from the men's dormitory store, and the cheapest jars of peanut butter and jelly I could find. Once in a while, I'd splurge and pick up some bananas for 70 cents a two pounds or so or a bag of nachos. If it was an ungodly hot day, I'd either spend a nickel for a peppermint patty (since I lacked AC or a fan and the building was ancient), twenty nine cents for an ice cream sandwich, or sixty nine cents for an ice cream bar in the shape of Snoopy (I loved that one because it'd make me feel better when I was feeling bad).

I just did it because I was only getting paid $5.15 an hour and I wanted to save as much money as humanely possible, and not to be self-righteous. I sure as hell did not blog or brag about the fact. However, once I get a job, I'll probably do it again mostly out of necessity.

On the plus side, I did lose quite a bit of weight that summer.
posted by champthom at 9:01 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


The "Buy Nothing New for a Year" lady in lottie's last link says that she allows herself to buy things that you cannot buy used, such as "lightbulbs, panties".

I'm pretty confident that there's a whole industry built on used panties.
posted by Flunkie at 9:02 PM on December 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


The only good to come out of this will be two self-absorbed assholes starving to death.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:08 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


They wouldn't be the only two self-absorbed assholes around here.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:10 PM on December 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


bardic: "Serious question: What is a "social justice teacher"?"

Dollar a day, same as in town.
posted by team lowkey at 9:26 PM on December 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Stunts are as stunts do. Baloney.
posted by lesChaps at 9:46 PM on December 9, 2008


I thought at first that this was going to be some sort of "walk in someone else's shoes" exercise. Almost half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day, after all.

But eating for a dollar a day is a lot easier in an industrialized western country with full access to fully stocked supermarkets and bargain aisles. Hell, you could go into the dumpsters behind most supermarkets and find plenty of perfectly edible food. Similarly, they're buying in bulk. When you take one recipe and divide each ingredient by the unit used to make the dish, you might find a lot of your meals cost about a dollar a day, especially if you're a vegetarian.

Of course, a lot of America's urban poor would need to shell out money just to get to a supermarket. So I guess the lesson here is, if you're living comfortably in an industrialized western country and buy in bulk, you can live on a dollar day. OK then.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:00 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


You'll never live like common people. You'll never do what common people do.
posted by Tacodog at 10:12 PM on December 9, 2008 [31 favorites]


Damn you, Tacodog.
posted by yhbc at 10:15 PM on December 9, 2008


The only good to come out of this will be two self-absorbed assholes starving to death.

Milton Freidman's a socialist for proposing negative income tax, the kid who builds a dry ice bomb and sets it off in a swimming pool is called a terrorist, and now you're an asshole if you decide to blog about living on a grocery budget for a month?

I'd buy self-absorbed, but that's a pretty common human failing...
posted by weston at 11:39 PM on December 9, 2008


I did this last month, complete with annoying blog. Given, I live in a cheap Asian neighborhood (Monterey Park, CA) and cooked Asian-style. Completely doable. I spent $25.02, and had loads of tofu, bok choy, and half a sack of rice left over. And most of a 5-lb bag of potatoes, which I only finished going through yesterday.

In retrospect: if I had planned my meals instead of just going to the store and buying whatever, I would have spent even less. Oh, and I lost a fantastic amount of weight.

My final thoughts? Writing about such meals was boring. And eating on the cheap (and writing about it) is really no big deal. Who isn't doing it these days? I kind of wasted my time.
posted by Xere at 11:51 PM on December 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


But eating for a dollar a day is a lot easier in an industrialized western country with full access to fully stocked supermarkets and bargain aisles.

I seriously think you have this backward. Where do you think the poor in places like Asia and Africa get their food? They buy staples in the market. Rice, flour, beans, lentils -- the ability to buy these in bulk is not a function of western metropolitan supermarkets, quite the reverse. The trend in industrialized countries is towards processed, value added foods -- these would be unknown to most of the world's poor.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:17 AM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


I seriously think you have this backward. Where do you think the poor in places like Asia and Africa get their food? They buy staples in the market. Rice, flour, beans, lentils -- the ability to buy these in bulk is not a function of western metropolitan supermarkets, quite the reverse. The trend in industrialized countries is towards processed, value added foods -- these would be unknown to most of the world's poor.

You have to consider that many of these poor nations have high inflation and a currency that doesn't stretch very far, let alone how much they earn per day, how far they have to travel to get to these markets, as well as what the transportation and power infrastructure is able to support with regards to distribution and storage. It remains far, far easier to get more food for less money in a wealthy nation.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:48 AM on December 10, 2008


this also points out how it is easier to live on very little outside of the developed world where the informal economy has 'solutions' that fill these gaps

you're not paying for supermarket food, and as someone above pointed out, it is easier to live on less if you're next door to a chinatown (did this in SF, lived on rice and stir frys)
posted by infini at 1:24 AM on December 10, 2008


If an asshole self-absorbs, that's a big savings on toilet paper right there! This Western technological development is a boon to productivity!


That said, I'm tempted to try this for a week.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:31 AM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


As a grad student facing a likely tuition increase (but no student loan increase), this blog is actually very helpful to me for ideas on how to trim my food expenses. Thanks!
posted by Jacqueline at 2:47 AM on December 10, 2008


Wow, a lot of hate for seeing how the other half lives. You got to hand it to MetaFilter, if there's any activity that can remotely be seen as an attack on the status quo, they are ON IT.
posted by DU at 4:47 AM on December 10, 2008 [9 favorites]


I share a house with 5 other guys and we all eat together every night. One favourite after-dinner activity is working out how much the meal cost us and laughing at people who buy ready meals. A good spag bol works out at about £1 each, which I know is $2, but eating on the cheap really isn't that hard if you're cooking for a family.
posted by muthecow at 6:29 AM on December 10, 2008


I was expecting there to be more Little Hugs and Homegirls Chips involved in this excercise.
posted by The Straightener at 6:38 AM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was thinking the other day about this photo series that documents a week's worth of food and its cost for families around the world. (I think this has been linked here before.) $1 a day essentially feeds a family of 13 in Bhutan, but it barely gets you through the morning tea and weetabix in England.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:21 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Marisa, yes, there are people who don't have access to food, but they're not the poor, they're the starving. They wouldn't fare very well in a western supermarket without money either. But for everyone else (outside of a relatively tiny middle class), in most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (and even in some of Eastern and Southern Europe) what you'd call living cheaply and buying in bulk is simply the way people live and always have. The tools of commerce are bowls and baskets and bags, and that pound of lentils will cost an awful lot less in an Indian market than it would in the bulk aisle of your supermarket. The ability to buy food cheaply and in bulk is not an invention of western supermarkets nor is it something they do very well.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:50 AM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


At one point, I'd wanted to create a recipe listing site of $1 meals, mostly as an experiment in meal making creativity. I was hoping this would be that idea actually executed, but instead I got annoyed after reading through one blog entry about how HARD it is. If I ever decide to take on the project again, I will tell myself: no blog.

Interesting how they whine about the nutritional value of ramen, and then go on to eat "Gluten Cutlets" for dinner--isn't that just a fried doughnut?
posted by razdrez at 10:01 AM on December 10, 2008


Interesting how they whine about the nutritional value of ramen, and then go on to eat "Gluten Cutlets" for dinner--isn't that just a fried doughnut?

If by 'gluten cutlets' they mean Seitan, then no. Seitan is a very nutritious, protein-rich food often used as a meat substitute.
posted by Adam_S at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2008


Serious question: What is a "social justice teacher"?

My guess is Unitarian.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2008


People all over the world live like this, but don't start web sites about it.
posted by Sassenach at 1:32 PM on December 10, 2008


The ability to buy food cheaply and in bulk is not an invention of western supermarkets nor is it something they do very well.

For the record, I never claimed it was the "invention" of the west to buy in bulk, nor did I say supermarkets were particularly efficient. I said it was far, far easier to eat for a dollar a day when you're living comfortably in an industrialized western country because of an abundance of food in numerous centralized locations and the sheer amount of perfectly edible food which is discarded (a very industrialized phenomenon). I later on added to this the power grid and the transportation infrastructure's ability to maintain storage and distribution.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:26 PM on December 10, 2008


a lot of the people all over the world who live like this don't have the means to start web sites about their situation. sure this couple were able to spend whatever on gas and electricity, but they do help to bring the point home. while some of people here apparently seem to know how to get by on $1/day with panache, but there are lots of other non-MeFites who would never have contemplated poverty's impact without this couple's example.
posted by memnock at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


People all over the world live like this, but don't start web sites about it.

This project is potentially interesting because it's being undertaken by people for whom "living like this" wasn't part of how they were raised and who don't really have the touchstones for how to do it intuitively. It's a sort of reverse-engineering, like a less-annoying steampunk.
posted by kittyprecious at 12:06 PM on December 11, 2008


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