Eating on $1 a day

by Debt Destroyer on December 15, 2008

kid-grocery-cartI’m sure by now a lot of you have heard about the couple who for a month ate on only $1 a day.  If you haven’t, check out their blog. I guess they have some new projects in the works for 2009 and a book will follow.

Talk about a strict budget. I say good for them.

As you long time readers know, I too am trying to shrink down my family’s food budget.  Nothing as extreme as $1/day, but when you break down the numbers, we’re not too far off.  Our current budget is $4.25/day.  [$425 grocery + $75 dinning out = $500/ 30 days = $16.67/day (rounded to $17/day) /4 people = $4.25]

I never thought of it that way before, but when I do, I’m impressed.

Of course, while I’m impressing myself I should remember that my two kids (age 4 & 1) don’t eat all that much so over time this number will only get higher.   So I have to take measures to try to reduce that number before my kids start eating me out of house and home.

Here are some measures I’m taking that are helping me reduce my food budget:

  1. Paying cash.  Instead of just slapping down plastic after loading your cart full of goodies, try to pay cash at the checkout.  This is supposed to make you feel the psychological pain of spending money.  For me this has progressed to using an envelope system where I allot a certain amount (which has been a difficult transition for me, but I’ll cover this in a later post).
  2. Only go grocery shopping once a week. I live 4 blocks away from the supermarket.  This made it way too easy to run to the store for any little thing.  Now I limit my trips to once per weekend.
  3. Shop from a list.  I’ve already told you that my wife loves lists, so it’s no shock that we use lists to save money.  But here’s the trick, STICK TO THEM!  I used to always sneak a few items here and there off the list.  Add that habit to going to the store all the time and you can start to see why our food budget got out of control.

Now I realize that these are common sense tips, but when you think about it, almost every personal finance tip out there is served with a heavy dose of common sense. I wish I had some original ideas, but my role is too mainly detail my journey out of debt, not to reinvent the wheel.

But you…

The Happy Rock Readers always have lots of great ideas and this is another example of where I ask you for your thoughts.  How close are you to eating on $1 a day?  What steps did you take to trim your food budget?    What are your tips for staying on course during the holidays?  Any regrets?

Until next time,


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike December 15, 2008 at 11:45 am

I am not even close to eating for $1 as I try to eat healthy and organic food.

They have great weight loss program though. If they increased it to $2 they might not have to suffer through every day in order to keep that budget.


Fern December 15, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I wouldn’t even try to eat on $1 a day becus like the previous poster, I, too, try to eat healthy.

Eating healthy in the long run will likely save you more money than trying to eat cheaply because by eating healthy you can avoid common chronic health conditions and diseases like diabetes and high cholesterol.


Maggie December 15, 2008 at 11:18 pm

I don’t think we’re anywhere near $1 a day for food. There’s only two of us and we like to eat too much. :) I have cut down a lot though by only going shopping once a week. I’ve been sticking pretty close to the collection of recipes in the Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s cookbook. I can do all my shopping in one stop and the recipes are easy enough to make that I can manage without messing up too badly.


Jessica W December 16, 2008 at 5:52 am

Wow, that $1 a day diet plan is really a hell of plan. I am just reading their blog and honestly can’t believe. But i see that you have managed also to come to very good point for about $4 per day. That is really great. I am above that, but will try to use some tips from the blog to improve myself.


jacquelin December 17, 2008 at 11:51 am

This past week I spent 52.23 on groceries for my family of 6. Last week I spent 76.57. Yes, we’ve had to downsize our food intake. the biggest thing we had to accomplish was disciplin. Just don’t eat as much. We rarely eat in between meals anymore. We only drink milk with all three meals. I bake the “goodies” every week-when they’re gone, they’re gone. No more for the week.
I realize I do have an advantage-I live on a farm. So we produce our own food quite a bit. tonight’s dinner-sausage, greenbeans and potatoe’s. Sausage bought at the store with a coupon for $2.00/off of 2 (and on sale for 2 for $3.00) potatoes and green beans grown in our garden. Total cost-approx. $2.00 for the meal with milk for 6 people.


john camuto December 17, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Another tip I’d like to add is also commonsense… you can save gas by carpooling with neighbors for trips to the grocery and other stuff. If you have a neighbor who works in the same area as you do, it might be helpful also. Just imagine, if you get two of your neighbors to carpool, you’d save 66% of your gas expenses monthly.


Debt Destroyer December 19, 2008 at 2:50 am

Great comments everybody!

@Mike & Fern – Yeah I think they temporarily through health out the window. In the interview I saw they said they have some similar ideas to try in 2009. I’ll be curious to see what they are.

@ Maggie – Good for you! I made a big mess out of tonight’s meal, but it still worked out. The clean up wasn’t fun though.

@ Jessica W – I know, their plan was crazy! Good for them to sticking to it.

@ jacquelin – Mmmm, Sausage & potatoes sounds so good right now. Good for you on your discipline. That is one on my weaknesses, but I’m slowly getting better.

@john camuto – Ah heck, with cheap gas who cares about carpooling!!! J/K That is a great money-saving idea.


Fabulously Broke December 25, 2008 at 11:56 am

I couldn’t live on $1 a day. It’s the one area that I DO NOT skimp on – Food. I’ll cut out the shopping, entertainment, lattes, whatever. But Food to me is #1…

Especially since I like to eat organic food or expensive ingredients, $1 is much too low.

Fabulously Broke in the City
Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver…


Fabulously Broke December 25, 2008 at 11:57 am

Unless you count being a freegan. Getting free food from dumpsters.

But only in dire straits would I resort to that.

Fabulously Broke in the City
Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver…


Meghan December 29, 2008 at 9:45 pm

I’ve read some of their meal plans, and it’s an interesting concept. Like most things, even though I don’t want to go that strict, there were tips I could use. For example, I love all sorts of legumes, and just making one pot a week of different kinds with nothing but onion, salt and pepper would mean a significant savings as it would be 3-5 meals and a bag of legumes of some type averages about a dollar. I currently calculate my groceries cost at almost $9 a day, but I am single and work long hours, try to eat very healthy, organic fruits when it makes sense, etc. There are definitely things I could cut though, and it’s always good to have an eye towards creative ways of doing so that won’t hurt you. I think it’s harder to keep it super low when you’re single too, basic costs are built in, you can’t always easily take advantage of buying in bulk, etc. if you want a reasonably varied menu.


Jonathan@Friends&Money November 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Excellent tip about shopping from a list, it’s too tempting to buy everything that you don’t need if you go unprepared. Also I’d suggest not shopping when you’re hungry as invariably this always leads to impulsive purchases.


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