Introduction: Eat on $3 a Day
I've been feeling fantastic lately, and also not eating that much. I figure energy in = energy out, and this feels great, so I'm going to stick with it.
I've also long wanted to see what it's like to live on notmuch, like half the world does. I already don't spend a whole lot, but I'm sure it's more than $3/day. Of course, a lot of things aren't accurate. I go to a university where there's frequently free food, and the greater area here is also practically overflowing with free food.
Check out Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book", which has all kinds of tips on getting food for cheap or free. Stolen here, and available for download: How to "Steal This Book"
I will write of what I buy and what I eat, every day for an entire month, plus estimates of the price of anything I've bought previously. Free food, and food that gets thrown away, is still counted as free.
So today, on 1/9/07, I begin.
Tell me what to eat! If you think of some ultra-cheap kind of food I haven't thought of yet, post it in the comments!
Do you know anything about growing mushrooms? I'm curious!
I'm going to keep a running conclusion of what works best, when eating for ultra-cheap.
-DUMPSTER DIVING - getting one's food almost any other way makes no sense. Commercial dumpsters are basically treasure chests of fairly good and useful food or materials. Follow common dumpster ettiquette, like leaving the dumpster cleaner than you found it, not reselling found items and competing with the business, and visiting at night so as to not tarnish the establishment's image. Then, enjoy the bounty of urban recycling. Beware of situations where you might be considered to be trespassing.
For local dumpster/skip information, see the TrashWiki
Most dumpsters can sustain a population of at least 20 people. After a while, you will find yourself becoming choosy, and only selecting high-quality garbage. Typically, there's even more food thrown out than anyone can manage to consume. If you think recycling is good for the earth, you must dumpster dive. Anything else is causing waste. seetheseinstructables to find out [https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Vintage-Jeans...-Coffee-Style/ why]
-Eggs are great. Fabulous, delicious, filling, easy to carry in one's pockets, and cheap! What more?
-Brewer's Yeast - this stuff is delicious. Get a jar, put it on everything. It has so many vitamins, and so many amino acids - it's amazing!
-Sprouts. You can be full for pennies. And you have delicious crunchy food right there, all the time.
-store-bought Veggies (bags of carrots) for 99 cents a pound, or cheaper.
-Hanging around talks and conferences - free food and leftovers go a long way!
-Pizza boxes piled on top of trash bins. 2/3 of them during the course of this experiment still contained pizza.
-Fresh fruit off of trees!
-Buttermilk is full of tasty bacteria
-Wholesale food, a la the ten-pound meat blob in step 7
Step 1: 1/12/08 - Day 4
Ice cream cone time! $2.00!
Step 2: 1/9/08 - Day 1
I'm also drinking a whole bunch of water, carrying a gallon jug around with me. Have you ever wondered why a gallon of water is ~$1, but a quart is $2.50? I think I'll never know.
Here's how I'm doing:
Some yogurt mixed with flax seed/trail mix. Big yogurt probably cost me $2.50, and I'm eating about 1/3d of it, or about $0.80. I'm probably eating around $0.50 of the toppings, too.
Step 3: 10/10/08 - Day 2
Scored a free Samosa from an Indian buffet catered for some talk.
Also, did you know you can make scrambled eggs in a microwave?
They turn into this giant fluffy, scrambled egg marshmallow.
I also felt really good afterwards, so I suppose I needed the protein.
Two eggs, at 1/6th of $1.79, or $0.30
Step 4: 10/11/08 - Day 3
I munch on some veggies - carrots and kale (I surprise myself because I'm actually hungry for leaves).
Carrots are only 99 cents per pound, which, in my bag, is 5 carrots. One carrot, 20 cents.
Are eggs far more expensive in other countries, or are they just hard to get? I can make meals out of these things just by dipping them in hot water, or microwaving them. That's easier for a college student to make than Ramen!
I hardboil and eat two eggs, $0.30.
I'm flying soon - does anyone know if eggs are counted as a liquid, by the TSA?
Can I fly with hard boiled eggs that are 3oz. or less?
Does putting my perishables through the x-ray machine at the airport make them last longer?
Delicious whole-fat cream on top vanilla yogurt with trail mix and flax seeds, $1.30.
Step 5: Day 5 - How Not To
The quesadilla cost about $0.50, and I follow it with an egg.
Step 6: Day 6 - Conference Food & Downtown San Francisco
I get the heck out of Los Angeles, and try my luck in San Francisco, instead.
I eat one of my last traveling eggs for breakfast, and head to Macworld to bathe in the aura of shiny gadgets, bLOLggers, and people with iPhones. The conference has a bunch of food, so today I subsist on two free chocolate chip muffins, and a whole lot of mint tea with milk and honey.
This is a lot of free food! I'm don't feel much like I'm learning about subsisting on cheap food, right now, but I'm learning a whole lot about how sensitive I can become to what I've eaten. These two muffins sit like rocks, in my stomach. Huge, chocolatey, pillow-like rocks.
I am still feeling well-rested enough, and get up really early, but all this food is quick to slow me down.
Later in the night, I am visiting some friends in Santa Clara who feed me a spinach salad with lots of kidney beans, cottage cheese, and chickpeas. Then we go pick and eat delicious tart oranges from trees. California is the best!
Step 7: Day 7 - the East Bay
All I need in the morning are a pair of steaks, courtesy of Tim Anderson himself. He buys the meat in these giant 10 lb. blobs, and pares off strips of meat, and broils them in a toaster oven. This must be the easiest conceivable way to cook meat.
The steaks go on top of a salad made out of mung+lentil bean sprouts, and some leftovers from some company lunch.
I'm so set all day! Towards the later afternoon, I become hungry and find a bowl of "brownie bites", and snack on them for a while.
Today = free!
Step 8: Day 7 - Back in Boston
At 5 AM, I land in Atlanta, eat my last hard-boiled egg, and snack on a cheese danish I had stashed in my bag.
After that, I see which restaurants will give me the most free water. Cinnabon does all right, but their water comes out of the icky fruit punch tap, and is slightly red and ickyfruitpunch flavored. Starbucks keeps a pitcher full of ice and complimentary water on their cinnamon-dusting table, but they give out small cups and the water is too cold for me.
That's all until around 2 in the afternoon, when, catching the train to Boston at the Providence train station (travel restrictions), I have a tiny cup of vanilla yogurt for $1.79.
Not at all the same value as the big tub I'm used to, and it doesn't even come with bacteria!
The media lab regularly stocks everything I need except for food. This must be what it feels like to be a graduate student. Everything I need to keep working, except sleep or food.
Actually, food does sometimes appear, if you know where to look. And the sort of random superstition one could only develop by living in Skinner's box, I seek food.
Victory! A stack of pizza boxes on top of a trash can yields one remaining pristine slice. It's all mine, in its full, crunchy-crusted, pesto-and-anchovies glory.
I much on pizza, and think "my robot needs 6-32 bolts". Time to look for robot stock. "And I want to listen to Devendra Banhart," which is also in stock.
Step 9: Week 2 - Living in Lab
Around 3:30 AM, my favorite late-night cleaning lady, Peggy, offered me some Chinese food she'd ordered, but didn't want any more of. And her offer was well received, even though it was an off-time for eating and I wasn't quite hungry. The gluttonous student who doesn't know when the next meal will appear had struck, I suppose.
And, I reflect as I continue to pick pieces of bright pink meat from my teeth, that meat was tasty.
The sunrise brings renewed energy, stronger lasers, and hope. By noon I have consumed nothing more, than those six packets of hot chocolate powder, and Peggy's chinese food. I'm not hungry, but rather thirsty, so I buy myself a new gallon jug of water (I'm not sure where my old one's gone).
A note on water - I really like having a jug like a boat-anchor. I don't feel compelled to finish it, so I sip as I'm thirsty. I can always refill it, it's cheaper than a nalgene, and if the bottle gets broken or lost, I can always get a new one that's exactly like the old one.\
Gallon of Water: $1.29
Facebook Inc., decides to try to convince MIT programmers to write the hip new mashed-up blogoriffic killer-app by buying pizza the way the cookie monster buys cookies. There's just so much pizza, everywhere, on multiple floors of the building. Someone brings a few boxes back to the MASLAB/6.002 lab, where I'm madly building robots.
Hooray, pizza! Three slices and many pizza crusts later, I'm filled.
Step 10: Week 2
I eat at least half the container of yogurt, and four eggs, and snack on trail mix. I also grab free chips that someone's eating in lab.
Yogurt and trail mix are around $1.50, the eggs, $0.60.
Step 11: Week 2
The sprouts are sending up green shoots, and the kombucha is sparkly and delicious, today!
A handful of sprouts, and a glassful of kombucha, and some eggs, are the best way to start!
I also juice a lime I picked in California into my water bottle. All water should taste so good.
My friends from China, Jim and Mandy, give me a "Moon Cake", which looks like a bun filled with eggs and meat, smells like a pastry, and tastes fabulous.
Sprouts: probably about $0.02. I probably paid $2 for a sack full of lentil beans, and used a tenth of it for the sprouting. Those twenty cents worth of sprouts will last me for at least two weeks. Man!
Kombucha: All it takes is a teabag and some sugar. Should I even count this beverage? It's nutritional because it's full of bacteria, and they reproduce for just a few ounces of sugar. My glass of the k'cha: $0.05?
So, I'm already full, and only set back $0.07, plus $0.30 for the eggs.
Step 12: Conclusion!
Since my sprouts & kombucha blossomed, I am set for at least two weeks of low-cost/free eating. So, at this point, I conclude writing about what I'm eating, as I've discovered and localized around a set of foods that cost me mere pennies.
Additional foods that I thought of being good and cheap to eat, but didn't explore:
You can eat a filling meal on just a handful of this and some hot water.
Tastes really good mixed with anything (fruit, yogurt, trail mix, ketchup..)
So, cheese and tortillas are both sold in reasonable bulk and at prices where you could cheaply eat a few quesadillas every day.
Sauerkraut is a surprisingly tasty topping for a slice of bread/pizza/soup/anything.
Sauerkraut, and anything you can grow on your shelf are fabulous cheap foods.
You can also grow Kefir on your shelf. Like kombucha. No instructable on that yet.
I am curious to know what growing mushrooms (especially indoors, on a shelf) is like. Can mushrooms be grown hydroponically?