Eating On $1 A Day: Couple Lives Food Experiment

I am totally fascinated and intrigued by lifestyle projects–you know, when someone radically changes their lifestyle for a set amount of time to make a point about something we might take for granted.  I loved Morgan Spurlock’s Super-Size Me and 30 Days.  I obsessively read No-Impact Man.  Now, Kerri and Chris, two social justice teachers in California, are creating their own month-long experiment: eating for only a dollar a day

Inspired by exploring ideas about food justice, food choice, consumerism, and waste, the two set on on September 1st to eat on a dollar a day each for the entire month. Honestly, the thought of doing this brings to mind a spartan existence.  Could they even do this without a fully-stocked pantry or fully-flourishing garden?  But people do it, all over the world.  How far could creativity and resourcefulness go?  What limitations would they set for themselves?  And would they be able to keep to their own guidelines?  To me, one of the most difficult challenges would be food in social settings.  Going out to dinner, or eating at friends’ houses, or even a day at the office presents food as a treat, a reason to celebrate.  Food permeates much of what we do.  How would this experiment impact their lives?

Kerri and Christopher set out these rules:

  1. All food consumed each day must total $1 each.
  2. They cannot accept free food or “donated” food unless it is available for everyone in our area. (i.e. foraging, samples in stores, dumpster diving)
  3. Any food they plant, they pay for.
  4. They will do our best to cook a variety of meals; ramen noodles can only be prepared if there is no other way to stay under one dollar. (They have six packages and will buy no more)
  5. Should they decide to have guests over for dinner they must eat from their share; meaning they don’t get to eat their own dollar’s worth of food.

Since today is the halfway point of the project, I perused their menus to see not only what they were eating, but how they were feeling.  The two are keeping to a vegan diet, which is not surprising, given the relative bank-breaking cost of meat and other animal products.  Their breakfasts and lunches seem quite repetitive–oatmeal and PB&J’s, respectively.  During dinner, they are able to get a little more creative: bean, rice, and potato burritos, cheese-less pizza, polenta with marinara sauce, and homemade wheat gluten “steak” strips with rice and broccoli all have made appearances.  Popcorn or peanut butter are snacks.

Kerri and Christopher have been brutally honest and transparent when it comes to the struggles of the project.  They’ve been hungry, and the experiment has impacted their consciousness and how often they think about food.  They’ve also had to navigate frustrations with gray areas: can they accept “free” food in social settings?  What constitutes “free” food?  They’ve lost weight faster than they probably should.  But their experiment raises important questions about Americans’ relationship with food, as individuals and as a country. With food in abundance, with so much food going to waste, how are others going hungry, both here and abroad?

Check out One Dollar Diet to see Kerri and Christopher’s progress.  They are accepting donations for both the Community Resource Center in Encinitas, CA, and the ONE campaign in honor of the project.

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Written by kellibestoliver

7 Comments

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  1. I have done this when I was in college. It is not hard at all when your trying to survive on a small budge. My mother would just cook me a pot of beef stuu and I eat all of that for a week. I ate like that for 3 years until I graduated.

  2. I believe that people in some poor countries may be
    able to eat a lot better than they are for $1 a day. I thnk a lot of them don’t have $1 a day for food.
    Trying to eat for $1 a day in the US would be next to impossible. Everything costs a lot more than it does in poor countries. You could never get an accurate comparison to how a person in a poor country would be able to eat on $1 a day and how anyone in the US or other wealthy countries could eat on $1 a day. The only way to get a comparison is to go to the poor country and see how well you could eat on $1 a day. Even the homeless in the US don’t try to eat on $1 a day.

  3. news for you. live on 389$ ssi and 349 ssdi and have a mortagage of 1015$ house insurance,taxes water and sewer, and i rent a room out for 500$ a month and share expenses get 162 a month in food stamps, 450 if i am lucky in fuel assistance and am lucky i still have a house month after month. never late on a mortagage payment but wear a lot of sweaters spend a lot of time at libraries, public places and turn it down when gone. i buy only on sale use coupons and afford meat, whole grains fruit vegetables which they give coupons for in local newspapers. theweekly free paper has coupons and gets picked up once a week for the new ones to be put down . a friend turned me on to picking the coupons out of the unpicked up issues which would be recycled anyway and i buy in quantity if i can afford it. food coops are too expensive unless they are neighborhood ones with capacity to buy bulk and in enough numbers in small towns, without a site. buyers coops who get wholesale prices we started in the seventies are still going strong. raised five kids this way even with a working spouse, now divorced, bought this house at auction for 25,000$ in 1999 and refinanced when the idiots appraised it at 165,00K (tell me the appraisers and real estate brokers arent responsible a little for the mortgage sharks that sold the fixed mortgages. I redid furnace, plumbing, wiring( they wouldnt turn power on until i did. lived in house for 11 months with no power after trying to sell it in 2004 when they wouldnt turn any power on. the house is resided, floors redone, lead paint removed with a no interest loan from feds. and then the recession. i thank God I have a roof over my head, but wish i had land to grow food and a well not dependent on power. otherwise eating on very little money is easy. only buy on sale, eat low on food chain cheaply, peanut butter and jelly is extreme. these folks dont know where they discount food markets are, also the markets that sell to neighborhoods with low income people sell lower, and sell in volume, and poor people eat a lot of strange and interesting veggies, divirsfify your grains. no dependency no loss, diversify your beans, sprout your beans. make tofu, get a goat that cleanrs brush and a pig that clears forest( they can take down a whole forest just rutting for roots and things, i have seen it done. get a two man saw, plant in containers on roof tops, firescapes,although the air quality and what falls from the sky may mean heavy metal pollutions, always have soils in urban neighborhoods tested for lead and heavy metals and build raised beds you cover in winter.barter, no room for growing, barter skills, barter extra things, today is the day to hoard warm clothes, blankets, towels, water containers easily disinfected and get solar rechargeable small batteries. GReat Spruce Head Island in Maine is energy independent except for gas to cook with if they are conservative with wood to cook and heat with. the mail boat comes every day in good weather. there are ten houses on the island all with solar charged batteries, the may not do much with electricity, use candles carefully , gas lanterns and oil lanterns but they do it. OFF the Grid is where we should go those who can so the ones that cant can use large solar and wind powered power. and bikes and horses are going to come back, as well as sheep and pigs and chickens and goats in back yards. find towns that havent zoned them out already. the midwest is filling. sheep and goats and herbs and small plants that rotate and fix nutrients. and heirloom seeds are the answer. get smart. survive. we will run out of oil and natural gas. watch link tv. learn

  4. also check the states that are losing people and move there. the land is cheap and food still grows there. just diversify. farms that depleted soil and didnt grown many crops so if one failed or some economic disaster did kill one the other ones kept you afloat. i grew up in jersey a truck farming state and they rotated . and they still grow peaaches, tomatoes, asparagus, blueberries, corn, and anything else that thrives in acid sandy soil.

  5. I think that they could have done better if they stockpiled and used coupons. It would have been healthier and they wouldn’t have lost so much weight. I understand the social materialism aspect of it, but I also feel they can become very sick doing this experiement. Interesting.

    I agree with Lyta, they need to compare this to the food consumtion and spending of a poor country.

  6. the experiment speaks for itself.mainly ‘THEY WERE HUNGRY’and lost weight faster than they should- which means that you cannot sucessfully do this and remain healthy.these are the kind of stories that are trotted out because everyone knows food prices are outrageuos-so instead of the media dealing with that we get “see you can eat on a dollar a day,” if you had/wanted to,instead of dealing with poverty and high prices we get the old its not all that bad, line.and i dont know where they buy their beans and rice and potatoes-but to get adequate calories and nutrition its going to cost more than a dollar a day.we are just being prepared for the time here in a few months when they start cutting benefits and programs for the poor-people will be able to point to this story and say see they still have more than enough food stamps and money-after this couple did it on a dollar a day!

  7. Its probably another scam to generate traffic to their website so they can spout off all of their political viewpoints.

    The site is littered with anti-conservative, anti-Jesus rhetoric.

    They creators of the site turned it into a soundboard to sound off on politics rather than focus on the websites original goal

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