Feed on

So. When I started this challenge, the goal was to see what would happen if I ate real food instead of cheap processed stuff. I am simultaneously succeeding and failing. Succeeding in that I’ve eaten whole grains, beans, and some fresh fruits and veggies. Failing in that I’m regularly running 300 calories behind what my daily intake should be.

Given my age, gender, size, and activity level, I need about 1550 calories per day. I’m managing closer to 1100 or 1200. The first day, this was no big deal. The second day, I woofed down some very filling black beans and was also fine. Yesterday I trashed my budget by eating sweet potatoes, beans, and collard greens for dinner, resulting in food that was high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories, and (relative to this diet) expensive. Having blown my budget, I went to bed a little hungry.

Let me tell you, once hungry, it’s hard to (1) get UN-hungry and (2) think about anything else when your budget is this tight. And that’s where I stand on day 4: I awoke hungry, I ate a lunch that was not-quite satisfying, and I’m ready for dinner with two hours to go.

I’ve also availed myself to some advantages others may not enjoy while not fully exploiting the resources around me. The biggest advantage I enjoy is time. I was able to save money on beans by pressure cooking dry ones. That worked out well for me, but does the single working mother have time to spend 35 minutes cooking a single ingredient? I’m thinking not. On the other hand, I still haven’t made it to Aldi. I’ve had an freelance work deadline this week, several appointments, and possibly a radio interview tomorrow. With Matt out of town, I just haven’t had time to make the trek. So I’ve been making do with what I can afford at my kind-of-crappy and totally overpriced neighborhood Kroger. Perhaps not having the time to shop at a several stores at once makes up for being able to cook from scratch. I don’t know.

Some other random thoughts:

  • I’m hoarding extra money to buy a Cliff bar so I can run tomorrow. Given that I’m likely to be hungry, I might have to eat the bar and skip the run. Think about that: those living on food assistance might not consume enough calories to allow them to exercise.
  • Thank God I’m short, female, and 40-something. Seriously. If I’m not happy with 1200 calories a day, how would a 20-year old, 6-foot man do? I’m guessing he’d head straight for a fast-food dollar menu, Ramen, and endless boxes of macaroni and cheese. All things that will haunt him down the road.
  • Onions are expensive. On a normal budget, you don’t think of them at all. But when you’ve got make dinner for $1.50, the fact that a single yellow onion at my Kroger ran $0.67 is a game-changer. I’ve been stretching my little onion the way others stretch saffron or some other expensive spice.
  • Canned beans are cheap. Dried beans are even cheaper. But the latter takes 25-35 minutes cooking time plus an overnight soak to use, while the former requires only a can opener. We pay for every convenience.
  • A budget like this affords no mistakes. If you over-spice the beans or burn the veggies, you are eating them anyway. There’s no money to buy a replacement.


That’s all for now. Final thoughts on Sunday when the challenge wraps up. Except one more thought: Come Monday I’m going on an eating bender to end all benders. And knowing that is the single biggest difference between eating poor for one week and actually being poor. The fact that I can see the exit ahead of me feels like the biggest cheat imaginable.

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