Living on One Dollar a Day

My priciest meal throughout my dollar challenge: $0.54
(Mashed potato, $0.17; 1/2 an egg, $0.15; 2 slices of toast, $0.10; black beans, $0.12; salsa, free; tap water, free)

For seven days, I spent only a dollar on food each day, and I survived. The optional assignment was inspired by an article on CNN about a woman who did the dollar challenge for a year, and my AP Environmental Science edited it and shortened it to a week long so that it is school-appropriate and doesn’t anger overprotective parents. The dollar challenge allowed students to gain a deeper understanding of the lifestyles of impoverished people living in developing counties. In some countries, people earn an income of $370 a year, which estimates to around $1 to spend a day.

I was determined to take on the challenge, and prior to beginning eating only a dollar worth of food a day, I extensively planned for my meals so that they would be healthy and well-balanced. Below is the food schedule that I created:ImageI went to Walmart, Ralphs, and 99 Ranch to look up grocery prices, and I found that potatoes and bread are extremely cheap, which took care of the grain portion of my balanced meals. For vegetables, I bought a huge cabbage, and for proteins, I got eggs and black beans even though I didn’t like beans and had never cooked them before. I grabbed a few packages of Top Ramen in case I found my hunger too overwhelming or didn’t have enough time to prepare for a meal. Researching prices spanned over a week, and the night before I started the project, I spent 4 hours calculating how much everything would cost per amount (grams, slice, etc).

I changed my meals a bit from day to day, but they usually consisted of two slices of toast for breakfast, mashed potato and beans for lunch, and baked potatoes and vegetables for dinner.

Breakfast: toast and water
Lunch: mashed potato and black beans
Dinner: baked potato topped with corn kernels, toast,  cooked cabbage, and corn juice from can

Two or three days into the project, my weight started dropping. I felt tired and hungry all the time. There were many times when I was tempted to cheat and eat snacks not covered by my $1 budget, but I could not bear lying to myself. However, after day four, I became used to my new diet and no longer felt hungry all day long.

By the end of the challenge, I lost a total of 3.1 pounds in just 7 days, dropping from 112.0 to 108.9 pounds. Because I stopped eating unhealthy take-outs and fried foods for a week, my skin cleared up dramatically. The diet was less difficult than I imagined it would be, but having to pass up delicacies such as Sprinkles ice cream and Shinsengumi ramen was pretty painful.

Because of the project, I learned to eat things that I do not particularly enjoy eating (such as beans) and to prepare meals for myself. Additionally, now I cannot bear to watch food go to waste. Before taking upon the dollar change, I didn’t think a dollar could help anyone; however, this experience has made me realize the power of a dollar, how just one dollar a day can fuel me with enough food to function normally.

-Mimi C.


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