Cooking Is By Far The Biggest Challenge – Day 64: Eating Well On $1 A Day


When I began this challenge, most people assumed that the hardest part was going to be having enough to eat and finding food beyond Top Ramen and Mac & Cheese to eat. Even though I was fairly confident that I would be able to overcome these hurdles, there were a number of things that I never anticipated would be as difficult as they have been.

By far the biggest has been cooking. The amount of time I have had to spend on thinking about it and preparing food (and I go for the laziest option available) has been the real test of survival for this challenge. I am continuing to do it because I hope that when it all ends I will come out with a skill that I am adequate at.

It reminds me a lot of how I felt when I first wen to Japan. I ended up in the Japanese countryside not knowing a word of Japanese with nobody around me who could speak English. It was six months of living with a constant headache as I had to concentrate so hard and use so much energy just to be able to make myself somewhat understood. While I knew it was good for me and that in the end it would be beneficial, I asked myself at least once a day, “What the hell have you gotten yourself into?” That is exactly how I feel about the cooking portion of this challenge.

Kashi Cheerios Cereal

This has been an easy, convenient and tasty way to fill my stomach in the morning (I didn't even eat breakfast most days before starting this challenge).

Kashi Cheerios cereal

I am running low on all my cereal except for the Trix which I have no desire to eat (that will get donated to the food bank) which means that I'm hoping for a good cereal sale this coming week so I can stock up again. Kashi has been a great buy even though it was more expensive than the other cereals because I have been able to use it in a lot of other ways as well as a “snack” which is relatively healthy. I will definitely need to figure out how to get more of that.

Spinach Quiche & Blueberry Juice

I think that the quiche is something that has been great because it makes for quick and easy leftover meals which are a huge benefit when I am on the run as I have been the last couple of weeks (and look like I will continue to be for the foreseeable future). Drinking the fruit juice half and half with water (I can't drink straight juice anymore) makes it last a lot longer – I can't believe that i just finished the first of the three bottles that I purchased.

spinach quiche with blueberry juice

I also made myself a peanut butter sandwich and had some plums as snacks throughout the afternoon. This has become a pretty regular snack lately. I continue to get comments that people don't think that I am eating enough and I think that is because I haven't done a good job of documenting my snacking throughout the day. I grab a handful of this and another handful of that on a pretty regular basis and I have never been hungry during the challenge except in the instances I have detailed where I have been.

Roasted Vegetable Hash & Eggs

I made quite a bit of extra of the roasted veggies and so needed to start working on eating those leftovers. DeeAnn was kind enough to send a recipe using the leftovers for another meal:

Stuff You'll Need:

* A cutting board & knife
* A fry pan & stirrer
* Cooking oil
* A serving of leftover Roast Veggies
* A hot dog (check the expiry date before using; you've had those fellas a while)
* 1-2 eggs
* A cover for the fry pan

1. Spread the Roast Veggies on the cutting board, and run your knife over them to make the pieces as small as you want them to be. Cut the hot dog into pieces about the same size as the vegetable chunks.

2. Drizzle a little oil in the fry pan, and add the veggie-hot dog mix.

3. Turn the stove onto medium heat (or Med-High, if you're in a hurry and willing to watch the pan more), and cook the veggies and hot dogs, turning about as often as you turn hash browns.

4. When the veggies and hot dogs are hot–and have as many brown bits as you like–shake the pan to distribute the veggies evenly, and reduce the stove heat to Med-Low.

5. Crack the eggs on top of the veggies, salt & pepper the eggs, and sprinkle a little water (about a teaspoon) around the pan.

6. Cover the pan, wait 3 minutes, and then check the eggs (shaking the pan is usually a good way to do this.) If the whites and yolks aren't done the way you like them, put the lid back on and keep checking every minute or so until the eggs are done way you like them.

7. Dump everything onto a plate and enjoy. (I generally use my spatula to get out the eggy veggies first, then just tip the rest out of the pan.)

I did take the advice and check the expiry date and all was good. I have come to the conclusion that I am not a real big fan of hot dogs in general and do not see me purchasing them again for myself. I followed the directions and this was the result:

Potato Onion Hash with Egg

roasted vegetable hash with egg

roasted veggie hash and salad

I need to learn to make bigger portions so that I can use the leftovers for meals like this. My fear is that on the first time around, I will make some type of mistake which will render the meal inedible and I will have to throw everything out. I guess as I try making more meals and get more confidence that I won't ruin them, I can begin making enough for leftovers as well.

This is the current list of food I still have
This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Goal: 100 days eating on $1 a day
Current Money Spent: $39.89
Money Left to Spend: $60.11 ($5.54 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of Everything Purchased: $1194.18

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The Beginning ::: Day 65: I'm Avoiding Grocery Shopping

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9 Responses to Cooking Is By Far The Biggest Challenge – Day 64: Eating Well On $1 A Day

  1. Wendy says:

    That hash looks quite tasty. Somehow the word hash does not sound very appealing most of the time. I think once you are done with this challenge you should give hot dogs another chance. Unfortunately, the good ones will never be very cheap, and sometimes it is hard to justify spending $4.50 on a pack when you could easily get a pack for around $0.50. The taste difference is completely worth it though!

  2. Leann says:

    Looking at all the stuff you donated, I realized you are not bringing reusable bags to the store … I don’t know if this is true where you are, but at Stop & Shop you get 5 cents back for each one you use. If you have some cloth bags around your house and your stores participate in this, it could be worth looking into!

  3. Denise says:

    Kashi is a great company in part because they are committed to help people eat better. If you join their on-line community they will send you email coupons via a news letter. They are based in San Diego and often give away generous free samples and coupons at local street fairs. If you call them at (858 274-8870) they may also send you additional coupons.I’ve only called them when I had a problem with an item of theirs and they sent me coupons for a free replacement item.Explain to them what you are doing and they may send you both free samples and coupons.

  4. Amanda More says:

    I do find that cooking is a big challenge. The book titled “Eating on $1 A Day or Free If You Fish” All the calories and costs are shown. Rice is only 60 cents for 1600 calories. So, for those who need help tell them “Cook Rice.” In your case it is complete protein with some peanut butter.

  5. jackie says:

    Came across this website and thought it would help you with your foraging! A bit unrelated but I figured it might help you out.

    http://neighborhoodfruit.com/

  6. jeffrey says:

    @Leann

    Yes, that is on purpose (even though it is not environmentally sound). I don’t get a discount in my area except at CVS (where I do use a reusable bag), and the food banks are always in need of plastic bags for when they distribute food (so if you don’t know what to do with your plastic bags, your local food bank would probably love them)

  7. Shae says:

    This comment is mostly in reference to a post a few days old, but I didn’t want it to get lost as I feel it’s worth your and readers’ evaluation.

    I’m starting to get a little disappointed in this “ethics by committee” thing.

    I can’t help but notice that the majority always votes in whatever direction will get you the most food. I can appreciate the “yay rah you’re bucking the system” attitude, but what’s the point in having voting if it’s just going to be a fan club reinforcing bad impulses.

    Instead of accepting majority rule, I’d like to see you evaluate each comment and use a reasoned, ethical approach in figuring out who is right, even if they’re in the minority. For example, it’s difficult to argue with the facts that some of your commenters presented on the movie food dilemma: 1) Movie theaters make their profits off food, 2) You can go two hours without eating, 3) You can splurge and spend one or two of your surplus dollars, 4) Stealing would help too so where do you draw the line, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve snuck food into movie theaters before, and I don’t think it’s a mortal crime. But this is a challenge about eating well on a $1 a day, and how realistic that is for an ethical person with typical resources. Or at least I think it is — as others have said you are welcome to change your goals now that the bet with your sister is over. If you just want to break rules instead of proving out a reasonable frugal lifestyle of eating, then break them without asking everyone’s opinion.

    As for those who are saying that movie food comes out of the entertainment budget: Movie popcorn contains calories, nutrition (yes, it is corn after all), salt, and other things people need, and goes toward making you full, and keeps you from spending a little money on food elsewhere. So it’s food, even if you are entertained by eating it. By that logic, one could go to the carnival every day, buy $30 worth of elephant ears, and say he’s spending zero dollars on groceries.

  8. Ryan says:

    If you don’t want to cook, you can go to a restaurant.

    Caveat: you have to dress up as a cow on July 9, but if you do, you get a free meal at ChickFilA:
    http://www.logicbuy.com/deals/chickfil-a-free-food-cow-appreciation-week/23012.aspx

  9. jai says:

    Jeff, I think some of your problem with hot dogs is that you got turkey dogs. Before you give up on hot dogs entirely, give the all-beef dogs a try.
    My mom used only buy the turkey ones and then couldn’t understand why I never wanted to eat a hot dog at her house. I brought beef dogs with me a few weeks ago and did them on the grill – she couldn’t believe the difference.
    And since you sometimes have access to a grill:
    I always have an extra pack of beef dogs in the freezer and cook them up anytime I’ve got the grill on. Then I refreeze them for use later on. Grilling them seems to add that something extra.
    I also chop up an onion and put it in foil w/butter and salt and toss the packet on the grill while other stuff is cooking. These can also be frozen for later use but let them cool completely and thaw completely or they get ucky.
    You can grill potatoes. After boiling for 10 minutes, let your unpeeled potatoes cool completely then slice the potatoes into wedges (like the ones from KFC), lightly brush with oil & place directly on the grill. Give them a quarter turn after 3 minutes, flip them over 3 minutes later and then a final quarter turn. (times will vary depending on your grill heat & size of potatoes) Season to taste.