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Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day – Week 1 menu and recipes

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Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day – overview


Breakfast – Farmers market fruit samples ‘salad’ (strawberry, blueberries, plucots, apricots, plums, nectarines, and peaches). There are so many samples at the markets that I always use this for breakfast on market days. I counted last week and had 32 fruit samples ... quite the fruit course.

Brunch- French toast with warm Santa Rosa plum/cinnamon/honey topping. Fresh anise tea with honey.

Dinner: Roasted chicken leg, garlic sautéed radish and radish Greens, ½ Mexican corn cob (mayo & chili), Glass of red wine with square of organic chocolate.

Snacks: popcorn


Breakfast: French toast with warm nectarine/cinnamon/honey topping, Coffee with milk

Lunch: Chicken soup, piece of baguette, 4 fresh apricots. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Trout with fennel, salad (fennel, radish, parsley, celery, vinaigrette), ½ corn on the cob with fennel butter, glass of white wine, home-made berry nectarine gelatin


Breakfast: Oatmeal with warm nectarine, brown sugar & cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Sardine salad lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, parley and sliced radish with vinaigrette. Coffee with square of organic chocolate.

Dinner: Chipotle meat balls, jalapeno green & gold cauliflower ‘potato’ salad, 2 tortillas, Lettuce, cucumber, radish, tomato salad with cilantro croutons. Vinaigrette. White peach crisp with oatmeal & brown sugar topping.


Breakfast – Oatmeal with fresh nectarine and cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Steak tacos with cilantro and salsa fresca, Chipotle / Lime / Garlic Gold and Green Cauliflower , orange with lime and chile. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Chicken soup, piece of baguette, green salad, white wine, Berry nectarine gelatin.


Breakfast – Oatmeal with fresh nectarine and cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Egg salad sandwich, berry nectarine gelatin. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Steak with onions & green pepper, summe salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, green pepper, green & gold cauliflower parsley croutons) Vinagrette, red wine, chocolate square.

Snack: popcorn


Breakfast – Oatmeal with fresh nectarine and cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Chicken soup, baguette. Berry nectarine gelatin. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Trout with fennel, salad (fennel, radish, parsley, celery, vinaigrette), white wine, fresh yellow plucot.


Breakfast – Oatmeal with raisins & cinnamon Coffee with milk

Lunch: Oscar Meyer smoked ham on rye sandwich with lettuce, tomato and Heinz spicy brown mustard. Cardamom, orange & fennel salad, honey apple cinnamon gelatin. Coffee with milk

Dinner: Spicy Ginger Chicken leg on orgranic brown rice, summer squash, green salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radish, and fennel), red wine, hot spiced nectarine


These are too simple-minded to be considered recipes. Let’s say it how the ingredients were assembled.

I have limited cooking skills and even more limited patience with cooking, so it could be called KISS cuisine.

Also, I’ve given up regularly using salt long, long ago. Anyone who likes salt could add to taste where appropriate.

NOTE: While I Googled for ideas, none of these are actual recipes. They are just based on some recipes always adapting to what ingredients were on hand and simplifying so I didn’t have to REALLY cook. The first recipe is an example with a link to the original inspiration.


2 cups mixed gold and green cauliflower florets (or any color. Gold/green was on sale
)2 Tbls mayo
1 tsp Heinz spicy brown mustard
1/2 small jalapeno finely chopped.

Cook cauliflower. Mix mayo with mustard. Toss with cauliflower and jalapeno.


2 cups cauliflower (any color will do)
2 Tbls malt vinegar or vinegar of choice
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/8 tsp dried chipotle flakes (or hot pepper flakes)
1 clove minced garlic
2 tbls chopped cilantro

Cook cauliflower. In a saucepan heat vinegar, lime juice and chipotle flakes on medium heat for about 5 minutes till flakes soften. Remove from heat. Add cauliflower, garlic and cilantro and toss. Chill at least one hour.


1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
1 clove of sliced garlic.
Leaves from bunch of fresh radishes
3 sliced radishes
Salt and Pepper (optional. Season to taste)

Sautee sliced radishes in warmed oil or butter for 4 minutes on medium heat. Remove slices from pan.

Add sliced garlic and brown.

Add greens and sauté about 4 minutes until cooked down like any green. Add radish slices to heat. Return the radishes and toss together with the radish greens and cook about another minute to warm slices.

Not only does it taste good but looks pretty with the green leaves and red and white radishes.


1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
3 red radishes, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup parsley

Shred fennel frond into small sprigs. Toss with parsley and sliced vegetables in a large bowl. Coat with vinaigrette.


Slice nectarine, plum or peach. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Sprinkle with brown sugar or drizzle with honey. Zap in microwave for 1 – 2 minutes until warm. Top French toast or oatmeal.


Stone fruit topping
1/4 cup of oatmeal
teaspoon of butter
teaspoon of brown sugar.

Mix oatmeal with brown sugar. Zap butter in microwave until melted. Mix melted butter, oatmeal and brown sugar. Top stone fruit and zap until warm.


1 tablespoon red wine
1 sliced nectarine
dash of ground cardamom
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of orange zest
dash of fresh grated ginger
sprinkle with brown sugar

Put everything in a microwave cup and microwave on high for 1 minute


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 skinned chicken leg
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 strip orange zest
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup apple juice

Use medium heat to brown chicken leg in heated olive oil for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes or until chicken leg is tender. Reduce sauce if desired. Serve over rice.


Sprinkle of cardamom
1 orange
1 fennel bulb

Peel orange and reserve peel to dry for future recipes requiring orange zest.

Cut orange in half and then slice thinly. Cut fennel bulb into very thin slices. Toss orange and fennel. Sprinkle with cardamom and toss with vinaigrette .


Bring one cup of juice with fruit, if any, to a boil. If using fruit simmer 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the other cup of juice in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle with one packet of gelatin for 1 – 2 minutes.

Add hot juice/fruit mixture to juke/gelatin mixture and stir. Put in individual serving cups and chill

Berry nectarine gelatin: 2 cup Juicy Juice 100% mixed berry juice. One sliced nectarine

Honey apple cinnamon gelatin: Two cups Tree Top apple juice, 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon honey.


Melt a tiny bit of butter in the microwave. Toss with a few bread cubes and chopped fresh herbs. Microwave to desired crunchiness.


½ cup fresh anise leaves
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon honey
1 lemon slice (optional)
Place anise leaves in cup and pour boiling water over them. Let steep 5 to 8 minutes; strain if desired.
Stir in honey and serve with lemon slice.

Quite frankly, this was kind of …eh.

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  1. I'm curious, do you add up the cost of shopping for 1 week to come up with $3/day? Are things like eggs and milk pro rated for a per use cost? Which things were purchased at the Ferry Plaza (since your overview said one goal was to show that it's not too expensive)?

    Don't get me wrong, I agree that when you plan correctly and shop wisely, you can easily eat for very little money (and loads less than dining out). I've just never tried to really add it up on a daily or weekly basis, since for most meals half the ingredients come from the pantry, not the weekly grocery shopping.

    1 Reply
    1. re: leanneabe

      I set the budget at $93 total for the month of July.

      That is the flaw when reporters go off and try this. One week doesn't cut it and my understanding is the food stamp allotment is monthly. I have about $40 left for the month of July. The freezer is VERY full.

      There were VERY few things that I used from my pantry ... only those items I buy once a year, usually at the Christmas sales. So I am not counting flour which I throw out each December usually. Vinegar, especially white wine vinegar I buy every two years because it is usually used for coloring easter eggs and that's it.

      Salt, pepper, cinnamon, chile powder, cardamom i had in the house. I usually buy small quatities and they last forever.

      I rarely ... rarely use white sugar. The five pounds I buy during the Christmas sales last forever. Mustard usually lasts me a year too.

      There were only two Items I pro-rated. Juicy Juicy and Knox Gelatin.

      Grocery Outlet a few months back had a sale ... 10 boxes of Juicy Juice for $1.99. I make a lot of gelatin, so I stocked up. So if I use this I take 19 cents out of the budget for each box I use.

      Same with Knox. I stocked up at Target which had boxes of four packets for $1. So I take 25 cents out of the budget for each packet used.

      Every other thing I bought on week one ... mayo, butter, oil, milk, eggs ... whatever. The only exceptions were the above.

      I left Ferry Plaza for week three or four. Even when i'm buying normally at Ferry Plaza, I pretty much stick to the produce. So I wanted to see what I had left over in terms of meat and other items to supplement them with items from Ferry Plaza. All the produce will be from Ferry Plaza that week and problably beans from Rancho Gordo. In terms of cheese, fish, meat, etc ... need to see when I get there. I have plans for some scallops from the fish company in the building ... depends.

      Like you said, I always knew it could be done, but I never had the dollars and cents to back that up.

      So if this was a part of real life ... there would be the month I needed to buy sugar but spread out over the year those long-lasting staples are easily absorbed into one month's budget or another.

      Also, maybe I don't need sugar in, say, September, but if somone has 5 lbs of C & H on sale for 99 cents, I'm buying it then ... sieze the opportunity ... and the sugar.

    2. rw, I think you need to include quantities to make this comprehensible. I couldn't buy the meat/poultry/fish you list and stay under $3 a day -- but I'm feeding teenage boys. One chicken leg does not cut it. And perhaps vegetables and fruit (and baguettes) are cheaper where you live. I can't see how these meals can possibly cost $3 a day.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Anne H

        It'd be $3 per day per person...and rworange noted that it was $93 for the month, not purchasing each item for the day or even the week individually. So, I can see how it comes out. I think you can also get a good sense of quantities by looking at the "recipes" section of the post. Pretty clear that rworange is feeding one person on this (or at least thats how I'm reading it).

        These recipes are a really good example of what some good spices and a few fresh ingredients can do! nice work.

        1. re: Anne H

          I was wondering the same thing about the meat, especially the fish, but then, I'm in Houston, so I figured fish is just more expensive here? I mean, I can get shrimp for $3.99 a pound on sale, and my folks up north envy me (while I envy their $2.50 a pound black label cheddar and inexpensive salmon). And a pound of shrimp will feed the two of us for two meals.

          Still a neat experiment -- what a great technique to get yourself motivated and educated about food!

          1. re: dietfoodie

            All of this really depends on how big of an eater you are too. A pound of shrimp feeds me for one meal. Guess I'd get pretty skinny on $3 a day.

          2. re: Anne H

            Anne H,

            I'm using average size portions ... a whole chicken breast, or leg. Soup is 2 cups and chock full of veggies and chicken. Salads have been rather large so a good deal of bulk comes from veggies.

            As far as the hot portions of the meals go they are certainly a lot more than you'd get in a frozen dinner ... especially the veggie part. The soup is certainly a lot more than a whole can of Progresso or Wolfgang Puck.

            I keep an eye out for bargains and discounts. The real score was the organic chicken. I got three whole chickens for a few cents over $6 ... Heck, where I live I can't buy a single Foster Farms or even generiic chicken for that price.

            Turns out the local market drastically marks down chicken and some meat / fish when it gets close to the sell date ... close ... NOT past.

            A local bakery sells two loaves of bread for one at exactly 6 pm ... kind of funny ... people queue up and the staff waits till the second hand hits six exactly. So I got two baguettes for $1.25. Two quality loaves of sliced bread for $3.50.

            The fish was also a big find for me. I was scouting out the local fish the month before and had resigned myself to dealing with a whole catfish which run $1.50 - $2 lb. The least expensive fillet I found was $3.99lb and most fish runs $7 lb or more.

            And then there were these beautiful trout fillets ... all boned and looking pretty. This was the market that does the discounts. The trout was 2 days away from the 'sell by' date ... it was marked down to $2 ... yowza ... that was mighty fine trout too ... though it was farm-raised.

            I haven't included my SO in the little eating experiment ... I figure he puts up enough with the multi-cultural food I'm always bringing home.

            However, had I included him and increased the monthly budget to a whopping $186 I would have went with heavier dishes ... the man won't eat a salad to save his life ... so there might have been more pasta and chili. Still for a guy, he's not all that a heavy eater ... a crappy eater ... too much soda and KFC ... but not a heavy eater.

            It is a matter of accomodating your own taste and adjusting to that.

            Spices are incredibly inexpensive. A knob of fresh ginger was 9 cents. Two jalepeno peppers for taste were 7 cents.

            The week I shop at Ferry Plaza, time permitting, I plan to cruise the mainstream grocery stores and do a one on one price comparison. I'm betting the fresh from the farm stuff is going to be less expensive than what I buy there.

            There are all sorts of little bargains if you keep your eyes open. I found that in the Mexican section of my local Raley's, the pasta is absurdly inexpensive ... 31 cents for a 8 oz package. It tasted like elbow macaroni to me. One week it was 5 for $1.

            And that is another thing. I rarely buy anything off-sale. When Hellman's mayo is on sale for a quart, I buy it then, not at the normal $3.50. Ditto most any special. There were some lovely red potatoes on sale for 50 cents a pound.

            It does require flexibility. If chicken is available, you make chicken ... with red potato salad ... if that's the special that week.

            Actually only used one coupon so far. I scored a free 64 ounce bottle of Tree Top apple juice with a ten dollar purchase ... and part of the ten dollars went into Bumble Bee tuna that was on sale 2 cans for $1.

            So adding coupons to the equation, using them only on sale items and if lucky at a store that doubles. Don't live near a double coupons store at this time unfortunately.

            Actually I also scored 12 cans of Jones Soda for $2.99 that I just gave to the SO. Didn't add it to my budget as I'm not using it ... but it made him real happy.

            1. re: rworange

              rworange, you are doing a beautiful job with this project that you have taken on. Yes, it can definitely be done! We just got back from visiting our daughter in Japan where things are really expensive. She has budgeted a daily allowance of 80 yen a day for her meals. That's the US equivalent of 75 cents a day.

              Here in Northern California, I shop regularly with coupons and at the farmers markets. I save a bundle with my coupons which are $5.00 off every $50 in groceries from my high end market (like a Whole Foods) and $5.00 off of every $25 in groceries from my Raley's/ Bel Air. These monthly coupons come in my Entertainment Book/ Gold C and more than pay for the $12 cost of the coupon book which includes a year's worth of coupons.

              Keeo up the good work and I will look forward to reading more reports from you!

              1. re: dimsumgirl

                Nice tip. I never bothered with the entertainment books but I definately would have had I known about the coupons for groceries. I shop at Raley's regularily. Not so often at Whole Foods anymore because in the East Bay I have Berekely Bowl, Cheeseboard, etc ... but sometimes around the holidays. Thanks.

                1. re: rworange

                  The Sacramento area Entertainment Book includes coupons for Nugget Market, our local version of Whole Foods or a scaled down Berkeley Bowl. In the Gold C books, you can find monthly coupons as well and the whole book sells for $12. That means if you only use three coupons, the book has paid for itself!

                2. re: dimsumgirl

                  80 yen? No not possible unless she fishes and dumpster dives or farms her own food, I think you must have misunderstood. I can't even think of anything on sale in the market for 80 yen. I think you better ask her one more time about this.

                  1. re: steamer

                    She uses a lot of dried noodles, vegies and tofu. She gets complimentary iced tea at the college cafeteria and they have sauces that she can use for no charge.

                    She is quite industrious and it will serve her well when she returns to Berkeley for the fall semester. She never knew how to cook before but since she was living by herself in her own apartment, she had to learn how to do it.

                    My point is that rworange is onto something and one can eat well on a tight budget. My daughter's diet is certainly not gourmet or chowhound worthy at this point but she has learned that she can eat on a budget. Unlike most college students, she is very budget conscious. I am encouraging her to expand her budget and see how she can get more tasty and nutritious meals. It will be fun to watch her as she develops her cooking skills and relaxes her frugal ways some.

                    1. re: steamer

                      It's possible. I have a friend who had a 2000yen/month diet that sounded absolutely terrible. He bought a lot of noodles and other goods for the month at the 100yen and just ate various varieties of pasta. It was incredibly unhealthy, to say the least. The only things I can think of offhand that were <50yen at my grocery stores were bean sprouts, ramen, and tofu. Even on my more reasonable budget I could only eat certain fruits because I was not willing to spend 150yen for an apple or more for other types of fruits.

              2. I'd be damn tired of chicken. I'd be mixing up the proteins and adding legumes. But it looks healthy and I can see losing weight too. Although I'd be sick of chicken.

                2 Replies
                1. re: mlgb

                  Yeah, but two days out of seven there was no chicken. There were only three dinners with chicken that was prepped three different ways. Two lunches had chicken. Out of 21 meals 5 were chicken. Doesn't seem too excessive or boring.

                  If anything breakfast is kind of boring, but I like oatmeal and on my own eat it daily, so I wasn't going to change that. I just pepped it up more than usual. My own choice is just with cinnamon and raisins Could eat that 365 days a year and be happy.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I'm just joshing. I have my own issues with chicken chicken chicken because I eat very little red meat. I think you did a great job. I pretty much eat oatmeal and peaches or bananas every morning, myself. Tofu is another good cheap protein source.

                2. In addition to the cost of fish, I am also wondering what is going to happen this fall and winter when all that luscious fruit isn't so well priced. I also think s/he needs to be sure to have about a dollar a week left over to cover some of those miscellaneous costs like flour and spices that you only have to buy on occasion. At the same time I give full credit for the effort rworange has put into this project. Well done!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    In the fall you switch to citrus fruit and apples where the prices drop. Sweet potatoes, root veggies and squash replace the summer veggies. It becomes a bit easiery actually since those items last longer. There are things like beef stew. From my Polish past cabbage soup with pork.

                    Gosh, I've been broke way too much in my life. I have too much experience in this area.

                  2. I would just be very cautious about thinking you can generalize this to what people living on $3/day in food stamps could reasonably do. Sounds like you have used a lot of gas money shopping for bargains-- on the south side of Chicago, that would be some very serious miles, and even worse if you lived in the farflung south suburbs, the new hotbed of poverty. Not to mention the time investment, for a person with small children and at least a part-time job. I'm willing to believe it can be done, but probably not by the people who need to do it the most, those who really only have the $3 to spend. I couldn't do it either, I do not have the time to chase bargains that far, nor would one chicken leg each feed my 6'2' sons. Though obviously someone who has a freezer and is willing and able to put in the time, and has the knowledge (of nutrition and of cooking) could do well on much less money than most of us spend.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Anne H

                      Isn't it better to think about how it could be done rather than speculate why it can't be done.?

                      From the original post I said this was a 90 percent situation. I'll drop it further say only 50 percent of the people could eat better ... one ... one person could eat better. It's like that story of thousands of starfish washing up on the the beach and are dying. A kid is throwing them back one by one into the sea and is told there's too many ... it doesn't matter ... the kid says "it matters to this starfish" and tosses it back into the sea.

                      It is a matter of thinking out of the box ...ed food.

                      Since everyone keeps mentioning time and assuming this is taking tons of it ... this week I timed it ... 47 minutes total shopping time ... total expenditure $6.34.

                      I did all the big shopping the first Saturday. I just needed to supplement this week. Since I really could have lived this week off of what I bought last week ... I could be EXTREMELY picky.

                      So on my drive to the El Cerrito Farmers Market I keep an eye out at the little Mexican markets on the way. One has a sign ... corn ... 10 for $1 ... hit the brakes.

                      Unfortunately the corn was in poor exterior condition. It looked like some had been near a fire. The Asian lady diving into the bin just was removing the husks and plopping what looked like perfectly good corn into plastic bags. Still ... a little too squeemish about it, so I passed.

                      Decided to see what else they had. Got a great cucumber for 25 cents and a nice small avocado also for 25 cents.

                      Next stop on the way was Giovannie's. The most perfect Santa Rosa plums were .49 cents a pound ... 5 plums were 39 cents. AMAZING Dapple Dandy plucots with blushes of gold and green and pink ... 59 cents a pound ... 4 plucots 69 cents.

                      Now to the El Cerrito Farmers Market. HUGE, perfect bunch of Swiss chard for $1. Even larger head of lettuce $1. Ear of delicous yellow corn ... 35 cents. What seems like a positive splurge ... a pretty yellow peach with fresh leaves attached that was everything good about peaches and summer ... 40 cents.

                      The big splurge was the $2 Ambrosia melon. This vendor has the most equisite melons ... even sells at Ferry Plaza. This is Chez Panisse-worthy melon ... sweet, juciy with background honey and spice.

                      Back to the house.

                      I'm not even sure if I'll need to do shopping next week ... though I'm keeping the $1.50 lb fish heads, tails and remains of fillets in mind if I do shop. I could make a nice fish chowder out of it .. this is fish that is selling for $15 a pound ... all wild and wonderful. I'll look into fish stew recipes this week just in case.

                      But the thing is ... don't think $3 a day ... think $93 per person a month. At $3 a day ... I never would have bought the melon which is enough for three VERY generous servings.

                      So you are not feeding your sons on $3 a day. If sons mean 2 and you that is $279 a month. That's not an extravigant amount but there are economies in scale.

                      Maybe next time you grocery shop you might just try to consider what is in your cart that is sheer conveniece or habit and $$$.

                      When I shop I pay alot of attention. What is the deal this week. I shopped at that Raley's almost two years. If I wasn't checking out the store for bargains I still would have not known about the daily deal on chicken ... because I wasn't looking. There's lots of stuff like that if you look hard ... even in your usual stomping grounds.

                      Also after a while you know where the good stuff is and when the specials are coming. I worked on a computer project to produce the add circulars for a rather large chain. There are items scheduled like clock work ... Quaker Oats for example goes on sale every two months. After a while, you just know and wait for the sale.

                      And even outside of my $3 adventure I'd rather be putting the money I save to eating out somewhere really nice. I'd rather give those extra bucks to Chez Panisse and not Campbell's or Kraft.

                      I think the $3 thing is sort of like Chowhound. Nobody froces anyone to read the site or eat anything mentioned. However, in my case after reading great reports over and over I started to follow some suggestions and learned to eat more deliciously.

                      Maybe it is just giving the idea to people on how they can shop better. Maybe somoene will pick up on it who hadn't considered the possibilities.

                      In a sense that might be a better way to go for food stamps. Send out a list with the monthly check about the specials markets are running in the area ... what markets are the best bets ... even send along a few recipe ideas. Maybe if people read that info month after month some people would get interested without be forced into education of any sort.When you read about deliciousness over and over, eventually it gets to you.

                      Think of the obstacles and the possible solutions ...

                      Working mom with small kids ... what if there was some sort of in-store daycare that was subsidized. Some of the upscale markets in my area now have daycare centers to let parents shop in peace. Why couldn't that work for the other end of the spectrum?

                      No transportation? ... what about the availability of CSA boxes deliviered to houses and recipes included. Say if someone signed up for a CSA that would be taken out of the monthly check, they would be given a bonus. Maybe the farmers get some deal too.

                      Only a few ideas off the top of my head.

                      1. re: rworange

                        Did you know that the old Shattuck Co-op did have a free daycare area? Cozy and full of books and toys. I remember it well.

                        One stupid question...since you seem to be eating a lot of fresh food what exactly are you putting in your freezer?

                        1. re: Glencora

                          Meat, butter, bread, frozen cooked veggies ... I blanched ... yes I did ... me ... I blanched the cauliflower and have a few bags. Probably the first thing I blanched in my life. I'll probably cook up all the Swiss chard at once and put them in single serving containers to freeze.

                          The thing I have trouble keeping up with is the lettuce. I haven't eaten this much green salad in a while ... gee .. not just that ... I can't remember the last time I didn't buy bagged lettuce. Dealing with a head of lettuce actually isn't the horror story I remember.

                          1. re: rworange

                            you're a wildwoman.
                            keep posting, i'll keep reading.
                            salt can be your friend.

                            1. re: rworange

                              I talked with someone recently who hadn't worked with a head of lettuce for a long time. My suggestion is to striip off the tougher outer leaves to use for cooking: shred them and add to broth for a light soup, chop and saute then blend with dumpling filling, etc. Then you can enjoy the inner leaves and heart before they get too wilted.

                              Bless you for documenting this experiment! I know that it can be done, judging from what I spend for groceries for the weeks that I cook at home, shopping in exactly the same way that you have. Yes, it is hard and there are obstacles, but it can be done if you plan and keep your eyes open.

                            2. re: Glencora

                              I was a kid who used to go to that daycare, I remember it well too!

                            3. re: rworange

                              "But the thing is ... don't think $3 a day ... think $93 per person a month. At $3 a day ... I never would have bought the melon which is enough for three VERY generous servings."
                              EXACTLY! Though I never have gotten around to writing up my own experiment, the quanity of food part worked out fine because you don't shop thinking $3 per person a day, you shop thinking $X a month.
                              The real complication was the getting from place to place and cooking on two nights when things went south at work leading me to come home way late. To be perfectly honest, doing it ala bus proved to be impossible, particularly hauling 2 pups with me. With a car, I would go to the Hollywood farmer's market and to trader joes and to whole foods but its all so spread out. the estimated time on the website was just undoable.
                              As far as daycare goes, IKEA has something like that for parents and it works well as long as its not too busy and full. Now that I have two elementary age kids, I realize that age [7 & 9 1/2] is the worst for care---too young to stay home alone, too old for most in-store centers. And yet, hauling them on a bus from store to store to........
                              I look forward to reading the future reports.

                            4. re: Anne H

                              Perhaps by chicken leg she's referring to the thigh and the leg? I'm 200 lbs and consider a thigh/leg portion more than adequate. A leg alone wouldn't cut it.

                              1. re: cali2ia

                                A leg should be thigh and drumstick, perhaps with a portion of the back too depending on the butcher.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  It is the whole appendage the chicken walks on ... 1 chicken = 2 legs, 2 wings, 2 breasts and the rest for soup. I, unfortumately was the butcher who hacked those birds up ... and never were the words 'butcher' and 'hacked' more aptly used.

                            5. When I was backpacking and cooking for others in the hostel group, I remember keeping costs down by buying what was in season and looking at packages of meat that was near the best before date. I could do that because we only needed to cook one meal at a time.

                              Your experiment is amazing. I think that it's important to be aware of how we spend money on food. You sound like you're also being cautious about waste too.

                              1. i like that you're looking for solutions. i think what you've done is great but have to agree that for the average young mom with little time between jobs and with little kids in tow on a bus it is VERY hard. great to think about options. and it is still good to show what can be done even if it's not possible for everyone.

                                1. I think that this is quite an essay you are writing... one worth keeping up with. I am a conscientious shopper who pays attention to sales and what is in season, but this is quite interesting. What I find most interesting is that I work with many families that do live on a limited income. I do some psycho-education around money and life skills surrounding how to make their money go further. This makes me re-think some strategies of shopping/planning with them. Thanks for your effort and time!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Mel

                                    Mel, Just curious what those stragies are that you currently use.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      discussing how much it costs to eat out than to eat at home, menu planning with budget item, where the local pantries are, free lunch programs, etc

                                      1. re: Mel

                                        Thanks. If possible adding the most cost-effective markets would be a help. I know people often can't travel a lot and sometimes have to use the corner market or what is closest.

                                        It is surprising that the stores you would think are least expensive ... aren't. FoodMax, a discount supermarket in my area, isn't much less expensive that the Safeway's, Raley's, etc ... and the quality still is lousy. Smart & Final ... not so smart. Yet FoodCO which isnt't that far away ... if you have a car .... is much better for overall shopping. The real deal in this area is Grocery Outlet has absurdly low prices but it can't be used for all shopping since the produce quality isn't that great and they have no meat counter.

                                        For me, the local Latino markets and panaderia's were a revelation. There is usually a meat counter with two butchers, the produce is often rock bottom. Like anything, some are better than others.

                                  2. I'm really enjoying reading about your experiment, and I'm really wishing I lived in CA as I drool over your menu -- in the Boston area there is absolutely no way you could get that much produce that cheaply, regardless of how good a deal-finder you are. I frequent some of the local ethnic markets, which are cheaper than the grocery store (and waaaay cheaper than the farmers market, which I adore, but shop at sporadically). There's a lot one could do shopping well and stocking up on staples when they're on sale, but any $3/day diet would include a lot less fruits and veggies, or certainly a lot less varied (carrots and cabbage are usually cheap but that gets old rather quickly).

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Dizzied

                                      Haymarket at the end of the day when stuff is marked down? It's been a looooong time since I lived in Boston but I could get those big baskets of white mushrooms for $3.

                                      Yep, not designer Farmers Market veggies, but keeping an eye out usually turns up something. The plums I bought this week for .49 cents a pound were no where near Farmers Market quality, however they were as good as supermarket plums. Slice them, drizzle with honey and microwave and they are great.

                                      You should start a thread on the Boston board ask about food deals ... produce, meat or groceries. You might be surprised what turns up.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Fabulous thread! I am going to see if we can get by on 6 bucks a day when I get back home. My husband might not appreciate it..but I am up for the challenge. I almost always buy meat at a discount a few days before the date expires.

                                        1. re: melly

                                          Are you kidding me ... six dollars ... I could eat like Paris Hilton on that ... oh wait .. she probably doesn't eat ... uh ... Martha Stewart.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            she said "my husband & i" - so i think it still equals out to $3 a person but it does give more leeway when you're cooking for 2. unless the hubbie (mine would be) is a big eater.

                                            1. re: AMFM

                                              Oh ... right ... "we" ... never mind ... I'm faint from hunger ... kidding.

                                              Yeah, I didn't include my SO in this little experiment for two reasons ... he doesn't eat all that healthy ... and I don't think I've ever seen him eat a veggie except the occasional onion, pepper and tomato. He might eat corn, but I've never personally witnessed that.

                                              Also, the man eats on $3 a day anyway ... lots of beans, eggs, tortillas, queso fresco and pan dulce ... and the damn soda. The man does make amazing beans though.

                                              Besides, I annoy him enough anyway bringing in takeout from around the world ... it was around my Filipino phase that he tuned out.

                                              He has been amused seeing me in the kitchen this month ... and slightly horrified and terrified.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                mine eats frozen pizza, beer, pasta, shrimp, cheesesteaks, other steak, fries, wine, and chocolate chip coookies. no veggies - unless you count the fries and an occasional ear of corn on the cob. no fruit - unless you count the wine. exercises a lot though. but still not fair that his cholesterol is better than mine. if it weren't for my love of good cheese... :)

                                        2. re: rworange

                                          Haymarket's a good thought but you do run into the timing and schlepping factor (no way to get a car over there). Fridays are out if you don't work nearby. I used to stock up on Saturdays when I lived in the North End but you have to have time to cook all the food within a day because if you wait 2, it will go bad. At this point I only find it useful if I'm dedicating a weekend to jam or spaghetti sauce.

                                          There've been some threads on food deals in Boston and I've been living here long enough to be pretty savvy. I live near a lot of the ethnic markets and the produce prices are better than the supermarket, but not what you're citing. That said, meat deals are easy -- nothing remotely organic or sustainable which I lament, but I never pay more than $2 a pound for meat and often pay less -- a little sausage goes a long way toward seasoning a good dish.

                                          Anyway, my laments about the price of produce in Boston aside, I'm really, really enjoying your posts, especially since I just started grad school (after many years out) and am aggressively cutting costs.

                                      2. My mother ran our household of 8 including household expenses on 100 per week. We ate a lot of beans and rice, no junk food, no white bread, no sugar,a lot of stir fry meals, not much meat and lots of soup.We shopped at the Dekalb Farmers Market once a week for produce. We had gardens most summers. We "u-picked" fruit and ate venison that hunter friends gave us. I am probably the healthiest person I know and one of the most curious and adventurous eaters as well. Eating well means different thigs to different people, but eating well from a nutrtional stand point is emminently doable for a very small price.

                                        1. Okay....I'm wondering if this could possibly be done with today's food prices.......

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: SusieS

                                            Yep. The farmers markets haven't changed their prices.

                                            Grocery Outlet still has deals ... there was 4 liters of white wine for $1.99 and a pint of Haagen Daz coconut sorbet for 50 cents ... etc

                                            The big markets still have specials ... recently one pound asparagus, on pound strawberries, one pint blackberries ... all $1.47.

                                            The little neighborhood markets still have the sales going. I bought five avocados for $1 this week and last week the first corn on the cob was 29 cents for a cob.

                                            It is just a matter of taking advantage of what happens to be in-season and on sale.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              I think that this is a great thread, we should all reduce waste and our footprint on the earth. As a child of parents who grew up in the depression, I am sickened by the amount of waste I see (hard as I try, sometimes in my own household). The curse of affluence. When I was a kid in the sixties, my dad used to talk about what would happen if the whole world (esp. China and India) had a car, a washing machine, and a refrigerator and wanted to eat meat. Well, we are now seeing what happens (pollution, rising prices everywhere, etc.). Our local paper had an article about how people are coping, and one woman said "I now buy in smaller quantities, because we can't afford waste anymore". Anymore! Why can we ever afford waste?

                                              But, it is important that we not lose our compassion for the people who have to get by on food stamps or $3/day. Read Barbara Ehrenreich (sp?) Nickled and Dimed. Those of us affluent enough to have a computer and the time to read threads like this tend to forget the terrible "poor tax" and lack of capital that keeps daily expenses high. I mean living in residence hotels (no kitchen) in cities with poor public transportation. They cost more than apartments, but the working poor can't come up with first, last, and a security deposit. The don't have a big freezer, or often good access to markets that have good fresh food. They often work long hours, or 2 jobs, and have little time/energy for planning healthful meals even if they have a kitchen to cook it in. Oh, well, I guess my bleeding heart is showing itself.

                                              1. re: dkenworthy

                                                I'm grateful for a few bleeding hearts. I think rworange did a terrific job of showing what is possible on three dollars a day. And for many people it is possible. But for many people it isn't, for the reasons you listed.

                                                Most Americans take things like a fridge with a freezer for granted. Kind of like being able to afford to waste food.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I am reminded of a study done some time ago -- what "modern" household luxury would you most miss? Women in their 20's said microwaves, 40's said washing machines, but women in their 80's said running water in the kitchen! You get the picture, today's convenience is tomorrow's necessity, and we don't even recognize the foundation of luxury we all take for granted. Until we go camping or work in a 3rd world economy!

                                                2. re: dkenworthy

                                                  Well said. I think rworange did a terrific job with this and I was interested in following her month. I was afraid that some people would take it to mean that ANYONE can live on that amount a day and that we give far too much to people on food stamps, etc. But, what this shows is it's possible, given the right circumstances which isn't the case for everyone. And, yes, waste, no matter what your income, is a shame. I'm not crying for people who complain about filling up their Hummers.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    LOL. I remember a couple of years ago when gas first started flirting with three dollars a gallon, and someone was interviewed on the radio complaining about what lousy mileage his Hummer got, and besides, it didn't handle very well. I'm thinking, what did he expect?!!!!!!! He bought a tank, and the EPA mileage sticker was right on it. Didn't he even test drive the thing? Or did he simply walk in a plunk down his money for that latest cool macho accessory?

                                                3. re: rworange

                                                  I live roughly in the same area as you (but in the South Bay), but have definitely noticed the price increases for the same items at my FM compared to a year ago. A half a dozen eggs used to cost $1.25, but now they are $1.75. Last year, several stands sold 3 baskets of strawberries for $5, but now, the cheapest is $7. Most are $8! Cherries were also $1/# more-- last year, stands sold them for $4/#, but this year, they are all selling them for $5/#.

                                              2. Here is my experience cooking for 50 senior citizens. Not 3$ a day, but 3$ for each person per meal. Sometimes I spend less.


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Calipoutine

                                                  Hi Cali, I will reply to this old comment as I see you are still around although perhaps no longer located in rural Ontario and probably not missing it much ;)
                                                  Let me preface that I wrote the below before skipping ahead to the end and I see the job ended badly. I'm sure you were doing a GREAT job, and like I said, way more work than they were paying you for. So please don't take my comments as criticism - I just find the cultural differences interesting, as a Canadian with an American father.
                                                  I'm home sick today and just spent an hour reading that thread! I so recognize the lowest common denominator Ontario food. Although it's not how I grew up in Toronto at all, it's totally how my inlaws (only in their sixties!) eat, and I also spend time in Bruce & Grey counties, which is cottage country for London and Southwest Ontario. I've basically given up going out to eat there on our summer holidays.
                                                  My MIL LOVES M&M meats! In fact, if it comes from there, she'll buy things that are otherwise out of her comfort zone like "ethnic"-themed puff pastry appetizers ;)
                                                  One thing I did notice as an Ontario girl with a dad from Georgia - things like real iced tea, pulled pork, banana pudding, were totally foreign to me growing up, introduced when down south. And we ate all kinds of ethnic food in Toronto. So I'm not surprised the seniors weren't familiar with it. But there's been a trend these past 10 years and you *might* even find pulled pork sandwiches on some pub menus in the area now. Definitely in Toronto they are everywhere. But it's a very limited subset of Southern foods that are trendy. To my chagrin! BBQ places do not have collards, forget about a veg plate!
                                                  So if I may gently say so, I think there were some cultural differences at play - your "basics" were not always the same as theirs. I can see how much work & love you put into it, way beyond what you were getting paid to do!
                                                  Oh - my MIL loves jiffy corn muffin mix too! Lol