Living on $3/day for 5 days…

Part I: Planning

 

Before you begin the experience, reflect on how do you think it might feel (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to be food insecure?

            To be food insecure would be very stressful.  In order to consume all of the proper nutrients, first you must have the knowledge of what kinds of foods contain what kinds of nutrients.  You also must know how to prepare home cooked meals and be able to plan your meals.  In order to survive on such a low budget, many of the food items available for this kind of budget require preparation time and cooking time, which consumes a lot of energy.  While working all day, you are already physically and mentally drained, while still having to come home and prepare meals, not only for that night but probably for lunch the next day. 

            To be food insecure would be emotionally very draining.  There would be a lot of worry and concern about what you can eat tomorrow or next week.  It also would take a toll on your self confidence and pride to walk into a food bank or to apply for food stamps.  If you don’t get enough nutrients from your diet, you aren’t going to have much energy, and you may even be concerned about future health problems. 

 

Before you go shopping, what kinds of foods do you think you will buy with your $15?

            I am planning on purchasing quite a bit of produce because I think fruits and vegetables are some of the most important food items a healthy diet requires.  This will include anything that is in season or on sale, such as bananas, apples, broccoli and carrots.  I plan on purchasing some sort of whole grain that contains a measurable amount of protein, as I plan on not eating meat during these five days due to cost.  This will include either quinoa or millet.  I also plan on purchasing milk, which will be lactose free as I am lactose intolerant.  Lastly, I plan on buying dried beans which will provide more protein and vitamins and minerals.  

 

Part II:  Purchasing

 

Describe your shopping experience.  Where did you shop, what did you buy, and how much did each item cost?

            I shopped at Town and Country, which is where I normally shop.  The experience was interesting because I went with a pen and paper and a calculator.  I did my shopping late morning to avoid crowds and so I could take my time measuring and adding.  I never usually weigh any of my items, but I did for every item that could be weighed and recorded the calculated price.  As the cashier added up my groceries, the total came to $15.06 and so I asked if I could pull off a banana to reduce the total cost, which brought it down to $14.76.  The items I bought include:

 

DariGold Lactose free 2% milk, $2.89

1.09lb broccoli, $1.16

0.5lb raw almonds, $2.50

0.43lb organic rolled oats, $0.46

0.9lb organic millet, $1.11

0.89lb organic dry black beans, $0.88

2lb bag of carrots, $0.99

0.7lb yellow onion, $0.27

1.24lb celery, $0.61

1.76lb honey crisp apples, $2.62

1.14lb red potatoes, $0.44

1.41lb bananas, $0.83

 

What strategies did you use to maximize your allotted money?

            I began by making a list of foods from every food category that best encompassed each category, or that were the most nutrient dense.  I looked for any items on sale in each food category.  I also purchased many items in the bulk section, which allows you to purchase the amount you need at a lower cost.  By sticking to basic foods, this should allow me to be more versatile with meal planning.

 

Part III: The Experience

 

Day 1: Thursday, March 15, 2012

What I ate:

           

Food Item

How Much?

Breakfast

 

Rolled Oats

½ cup

Banana

½ whole banana

Lunch

 

Milk

8oz

Raw Almonds

1/3 cup

Apple

1 small

Carrot

1 med

Celery

1 stick

Dinner

 

Millet

½ cup

Red potato

1 med

Black beans

½ cup

Yellow onion

½ large

 

How I felt:  I felt pretty good today.  I notice that eating whole foods is quite filling.       

Observations and Insights:  I cooked the black beans just by boiling them for 1.5hrs, and they were a bit tough, not quite cooked.  I plan on soaking them overnight tonight. 

 

Day 2: Friday, March 16, 2012

 

Food Item

How Much?

Breakfast

 

Rolled Oats

½ cup

Banana

½ whole banana

Lunch

 

Milk

8oz

Raw Almonds

1/3 cup

Apple

1 small

Carrot

1 med

Celery

1 stick

Dinner

 

Millet

½ cup

Red potato

1 med

Black beans

½ cup

Yellow onion

½ large

 

How I felt: I felt pretty good today.  Energy level was average; however my stomach was a little bubbly after lunch.

Observations and Insights: I have read that the way you mix certain foods can affect your digestion as far as gas and bloating.  It is recommended to eat fruit by itself so that the sugars don’t ferment with other starches.

 

Day 3: Saturday, March 17, 2012

Food Item

How Much?

Breakfast

 

Rolled Oats

½ cup

Banana

½ whole banana

Lunch

 

Milk

8oz

Raw Almonds

1/3 cup

Apple

1 small

Carrot

1 med

Celery

1 stick

Dinner

 

Millet

½ cup

Broccoli

1 cup

Black beans

½ cup

Carrot

1 med

 

How I felt: I felt okay today.  At day three I am half way there and have no interest in finishing.  I am bored with this food and don’t feel fully satisfied, especially after lunch.

Observations and Insights: I began putting salt on my dinner!  I do not have this on my receipt, but I figure it is often available anywhere you go.  Salt makes dinner much more exciting.

 

Day 4, Sunday, March 18, 2012

Food Item

How Much?

Breakfast

 

Rolled Oats

½ cup

Banana

½ whole banana

Lunch

 

Milk

8oz

Raw Almonds

1/3 cup

Apple

1 small

Carrot

1 med

Celery

1 stick

Dinner

 

Millet

½ cup

Broccoli

1 cup

Black beans

½ cup

Carrot

1 med

 

How I felt:  I had no energy today, and lack of interest in anything I was doing. 

Observations and Insights: Food is such an integral part of life; I find that when you eat the same thing day after day, you lose excitement and energy for other things in your life.  This monotonous way of eating is so repetitive and boring; I can see how it may start affecting ones attitude and emotional behavior.

 

Day 5, Monday, March 19, 2012

Food Item

How Much?

Breakfast

 

Rolled Oats

½ cup

Banana

½ whole banana

Lunch

 

Milk

8oz

Raw Almonds

1/3 cup

Apple

1 small

Carrot

1 med

Celery

1 stick

Red potato

1 med

Dinner

 

Millet

½ cup

Red potato

1 med

Black beans

½ cup

Carrot

1 med

 

How I felt: I am over this!  No energy, beside the excitement of knowing it’s the last day.  I had very low energy.

Observations and Insights:  I have noticed that my skin seems to be quite clear.  This could be due to lack of sugars and processed foods.  I am so bored with this eating, I have started to view apples as dessert, and I dread dinner.  Knowing that this diet is low in protein makes me want to eat a whole chicken.

 

 

 

Part IV: Analysis

Nutrient

Average Amount

Percentage of Recommended Value

Calories

1146 cal

57%

Fat

19.5% of daily calories

55.7% – 97.5%

Carbohydrates

187g

144%

Protein

42g

91%

Fiber

28.5g

114%

Vitamin A

1044ug

149%

Vitamin C

78.5mg

105%

Vitamin E

11.5mg

76.7%

Calcium

611.5mg

61.1%

Iron

10mg

55.6%

Zinc

7.5mg

93.8%

Folate

330ug

82.5%

 

Considering nutrients, food groups and other important food components, how well did you meet your nutrition needs?

            As far as overall calorie intake, I was well below 2000 calories which is mainly due to lack of fat and protein.  My protein intake was a little low perhaps because I did not eat any meat or eggs.  Total fat intake was low which is both good and bad.  I consumed hardly any saturated fat, although there was no source of healthy fat such as avocado or certain oils.  This is because those items were out of my budget.  My E vitamins and minerals are all low, which is due to lack of enough fruits and dairy.  I did consume enough vegetables, carbohydrates and fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C.

 

How could your diet have been improved (within your budget)?

            My plan was to have purchased quinoa rather than millet, which I am sure would have improved my protein consumption however it was not available in the bulk section at the time of purchase.  Perhaps I could have purchased a carton of eggs and instead of almonds which would have increased my calcium and my protein intake.  Rather than purchasing potato, a leafy green vegetable may have given me more calcium, iron and vitamins and minerals.  I also would choose more of a variety of foods, while trying to plan day by day rather than for five days in a row.  Eating the same thing everyday for five days grew very tiresome and tasteless.   

 

What did you eat that you normally do not eat?

            The only thing that I normally do not eat is millet.  I have had it before, but prefer quinoa. 

 

What foods do you normally eat that you have avoided?

            I avoided many, many foods including meat (typically chicken, rarely beef) and tuna.  I like to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, typically spinach, zucchini and strawberries if they’re on sale.  I like to cook with a variety of starches such as pasta and rice.  I avoided a lot of “toppings” such as honey, nuts, peanut butter, mayonnaise, etc.  I avoided wine, which was probably the hardest!  The lack of enjoying a warm latte was also hard.  And, of course, I avoided eating out anywhere. 

 

 

Did you have any difficulty complying with the conditions of the assignment?

            I honestly did have a hard time.  I think if I did this assignment while in school (rather than on spring break) I would have had a harder time because I go through more energy while on campus, and I enjoy snacking while studying.  I did break the rules one night, while my husband and I had guests, and enjoyed some wine and appetizers!  I also did have a cup of coffee on a couple days as well.

 

Could you continue to live on $3/day?  How would doing so change your life?

            It is definitely possible, although my approach would need restructuring.  It might be a good idea to make a list of a potential diet, and then put it into the nutrient tracker to see how nutritionally sound it is.  It would change my life in many ways, both short term and long term.  While not only saving money, I could see myself learning a lot about cooking and finding the least expensive ways of improving meals.  If my diet was sufficient, I might see my health improving especially if I were to avoid alcohol. 

            It would be a very difficult transition, however, in that I would feel limited.  Cooking and eating are such a joy, and to not be able to splurge on certain ingredients would take away from the experience.  It would also be difficult to either decline or not participate in eating out, but on the other hand, being so conservative with food purchasing may lead to other things such as recycling and spending less on other indulgences such as beauty purchases and clothes.

 

Part V: Follow Up

 

The experience of filling out application for food stamps

            I decided to see if I could find an application online, which I did.  I went to Google and typed in “Food Stamps Application Bozeman” and chose the mt.gov link.  I first had to register with a username and password, which lead me to a few more pages.  Finally I was brought to the actual application.  Questions were related to the household and its members, ethnicity, bank account information and property information.  Other questions asked regarded employment and student financial aid, and any past violations.  I stopped the application when it came to the final agreements and submissions.    

            The application took me roughly 30 minutes to complete, although I answered “no” to many of the questions.  The application was very personal and asked many questions regarding other household members and made sure to catch any previous violations with the law and with federal programs such as SNAP.  If the applicant were of a minority background or had any affiliations with a tribe, further questions were asked. 

This application would have been quite difficult for a person to fill out if they had reading and typing disabilities.  The applicant would also need access to a computer, which is available at the library.

 

What are your overall conclusions about this experience?  Describe what you learned, your observations and insights.

            This experience taught me not only that it is possible to live on $3 per day, but how to be diligent.  Time management is an important concept to learn when you are planning meals ahead of time.  This experience also lead me to reflect on the obesity epidemic and how so many people spend their money on more expensive, low nutrient-dense foods.  It seems that a great deal of this population is undereducated and, in a way, brainwashed by food advertisements and their alluring messages, leading them to the addiction of processed foods.  The lack of funds is not an excuse for a poor diet.  Even if the limit was $5 per day, which is attainable for many, we should not be in such a health crisis.  Lastly, this experience has made me reevaluate my current financial situation, and has given me appreciation for the amount of food that I can afford.

 

What are the important things you learned during this experience that would benefit you as a food and nutrient professional?

            This experience has provided me with potential strategies which I can share with those who need direction on how to cut costs and live a healthy life with minimal funds.  It has provided an emotional experience that will allow me to feel and show empathy for those who are in need, allowing me to recognize and share feelings experienced by others.  It has provided proof that it is possible, not without frustration and a sense of mourning, although achievable with the right knowledge and guidance. 

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