For the first week of April, Kenton and I decided to change up our grocery shopping habits. We decided to see what would happen if we reduced our grocery budget to just $5 per day per person. $70 total for the week. We were inspired by several influences including a youtuber who ate for just $1.50 per day to raise awareness for people living below the poverty line. Granted, our experiment wasn’t nearly that extreme and turned out to be surprisingly easy. All it took was a little a bit of planning and we ended up learning some valuable lessons. Plus we ate some yummy food!
Without boring you with my entire grocery list and meal plan, let me give you a general idea of what we bought and ate for the week:
Dinners/ Lunches: (we eat leftover dinners for lunch)
Whole chicken which we roasted and ate with most of our meals in various forms. We also made bone broth which I used to make 2 soups.
Rice, canned beans, and lentils. All of which were used for soups and casserole types of meals.
Sweet potatoes which we ate with the roast chicken the first night.
A big bag of frozen mixed vegetables. I used this in all the dinners as it was our main source of vegetables for the week.
Oats. We ate oatmeal and overnight oats for breakfast and I made peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip energy bites for snacks.
Eggs. Eggs and toast for breakfast and hard boiled eggs for snacks.
Bananas and apples.
Carrots were on sale for $1 so that was an unexpected “treat.”
Popcorn. We reserved 3 servings (enough for 2 people each) for the week and it cost us a grand total of $0.47 (plus butter. Spices were not included in this challenge.)
Cereal was on sale for $2 for a box so we happily bought cereal as a “treat” with our leftover money after we had bought everything we needed.
Things I learned:
Gratitude. Not surprisingly, being forced to be intentional about what we bought and ate helped me to be more grateful for the food we ended up with. Believe me when I tell you I savored each apple and carrot I consumed.
Creativity/ Resourcefulness. Knowing that I had a certain number of ingredients rationed to me for the week helped me to carefully consider my options for each meal and snack. I also enjoyed making my own creations since I wasn’t following recipes for each meal. Experimenting without recipes in the kitchen isn’t something I often do, but I enjoyed it and might incorporate it into my meal planning more often.
Eating nutritiously on a budget is possible. We tracked what we ate via MyFitnessPal and were able to keep our macros in check for the most part. We may not have had as many raw veggies and seeds as we normally would, but overall our meals were nutritious and well rounded.
Simplicity is underrated. Prior to this experiment we have been pursuing simplicity in other areas of our lives such as minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 and decluttering unnecessary physical possessions from our home. However, when it came to our meal planning I was convinced that variety was key. I wanted to have a whole range of ingredients available at all times and try new recipes with new ingredients regularly. Because of this our fridge and pantry were often disorganized. This week I moved all the ingredients we weren’t using downstairs to a freezer and shelf not to be accessed for the week. With only the ingredients we needed for the week my pantry, fridge and freezer were spacious and organized. It was easy to find what I needed and see all of my options at once. I loved it. Going forward I am going to try to incorporate a little more simplicity into my meal planning, but I’ll still try new recipes because that’s fun for me.
Finally, I learned how to make a really awesome soup. This recipe is based off another recipe, which I heavily altered to suit our needs for the week. I was very impressed with how it turned out. And it made a big batch so we ate a lot of it!
Hearty Bean and Vegetable Soup
1 can mixed beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups homemade chicken stock (this is the key to the whole recipe. Don’t you dare use chicken soup base)
1 can lentils, rinsed and drained
2 cups diced tomatoes, including liquid
2 cups chopped carrots
3 cups mixed frozen vegetables
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp Italian spice
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sage
1 tbsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken, shredded
In a large pot, add all ingredients except the chicken and cook until carrots are soft (about 30-45 minutes). Add the chicken in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Yields 11-12 cups.
So there you have it! 5 things I learned from eating for $5/day for a week. I want to finish by acknowledging that I am keenly aware that I am writing this from a position of extreme privilege. The fact that we are able to do budget experiments “for fun” and then especially to realize that it was, in fact, not that challenging is very humbling. I almost didn’t publish this for fear of sounding too spoiled . However, I think that there is value in sharing experiences and life lessons. I hope that you can be inspired or at the very least entertained by this post. Thanks for reading it.