Thursday

Day 30 - In Conclusion

Over the past month, I've talked about how my view of food has changed. I talked about the conversations I've had about this project and they way some people opened up to me in a very unique way. I've talked about the excitement a nine-cent hot dog can bring and I've talked a lot about rice. Until today, I've kept politics out of it, mostly because that's not what this was ultimately about. But the truth is, politics, or maybe just people in general, did play a role in it.

On October 11th, 2006, I was reading the paper when an article caught my eye. It was written by Lawrence Cosentino and appeared in the October 11th edition of the Lansing City Pulse. The headline was, "Just Hold It Together." You can find it online if you feel like looking.

The story was about 42 representatives from local businesses, government agencies and non-profits that participated in an hour long workshop designed to simulate the lives of poor people. They were all assigned roles such as "single mother with no job", and then sat around a big table role-playing for an hour, trading fake money back and forth and worrying about how they would feed their kids on minimum wage. The article was interspersed with quotes from the participants like, after this experience, "I will not be the same."

This was, of course, a stupid exercise for anyone to go through. In the end, the participants convinced themselves that this had given them some insight into what it's like to be poor, if only for an hour. But they had not been poor for an hour, they had done a math problem for an hour. They sat around a big table in a nice building (with full stomachs if I had to guess), and essentially 'ran the numbers' on why it's difficult to pay your rent or buy groceries with a minimum wage job. It seems as though these leaders of our community should have been able to do math on their own.

I think that this article is where I first got the idea to eat for a dollar a day. After reading it, I desperately wanted to find something tangible that a normal person could do to actually get some insight on what being poor is all about. It's one thing to say, "Being poor means you can't eat a lot of food," but it's a completely different experience to actually go through.

Of course, my month long experiment didn't come anywhere close to capturing the realities of being poor; I always knew in the back of my head that I could get more food if I needed it, and more importantly, being poor involves a lot more than just not eating much. But this was a start. And it was an honest start. It wasn't just sitting around in a room for an hour.

There were other reasons to do this experiment as well. One, I just wanted to know if it could be done. Two, I wanted to do something unique for no other reason than it was unique. Three, I wanted to do something that would shock my system just to see how I would react. In one way or another, this achieved all of those.

It's pretty difficult to sum up what I've learned this month. The best I could really do is to tell you to go back and read all of the posts. The lessons learned are in how I came to think about food differently, how my body adapted around the challenge, and in the conversations I've had this month.

For those who care, the total amount I spent on food this week was $27.28. That’s about 93 cents a day, although I still have quite a bit of food left over. I also lost about 18 pounds this month.

And oh yeah, some of you may remember that in one post I mentioned that I was doing something special with the money I saved. Well here it is…

I'll admit it's not the most original idea, but it just seemed fitting.

97 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing that cheque brought a tear to my eye. Maybe not original, but certainly beautiful.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...I spent on food this week was $27.28. That’s about 93 cents a day..."

Just a slight error you might want to fix.

Congrats, you are opening many eyes with your project. I found you on reddit.com

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I'd heard of your project a month ago; this might have done you some good: http://www.kurtsaxon.com/foods002.htm

1:35 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Reminds me of a time about 15 years ago when I lived on rice mixed with soup for a couple of months, all paid for on a maxed out credit card, while worrying about next months rent and travel card.

Very impressive. Well done!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Survival Acres said...

Congratulations on your experiment, and sticking with it!

Personally, I found this story inspiring for several reasons. One, I sell bulk foods over the Internet and have wondered about doing exactly this, eating from my own "store" as it were and forgoing all the supermarket crap.

I eat a lot of my own products now, of course, and save a lot of money, but I'm still more then "filling in" from the supermarkets chains and dollar stores, mostly because of simple dietary habits.

I certainly don't need to do this, but it's a habit I've yet to break.

Could I do what you did? I'm definitely considering it!

Two, I'm keenly interested in sustainable living, which is what my blog is (usually) all about when I'm not ranting against the System.

Your experiment has the benefit of revealing that living simply is quite possible, at least when it comes to food.

You might consider extending your idea to other avenues after you comic venture (pun intended), such as limiting your "human footprint" or walking to work for 30 days or something related, you've certainly got a knack for it!

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good start on thinking about food, but why not learn how to cook and try it again? Eating whole foods is cost effective, delicious and healthy. There are lots of good vegetarian cook books out there that allow you a full range of tastes and textures. Not to mention soups and stews that are nutritious and which you can live on for days. Bake your own bread and it will be healthier and cheap. Hot dogs? Try tofu.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the idea. The only thing that bothers me is how difficult it is to navigate through your site. I would have loved to read all your posts, but there's no next button and each post is on its own page. I have to click out of each post then find the next one in the sequence. Probably an issue with Blogger, but not user friendly enough. Sorry.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Survival Acres said...

Anonymous, here's a tip:

Click the Archives "November" link on the right side, scroll all the way down to the bottom, and read the blog entries by date, and you won't have to load each page!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Steven Kryskalla said...

Here's a link to the archives for the entire month of November. I really enjoyed reading it.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Cafeunie said...

I am impressed. My first paycheck comes tomorrow after 5 months of unemployment so I have learned a few of your lessons on my own. You should check out www.hillbillyhousewife.com, Miss Maggie has put together a menu to feed 4 for $45 per week. Per person, that's only a little more per day than you spent and it is nutritionally balanced.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Noullis said...

I'm so glad I caught mention of your blog on reddit.com

Reading your account of the month in one sitting certainly made an impression.

That's more than a mere donation you made at the end of it all.

Respect!

9:51 PM  
Blogger Evilpig said...

Great site...

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Foodie Universe said...

Just read your entire blog from start to finish! I found it really interesting for two reasons: one, I like saving money, and two, your experiment was a much more extreme version of one I did right after I graduated from college but didn't have any job yet and was determined to make it on my own.

My goal was to only spend $20 a week on food. Like you, I discovered that there was a lot of free food out there--people are always offering you food, it seems, and they want you to take a lot of it (and I did). Unlike you, I found it challenging to eat on $20 a week (though I pulled it off). Unlike you, I wasn't willing to eat 9 cent hotdogs or ramen for nutritional reasons. For me, the experiment was challenging in that grocery shopping was more time-consuming (I would go to two stores a week to get everything I wanted as cheaply as possible), meal planning was more time consuming (I spent a couple of hours a week planning all my meals and a $20 grocery list to go with it), and wasting food was not an option, nor was eating more than the alloted amount at any given meal. A typical grocery list would have been something like one liter of soda ($1 on sale), the cheapest pack of chicken breasts available ($4), 2 packs of tofu ($3), beans, a large container of plain yogurt, and a couple of other things, with stuff like eggs, flour, and sugar carrying over from one week to the next and allowing me to make things like pancakes and cookies. And now I wonder why I spend $200 every month on groceries, so this month I plan to cut back to a still luxurious $140.

10:53 PM  
Anonymous dave said...

Incredible. Congrats on your accomplishment.

Amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it :)

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing. Very flipping cool. You have inspired me.

I live in Thailand - where I imagine some folk probably do live on $1 per day. I have always wondered what this would be like. Yet I have never tried to empathize.

Your experiment gives me an idea: To find out what the average monthly food expenditure of people in this nation is and try to replicate it. To do what you did so I could feel and experience an existence that many people live in. And perhaps, to better understand the poverty that afflicts so many... even here in Thailand.

Thanks, bro.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog!

Waiting for your posting on how you do when resuming your normal eating routine...

10:06 AM  
Anonymous StaceyLynne said...

Perhaps the folks who played at the math game for an hour could try this exercise for a month. The real point is, it is hard to eat a healthy diet when you are this poor. Thus, poor people tend to have more health problems. I know you don't plan to stick with it since you do have means and you know you can at least survive for a while on the type of food you were eating should the need arise. It's sad we live in the richest country and we have millions of people who have no choice but to eat likethis each month. Drinking a lot of water was very healthy for you, so keep that up and lay off the giant cokes. It sounds like a great Lenten project to me. ( Hint, hint, readers...)

10:58 AM  
Blogger Jordan Wilberding said...

Might want to block out your signature as well.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to try the $1 a day cooking, but eat everything from scratch, check out http://www.fcs.uga.edu/pubs/current/FDNS-E-34-1.html

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is an ambitious attempt to understand what it is like to live with little money for food. I agree that the hour long exercise you read about in the paper sounds stupid and would not give any insight into what it is truly like to be poor.

But this has reminded me about Jane Elliot's Blue Eye/Brown Eye successful experiments (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Eyes/Brown_Eyes) which give people an insight into what it is like to live with racism. Her videos freak me out enough without actually being a participant.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great way to end things...

For other people who are looking to do something like that (for whatever the reason), I would recommend that you look at the health details of the foods you are eating carefully to make sure you get enough of the right nutrients.

You can use an online site to do this pretty easily, like .

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

I just discovered your blog, now that you are finished. I did the same thing two years ago, after a month of wretched excess during the holidays. I had considered that billions of people live on a dollar a day for all their expenses (not just food), that in this country food is the problem, not the answer, and that I would be better off by simplifying. I ate lots of lentils and rice. In the end, it didn't seem like such a hardship. The real story is what everyone thinks when you tell them you brought a bowl of lentils and rice to work for lunch. As if there is something wrong with you for not paying seven dollars for some fried junk in the cafeteria. In the end, the only reason I didn't keep doing it indefinitely is because it takes a lot of time to cook things, and you have to plan it out more carefully to make sure you have something around that you can eat at meal times.
But I am still trying to think of a way to start a national or international effort to do this. People could pledge to do it for a month and send the money saved to charity, as you did. I was thinking along the lines of the Third World instead of America, because the thing I discovered was food is sooo abundant here that you can get by on pocket change here, if you try. The price of a cup of coffee can easily get someone through the day (if they have a place to cook it, store it, etc). And it is healthier. I lost eight pounds that month, felt fine, and was never hunrgy.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Honey Bunny said...

that's an awesome idea! i loved reading this account of your journey. i think it's great that you've donated what you saved to your community. more people should do the same.

8:43 AM  
Blogger SF Money Musings said...

I tried cutting my bill to $20 a month for groceries by shopping at ethnic markets only and rarely at Trader Joe's or big box stores. It didn't work quite well .. and I shopped usually at closing time where I get everything super cheap. and im just cooking for myself.

i need to plan my meals better if I want to try this again.

thanks for documenting the journey! i just discovered your blog through Getrichslowly.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Til hamingju! Congrats!

Your webpage is famous in Icelandic chatrooms ;)

Props for sticking to your plan and proving something to your selve and the world.

The advice from Iceland is to eat boiled oatmeal (salt to taste) when bucet flow is low. Cheap, helthy and full of vitamins :)

Kv. Hronn from Iceland

5:26 AM  
Anonymous The Guilty Carnivore said...

You are my hero.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Mary Sue said...

You. Rock.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Chuck Warpehoski said...

Hey there, great experiment! Well done.

Just a note, my organization, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice , is the one that organized the welfare simulation featured in the Lasing City Pulse.

The simulation certainly is not as hard-core as only spending $30 a month on food, but it is more than just sitting at a table doing math problems. The simulation was designed by a group of welfare recipients based on their real-life experiences of poverty, and many of the volunteers who facilitate the simulation are current or former welfare recipients who have first-hand experience on this issue.

In the welfare simulation, participants are assigned to play the role of a person in a particular family, maybe a single mother of a five-year-old, maybe an elderly couple.

The power of the simulation is that it demonstrates all the challenges that a family on welfare faces: how to get to work without a car, how to care for kids when you can't afford childcare, the hassle of lines at the bank and the pawn shop, the allure of crime when you're facing eviction.

Like StaceyLynne, I think these business leaders and others would be well served by seeing more on a first-hand basis of what the challenges of poverty are. In the meantime, since they employee people in the welfare-to-work program, I think the simulation is a powerful way to get them to understand what their employees are going through.

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not only was i hungry AND poor when i was a child, but i now work at a food bank. i can tell you from first and secondhand experience that your donation, however un-original you may believe it to be, made a tremendous difference in more lives than you would imagine. In fact, your donation of just the money that you saved on food for one month, would have allowed us to distribute over $3000.00 worth of food to the poor and hungry. kudos to you...not because you "did it", but because you shared it.

8:53 AM  
Blogger David said...

Your idea was interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience.

It really raised a lot of questions for me.

First, although you lived for 30 days on $27.28, it doesn't sound like you could have gone on indefinitely for $0.93 a day. You wrote that you lost 18 lbs during the month. That's pretty significant. How much do you think you'd have had to spend to maintain your weight.

Along those lines, your diet didn't seem well-balanced, so again one might not really be able to live indefinitely on $30 per month.

Second, your food sounded amazingly bland. Why? You wrote for example that you'd allow yourself to take sauce packets from Taco Bell, so why not make some spicy beans and rice? If you were to do this over (or more likely, if you were to consult someone else who planned to do your experiment) do you think it would be better to spend a little money on spices?

Third, considering your inspiration for this experiment and with your revelations about food during the month, do you think it is socially acceptable to allow people to try to subsist on the minimum amount of money needed to get enough calories to live?

I don't mean these to be criticisms of your experiment. I just think that you may have gained some insight into these questions since you went through this.

Thanks again for sharing your experiences here.

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a very good idea. I sometimes get very angry at people who pretend to emphatize and seem to know how other people life when in fact they don't. In my country some people are so poor that they pick up local herbs/weeds from sides of the roads etc. and they add a little oil and some rice to it and eat them. It would certainly help if many of us got a glimpse of their lives.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Lucas McDonnell said...

While you say this doesn't replicate the experience of being poor, I think it's very close. When I was younger I worked a full-time minimum wage job and certainly had a tough time buying food, paying bills and rent. I didn't live in abject poverty of course, but I stayed home all the time and didn't eat properly.

Great that you did this -- and I like the donation idea. Nicely done.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Yareking said...

that was the best ending you could have done.

11:54 AM  
Blogger ★ d.m.m said...

I saw you on digg today. say what you will but the check made me a bit teary also. congrats to you.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be extremely curious to know if you gain back more weight than you lost, and if it will become your new 'normal' weight.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Mungo said...

Terrific blog - I was so nicely surprised in the final post - the cheque! I didn't see that coming. Congratulations!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Andy Kong said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I like your reasons behind it too.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just stopped in from Digg and read your posts straight through. It's very enlightening to absorb a full month's thoughts about food in 20 minutes. Makes me wonder why I spend so much on so little.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

SAVING MONEY WITH A THERMOS BOTTLE
http://www.wovoca.com/survival-saving-money.htm

Here's an article on just what you were doing.

Basically it is about sprouting wheat, and cooking the sprouts over night in a thermos.

Tastey and extremely healthy!

Personal injury lawyer on a banana peel?
http://www.givemetheinfo.com/blog/blogger.html

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found you on digg.com

http://digg.com/offbeat_news/1_per_day_budget_for_the_whole_month

I've been telling myself for a few months now that I should probably take up the habit of some form of meditative exercises in the morning before my classes start.

Your log reminded me of why I wanted to improve myself in the first place. Thank you for the read.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Chris Morrell said...

Very interesting blog, this reminds me a lot of my usual college diet. Lots of pasta and beans with a few days of splurging. Glad to see you made it all the way through, I think would have caved about 5 days in.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a good man. Slashdot tag: '5, insightful'.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Russell Allen said...

Looking back you probably coulda squeezed in some cornflakes for the occassional breakfast.

That said, you are a braver man than me. Well done on the effort, the insight, the charitable donation and the weight loss.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inspired from your idea, I decided not to drink any alchohol for the first 3 months of 2007 and donate that money to charity.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very impressive.

As a note, you also could've gone to http://www.angelfoodministries.com and paid $25 for:


(6) 5 oz. Bacon-Wrapped Beef Filets
(1) 1.5 lb. Boneless Pork Roast
(1) 2 lb. Fully Cooked Frying Chicken
(1) 2 lb. Salsbury Steak Entree
(1) 2 lb. Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast
(1) 1 lb. Flame-Broiled Meatballs
(1) 16 oz. Bean Soup Mix
(1) 26 oz. Pasta Sauce
(1) 16 oz. Pasta
(1) 7.5 oz. Mac & Cheese
(1) 24 oz. French Fries
(1) 16 oz. Green Peas & Carrots
(1) 15 oz. Diced Bartlett Pears
(1) 14 oz. Peanut Butter
(1) 8 oz. Pancake Mix
(1) Dessert Item
(1) 7 oz. Brown N Serve Sausage

Which is easily enough for a month, with cash left over.

1:04 AM  
Blogger King Nothing said...

Reminds me of when I was poor as all hell and living off of ramen, peanutbutter and salami sandwiches, and buttered egg noodles. Only it lasted me about 3 months instead of one.

I think its great that you donated the money to a food bank, well done!!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous paige said...

Found you on digg, like many others...

That check made me tear up as well. What an interesting experiment. You have inspired me to try something similar. Too often I fix myself dinner, then zone out in front of the computer or TV whilst eating it. I don't even think about what I'm eating! Maybe something similar to this will make me more aware of what I'm mindlessly shoveling into my gaping maw each day!

12:17 PM  
Blogger greeny said...

cool blog. I'm glad I read about your experiment and that you donated your saved $.

3:18 PM  
Blogger JJisafool said...

Great site, admirable experiment, I'm looking forward to heading over to your next experiment.

I wish there were more people thinking and acting as deeply as you.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the end of 2005 I moved to San Diego and on the 3rd of January 2006 I was homeless. There were some problems that created this situation, but it was an experience. I was different from many homeless people. I was living out of a BMW in a parking lot going to a job every day, so I can say it wasnt the worst experience. It is however very difficult to go a week without a shower or missing meals against your will. It is also very depressing when you need to drive to get some food and you have to choose between gas and the food. It was cold at night and difficult to get by many times, but I did it for 3 months and I am a better person for it. I am still reading through all your posts, but this last one about poor people made me want to provide another example. You really dont understand what the homeless have to go through every day that is until you have to experience it for yourself. You also find out who your real friends are.

Anonymous for a reason

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking at your receipts, I know of ramen that is $.10 per package. I think I could shave about $5 off the bill. LOL! My sister and I were talking about days when $30 a month was all she had for two adults and three little boys, and part of that included a few household items and gas for the car. Thank God for dinner at friend's houses and all those free food parties at work.

I don't know why anyone who doesn't have to would want to try this experiment, but having to live this way really changes everything about how you live. Even now, when food money is not pressing, getting that $6 fast food meal still makes me shake my head and think, I could eat for days for what I just spent on a cheeseburger.

7:54 PM  
Blogger jesirose said...

Brought a tear to my eye too.
Very moving

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow--what a moving experiement and a fascinating read. You have a beautiful, engaging writing style and a deep sensitivity that makes this a joy to read.

1:30 AM  
Blogger JesterV said...

Wonderful job. The experiment. The writing, the format. And the check to the local food bank (I'm in Lansing too) was the perfect ending. Congratualtions on this entire project and thank you.

I'll not bore you with stories of living in my car on $2 or $3 worth of food a week during a particularly bad period, but I recall one incident from tha time that was very revealing, one I remebered as I read your posts. As I began to get on my feet I decided to treat myself to a feast when I got the money--a Big Mac, fries and a Coke. Seemed like a feast to me then. And it seemed that way when I started eating it. At first. But as I ate it the taste began to remind me of lard, or how lard and grease smell when someone was frying foods. After a few bites of the Big Mac and some fries, I gave up. It just seemed greasy and slimy and disgusting after weeks and weeks of ramen and bread and generic canned soup. My metabolism and reference context for tastes had changed. The only thing I finished was the Coke. And I still have the big plastic cup it came in, 15 years later).

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, loved it,
I've been living off a diet of 2 PBJs a day or 2 bowls of tuna-rice for the last four months, willingly, but not for any particular cause, so I'm not at all strict about it and end up having a slice of pizza once in a while(I live in NYC, pizza is cheap and plentiful). Anyways, for those who are curious

Tuna-Rice
3/4-1 1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 can of tuna
soy sauce
and lots of sriracha

very cheap, I like it, it feels healthy, and actually isn't so boring, the sriracha definitely helps because it adds a complex flavor for basically no money.
I'd even like to replace the PBJs with sriracha, but am often absent minded and don't think to start cooking the brown rice way ahead

5:05 PM  
Anonymous 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?

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found this blog. Congrats for sticking with it. I know I couldn't have. I live in NYC and have a habit of ordering takeout constantly because I've never been one to plan my meals. I also have a habit of throwing away portions of my food when I'm full - something a poor person would never ever do. After reading this I'm going to try not to.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Ciarán said...

Well done.

I admire your determination. It must have been quite humbling to have to eat like that for a month, with the knowledge that others do it for their entire lives.

The cheque at the end was a great idea, not only have you learnt what it feels like to be that poor, but used your surplus to help others.

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting your experience. I thought you did an excellent job of being able to focus on your daily realizations in a way that people can relate to. I especially liked your comment about how other people shared their stories about living on a meager food budget as well. I've been there too! Ramen goes a long way with Tabasco. Anyway, I enjoyed your blog. Thank you for sharing.

p.s. Go Spartans! (class of '95)

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Ravi said...

thanks for sharing such an amazing insight through your experiment. I have just returned from India, where there is rampant poverty...yet a very nice meal can be had for less than 25 rupees (<$1 USD)....it has become clear to me that we in the US often have a backwards sense for what is really "must have" when it comes to food.

i.e. it is not our birthright to enjoy $4 lattes every day. We lose perspective on what is really a gift when we start assuming that a high-class lifestyle is required for our happiness.

i commend you for your experiment, and the lessons you have shared.

1:01 AM  
Blogger Julien said...

Nice experiment. I think it will help me when i will need to do it. (or perhaps it'll never happen). Good idea to give the rest to the food bank! :-)

10:14 PM  
Blogger aioseh said...

this:

"But they had not been poor for an hour, they had done a math problem for an hour."

is a very simple but powerful observation.

i have about a billion food allergies and very much identified with your descriptions of food.

but that sentence above is what i will be taking away from this, and sharing with other folks.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations on making it the entire way and I want to commend you on your donation at the end. It was an extremely nice thing of you to do and I personally didn't see it coming.

Thanks for the entertaining read.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a shout out to a fellow Spartan, go MSU!

8:33 PM  
Blogger djtech said...

What I great read, I really enjoyed it. Although I probably would never have the drive to do this, it is a great experiment and you will remember it for a lifetime.

I had to live like that once, my rent, car payments, and gass took up most of my paycheck every week, so I had little money for food. The only way I got by was because my boss would buy me lunch everyday, and I usually only bought mac & cheese and pasta. It was amazing how people would just give me food to take home when they found out about my situation, you are right people are so generous when it comes to food.

Also I found this great dirt cheap grocerey store. They would have sales every week and the prices were like $.69 for a 10lb bag of potatoes or $.99 for 1 lb ground beef. I guess you get pretty resourcefull when your on a budget.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was touched when i scrolled down and saw the check to the food bank. I have been broke and hungry, really hungry. So hungry that smelling the fumes from McDonalds hurt my stomache. I hope this gets tons of attention.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Dawnie said...

You did something really good here. Thanks for sharing with us.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very touching. It was nice to see what the reason was.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you did this. You're right about it not being as difficult as really being poor but I'm sure it did give you more insight than you'd have without having tried it. My only other comment is that maybe you shouldn't discount the experiment in the boardroom for two reasons: First, although I agree you're right, they did simply do math for an hour, I also think the simple fact that they spent an entire hour thinking about the difficulties that poor people face might have shed some light for them. Like you, it probably made them think beyond the obvious, "Poor people don't have money or food" sort of thoughts. And second, I believe you said that reading their comments is what inspired you to complete your month long experiment. So even though they didn't do as thorough a job as you did, they were the catalyst for your deeper understanding of poverty.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Kendell said...

I don't know you but am extreamly proud of you! Your will power is wonderful. Congrats for finish this and that cheque is beautiful.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, i (40-something woman from CT) am very impressed with the originality of your whole experiment plus the humor and insight in many of your posts...and the coup d etat, that check to the food bank.

Very interesting. looking forward to future experiments.

--a savingadvice.com reader

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't being poor, this is living on a college diet. Like others have said, being poor doesn't mean ramen and mashed potatoes. You said you didn't do research, and it shows. Glaringly. Your proposed experiment lacks insight on how the body works, how to cook, and sociology of poverty. Your lessons were obvious and show your naivete.

Get your head out of your ass and try again.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as the experiment in the article you mention was a fallacy, so was your own, though I have little doubt you know this.

I am a former living punchline to a traditional off-color joke: a psychotic homeless person. I was a vagrant for several years, in and out of shelters, squat-houses and, of course, the great outdoors.

Your experiment, next to the real thing, is flawed in a way I would not ask you to rectify: the uncertainty factor. You knew you had thirty days to endure this. The worst feeling, as you tuck into a sandwich after a couple of days of living on much less, is wondering if it'll be harder to come by a real meal the next time. It made me laugh to realize you were probably living on, at certain points in your experiment, less food than I had.

Panhandling can bring me more money on the right street corner in America than some people in Asia make in a day's honest work.

The authenticity of an experiment like this isn't what is truly valuable. The community leaders in that article were willing to sacrifice an hour of their time. You were willing to sacrifice comfort, time and more, in the name of understanding.

Thank you for doing what you did. Some people try subtracting shelter from their basic needs equation as well, but I wouldn't recommend it.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous D.Dragon said...

"...I spent on food this week was $27.28. That’s about 93 cents a day..."

Actually, there are two errors there. The first one is obvious, you said week instead of month. (like anonymous said) but also, 27.28/30 is actually less than 91 cents a day.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good job!

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to say that it takes a lot of determination and drive to live off $30 a month. You certainly seem to possess that determination and drive. Kudos to you. I think many of us take for granted what is hardly available to others. Thank you for shedding light to this problem.

- acidflower

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been spending about $100 per month on food for years. $30 is kind of a ridiculous amount. Even a poor person can afford more than that.

I eat sandwich everday for lunch and cereal for breakfast. Cost about 50 to 60c per meal.

That's an easy way to keep your expenses down and keep from packing on the pounds.

Fact is, humans are designed to live on less food. Studies show mice live a lot longer and are much more active and healthy on calorie restricted diets. Scientists believe the same applies to humans.

I'm a single guy so I didn't really set out to eat a calorie restricted diet. It just turned out that way because I had to live on a budget and needed easy meals.

I'm 40 and weight the same as I did when I was in HS and look quite a bit younger than people my age. I think there might be something to it.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Found you through a frugal-living site...maybe not an original idea, but what a great thing to do with the money saved! Can't wait to see the comics for Dec...heading to that site next. Thanks for sharing!

8:20 AM  
Anonymous S. Weasel said...

One of the biggest problems facing the poor in the US is obesity. The poor certainly have problems, some of which might even be society's business to solve. Getting enough food isn't one of them.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:34 AM  
Blogger PJ said...

Hello...and kudos.

I can't help but get abit of a lump in my throat. I have lived like that for about 12 years now. It's the norm. I have enough money to eat more...most of the time. I am also a single father. There are times when I can afford to feed my kids so long as I skip the meal. I do it for them, because they're #1. The kids never miss a meal, and I vowed 12 years ago when my daughter was born, that no child of mine would ever go hungry...whether I did or not.
It's a pretty amazing thing the way the body adapts to poverty. The way you no longer take a meal for granted. I have found one thing to be true living the way we do...and that is that I am eager to just spend time with my little family. I enjoy that more than I do a piled-up plate of lasagna.
Again, kudos...ya did good.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You donated the money to a food bank? Awww, that's absolutely wonderful! That made me tear up a little. ;)

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it better to starve yourself for a month just for experiment's sake, or to just take people's word that being poor is no picnic. What, you didn't believe it or something? You are right that you didn't get the full experience; you were able to afford more food. There is no way that you can truly know what it is like to starve because you have to.
With that being said, you did make a really good revelation about the human body's ability to adjust. I was intrigued that it only took 10 days and I hope that your experiments into that will be successful.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm eating on $1 a day now. I used to be rich, now in the rags category, so it's not by choice. I like your recipe ideas. :-) What's most impressive, the check you gave to the food bank. You're a good man.

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember starving my first quarter in college. My student loans were late and I was matriculated conditionally. I starved for about 6 weeks. I thought about stealing when I was in grocery stores. I was studying all the time. I found a bag of sugar that was left behind in the apartment I had rented with the money I had saved to move with and I lived on that for a month. My loans came in after 6 weeks. I didn't steal anything but I lost 40 lbs. I really thought I was going to die. I was 23 years old. The guy in the apartment below me was also a student but at another school. He was starving too, but he could juggle. We hung out and starved together.

I can't say I ever got used to the hunger. I didn't have any money at all. I had to spend everything on school and really didn't have enough for that. Oh well. That was a long time ago. I haven't starved since. I always give money to starving, homeless people when I see them.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only...there were more people like you...Peace!

11:12 AM  
Blogger Lori Madison said...

I am glad I happened to be reading a blog that turned me on to this site. Thank you for sharing this experiment with all of us, you have inspired a great many people. God Bless!

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this was a cool project. I've been following others doing similar things, since I'm broke these days myself and wondering how other people are making it.

It's a shame that out of the many comments, close to half of those were from assholes who didn't get it, and probably half of those were from asshole New Yorkers. Note to self: never blog about New York. Ever.

Kudos to you for writing up your experiment and sharing it with the rest of us. And yeah... writing a check to the food bank was awesome of you.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Former Bank employee said...

You should block your signature, too...

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Louisa said...

I know your experiment was back in 2006, but food prices have gone up a huge amount in the UK in the last three years, have you considered re-doing your experiment?

I know when I was unemployed earlier on this year I found eating healthily took up most of my week's money. I have no idea how a family is meant to eat healthily on a similar budget.

3:09 PM  
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11:23 PM  
Blogger Demi said...

awesome blog, will be linking my blog here. http://howtoworkfromhome-demi.blogspot.com

9:43 AM  
Blogger cherlyn said...

i didnt expect to see that check, made out to a food bank no less! i think its very beautiful, and restores my faith in humanity a bit more. actually alot more... great job. god bless you

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog. I've actually been trying to do $3 a day for the last couple of months, and like you, I got used to it for a while. I even have days to splurge when I have surpluses. Today, I discovered your blog, and thought "wow!". $1 is pretty hardcore.

7:07 PM  
Blogger DxC92 said...

That is amazing, I might actually try this for the uniqueness of it like you said and also to see how long I could last (I doubt it would be anywhere near a month like you though). This was brilliant to read, thank you for posting this.

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Welsh Girl said...

Just a quick message to say how much I enjoyed reading your posts!! all of which were very well written and funny!! 18 pounds sounds like a good diet to me !!

12:12 PM  
Anonymous will mire said...

Hmm, well runing low on cash has brought me here. A life filled eith frozen Salisbury steak dimners, frozen burritos and ice cream. I'd say I've been spending around 75 dollars a week. I bought a bread maker at goodwill for 12 bucks and made home made bread, it is so good as long as the ingredients are mixed well. Anyways this article of living on 30 a month reminds me of when i was truely poor. I think I am just going to try home made meals, rice spaghetti steak chicken, homemade pizza, waffles, peanut jelly sandwiches home made burritos. Well see how it goes. thanks and good luck.

2:01 PM  

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