I have found the limit of how far my sister will push in trying to restrict the rules of the challenge (and now I need to figure out how to use this to my advantage). Today was my niece's 5th birthday and when I went to visit, she invited me to her birthday dinner at Red Robin right in front of her mom. When I immediately agreed to go, my sister shot me a look of “what about the challenge?”

me: “Not an issue. You are paying for it.” 🙂

sister: (still giving me the look)

me: “Listen, if you want to explain to Margot that Uncle Jeff wants to go to her birthday dinner but can't because of the challenge, you are free to do so.”

No matter how much my sister wants to put up barriers and make it difficult for me in this challenge, she would never do that to her daughter, so I got a free birthday dinner at Red Robin and then a birthday cupcake when we got home:

margot lizzy birthday

margot 5

jeffs cupcake

I took one bite of the cupcake and almost immediately went into a diabetic seizure — I have drastically reduced my sugar intake during this challenge and it was complete sugar overload. Just like drinking juice straight now is a bit too sweet for me, I don't think I could eat as much of the sugary junk I had been eating before even if I wanted to. I'm not sure if that is good (that I have reached that stage) or bad (knowing how much of that I have consumed in the past).

Yogurt & Kashi

In the morning, I started off my day with the last of the Kashi cereal with a cup of yogurt.

yogurt and Kashi

Unfortunately, the rest of the photos of what I ate for the day were accidentally erased when I was showing my niece photos I was taking at her Red Robin birthday dinner, although the mid day meals (oatmeal with loquats and peanut butter sandwiches) are pretty standard stuff. I did throw in a lettuce / spinach salad in there as well as I need to finish those up before they wilt too much.

I chose a Bacon Guacamole Burger at Red Robin with raspberry ice tea to drink. I can definitely tell that my meal size portions have decreased since beginning this challenge because that burger, while good, was way too much. I remember having the exact same feeling every time I came back to the US when I was living in Japan — the portions in restaurants in the US are just so much bigger.

I also felt myself far too easily fall back into my old habit of eating everything on the plate even long after I already felt full (I need to figure out why I feel compelled to do this). I could have easily felt satisfied eating only half of what was on the plate and taken the rest to eat later, but didn't. Some habits die hard…

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: $40.53
Money Left to Spend: $59.47 ($5.54 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of Everything Purchased: $1251.47


The Beginning ::: Day 68: Travel Day


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  1. Glad that your sister was able to put aside her ‘restrictions’ for her daughter’s birthday.

    As for it being easy to fall back into the trap of eating everything on your plate after eating healthy…I think that’s true of nearly everyone in today’s society. Pretty much “conditioning”. Alot has to do with how we were brought up and also advertising and other media (tv shows, movies, etc). Not to get on a soapbox or anything, but we delved into advertising/media manipulation in my college English 101 class last semester. It’s amazing what the media can accomplish and does so on a daily basis to manipulate people into doing what really isn’t good for them.

    Keep up the good work, Jeffrey!!

  2. I agree with Alicia about it being how you were raised. Most of us were told that we had to clear our plates before leaving the table or having dessert or some other type of reward. You may have even gotten the “starving children in Africa” as a guilt appeal to eat everything.

    I still feel guilty and wasteful if I leave food at a restaurant or let leftovers spoil. Regardless of how little food may be left on my plate at a restaurant, I get it to go.

    Plus, I wouldn’t push your sister too far. She might bend so as not to hurt her children’s feelings, but she might also make your life harder in the challenge down the road.

  3. It is ridiculous how large portion sizes have become at restaurants these days. One trick I use is to pop a piece of gum once I get full and place my napkin over the remaining fod so I won’t be tempted to nibble. My boyfriend and I have also started splitting entrees so we don’t end up getting so full. It can be a challenge to re-condition ourselves to stop eating everything on our plates, but if we can do it we will all live longer healthier lives.

    P.S. I love reading this blog everyday! Keep up the good work. And tell your sister to stop being such a debbie downer.

  4. Your nieces are so cute! I’m glad you got to go to the birthday celebration! (Personally, I would have gone for the pink cupcake though 🙂

  5. I stumbled upon this website today and am hooked on the $1 a Day Challenge posts. Your diligence is impressive and I am going to link to your challenge on my blog! Well done!

    PS: How did this site come into being? Who is the originator, there’s no About page…just wondering and curious!

  6. Your nieces are adorable! And the cupcakes look absolutely yummy! Did your sister bake them? 😛

  7. I think your reaction to wanting to finish everything on your plate might also have to do with the fact that you have limited access to food these days. It could be that in the back of your mind you’re thinking, wow, it might be a while before I have access to this much food, so I’d better stock up while I can.

    I also think it’s true that one’s upbringing has much to do with the need to eat everything on the plate. I was raised to eat only as much as I wanted to. Consequently, I have always been thin and have rarely felt the need to clean my plate as an adult.

  8. I was just looking at your current stats: $40.53 spent/retail value $1251.47!! And none of it junk either. Amazing!

  9. I love following your blog, and you’ve been such an inspiration!

    I’m not sure if you know this already, but if you scan your card at CVS this week, out pops a coupon for $.50 off any Milky Way Caramel (a new flavor), 3 Musketeer Truffle, or Munch singles. The Milky Way Caramels and Musketeer Truffles are on sale for $.50 this week, so they are free! Sometimes this coupon didn’t come out until my 3rd scan, but I got it every day!

    Enjoy! I just hope it’s not too much sugar for you!

  10. First off, let me say that I have really been enjoying following your blog. I try to be as frugal as possible, and your little competition is a bit inspiring.

    BUT, I do NOT think you honored the spirit of the challenge by forcing your sister to provide a full meal at a restaurant. The goal was to eat (meaning ALL of your food) for $1/day. You easily could have paid for your own meal (about $10). The burgers at Red Robin are huge, and they come with bottomless fries. Eat 1/3 of the burger, and take the rest home, along with fries. That way, you could get 3 meals out of it, which would not be quite so devastating to your budget.

    Obviously, it is your competition, which means you get to ultimately decide on your own rules, I think it is very misleading when you are having meals bought for you! I’m pretty sure that makes at least 2 during this challenge…

  11. @Seth

    I thought a lot about this and this is my basic philosophy on it. I spent the first month doing this on very restrictive rules made by my sister and showed that I could eat on under $1 a day. My feeling is that a “not eating out when others are paying” rule would be necessary because it could very easily become a loophole to get nutrition when you don’t have enough food. That has never been an issue with me in this challenge making it a non issue – I have always had plenty of food to eat and could have easily said no without it harming me in any way.

    Both events were part of daily life (I did not ask someone to take me out – one was for a job interview and the other a family birthday party)

    I think that people would have every right to complain if I was low on food and wasn’t able to eat enough and started using free meals as a way to get around not having enough, but that is obviously not the case.

  12. I agree that your stash of food is not suffering, nor is your budget. You have done an excellent job of providing for yourself with $1/day. However, my point is that the discrepancy comes in the form of variety. We can easily force ourselves to eat at home every meal, but that can lead to a feeling of depravity towards eating out. By accepting those free meals out at restaurants, you are filling that void, making it easier to ignore it in the future (and making eating at home for EVERY meal easier).

    Basically, I think it boils down to your REAL motivation for the contest… if your only goal is to show that YOU can survive on $1/day then I suppose you are still achieving that. However, I was under the impression that you were trying to prove that it is doable for anyone. Since most people are not given a nice dinner out every month, I was just saying I don’t think it fits that second objective. It’s not a huge deal… I’m just saying that to be true to the objectives, you should have paid for your meal yourself.

  13. One thing that I should clarify about my response…

    My viewpoint was primarily fueled by many of the critiques I have read about your project. Those opposed, voice that your “experiment” is novel, but it not sustainable. They argue that with a little will power, we can do just about anything for a short period of time. They said that eventually most people would get tired of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and would want to just go out for a burger…

    I was just trying to point out that you did fill that craving by essentially taking the night off from the challenge.

    Again, I do want to point out that I am not trying to attack you… Just wanted to make you aware of that different viewpoint.

  14. @Seth

    I think I might give more credence to this argument if I had eaten something that I could not have eaten myself. The fact that I had hamburger the night before and that I have had 2.25 lbs of it during the challenge shows that the decision wasn’t made by a desire for a burger that I couldn’t have. The only reason I have a desire to eat out is that means I don’t have to cook — it has nothing to do with feeling deprived of food. I have turned down numerous invitation to go out lunch with friends and family where they said they would pay. I consider the two times I have done it exceptions (a job interview — I wasn’t willing to give up the potential of a couple thousand dollars in new work) and a birthday invitation from a five year old (I wasn’t willing to tell my niece no when she really wanted me to go).

    Again, I can see that variety would be an issue with others, but it really has never been one with me. And those that do crave variety could have chosen very different things to buy with the moneymaker scenarios. This was never to try and prove that anyone could do it (in fact, I would never suggest that anyone should try it). There are so many varying circumstances that it is impossible to account for all of them. What I did want to show is that it is possible to eat relatively well for far less than most people are currently spending on food with a little coupon creativity. The $1 a day simply came about because of the bet between me and my sister.

  15. You should read In Defense of Food. He talks about the compulsion today of eating everything instead of eating until you’re full. I usually ask for a box as soon as my food comes so that I’m ready to take half of it home when I get full instead of sitting continuing to eat, even though I’m full, while my husband finishes his meal.

  16. One way to avoid the HUGE portions of a restaurant is to just cut the entree in half or third. I do this all the time. If I’m really hungry when I go in I’ve even asked for a box for the extra half so I’m not tempted to over eat. If it’s not on the plate I don’t feel the compulsion to eat the whole thing. I’m assuming you would have been allowed to take your leftovers home to eat for a 2nd meal and that your sister wouldn’t have confiscated them as you walked in the door.

  17. I just want to share with you that there is a loophole in getting free burgers for your birthday. Essentially you can print 14 coupons on your printer, and go to 14 different Red Robbins each day so no one will say you already got your birthday burger. You will use real ID and real authentic free voucher printed 14 times to enjoy once a day. If you are truly ambitious, you can even go twice and make sure there is a shift change so that everyone there will be different and no one will notice you already got your free burger.

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