I have been hearing more and more that I am not eating a well balanced diet. What is really scary is what people would have said if I had been posting my diet online before I began this challenge because it certainly contained a lot more junk food than I am currently eating and would have been far less balanced. That, however, doesn’t mean that I should not be eating well balanced meals and this is something that I will try to address as this challenge progresses further.

One of the main problems I have is trying to determine what a well balanced meal is. While searching for this I seem to come across conflicting information – some say that a lot of variety is good while others say that too much variety makes one overeat. What I need to find is something that makes the “balanced diet” easy to understand (it is not good when you get a headache just trying to figure out what a balanced diet is). I know that I am probably not getting enough protein as I should and I could use more of the “super foods” in my diet.


This is part of a continuing challenge to eat well while spending an average of only $1 a day on food. You can find the beginning and the rules of this challenge here


The truth is that I am never going to be a health nut when it comes to food. I like my junk food too much. That’s not to say that I don’t want to be healthy (and I consider myself in pretty good health — despite my recent intestinal problems, all my health stats indicate that I am in pretty decent shape). That being said, it’s something that I will have to work on to help lower some of the criticism of this challenge.

I did manage to go on my morning walk this morning. The early blackberries are getting more difficult to find, but there should be a lot around the corner with blackberry bushes like this now in full bloom with lots of bees buzzing around their flowering fruit:

blackberry bush

I was able to find some, but it looks like there is going to be a lag of about a week for more unless I can find some more bushes that haven’t been discovered by others already (while these look a bit under ripe, they are actually the sweetest ones I have come across thus far):

day 43 blackberries

The weather here has warmed up this weekend and I have my fingers crossed that the increase in temperature will help ripen them all more quickly…


These last few days have been extremely hectic as I tried to catch up on my lost productivity from having to go in for some additional testing. With work and my other projects beyond this new challenge, even small disruptions cause a huge backlog in the things I need to get done. I think it is going to take me a bit of time to work out time management issues so that I don’t get too far behind so that I can’t catch up. I actually think that this is a good thing (although quite stressful at times) since it is the time factor that seems to be the biggest worry from most people when it comes to couponing (again, for me, it is the meal preparation, not the couponing)

I had a very simple breakfast of a bowl of Cheerios with half a banana and some of the blackberries on top:

day 43 breakfast


For lunch, I boiled up a couple of eggs and made an egg salad sandwich by adding a bit of onion, some lettuce and a bit of Miracle Whip on whole wheat bread. I cut up a carrot to make carrot sticks to dip into cream cheese and then had a side of corn chips that came from the Hamburger Helper package that I have taken apart:

day 43 lunch


I asked for help in creating meals and have been flooded with suggestions from people (I still have a bunch to get back to, so if you emailed me and I haven’t responded, that is on my growing list of things to do). It is giving me hope that I will be able to create some interesting meals that are more appetising to all with some practice. I tried the first one of the suggestions from Ruth W. who wrote the following:

Ranch Scalloped Potatoes

Using a small single-serving oven/toaster oven-safe baking dish (or larger if you want leftovers)–it should be at least 1-inch deep–coat the inside of the dish with a light swipe of oil or butter. Wash a couple potatoes and start slicing them thinly (not so thin that they fall apart, but not too thick either). With or without skins, as you prefer.

Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Top that with a teaspoon or tablespoon of ranch dressing (depends on how big a dish you’re using) and spread the flavor across the layer. Sprinkle dried onion bits across that. Top with a light dusting of flour (will work best if you use a sifter to keep the dusting VERY light).

You may want to slice a turkey frank or two and add it to the layers in this dish, or just cook it separately for your protein with this meal.

Keep layering–potatoes, dressing, onions, flour, maybe turkey frank–until the dish is full. End with a layer of potatoes and dressing.

When the dish is full, pour milk over the layers until you can just see it at the top corners — it should not cover the top layer.

Bake this at 375 until the potatoes feel done when you stick a fork through the layers. (Start checking at 30 minutes). Most of the milk should be absorbed, so it should be neither sloshy nor dry. The top layer should brown slightly.

I decided to do it without the turkey franks (just wasn’t in the mood for that taste tonight). It was funny because I had to take my computer into the kitchen after about 10 minutes because i was getting tired running back and forth to check on my computer what to do next. I ended up using two medium sized potatoes and had plenty left over to eat at a later date:

day 43 dinner

day 43 dinner prep

Ranch Dressing Scalloped Potatoes

They turned out quite tasty. I could have probably put a little more ranch dressing in the layers and a bit more of the onion flakes, but it was still good enough for me to go back for seconds. In addition to the scalloped potatoes, Ruth also had a carrot salad for me to make:

Carrot Side Salad

Grate a carrot (or use a peeler to peel it into ribbons, but it will look better if you use a grater). Add a box of raisins. Stir with one teaspoon of Miracle Whip until everything is coated. (Use a bit more if necessary.) Stir in one teaspoon of sugar. Let set in the fridge until the sugar dissolves (about an hour).

day 43 dinner plated

Having completed the recipe without burning down the house or requiring another hospital visit, I am encouraged that with some time, effort and practice, there may be a day when I can actually say I know how to cook. Of course, in order to celebrate this I had to have another one of my cups of ice cream in the evening 🙂

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

Money Spent $34.65
Money left to spend: $26.35 ($1.33 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $793.22


The Beginning ::: Day 44: This Is All New To Me, Too


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  1. If I have it I add some cheese (cheddar is my favorite) to escalloped potatoes and some diced ham and lots of onion. Butter and salt and pepper in the layers too. Yummm. Now I want some.

    Celery and/or apple to the carrot salad are nice additions too. A pinch of celery seed adds lots of flavor.

    Poor Man’s soup is somethinng my father used to make often in the winter. Saute some sliced onion in some butter until softened. Add some sliced potato and just barely cover with water. Put a lid on the pot and cook on high heat until potatoes are done, maybe 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add a can of evaporated milk and some salt and pepper and maybe float a bit more butter on top. So good!

    When we had fish it became Rich Man’s soup. The raw boneless fish (cod or some other light fish) was added to the pot when the potatoes and onions were done and the stove was turned off. The really hot liquid cooks the fish and it falls apart in in a minute or so. Then add the milk. Often we caught the fish ourselves so the price was right.

    My parents were very creative figuring out ways to survive for weeks to months at a time spending no cash and still feeding 5 kids well. Winter time there was often no work and we lived off what we had stored from the garden and had gathered from the wild all summer long.

  2. I don’t think your diet is too bad – it seems to include a reasonable amount of fruit and vegetables. My one problem is you eat a lot of processed foods, but I think that that is because you get coupons for them. If coupons are usually for processed food and not fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, there’s probably not a lot you can do on a dollar a day.

    Keep picking those berries and lemons! Could you make friends with people who grow fresh food and offer to barter coupons with them? If you have a garden or even a balcony try growing things there.

  3. i would grab a big bag full of those lemons, squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice cube containers. when the cubes are frozen, pop them out and into a plastic bag for storage in the freeze. I would recommend container gardening for some lettuce, spinach, herbs, and maybe even a tomato plant. Or a pepper plant. Very easy to do even in the smallest apartments.

  4. Honestly..people who are criticizing your diet probably feel guilty that they are holding their second family bag of Doritos. You have a diet very similar to any average healthy person.

  5. First of all, I found your site via Lifehacker and have read through all the archives, and am completely inspired by your project and your savings. I’ve never used coupons, but am now going to figure out how to save as much as you do! Thank you so much!

    Also, I really appreciate all that you are doing for your local food bank. What an amazing, commendable feat! Again, I’m encouraged to do more for my local food bank (instead of just the annual “Christmastime” drop-off!)

    That said, looking at your receipts, I’m seeing one way in which I’m surprised you are NOT saving! Do you bring your own grocery bags?? If so, you should be getting at least 5 cents off of each transaction. Perhaps that isn’t how it’s done in your area, but here in LA, bringing your own bags (or not using any!) earns you between 5-10 cents. Small change really (literally), but I know how much that can add up, especially with your incredible project here! Just wanted to bring it up! 😉

    Keep up the amazing work! And don’t fret so much about what people say about your daily meals. As long as it tastes good to you, eat up! 🙂


  6. For a concrete definition of a “balanced meal” you might consider the official food pyramid. I can’t find clear-cut “three servings of veggies for everyone”-type advice, but you can go to http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/index.html and click “MyPyramid Plan” to get specialized results. It should be pretty clear-cut to compare what you eat to those guidelines to say if you’re meeting a baseline level of nutrition. (I think it’s obvious that you already are– you eat fruit or veggies, or both!, with every single meal!)

    As for ways to quantify tastiness… maybe a dish has to have a name to qualify as “something other people would eat”? Like, scalloped potatoes are in, but fried-egg-on-chicken-pasta-salad-on-toast isn’t. Except that your delicious banana & PB combos don’t have names. (Maybe the commenters could name them and vote them in as “real foods”? haha)

    Also: Hearty yet Healthy and Quick Pancake Topping
    # 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
    # 1 tablespoon strawberry preserves or raspberry preserves
    # 1/2-1 tablespoon natural-style peanut butter
    Mix it all together until it’s creamy. If you want to, you can microwave it, which makes it runnier.

    You could also try just peanut butter on its own (lots of people love it that way) or applesauce, put on top after it’s cooked.

    Best of luck!!

  7. To have quick information on a balanced diet and what to choose, you can start from the food pyramid (just google it).
    Imho, your food choices depends on many things like your awarness about the topic, family tradition, (cultural) habits of the country you live in, etc.

    Can I make a question on the first recipe? Why don’t you peel the patatoes before cutting and cooking them? It’s seems a bit strange to me…

  8. I am finally all caught up. And now I am off to forage my own berries – but from SIL’s backyard. (She gave permission)

  9. I think you’re doing really well nutrition-wise. The best advice I can give without getting too complicated is “eat the rainbow” with your fruits and veggies. Eat as many different colors of both, every week, as much variety as you can. Even if you don’t achieve the rainbow every week, trying to do so makes a huge difference from the all-beige diet that a lot of Americans end up eating.

    Kudos on getting whole grains in there. That’s a huge deal.

    Couple of things:
    Walnuts are delicious in carrot-raisin (or carrot-craisin) salad.

    My city stocks the pond in my neighborhood park with edible fish that people are allowed to fish for. I’m vegan but this seems like a wonderful thing; check if your city does something similar.

    We have tons of dandelions in our park and I’d be tempted to harvest them & try to cook them, but the thought of dogs peeing on them freaks me out too much. Plus I don’t know what chemicals, if any, the park staff uses. Since I can afford grocery-store greens, I’ve never done the research to find out. Make sure you look into the health concerns of foraging in public parks, because that’s an interesting option but I wouldn’t want you to endanger yourself.

  10. Hmmm, I’ve read through all your posts and I would have to say your diet is on the healthier side, so I don’t know what all the criticism is about you not eating a balanced diet. I don’t even think you are light on protein, at least on most days.

    You are doing a great job and I am really enjoying reading about your project.

  11. If you get a hold of some Salmon(which if you are on a coast you should be able to for pretty cheap) cover it with miracle whip and and fennel and then bake or broil it on foil. When the run off starts to brown and burn a little it should be done. Probably a little on the pricier side but should still be doable with a little effort.

    Also try to find butcher shops in your area, not just the ones at the grocery store and tell them what you are doing. You might be able to meat that is starting to get old for cheap, it should still be good but a lot cheaper.

  12. I don’t know if you have Oberweiss dairy in your area, but I can get half a gallon of milk (grass fed cows, no antibiotics) for $2.99. If I bring the glass bottle back, I get $1.50. So half gallon of organic milk for $1.50…which is excellent here.

  13. Hey that is how we used to make carrot salad only when we had the funds we threw some chopped walnuts in as well.

    I think the well balanced diet is a figment of most people’s imagination. It is something we can all agree we need to be doing but we all interpret it differently depending on our family/ethnic backgrounds. The problem for people on very limited funds is affording all the foods that go into that balanced diet as fresh fruits and vegetables can be very expensive. I think for what you have to work with you are doing very well.

  14. Eloriane-The PB/banana does have a name, and it has 5 stars on food networks site: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/foodnation-with-bobby-flay/peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwich-recipe/index.html
    It was also the favorite of Elvis, so it’s not a new concept. Of course that version is fried. I used to eat it (without the banana) when I was a kid.

    Personally I feel that your bfst needs more protein… but that is because I am doing the sugar addicts diet (radiant recovery) but it doesn’t sound like you need that….

    You also say that you only eat whole grain bread. Which is awesome on $1/day. However you still are eating white rice and white pasta. But again, it’s hard enough to get non-white pasta that actually tastes good when not restricted to $1/day.

  15. Hiya,
    I’ve just read all the way through your challenge, and it’s been a great read!

    My doctor’s advice about a balanced diet is:
    On your plate, have half vegetables, one quarter protein and one quarter carbs.
    If you can do that most meals, and have a couple of pieces of fruit, your doing fine.

  16. I on occasion make a grilled pb&j with banana and a bit of honey for dessert sometimes. It is quick to make and tastes great while not being terribly overprocessed depending on what type of peanut butter, bread and jelly (fresh strawberry!) you use. No one cam contest that it is a regular food (not even your sister) given the amount of people who have replied saying they eat them!

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