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:I 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.
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.