Friday, January 30, 2009

Can you really eat on a dollar a day and NOT be hungry?

With the economy slumping, we're all looking for ways to tighten our belts. A recent widely publicized blog had a young couple trying to eat on a dollar a day each to see what it was like and to bring attention to hunger. (Admirably, they donated proceeds from the publicity and from the difference in their food budget to charity.)

But one of the things I noticed about what they did was that even when they were trying to eat cheaply, they used at least some refined, processed foods, things like fresh strawberries, tofu "turkey," and so on. Those are pretty expensive foods when you're trying to eat cheaply. And they drank Tang, which is a pretty pricey drink for what it is, that's mostly water and sugar. Myself, I drink water or generic koolaid I buy from a store called Aldi, and I sweeten it with stevia. It costs me about $0.10 to make two quarts of koolaid that way.

Using inexpensive, whole foods to cook from scratch

Now, I've been a "lazy vegan" for 25 years, and I've been doing most of my own from scratch cooking for about a dollar a day since about 1995, when I really rolled up my sleeves and got down to work learning how to use a crockpot and bread machine. Actually, from about 1995 to about 2005, I really did eat on a dollar a day (and not starving or dieting at all) or a little less, without even trying.

Not quite a dollar a day, but close

For about the past … say, three years, I haven't been able to quite squeak by on a dollar a day. It's more like $1.20 a day. Food prices have gone up substantially and I'm not willing to be really hungry (nor is it healthy to do so) or to cut back unless I really, really have to.

The point of this is, though, you really don't have to starve or go hungry to eat on about a dollar a day or a little more -- and you don't have to dumpster dive like "freegans" do unless you want to.

You do have to do most of your cooking from scratch and cook from healthy, whole ingredients instead of from prepared foods. Prepared foods are what cost you money, and that includes so-called "fake meat" for us vegans. Stick with whole, "can't get any simpler" ingredients like beans, whole-wheat flour (make your own bread by using a bread machine) and other whole grains like brown rice, fresh in season veggies and frozen veggies, fresh and frozen fruits without sugar added, some meat if you need it, and so on.

I've posted about it here before, but I've got a website at that I started before I started this blog; really, this blog replaced it. There are some simple recipes there to get you started, tips on using a crockpot and bread machine to make most of your meals for you, and a basic explanation of the "lazy vegan" lifestyle as it relates to cooking. It's vegan-based, but I've tried to include substitution tips for people who eat meat too.

I personally hate to cook and do everything I can to avoid it, but using a crockpot and bread machine lets me eat as though I bought all my meals ready made without the expense, and not much more work. And it's healthier, too, since I can control the ingredients in what I eat.


  1. Hi,
    I would love to read what you eat daily to get an idea of how you manage on $1. a day. How about some menu's and daily eating patterns?

  2. Hi, Anna:

    If you go to the website I have at:, it's pretty well outlined there. It's not organized with the recipes broken out yet (though I will do that as soon as I can), but I have recipes, a sample shopping list, how to shop, etc. I'll write a more in-depth post on this, too.