Rotten potatoes are gag reflex inducing. Unfortunately, I found this out first hand when I opened up my second 10lb bag of potatoes — and was greeted with a most unpleasant scent imaginable. Although tempted to chuck the entire bag due to the smell, I knew I needed to salvage as many of the potatoes as possible. Saying it was an unpleasant olfactory experience is a great understatement and not something that I hope to ever have to smell again anytime soon. In the end, I lost about 3 of the 10 lbs of potatoes to rot.

I should have realized it was going to be one of those days when it started off that way, especially when it was another travel day. In the past it was fine to take along all the food I had because I didn’t have much, but now that I have more food, taking it all when traveling is quite cumbersome. The fact that it is a quick three day trip makes it all that more complicated. I decided that I would just take a few things and live off of pretty basic meals for the next three days. The problem is that when I arrived, I realized that I had forgotten some of the basics.

Which comes to the next question for this challenge. The biggest things I forgot were cooking oil and spices for flavoring. The exact same things I forgot are available and I have permission to use where I am staying. My sister, invoking SARBSS (It is ALWAYS a sibling’s job to change or narrow clarify the rules when ridiculous bets are being attempted by another sibling. This is part of the Sibling Agreement on Records, Bets, Stunts and Streaks), thinks if I I forgot to take it with me, then I should suffer without it. I think that if I have purchased it, I should be allowed a little leeway and be able to use those same items since their cost is insignificant per use once they have been purchased. Time for all of you to decide and comment with your opinion:

[poll id=”6″]

Blueberry Drink Banana Smoothie

I decided to try another orange banana smoothie this morning, but whereas the previous oranges were delicious, this one was dried out and I ended up throwing it away. With no other fruit in the house, I decided to use a cup of the OceanSpray blueberry drink with ice and a banana for the morning smoothie. It wasn’t as good as using fresh fruit, but it wasn’t bad either. Definitely worth making it if there is no fresh fruit around:

blueberry drink banana smoothie

Cheerio Kashi Mixed Cereal

Since it was a busy day trying to get things packed to travel along with all the other stuff I needed to get done, it was a quick cereal mix of Cheerios and Kashi cereal before I headed off:

Cheerio Kashi mix cereal

Since I was going to be on the road for a few hours, I packed myself a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and the Peppridge Farm Goldfish grahams to eat along the way.

Mashed Potatoes, Pasta and Salad

Dinner was a hodgepodge of whatever I had on hand and it included reheated mashed potatoes with veggies, a salad (lettuce, spinach, onion, tomato, salad dressing) and pasta (with tomato and salad dressing). I also had a large glass of Blueberry Juice (mixed half and half with water — juice is too sweet without mixing it for me now)

day 58 dinner

I think that my meals are going to be this way for the next few days as I have limited access to a kitchen (just making things that much more challenging) meaning that simple meals that don’t take much preparation are what will be on the menu.

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

Money Spent $40.01
Money left to spend: $20.99 ($5.04 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $1171.64


The Beginning ::: Day 59: Is Gum Food?


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  1. I voted “no” on being able to use basics. One man’s basics may be another man’s luxury.

    I know you don’t want to spend any more time on this than is necessary. A little planning will go a long way to help make sure you don’t forget anything. I suggest that you come up with menu plan for the days that you will be gone. Then, you can make a checklist for all the items that you will need. Since your meals are pretty basic, this should not take that much additional time.

    I love reading your post and am loving it when you find great deals.

  2. I actually cannot understand what you’re asking here.

    If you are asking, “If I forgot to bring something with me that I normally would have, but the people I’m house-sitting for have it, can I use theirs?”, well the answer is quite obvious – it’s up to the owner of the house.

    Typically, when I have house or pet-sat, I have been told to help myself to anything in the kitchen. I have, in turn, done the same for my sitters (in my case, including for the one paid pet-sitter I had to hire).

    However, if this was not stated to you up front, and you did not ask if you could use things (and for some reason cannot ask now), you’re SOL.

  3. I came across your blogg yesterday. and followed you from the start of your journey and have read every single post.
    You have revolutionized the way I see the world of groceries and even though I wont be trying this challenge any time soon, I can honestly say that all of the fundamental teachings and skills will be used in my future purchases.

    Thanks Jeff for this wonderful Blog and I will keep reading this till the end.

  4. No, I don’t think you should be allowed to use their “basics.” Although your situation is obviously unique, if I leave something at home, I have to go without. Forgot oil and vinegar for my salad? Have to eat it dry. This isn’t like foraging, where you may or may not get lucky; this is a lack of planning.

    I agree with Tammy: make a checklist before you embark on your journey. You could even put a list on your fridge to track the oils or spices you use most often so that you only take those when you go. If you’re concerned about lugging the bottles, you could purchase smaller containers, like bento supplies, to take only as much as you’ll need for the trip.

  5. @Sheri

    heh – good question. When I started all of this, I didn’t even have a Safeway card (goes to show that I really didn’t shop at all before this) so when I said I was going to be doing this, my brother in law said he had a Safeway card that he never used. I have been using it ever since so that is the difference in names.

  6. For the first time in this whole thing, I’m taking your sister’s side. I hate to do that, but in this ONE instance, she’s right.

    You make a mistake, you live with the consequences.

  7. I don’t know about the rest of you but when I invite someone to my home, I assume that I will be feeding them.The last time I went on vacation and my chronicly broke daughter house sat for me, I asked her for a shopping list of the foods that she wanted to eat. Because she looked after both my animals and watered my plants I felt it was a fair trade. I would feel sightly offended if I invited someone to my house for a party or BBQ and they brought all of their own foods. I say use ,within reason what is genuinely offered to you. Most people do not live without any type of social supports. It is a basic premise of civilization to share foods with friends and family. Just because you are engaging in this experiment does not mean that social norms do not appy.

  8. I voted “yes,” but I agree with everyone so far that you should definitely get permission of the home-owners first! Especially for small things like a few tablespoons of cooking oil or a few shakes of salt, the cost is minimal per use. I say don’t sweat the small stuff in this case, so long as you’ve got permission from the owners to use theirs.

  9. I agree that this is a planning, not a money issue. If you can’t get home for lunch and a friend offered to buy one for you, that wouldn’t be legal either.

    I write my meal plans a week before, two weeks if I have big weekend plans between. You save money shopping in large part by being flexible. Most others do it by being prepared. I can’t run home at lunch, so I’d better bring it with me. Cooking takes time, so I often chop veggies after dinner for the next day. All of this is to say that being prepared is a huge part of eating well for little money and other than cooking it seems to be the one you struggle with the most. So when you’re not prepared you suffer through.

  10. I agree with Denise! I voted yes with the permission of the owner! That’s just kind of out there that if you are house/pet sitting somewhere that you wouldn’t have some access to groceries. We always allow whoever is doing that for us to raid the pantry so to speak.

  11. OH, and I don’t think you’re even going to lose a poll. Your sister was actually really generous to agree to it. You will get so many people rooting you on that they want you to have it as easy as possible.

  12. I, too, have to vote no for the reasons others have stated. I have also thought before that you might try meal plans but I see a small issue here because you buy what is on sale, coupons, etc, so your plan might not come tol fruition.

    However, I think that after you shop you should take time to make some plan for your meals so you find you are more prepared. I think you’ll find you are able to remember the items needed for meals easier. I also think you’ll be able to make more decisions before you go shopping, giving you more meal choices. Keep up the awesome work!

  13. Abso-freaking-lutely! Yes, use the equivalent of spice/oil that is available in the judicious amounts in which you would use it at your own place, so long as your host is amenable.

    Seriously, this is another pesky faux-bump imposed by a loving but mischievous sib — no disrespect intended ๐Ÿ™‚ ! I think you are still within the letter of the many and evolving proscriptions imposed by this amazing journey. Carry on!

  14. If you’d forgotten a lb of hamburger or loaf of bread and the homeowners said “oh, go ahead and use the burger/bread in our house” I’d say you weren’t allowed.

    As there are oils and spices and the usage of these items would be small amounts than I say go for it.

  15. For the first time, I voted no on your poll. It seems to me this question is related to a problem with planning which you have encountered several times. If traveling is your lifestyle right now, I think instead you need to force yourself to learn how to pre-plan. Especially since your examples were shelf-stable items — which could have been packed the night before at some point when things were not hectic.

  16. I voted yes on the basic items, but that would only be if the home owner invited you to or it’s part of your contract. When I’ve done house sitting in the past, I’ve always been invited to “help myself to the fridge” – something of which I tried very hard not to take advantage. One homeowner even brewed beer and put a certain number of bottles in the fridge for me to sample. I wouldn’t go for the truffle oil gourmet sea salt; but if you have permission, than I think things like seasonings and cooking oil would be fine – again, with permission only.

    Also – you’ve put up a number of polls (I love them!) but I’ve never seen the end-decision – and how your sister reacts to the polls. I’d love to see that!

  17. Make it simple and borrow rather than use. That is, replace anything you use from your supplies. If that means mailing a baggy with a few shakes worth of salt (double up on the amount you used, just to be sure), great. Everyone needs a little more surreality in their lives.

  18. I voted ‘YES’. I did this because you said …The exact same things I forgot are “available”… AVAILABLE being the key word. I take this to mean you have access to items already purchased, by someone else. If you would have to purchase these items again, then the answer would be ‘no’.

    The whole point of this is to see if you can make it on $1 a day, which you are doing. Now if you threw something away that is perfectly good to use (for whatever reason), and you would have to purchase it again and the answer would again, be no.

  19. I voted yes on basic items.
    A pound of salt and a pint of oil are expensive single-buys, but as has been pointed out, are nearly free for each individual use.

    For fairness’ sake, though, you need to deduct *something* from your daily budget if you find yourself without. You can’t *buy* five cents’ worth of cooking oil or enough pepper to season a meal, but by the rules of the challenge you really should pay for them. Explain it’s just a token amount to stay within the rules of the challenge, to whoever you’re staying with, and then pay something like fifteen to twenty cents for the use of their essentials.

  20. Is anyone here a couponer from the St. Louis area? I’m having a hard time finding coupons for the items that go on sale at the major grocery stores. And none of them have membership or rewards cards, so that makes saving even more difficult. Not to mention the fact that they don’t double coupons over 40 cents, can’t use more than 3 per type of product, etc.

  21. I voted yes, but… Only things you actually have at home.

    I also think you should plan your meals, though. Especially with only three days gone from home. You have enough staples to (for example) pre-mix a pasta sauce in a little dish and measure the amount of pasta to go with it. If you then realize you forgot to throw a little salt into the container of pasta (always salt your pasta water, it makes a big difference) Then I would say it was fine to use the local salt shaker.

  22. I think the idea of having limited access to a kitchen and eating on a dollar a day brings the challenge to a whole new level as many working poor, rent rooms or live in hotels and would like to eat healthy but find it very hard. When I was young my family had to sty in a hotel for a few months I dont know what my Mom fed us. ( I wish she was here to ask her) But I know eating out would not help save for a deposit.

    I have read all your posts and think the are wonderful they should be put into a book and handed out at social services. (you could also sell it to those who could afford it and just want to save LOTS of money on their groceries!)

    as for the question…I would say you can use them as they are there and a little with permission will not be missed, if you wanted to be technical you could take the cost per serving from what you paid for yours and deduct that from your total or when you get home deduct that much from each of your containers and save it until you challenge is over…whew

  23. I just came across your journey yesterday and I have caught up with all of it. I have to say that I am so amazed by what you have done. I am a college student that is going to be living in an apartment next semester. I will be making all food purchases on my own for the first time. I hope to learn from you and try to shop as wisely as you have. Obviously as a college student I don’t have much money so this will be a HUGE help. If I am successful as you at couponing, I will make sure to donate any extra food as you have done. Good luck on the rest of the challenge! I will make sure to follow it until the end!

  24. @cheezfri: If you’re looking for help matching coupons to sales, try the store deals section of She’s got an aggregate of coupon match-ups for stores all over the country. If it’s a chain store, it’s probably there.

  25. Yes, but only:
    – with permission of the owner of the house
    – things you have
    – basics like spices, cooking oil, and such

    And plan better next time. You seem to have a habit of only getting ready the morning you go flying or travelling, get your stuff ready the evening before – including your food. To remember fridge items stick a post-it on the bathroom mirror or anywhere else (car keys) where you are bound to see it.

  26. You have permission to use them, so yes, you should be able to use them. It’s not like you asked, they were offered. Same as the oranges.

    Apologies to your sister, but was the original bet to be able to eat for a month on a dollar a day, or to separate yourself from the rest of the human race?

  27. Still no way to get a “Yes, but…” category on that poll, huh?

    I voted yes, but… I agree with others who’ve suggested you should calculate the dollar (or cent, in the case of oil and salt/pepper) equivalent of what you use, and then either leave money there or deduct it from your “Money left to spend” tally.

    Also, I just want to say that your blog has had such an impact on our family. After studying your methods, then reading further on other sites and exploring some databases, we started couponing in earnest this week. Did it give you a headache when you first started? Ugh LOL. But we’re having a blast, learning, saving $, and just tonite decided that we will budget $10 this month and see how far we can stretch that with couponing to donate somewhere. We’ve been reading up on your Penny Experiment, too. Awesome! Keep blogging and we will keep reading.

  28. I just ran across this recipe and thought of you. I would never make the peanut butter or bread myself, but the caramelized bananas in a pb & banana sandwich sound amazing! These bananas would make a great dessert, too. Maybe a topping for ice cream?

  29. I have just spent two days reading all your exploits and I am so impressed!

    As a foody, and a renowned cheapo I’m going to recommend you need to buy some bacon! Bacon is the start of soooooo many cheap and tasty dishes! You need to get some! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Keep up the good fight! (Also, your sister is so wrong in all this, you won this bet last month totally!)

  30. One more thing!
    Were you keeping your potatoes in the fridge? Because that may explain why they went bad so fast. Potatoes do not like the cold or damp. They want to be in a dark cool place, a bottom cupboard is good. The fridge is too cold and they go bad there faster. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (Also, you can try freezing banana slices for your smoothies to make them colder/thicker/richer.)

  31. As for my previous votes, I voted “yes” on this one. HOWEVER, I have to agree with the other readers who said that a checklist & menu plan & double checking that you have everything before you leave is the proper way to go. I also have to agree with some who have stated that if you have the owner’s permission to use some of the basics, that’s also okay. If someone is house-sitting, they should be allowed to use food stuffs in the kitchen, provided they’ve got the owner’s permission first. If a person trusts you enough to leave you in charge of their house, then it stands to reason they know you’re not going to rob them blind or clean them out of house, home & kitchen! Next time, tho, Jeffrey, make sure you’ve got everything you need before you go. Keep up the good work.

  32. @bj

    I don’t live in an area where stores double coupons (lucky you!), but from what I understand, they will not double above the price of the item (you will get it for free as you did – the reason is that when the store doubles, it doesn’t get reimbursed for the part they double – the store itself is taking the loss – whereas they do get reimbursed for the coupon). The way for it to be a money maker is if you had uploaded the eCoupon onto your card and used one manufacturer coupon. That would have taken off $0.50 for the eCoupon and $0.50 for the manufacturer coupon leaving you with a small money maker – the store will allow this because they will be reimbursed for both coupons). These are the next stage of couponing after the basics and a bit more complicated, but easy enough to learn as you practice.

    You will need to check with your local food bank about refrigerated products. Some do and some don’t depending on their facilities. If none do, look for a community living situation (battered womens home) as they will often accept those type of items.

    Sounds like you are doing great and if you are already at the stage where you are asking questions like these, far ahead of where I was when I started ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Thanks for responding Jeffrey , to my nosey question! I got hung up on the difference in names at first, but after reading more and more of this blog that became the last thing on my mind. What you’ve done here is so inspiring. I will continue to read as long as you continue to post.

  34. Btw, I do think you should be allowed to use basics you have bought when you travel, if for no other reason than traveling makes what you’re doing so much more complicated overall. Most of us would have a difficult time doing what you’re doing and staying at home. So I think you should be allowed to cut yourself some slack here.

  35. Holy cow! You do all this and you don’t live in a double coupon area?? Could I be any more amazed? (I realize this is my third post, but I had to comment on this.)

  36. @Jeffrey: Thanks. With your clarification, I think it’s totally fair game to use. “Available and have permission to use” are what I think mattered in such a situation.

  37. Take the potatos out of the bag they come in especially if they are in a plastic bag. And I say with all you’ve donated during this challenge you can use a few cents worth of basics.
    I guess you’ll be continuing since you spoke of restocking in the next post? I’m glad because I like your blog…shows me how much money I waste!

  38. I’ve been wondering ever since I read it in your blog, how do you eat corn one kernel at a time> And doesn’t it take a long time to eat that way>

  39. My feeling is that most people trying to live on a dollar a day unless they are homeless aren’t going off to other’s houses to live for a couple of days at a time. At this point you have already proved you can live without oil and spices and three days worth isn’t going to break your dollar a day rules.

  40. I voted no because it’s your challenge to do the right thing or do without. It’s just like when you gave up that ice cream for the sake of $0.07.

    I agree with most of the other commenters that you need to plan a little more. (I toss stones at you from my glass house.)

    You planned a little bit, now take the next step and plan a little more: Because this is an important part of your journey. Not the doing without salt part, but the thinking ahead part.

    Just imagine where you’ll be six months from now, looking back at these posts and gratefully wondering why you didn’t travel further faster.

  41. I voted yes mainly because your sister is so mean. ๐Ÿ™‚
    On keeping your basics organized: maybe cut down some light cardboard boxes (even old cereal boxes) to make shallow trays and habitually put refrigerated condiments in them instead of in fridge pockets. Like ketchup, mustard, other bottles. Do the same for cupboard condiments. Easy to lift out of the box-base when you want to use, easy to pick up the group/box when you are packing in a rush into a larger box or ice chest. Once you get organized this way count the boxes and memorize (note to self: always pick up 3 boxes!) so that you don’t forget them at either end of your trip.

  42. @Shara
    “If you canโ€™t get home for lunch and a friend offered to buy one for you, that wouldnโ€™t be legal either”

    Actually, he is allowed to have lunch/other bought for him – most recently seen whilst away for work and getting chicken and veggies for lunch. Either way though, it would not be illegal! I don’t think PC Plod cares about it, considering it’s not a law… Nor, does it break any rules (which, again, are not governed by laws but rather sibling competitiveness).

  43. Jeffery, you are doing a really great job of proving your sister wrong. You can cook and shop. Making game of it helps, learning to cook teaches yourself a lot about yourself and doing plans and preparing the night before will save you a lot of trouble the next morning when your brain hasn’t started to function yet.

    Plan, plan, plan.
    Pack the dry goods the night before. The old cut up cereal boxes is a good idea. Maybe find an old milk crate or get one of the bookshelf crates from Wal-mart. You can carry your things alot better.

    So what you forgot a few things. Accidents happen. Just ask the owners if you can use some salt or oil.

    Spend a little money on a whole chicken. If you go to, you might find the recipe called “Rubber Chicken” or follow to another website call Dinner Diva by Leaanna. They show how to take a whole chicken and make it stretch over three days.

    You can do anything for 15 minutes, it still better than not doing anything.

  44. I voted no but I think you should keep track of what you use that you didn’t bring with you and measure out the same exact amounts when you get home and take it to your sister. Then you would have used only the same amounts you bought. But I have a bone to pick with your sister. She brings her kids over and lets them eat your food. Not that I mind the kids eating them but your sister should replace every bite of food she or her kids eat out of your $1 a day supplies.

  45. Jeffrey, may I make a suggestion? Try to keep some small bottles of some staples in a Sterilite crate or a box and make sure a little of all of your staples are kept there for your trips. A small bottle of oil, a few baggies with spices and salt and pepper in them. A little of other things that are dry in baggies such as flour, sugar, cereals, corn bread mix, biscuit mix, etc. That way all you will have to put in are refrigerator foods, breads, and frozen foods.
    If you run out of your basic foods before you can replenish you will have the stored foods to use but don’t forget to replenish when you do take some out whether at home or a trip.

  46. Yes but you’d have to subtract out the same amount of stuff you used while house sitting so that it didn’t increase the overall amount of that item that you had available to you, and you couldn’t use anything that you didn’t already have.

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