Instructables

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!



Edit, 1/15/08:
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. see these instructables to find out [http://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
 
 
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handyman055 months ago
I am so happy that someone else has found that sauerkraut pizza is delicious! Have you tried pickle pizza yet? It's a little funky, but if you have been having pizza a lot and need to break up the flavor perception, pickley-salty goodness is a great way to do that I find. Also, they are cheap too.
shizumadrive10 months ago
You could scramble an egg inside its shell with a shock or old shirt sleeve.
wakojako3 years ago
Nice 'ible.
How can you get eggs that cheap? in the uk eggs cost a fortune especially the free range/organic eggs (which i prefer).
Living Chicken + seeds + coop = free eggs!

Thats how my friend did it to avoid going to the grocery store. But I don't know about other countries with owning animals but theres no problem here in the US as far as I know
It varies from house to house in the UK.
pebbles15 years ago
i live in canada and used to work at tim hortons a coffee store and every shift they had to throw out all the items not sold from the previous shift ....whih was only 4hrs before we threw away perfectly fresh bagels donuts muffins etc...it made me sick and i stopped working ther becuse of the amount of waste ther was.if every store and thers like 20 in my town every day donated to soup kitchens and the food bank ther days items for freezeing none would go hungry its crying shame that we are all busting our butts to pay bills buy food at ridiculous prices and people are still going hungry and thers all this waste.
I live in Canada too and my son quit working at Wendy's after only one shift because he was appalled at the waste. If he didn't make a hamburger "right" out it went! It truly is a crying shame how much food is wasted, and how many people are going hungry in this rich country.
Adding flax seed to your yogurt gives no nutritional value. From what I have read, they are not digested; they just pass on through. I think you need to grind them for nutrition.
zekemedic3 years ago
Nice ideas for eating on $3/day, now try the same $3/day limit but this time with severe food allergies to eggs, cow's milk, soy, zucchini, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews & sulfites (food preservative)! welcome to my life - eating cheaply can get interesting to say the least :)
Ormspryde3 years ago
I don't actually intend to use it, but I really like this instructable, it made me smile. :)
Iminthewest5 years ago
Foodstamps only gives me $2.74 a day. and I live in a small city where there arent dumpsters- people do a really good job around here of locking up dumpsters and putting cameras up. On top of that about 90% of what the foodbanks around here give are more then a week expired all the way up to years expired(Im not kidding). and whats not expired more then a week ago about 50% expires within the next couple of days. so what you have is a whole couple of meals that you have to eat right away, OR get sick(has happened to me on numerous occasions). Your only allowed to go once a week. Then the other issue is they put moldy produce in with the good produce, making the good stuff go bad a lot quicker. Where do you think all those tomatoes went when that samonilla outbreak was? You've guessed it- the food bank. the food bank had a ton of nice lookin' tamotoes all the sudden- I didnt take any I took the broccoli that was all mixed in the same bin- and I washed it, but got very ill- not sure if it was samanilla- cause I couldnt afford the doctor. Anyway I need to get to my point. Your better off finding your toiletries and soaps, and furniture and clothing as free as possible and using your money on food. There are alot of garage sales, free piles. Lots of items can be cleaned with a good cleaner and be as good as new, but with food thats not the case. Be smart dont dumpster for food. dumpster for household items, magizines, even kitchen appliances are better then dumpstering for the food itself, thats how I got all my dishware and pots&pans.
How to Bypass Locked Dumpsters
1. Put superglue in the key hole.
2. The company will have it removed and likely replaced.
3. Put superglue in the key hole of this new lock.
4. Keep putting superglue in their locks until they give up and leave it unlocked.
Enjoy
I hope they figured you out and put up a camera to catch you.
You should be ashamed of yourself destroying orther people's property.
I owned a business and what people do to your things is a sin. That is why prices go up, did you realize that? then you would be the one to complain about it.
Never done it myself, just sharing the instructions.....but thanks for the friendly words. : |
Or they get fed-up and install a compactor. Or put in surveillance cameras so the next unknowing dumpster diver who comes buy gets arrested for your vandalism. If you're that determined to get in, don't mess it up for everyone else, learn to pick padlocks then you can close it up again when you're done. No damage done and you learn a valuable skill.
I'm sorry you live in a place like that, I do too now. But I used to live in Seattle and around and the finds were often mountains of items which were clearly perfectly safe and fresh despite being post-sell-by-date. So don't equate dumpster fare universally with the trash you've experienced at your food bank.
mad magoo3 years ago
Stasterisk's priorities: 1. Robot Parts 2. Food What better example of the DIY and Instructables spirit is there? :) Anyway, great instructable. I would also like to advise people to try to find local farmers and butchers for meat. I get mine from a local farm, and I know the people that run it. It's organic, free-range, and inexspensive in bulk.
Its Giggles4 years ago
I cant do this. =/
Im tooo OCD when it comes to food sanitation.

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. . .
Ugh, i couldnt read on, this started to make me feel queasy.
Sorry.
I don't plan on trying this out myself (mainly because where I live I would get shot at for dumpster diving :) but I don't think it's really that bad. From what I've seen of the world, most food-service establishments' counters are very likely less clean than their dumpsters. As long as you avoid the poison that is put on dumpsters to stop rodents and such, you're likely going to be okay. I'm still having my steak fresh tonight, though :)
As long as the stuff is sealed in cans or plastic bags, the contents should be just fine. Of course, if you still feel queasy, just take canned stuff and boil the cans in water first. Now the contents (if they haven't exploded while being boiled) Are cleaner than most foods served in hospitals.
If we actually ate the food we already have instead of buying more and more, we would save much more money, but my dad is picky.
BAM
ill be trying this
This is great and all - using up excess and living cheap... but I'm pretty worried about the crap nutrition you're getting. Are you taking any supplements? You definitely need more calcium, fiber, carbs and various vitamins. Calcium will probably be easiest to get in a supplement. Otherwise, it could be pretty expensive because you'll need to consume lots of yogurt, milk and cheese - all things which go bad very quickly. You can get enough fiber from beans, oatmeal and pasta - all cheap sources! (Also from most fruits and veggies) Carbs are very easy too... leftover breads and pizza crusts, pasta - and you really really need these. Otherwise your brain stops working and it's game over. :P
I worry about the lack of omega-3 fatty acids, as well, and pizza is a crap way to get licopene. This seems, to me, to be a tutorial on how to mooch off of the system. Dumpster diving involves long-stale food, unrefrigerated, and is a health risk. I seriously hope nobody follows that advice. Constantly mooching food off of friends, as well, isn't learning to eat off of 3 dollars a day. It's a lesson on how to be a detriment to society. Want more cheap food? pasta. marinara is stupidly cheap for how much you get. screw pre-canned. get some tomato puree (.75 tops) and water it down to a good consistency. add basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, crushed red peppers. cook for a while and taste it until you like it. You can get all of those spices for a dollar and they last very long. Freeze it in small containers and you can defrost them and make english muffin pizzas for pennies. Pasta can be obtained for pennies if you don't care about name brand. on the same lines as pasta: alfredo. 1 tblsp butter (99c for the cheap stuff) 1 tblsp flour (again, about a dollar) 3 cups milk (get a quart and it's a buck 30 and will last a bit) ~1/4 cup of parmesan/romano blend (generic brands can cost a dollar) add that pasta that you can buy for 2 bucks and feed an army for a year. sauce pan, medium heat. melt the butter, toast the flour in the butter until it's colored like peanuts and smells like dough, stirring pretty frequent. add the milk, slowly, mixing well. stir for a while so the texture keeps up. add the cheese, fold it in, and cook it until it thickens. when in doubt, add a bit more cheese. That recipe served 4. refridgerate it and you have a quick snack or good dinner for 4 days, for .03(butter) + .01(flour) + .98 (milk) + .75 (pasta, and that's overestimating) + .25 for the cheese and you can have leftovers for a few days. Each meal comes out to 50 cents a serving. modification? take out the cheese, and add a small can of tomato puree. toss in the spices I mentioned for the marinara. Mixes it up a bit, and doesn't really touch the price. Imo to truly eat poor the best method is to pre-make cheap food, for like 2 dollars (like i just did) every day or 2, and leech off of the leftovers, Growing mushrooms would be cost prohibitive, imo. I buy those big freezed dried bundles of them in tubs for like 6 bucks, and have limitless supplies of random mushrooms. Make your own tortillas (you prolly have all of the ingredients and it costs pennies to make) and wrap lettuce, chopped carrots, and tomatoes, tossed in ranch dressing. head of lettuce? a dollar. Carrots? buck 50. a big tomato? 50 cents. ranch dressing can be a dollar. Since you can pull about 10 wraps out of this, there's 3 dollars and lunch for the next 10 days, which you can add random crap to on the fly, like those sprouts you seem to dig so much. This post is a great idea, but the whole thing reeks of mildly illegal activity, and leeching off of those around you. There's gotta be a better way.
stasterisk (author)  I Am An Evil Taco5 years ago
"Dumpster diving involves long-stale food,"

that's a lie!

additionally, I haven't "leeched off of" anyone. I'm in a communal living group and turned down many free dinners.

Thanks for the recipe! I'm not a huge fan of spaghetti nor did I include it, because it's SO EASY to get your complex carbs/starches in so many ways. Basically what you see here is an incomplete guide, some thoughts, and documentation of how things worked for me for some time.

I have also noted, in my instructable that carrots and tomatoes are cheap and worth buying, as you do here. I also do suggest making food before hand and eating it over many days - I'm not sure there's any other way this is possible!
it's' a government mandate that restaurants not serve food older than 2 hours because of severe health risks. I presume that stuff like breads and bagels would be safe, but anything cooked and perishable gives you a high chance of getting worms or salmonella/botulism. My concept of food for .50 cents a serving might work well for you, then, since you can trade off the extra meals for more free food later. You could also pre-portion and freeze stuff to be cooked a day later and cook by the serving, I'd imagine. I guess what I was trying to say is this is a great idea but I wish you'd have focused less on the handouts and dumpster diving, and more on the types of cheap food you can live off of. like: never underestimate the joys of the food bank. all the free food you can carry, as long as you don't mind boxed potatoes and creamed corn, that kinda thing. Note: I'm not trying to bash your lifestyle so much as questioning a few of the methods as far as the everyday person can use them. Not everyone has the group of friends willing to feed them, or the stomach to eat thrown away food. Many cities have art gallery crawls (we call them first friday here in pittsburgh) where you can get all of the free food you can eat and get to look at good (sometimes) art at the same time, I'd love to see a few more tips like this.
You cannot get worms from food that has spoiled. If the food was outside where tapeworms can get at it then you could, but from just sitting on the counter you couldn't.
Really, your body doesn't get as much calcium from dairy products as your grandparents were lead to believe. You can get plenty of calcium from veggie sources. Since we are all DIYers, I won't spoil your fun by telling you what vegetables have (bioaccessible!) a lot of calcium. Just pointing out you don't need all that dairy to get calcium. Ask the produce guy at the grocery store for vegetables 'that they are going to throw out', loose grapes, a potato that fell on the floor... to quote one produce guy "What do you want? We throw everything away." And people wonder why grocery prices are so high. Is it only the USA that wastes food this extravagantly?
I worked in the fruit/vegetable department at a large grocery store a couple of months. In Denmark, that is. We threw 10-20% of everything out every day, I would guess that it was about 1,000-2,000 lbs of mostly perfect veggies and fruits EVERY DAY six days a week. And they wouldn't even let us take any of it back home. And that is just that single department. So I think it is a typically western pattern, not just US.
I don't eat dairy at all, and my calcium levels are fine. (Iron, too - every time I go to the doctor, he assumes I'm anemic, and every time the bloodwork comes back great.) For free food that's also vegetarian, see if you have a chapter of Food Not Bombs in your area!
Well, it's true, but you can get crap cheese for very cheap. :P Though I suppose greens would be easier to find in a dumpster.
Jodex4 years ago
I think that I could try this for at least couple of days..
dla8884 years ago
If you're a good shot with a bb gun you can get a ptarmagin in Nome. mmm.... ptarmagin. I wish they were in season.
pingkam4 years ago
a Buddhist monk  is not allowed to have money, and other kind of it. They always eat once a day, before sun above the head. And they are very discipline person. here's the link their  set of rules.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khantipalo/wheel130.html 
I read an article about a guy who doesn't use money at all. everything he eats is either given to him or found. Here's the URL:

http://men.style.com/details/features/landing?id=content_9817

MKohen4 years ago
Expanding on what someone else said already, Top Ramen. Here in Indiana its 10 cents a package, cases of 15 for about a dollar. while not the most amazingly healthy food, its really not bad. that being said, this is an excellent i'ble and i'll definitely take some tips from it...
RedFlash4 years ago
Way how to make yourself sick... And lose weight (possibly)
couscous, just add hot water and anything or anything. or just eat it plain. its quite cheap to buy and you can get many portions from it. its good with half a carrot, chopped up; cheese, either cubed or grated; croutons or pretty much anything!!
sires65 years ago
Actually, there's a cool instructable: http://www.instructables.com/id/Growing-Mushrooms%3a-PF-Tek/

Yoghurt can be grown very cheaply (I have some going right now) with non-fat dried milk, water and some cheap unflavored yoghurt from the store. maybe I'll do an instructable on that!

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