Living on less than one dollar per day generally qualifies a person as living below the “absolute poverty line,” by global population standards. While most of us in the developed world live on far more, of course, the current economic climate has us all paying attention to how much we spend on life’s essentials—including food.
In September, two California high school teachers, Christopher Greenslate and Kerry Leonard, pledged to spend less than one dollar per day on food, and chronicled their efforts over thirty days in a widely-read blog called The One Dollar Diet Project
. Every breakfast was oatmeal, and every lunch was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; dinners amounted to little more than rice, beans, and homemade tortillas. The New York Times
picked up on their project, and remarked that trimming food costs would necessarily mean reverting to a basic, repetitive diet.
But another interested blogger, Rebecca Currie, set out to prove that thrifty eating need not be quite so spartan. Taking up the same challenge—30 days, $30—and documenting the process on her own blog, Less Is Enough
, Currie brought moderate culinary skill to the project. Though she never spent more than a dollar on food each day, she made yakisoba and bran muffins, a makeshift huevos rancheros with fresh salsa, fried rice with fresh vegetables, wheatberry-spinach stew, and a hearty chicken soup. Though some meals grew repetitive—cornmeal, eggs, and millet make numerous appearances—she still manages to work in fresh produce and real meat, resulting in a diet that may be thrifty, but shows a remarkable level of variety. Just as she intended, Currie demonstrates that bargain-basement cooking doesn’t have to be completely devoid of nutrients, flavor, or culinary skill.
Few of us are likely to cut costs quite this much. But Rebecca Currie’s experiment helps us all consider just how much we need—and just how much more we use.