Eating Well On $1 A Day: Day 31 – Final Day


I thought that I was going to end this last day of the challenge on a totally high note, and then the reality of only having a limited budget came slamming me back to reality with the issues that can happen. I did manage to survive one month eating on $1 a day (this wasn't always assured). The way that the day ended is certainly giving me second thoughts about whether I made the correct decision to continue the challenge for another month (with a few changes to the rules) in hopes of convincing my sister that I can make meals that would be appetising to others.

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Breakfast

The day started just fine. I got up and had a large bowl of Corn Flakes with half a banana and half an apple on top:

day 31 breakfast

Lunch

At lunch, I decided to try the Oscar Mayer Deli Creations that I had purchased the day before. I opened it up to find it consisted of this:

day 31 deli creations

If that alone is what people consider a meal, I did even better this month than I thought I had. While edible, it is not something that I would buy for myself and I was happy that I purchased it for free. I added the rest of the tuna that I had left over (my tuna crackers were much better than the chicken crackers) and a half an apple. I also had a glass of the 100% white grape / peach fruit juice (half juice, half water):

day 31 lunch

Since I didn't have an early morning breakfast, I decided to replace it with a mid afternoon snack of peanut butter and banana on whole wheat toast (since my sister doesn't consider peanut butter and banana as appetising to others, I have decided to make it my late afternoon snack since I do like it)

day 31 snack

Dinner

I decided that I needed some broccoli to go with dinner, so I went to the store and bought a crown that put me back $0.60:

day 31 purchase

<day 31 safeway receipt

There was a CVS store right there and I went in to see if I could get to $20 to use the $4 off $20 purchase coupon that was expiring today, but the deals they had this week weren't all that great and I gave up on taking advantage of it. I did buy 3 Power Bars (they are $0.99 each with a $0.99 Extra Bucks given back making them free — this offer is available until the beginning of July) and a six box package of raisins ($1.00 and I had an extra $1.00 Extra Bucks I had earned from bringing in my own bag to CVS — CVS gives you a $0.25 credit when you use your own bag with a green tag and you get a $1.00 off when you use it 4 times) making the entire transaction free:

day 31 cvs

day 31 cvs receipt

It was time to cook up the mystery purchase which was a flat iron steak. The first time I purchased hamburger, I asked the butcher what was the best meat I could get for $1.00. He looked around for a bit and said that he could take out one of the flat iron steaks from a value pack and sell it to me for $1.05 and I said, “Great. I'll take it!” thinking that a steak dinner would be a good way to end the challenge:

1 dollar steak

So I salted an peppered the steak:

day 31 steak

steamed the broccoli and boiled the corn to make my final night steak dinner:

day 31 dinner

It was surprisingly good and definitely one of my better buys through the course of the challenge. After dinner I decided to take a walk to the local grocery store (about a mile walk each way) in order to buy a pint of Ben & Jerry's Every Thing But… ice cream to top off the day.

Ben & Jerry's was $2.99 a pint and I had a $1.00 coupon making it $1.99. It was expensive, but I decided that I deserved a treat for coming in with over $3 to spare. It dawned on me about half way home the calculation error I had made…

I got home with the ice cream:

ben and jerrys

ben and jerrys receipt

and immediately went to my computer to see if it was true — and it was.

While I was under the total amount that I had to spend, I had forgotten that I had to spend $2.00 of the money at CVS. With the earlier purchase of the broccoli, that brought the total I had to spend to $3.92 meaning that I was $0.07 over budget with the ice cream purchase. I was totally pissed off (I just wanted to eat my ice cream) and I realized why these challenges are so difficult.

It only take a small miscalculation when you are on a tight budget to completely throw everything out of whack and make you do a lot more work than you want to. The difference is that I am doing this by choice and many people have to make these decisions without having a choice in the matter. I decided the only thing to do was to take the ice cream back and see if I could get a refund.

I hate taking things back probably more than I hate shopping and cooking. I walked in and said that I wanted to get a refund, or at the very least, make an exchange for ice cream that was less expensive.

Cashier: “What is wrong with the ice cream?”

Me: “Nothing. I just can't afford it.”

Cashier: “You already bought it. Of course you can afford it.”

Me: “No, it puts me $0.07 over budget.

Cashier: Giving me a look like are you kidding me? “You can't return something if there is nothing wrong with it.”

Me: Thinking this is exactly why I had returning things, “OK, it's the wrong flavor.”

Cashier: “I'm going to have to talk to my manager…”

The manager came and luckily she was the person who had checked me out. I explained that I wanted a refund, but needed to exchange it for something less expensive at the very least. She was very kind (or simply thought I was crazy) and gave me a full refund.

Even though it all turned out all right in the end, it wasn't exactly how I planned to spend my evening and was a lot less enjoyable than sitting down, reclining back and eating a pint of ice cream…

I suppose I should anticipate that this next month will bring about just as many surprises and conflicts as the past month did because the adventure isn't quite over yet

This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $27.08
Money left to spend: $3.92 ($2 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $597.96

1 package of raisins
3 Power Bars
10 Deli Selections lunch packages
3 ears of corn
1 package of chicken breast deli style (1 lb)
5 packages hardwood smoked turkey franks
1 package of veggie spiral pasta
1 salt and pepper shaker combo
1 bag of salad
1 package of macaroni and cheese
3 sample packs of Maxwell House Vanilla Carmel Latte
4 sample packages of Wheat Thins Sundried Tomato & Basil
3 packages (small) Fig Newtons
1 jar Miracle Whip
1 potato
1 mystery purchase
1 lb ground beef
6 tomatoes
3 broccoli crowns
2 loaves of bread
2 jars of Classico pasta sauce
2 Safeway brand pasta (spaghetti and rotini)
1 celery stalk
2 bags tortilla chips
5 cans tuna
1 bottle Welch's grape & peach 100% juice
1 bottle V8 Fusion fruit / vegetable drink
1 bottle V8 spicy vegetable drink
2 boxes of Caprisun fruit drinks (10 packs)
1 jar of salsa
1 bag of black beans
3 half gallons of milk
36 boxes of cereal
3 dozen eggs
2 avocados
20 bananas
2 boxes of Quaker Instant oatmeal
55 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
1 package of Knudsen Light sour cream
20 apples
2 lbs of carrots
8 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
2 jars of Skippy All Natural peanut butter
2 cans of pork and beans
1 bag of long grain brown rice
2 packages of Mission 100% whole wheat tortillas (10 count each)

Donated Food / other items to Food Bank that were purchased with my $1 a day

8 Deli Selections lunch packages
4 packages hardwood smoked turkey franks
2 Gillette body wash
3 sample packs of Maxwell House Vanilla Carmel Latte
1 Stayfree pantiliner package
1 Kotex U tampon package
5 Bayer children's aspirin
2 sticks of deodorant
4 bottles Windex multi-surface cleaner
1 can of Pork & Beans
32 boxes of cereal
50 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
2 Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner
2 Scrubbing Bubbles Extend-A-Clean bathroom cleaner refill

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The Beginning ::: 10 Things I Learned Eating On $1 A Day For A Month ::: Day 32: What Was I Thinking?

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41 Responses to Eating Well On $1 A Day: Day 31 – Final Day

  1. Joomi Lee says:

    You mean to say you didn’t buy a less expensive ice cream? I would have! I’m glad you made it all the way to the end. Are you going to take a break and then start a second month of this challenge?

  2. Malik says:

    I don’t think it’s right of your sister to try and change the rules when it’s clear you were winning. Especially since, as many readers pointed out, they also would eat peanut butter and banana (I would, too).

    If you want to continue the challenge for longer, I’ll be happy to read how you do, and wish you well. I don’t think it’s appropriate for your sister to require you meet her standards of cooking, though.

  3. Chrissy says:

    Aw dude! I was with you all the way but you do know that that pint of ice cream you took back went into the store’s dumpster, don’t you? After you’d taken it home with you there was no way they could have re-sold it.
    Next time, can you just store it in your freezer and not count the $1.99 in your calculations? That way the food won’t be wasted.

  4. Carolee says:

    That ice cream was cheap! Those Ben & Jerry ice cream containers around here are $7.99 each. To get one for $1.99 is unhead of!

  5. jeffrey says:

    I’m hoping that it went to the food bank since the stores in my area are pretty good about that. Leaving a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer where I can’t touch it? Talk about torture!

  6. Vicki B. says:

    This 2nd month are you going to use the things you bought last month as a starter? Or are you starting all over?

  7. Dana says:

    With all due respect to your sister, you may want to suggest that she read up on the health benefits of peanuts. I know several middle-aged people whose doctors advised them to incorporate more peanut butter into their diets, as long as they get the ‘natural’ kind with no added sugars or hydrogenated fats. Here’s a site that gives some details on why peanut butter is so good for you, hope it helps:
    http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=101

  8. jeffrey says:

    @Vicki B — yep, going to just continue one although I don’t have much left as I anticipated only doing it 1 month. I am really sorry I didn’t keep more boxes of cereal…

  9. Chrissy says:

    Well, the problem with the returned ice cream is that since it had been out of the store, the store could no longer vouch that it had not been contaminated. I think their legal department would have them throw it out to avoid the liability issue. I’ve worked in the food (both retail and restaurant) biz for over ten years and can’t really think of ANY food that we could have re-sold after it was returned — even stuff still in sealed packaging would be discarded instead of donated. Blame the lawsuit-crazy public.

  10. Christina says:

    I have a new hero.
    I just discovered your blog today and read all posts at once (good thing because I don’t know that I could have lived through the suspense of what you would do next!)
    I’ve been couponing for a while and think I’m pretty good but you are the master! (Having two kids, two dogs, a full time job and a husband that works out of town kind of limits how much time I can spend doing match ups and transactions.)
    Thank you for doing this experiment. It really shows that you can eat well (dispite what your sister says) for very little when planning is involved. People tend to confuse a need and a want.
    Your Awesome. You Rock. I aspire to be you! LOL! 🙂

  11. QueenNana says:

    Congratulations! I am so proud of what you did… I am sorry you did not get your ice cream.
    Your diet was very well thought out. I think there are some things you may be able to get. If you get the big oatmeal and not the little instant bags, you may have more oatmeal and they do have coupons for this. Also you may try getting an onion to add into the rice for spice and flavor. For the hot dogs, try cutting in pieces and frying in a skillet, eat alone either in the pieces or add egg, it is tasty. You can fry it whole or cut down the middle, it tastes better that way, kind of fried. Even try to boil the wiener, see if you like it that way, you never know. Gives you more choices for meals. Personally I do not like the spicy V-8 but that is a good idea for the rice.
    Hey, I love peanut butter and adding the bananas sounds good to me, more variety the better.
    Your sister is just upset because she lost. You know you won and so do all the readers. I for one am glad you had that great steak dinner…
    Hope you do it again. You were creative and ate meals like I do…

  12. Amber says:

    I just found this website and stayed up late reading the entire month. Kudos to you. I’m very impressed.

    You’re not eating the same types of food I would like, but I could have followed your plan and bought different things with the money makers. It obviously CAN be done.

  13. melayla says:

    Wow. I’m so impressed – I never would have dreamed so much could be done with coupons. And I thought your meals seemed very healthy. As a single person I tend to eat way to much convenience and prepared foods – even with the lack of variety some people mentioned – you still ate a lot more variety of fresh produce than I ever do. And I was so struck by how you used the salad mix lol – I never would have thought to add it to pasta and tuna salads like that, but I imagine it must have tasted wonderful.

    You have me curious now about whether I could have some success with couponing. And I definitely plan to cook more (I like cooking and know how — I just never do, not when it’s so easy to grab a sandwich and soda while I’m out)

    Thank you so much for sharing this challenge with all of us!

  14. Sean says:

    This was an inspiring read, thanks for sharing and good luck with next month. Also, I love peanut butter and bananas. Your sister doesn’t know what she’s missing!

  15. Traci says:

    To make your own “instant” oatmeal all you need to do is blend some in the blender to make it like a fine powder. This blogger describes it better than I can, so… http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/05/09/making-your-own-homemade-oatmeal-packets-a-visual-guide-and-cost-analysis/

  16. Will says:

    With all the stuff you donated, I would say you’ve banked $.07 worth of karma. Just found this today via Lifehacker, and I have to admit I’m pretty excited to see what I can do with couponing. Have you written a comprehensive guide to shopping like you do? I would love to see it. Bet you could make some money selling an e-book with this strategy in it.

  17. jeffrey says:

    @Will

    I am working on the basics of how I did it. It will be available for free — my hope is that people that are able to use it to save money will donate food to their local food banks as payment.

  18. Will says:

    See, you’ve totally gone over $.07 worth of karma.

    I will be looking up a food bank in my area.

  19. Steve says:

    Bad move returning the ice cream to the store. We don’t need to know you bought that. Just ignore it and don’t mention it. No need to return it to the store and waste their time, just keep it and don’t eat it until the challenge is over.

    Maybe you’re like typical people who care about the poor, but don’t mind wasting productive people’s time and wasting perfectly good ice cream b/c your strict adherence to rules that only you are observing prohibits you from living with your mistake.

  20. Jaymo says:

    Ah, You did tell us your surprise mystery purchase. I should have been patient. 🙂

  21. Jordy says:

    You completed the challenge, it doesn’t matter what your sister said. She’s just a poor loser or something, changing the rules while you were only days away is just a sad thing to do. You made it all the way, and you should be proud.

  22. Bob Calder says:

    jeffrey,
    Seriously dude. You need to watch Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Also I’m sure everyone agrees you sister is abusive. 😉

    As far as cooking goes, all you have to do is get over some of the American cultural delusions about how long it takes to prepare and cook really good food. You will totally kick ass.

    You need to let the community get more involved. How about making variations on the rules?

    Being able to mooch from neighbors would add an interesting twist to the rules.

  23. Michelle says:

    wow. I just finished reading day 1-31. you r amazing. wish Malaysia has all these goody coupons too. hahah 😀 Keep up the good work!

  24. Dirk says:

    Awesome. I’m inspired. I see more burritos in my future.
    Unfortunately here in my country the coupons are no where as profitable as in US and elsewhere; but I am going to be more conscious of my choices after seeing your example.

  25. Mel says:

    I’m so inspired by this experiment. Kudos to you! I used to “do” coupons but stopped for various reasons. However, your tips would make those reasons moot. And yes, I would like to give the extra items to the food banks and shelters. This recession means they need donations more than ever, and yet everyone’s budgets are tight. And I’ll also donate some of the saved money to your sister’s operation…to get that peanut butter & banana stick out of her backside. 🙂 Just some humor there, Martha Stewart.

  26. Jude says:

    Next time please eat the ice cream! You get SO MUCH EXTRA CREDIT for giving food to the pantry. You could have traded any of it to your sister for this ice cream. Plus, she took your chocolate.

  27. Elise says:

    what you should do is take your $30 bucks, open it up for as many coupons as you like and donate it all to the food bank. Then, take the lists of your purchases, give it to sis and tell her she hasta come up with a feasible menu with it. (after all if your getting the food from the food bank you would have to make do).

  28. Autumn says:

    Congrats on the challenge! I don’t entirely agree with you or your sister on the healthy eating challenge. Granted, on what you had to work with it is a very healthy diet comparatively to many normal American diets that spend ten times that amount or more on food a month. While not all of the food choices are my cup of tea, it is all very much edible and tolerable to eat. (Your sister must be a picky eater.) I can also see the healthy benefit of most of your meals plans. However, one thing to notice, is that every meal you had consisted of at least 1/3 or more in grains. Yes, a lot of them were whole grain, but you also lacked a lot of leafy green fresh vegetables.
    I’d like to to see you do the same challenge over again with even healthier options (more fruits and especially veggies), with a little more variety, and a bit more monetary wiggle room. Say $2-3 a day? I’m sure you could do it, and come up with some very health conscious and great tasting meals given you have the time.
    I do wonder as to how much time you spend on average going through grocery lines when using several coupons considering that most are one per customer per visit. Perhaps the stores in my area are just sticklers for coupon rules, but I’ve run into this problem on many an occasion.

    Good luck if you decide to start a new challenge! I’d be interested to see how it would turn out!

  29. Dawn says:

    If your Safeway card had scanned that day, you’d have been up 0.08, making the ice cream purchase doable with a penny to the good! As for your sister, my family (for generations in both directions) LOVES peanut butter and bananas! Elvis’s favorite sandwich was grilled peanut butter and banana. Leave off the grilled part and it’s healthier. I hadn’t thought about buying food and such like you have but I will start doing so! If it helps me save money, eat better and benefits the food bank, it’s a huge WIN for everyone!

  30. Henry Turner says:

    Sadly coupon culture isn’t as prevalent in other nations. Your website has been a very entertaining read (and good luck with convincing your sister about the benefits of peanut butter and banana, it is an exquisite combination).

  31. Linda S. says:

    Hooray for revealing the mystery product (that was a bit of a bargain, wasn’t it?). I’m in Australia and we don’t have that many coupons over here, but I’m now going to be ever more watchful for the ones that are available.

    This was an excellent experiment. Hooray for you! And the food bank thing is just the icing. Feed on the sweetness that is your soul.

  32. Paula says:

    I’m so glad you treated yourself to a steak – you sure deserve it! I do wish you had kept the ice cream.. you deserved that too! You donated soooo much! I agree with the others that you earned good karma with that for sure.

    I read all your posts just tonight and I have to say you’re a pretty amazing guy!

    Thank you.

    ~paula

  33. Shawn says:

    Maybe it’s just because I’m a late-20’s yuppie, but despite the fact that I know how to cook for a family of 4 I still was intrigued by some of the “recipes” you came up with. The peanut butter and banana “burritos” in particular sound tasty, as does the rice cooked with V8 juice, and they’re simple enough that they pretty much eliminate any excuse to pay for fast food instead of taking a couple minutes to make something like these.

    It occurs to me that you bought the right ingredients to make Huevos Rancheros several times, and a couple of times you almost made it too. You might want to throw that into your list of “appetizing recipes” in the future.

  34. Amanda says:

    While I admire your willpower in taking the ice cream back – it was technically purchased when the challenge was over – on Day 31.

    I agree with everyone else that says they would eat peanut butter and bananas – but I can’t eat it during the day, kiddo’s allergic to nuts…no eating food in front of him that he can’t have.

  35. Nora says:

    Congrats. Even if your sister doesn’t agree, I clearly think you won. I had a roomate just after college that ate food like that all the time even though she wasn’t trying to do it on a budget.

    As for the ice cream, I agree that the overcharge for the potato would have offset it, and you still would have been under budget. Another thought is that you could have gotten it at CVS, because I know they carry it at my store. I also agree that with all of the food you donated you have way more than $.07 worth of good Karma! Congrats again!

  36. Tara says:

    I just read the entire first thirty days of this challenge in one sitting, and the LEAST I can say is “absolutely amazing!”

    As for your sister, it sounds like she’s just being a sore loser and picking fights on the tiny issues D: To eat on $1 a day AND still give regular donations to a food bank is an accomplishment. Most people can’t even do that with a “normal” grocery budget.

    I will admit a few of the recipes you created made my stomach turn (mainly the rice and salsa creations, peanut butter and banana, black beans, and anything with fresh tomatoes. YUCK.) That’s a preference of taste and it’s not unusual. I noticed you don’t have much of a sweet tooth. That wouldn’t have changed the challenge much either. It would be interesting to see this challenge with a set guide of recipes or cooking according to someone else’s taste.

    All in all, hats off to you, sir.

  37. Melanie Wood says:

    So, I came in super late here…. It’s just after New Years, 2011, and someone gave me The Coupon Mom’s book for Christmas. I am only just beginning to see the benefits of coupon use on this, my first day. It is almost 3:00 am and I have been up far to late reading your posts from beginning to end and I am inspired. Even if you and your sister differ about what is tasty and what is peanut butter and bananas, you win, in my humble opinion, because you managed to not only feed yourself for $1 day, you also managed to donate food and expensive personal care products to your local food bank. You ate AND helped take care of other people for that one dollar a day, which is totally amazing. Times are tight, jobs are lost forever and we are left to find our way in a new world where the old rules don’t apply anymore. Giving to charity in addition to taking care of yourself and your family seemed like a rich man’s game or a luxury item we had to forgo. You have proved that to be false. You have proved that you can feed yourself and your soul as you contribute to a better community, all for a less than a good number of us used to spend on our morning lattes and mochas at trendy coffee shops back when we used to commute to a job we don’t have anymore. You win, peanut butter and bananas notwithstanding. And you have made everyone who reads this think twice about how we spend a dollar a day. Thank you!!!

  38. Will Berg says:

    Your blog has inspired me to quit my job and live off of $1 per day (I have enough saved up for several years worth of food). Thank You.

  39. Dash says:

    I just sat here and read through your entire account of this. I think you did an awesome job and you probably ate a healthier diet than I did this month.

    Your sister has issues. She can’t just change the rules after the challenge is set. Saying you are the only one who would eat this way is absolutely false. Maybe SHE wouldn’t find this simple food edible or appetizing, but she doesn’t speak for everyone. I’ve eaten just like that because I don’t know how to cook so I fashion a crude meal out of basically whatever “snacks” are around.

    You got by with fairly healthy fare and you were certainly wise with the way you handled your coupons. I would have held on to more of the cream cheese and cereal than you did just in case, but still, you did it.

    You did great. But clearly on some days you weren’t getting enough calories, especially carbs. It’s heartbreaking that people have to live with less than even what you had sometimes.

    Well done!

  40. Mo says:

    Kudos and congrats! I know that I, too, have come late to the game, but I just read days 1-31 this afternoon and I am truly inspired by you! To coupon, to cook more, and to make use of all the food lying around in my pantry that I pass up almost every single day.

    Also, your sister is crazy! PB and bananas is heavenly. Especially with a little honey and on the whole wheat toast.

    You also won this, hands down!!!!

    And I also wish you had treated yourself to that ice cream, but I applaud your stick-to-it-ness with bringing it completely under budget…I have a feeling that had a lot to do with making sure sister couldn’t say anything about you coming out over.

    Well played, sir! I can’t wait to read the rest! (C:

  41. amanda more says:

    If people still ask how to do it and you tire a bit explaining refer to the book I wrote "Eating on $1 A Day" (well cowrote with Tom) but I also say easiest way? eat rice