I stumbled across “On a Dollar a Day” in my local library and once I’d opened it, I couldn’t put it down. Were these two American vegan teachers mad? Could they do it? Could I do it? The authors, Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard, decided to essentially conduct an experiment; to see if they could survive on what much of the world survives on: a dollar a day.
Now, this book was written back in 2008 so presumably at the time the yankee dollar had a bit more clout, but we’re still talking less than AUD$2 a day people. Two dollars! I can buy a bag of lollies from the Reject Shop for that much or a cheeseburger from Mickey Dees, but a whole day’s worth of food? Unlikely.
The book is actually a compilation of the couple’s blog as they recorded their experiences and is quite an interesting read. What they discovered was that, technically, yes, it is possible to live on that much money but, a) not healthily and, b) only temporarily. Both the authors lost weight during the experiment and were only just able to stave off scurvy!
Although extreme, the experiment taught me some valuable tips for surviving on a limited food budget, many of which are applicable for our “normal” lives.
Buy In Bulk
While the family pack of marshmallows may be more economical, this isn’t quite the bulk to which I refer. I’m talking mega-bulk. Greenslate and Leonard were buying massive, 10kg bags of dried goods like flour and beans and storing them in their homes in food safe bins. Have you got a spare room? How about a bare wall to put shelves on? I bet you could be making good use of that space and storing some bulk-bought goods.
Markets can be really hit and miss. Shopping at my local farmers market, for example, is not actually a cheap activity. But there are bargains to be had! You can sometimes pick up a box of overripe tomatoes at the end of the day for $2. It might not be a whole day’s meal, but it’ll make a good sauce.
Utilise What’s Free
This was an interesting tip… if you see something growing wild (on public property) make the most of it! The authors found an orange tree growing by the side of the road, so they ate oranges! I once went to buy rosemary at the fruiterer when the old darling told me there was actually a wild bush growing in the car park. He saved me $4! It should go without saying that you mustn’t strip the tree. If you destroy the plant it won’t be able to give again next time ad it’s just not cool to take everything.
The authors survived by cooking everything themselves. I don’t just mean buying some refried beans and tortillas and making burritos, they were cooking the beans (dried, from the bulk food jar, of course) and making their own tortillas! A lot of the time, we are intimidated by foods. We don’t know how they’re made so we assume they will be difficult or labourious but as Greenslate pointed out, thousands of Mexicans have been making their own tortillas for centuries without machinery. How hard can it be?