If anyone in the past told me that it was possible to live on $5 of food a day, I would have laughed them off faster than the blink of an eye. With the ever-rising costs of food these days, foodies like myself would have probably deemed such a task as impossible and not even worth a second look. I mean, after so many glorious years of munching down juicy cheeseburgers & fries, hearty salads together with a colorful array of sauces and rich desserts, what are we even talking about?
However, today I have learned to take an entirely different approach to life – one that places my value system into a more, refined direction. Learning to live cheaply is more than simply being cautious of how you spend your cash or grossly decreasing your quality of life. Instead, it means being wise and frugal with how you handle your finances, while learning to appreciate the smaller, finer things in life.
Living on $5 of food a day is also an excellent way to learn about managing your finances and discovering little holes where your money may have leaked in the past. It means learning to spend your hard-earned money in a way that each dollar brings more value into your life – not less! In many ways, this can make your quality of life richer.
For years, I simply hopped into my car, walked into the supermarket and bought whatever I felt like buying, never questioning my total bill at the end. I mean why even challenge it and wonder whether we’re buying stuff we shouldn’t? A $5 a day diet simply seemed out of touch with reality when a basket of vine tomatoes can easily cost $5 alone. And if you’re also following all the latest “Mediterranean” diet craze, you’ll also have to buy some cold-pressed olive oil to go with it, setting you back another $15, since cheap butter is now a no-no. And of course, weeks later, we find these very food items past their expiry date and must be thrown out yet again.
With a little planning, this evil little cycle can be broken and you can learn to find greater value in your shopping list once again. What’s better, you can attain some of the many health benefits of ingesting less calories with a greater amount of nutrients, which can greatly aid in weight loss and a host of other modern-day problems.
But wait, you may be asking: I still don’t get it, why on earth would anyone want to reduce their daily food expenses all the way down to a measly five dollars
Aside from the reasons mentioned above, many people are now trying the so-called SNAP challenge, which is an abbreviation for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. Many notable people such as politicians are using the SNAP challenge as a way to see emulate the lifestyle of the some 50 million Americans who rely on food stamps. In many states, this amounts to just that – a $5 allowance for use on food expenses.
Other people are giving the SNAP challenge a shot in order to attain the many health benefits that accompany it. For example, by limiting your dietary intake, you’ll naturally have to select food that are high in protein and low in carbs. In fact, with a little imagination that $5 a day can even bring on a fresh, wholesome cuisine that rivals many of the processed foods millions of middle-class and wealthy Americans eat each day.
So, what kind of foods does one actually eat to take part in this crazy diet? It’s actually not that difficult! Yikes! After all this means getting your average required dietary intake of roughly 2000 calories daily divided up by 3 meals, while spending no more than $35 for the whole week! As long as you’re prepared for a little adventure in your life, believe me – this can be done!
Simple Food Ideas for the $5 a Day Diet
Below are some inspiring food ideas to assist in you getting your cash to go a bit further:
Some food items that are cheap yet packed with nutrients include a can of chicken noodle soup from Campbell’s, a carton of oats, tomato sauce, a dozen eggs, frozen corn or other veggies, a carton of milk or yogurt, nuts and a bundle of cheese singles, tomatoes, even potatoes.
Are we getting at least a little bit closer to your expectations? As you can see there are many basic items you can buy in the store that can easily be combined to create some truly gourmet dishes. This project demonstrates how, with almost no cash, you can eat wonderful meals without having to spend $20 a day. In fact, by preparing dinner just right you can always have enough food leftover to last your for lunch and breakfast. Heck, if you really get it perfect you’ll even be able to enjoy a few snacks such as yogurt together with walnuts.
Now, don’t get me wrong, as you will have to make some sacrifices. For example, you’ll immediately have to cut out all the booze. Sorry! But, a few days or weeks in your life without alcohol may actually be a good thing and do great things for your health. It doesn’t hurt to look at the bright side of things. Another sacrifice you may have to give up are condiments such as mustard, ketchup, herbs spices, unless you have a neighbor that grows spices and herbs in their garden so that you can snatch a few for free. That way you’ll be able to get some fresh basil, oregano, thyme, nettle and other fun ingredients into your dishes. I’ll admit that ketchup was a very tough one for me, but when it comes to these kinds of condiments we’re not supposed to eat too much of those anyway for a multitude of health reasons.
Keep in mind, that to do this right, you are not allowed to start the $5 a day diet using any leftovers from the past. Yes, you’ll have to clean up your fridge of everything, so that everything starts fresh. Leftovers are allowed during the diet, but again using only items that you have purchased for $5 a day.
Also, forget about dining out or the occasional binge day, where you can go out with your friends and eat or drink anything you want – in any quantity. Yes, that also includes if the other party is paying for your meals. No tricks allowed here. We had to mention it for folks that may try to diverge from the general plan!
Challenges of Maintaining the $5 a Day Diet
The toughest portion of the week occurred during shopping time. It is extraordinarily difficult to keep the bill to $35 each week and not go one cent over. Don’t try to fool yourself either by giving the typical excuses such as “it’s just sales tax anyway” or “I’ll just buy a little less next week”. No, it is imperative to make sure the bill never goes a single cent over the $35 threshold. Also, pick out one day of the week when you’ll be shopping – it makes tracking so much easier.
Further on this note, it is painful to walk by all the delicacies you always loved such as white truffle chocolates and realize just how expensive they were. You always have to choose the cheapest item in each category, even if that means choosing no name brands or store brands. It’s not sexy to have to do this, but essential in order to stick with the program. At least, the green veggie section won’t have this problem, although you can probably forget about buying organic fruits and veggies due to their relatively high costs. Perhaps, going to a local farmer will allow you to get organic fruits and veggies at a lower cost.
The easiest way to stick to the plan is to make your meals centered on protein. Our bodies need protein more than carbs or fat. Protein is used to build muscle, hormones and enzymes that keep our entire body in homeostasis. This does not mean that you eat meat that is high-priced. You can always opt for more economical cuts of meat, legumes or eggs.
In addition to this, you should include a lot of variety in your meals. One option is to cook foods in substantial amounts and then add it into different recipes to make a wide variety of different meals. Legumes, for instance, can easily be cooked up in a large pot and then turned into soup or enchiladas depending on the other ingredients used. They are also very good for you and affordable, and can be made into a delicious and nourishing soup or stew together with some other vegetables.
Another ingredient that mixes well into so many other recipes is egg. For example, you could make scrambled eggs on toast, with a side dish that includes tomatoes or mushrooms for one dish, and then use leftover eggs to make an omelet later on.
Then there is also the omnipotent, yet straightforward toasted sandwich, which can be made at anytime of day with a little cheese and some frozen vegetables fairly cheaply for a balanced diet.
Cheaper cuts of meat are generally not tender and this also makes them perfect for use in a slow cooker. For example, using a crock-pot you’ll be able to place all the meat into your pot in in the morning, and have a perfect meal prepared when you later come home from work. If you’re clever, you can even cook up several days of meals with this method. Even the toughest cuts of meat will become very soft in your crock-pot without losing their nutritional values.
Sample Recipes on $5 a Day
One of my favorite recipes is hamburgers with mashed peas or other legumes. What I usually do is batter the meat in lots of salt, as that helps them form an immediate crust, which makes for a juicy burger at the end. Feel free to add some caramelized onions. Keep in mind that the burgers don’t have to be made of beef either. If you’re vegetarian you can used mashed lentils covered with soft breadcrumbs to form patties that look just like the real thing. Just fry them in oil until they reach a beautiful golden color. Other options also include chicken burgers, fish burgers and even chili burgers using a similar cooking approach. Yum, grilled cheese sandwich, dipped in a can of tomato soup.
Another common recipe I like to use on this diet is to simply mix red beans together with rice – New Orleans style! Simply cook the beans and rice separately and them put them together. Voila! It’s obviously very far from the traditional New Orleans treat since there is no ham involved, but hey, it’ll cost under $5 each time and keep you full for a long time.
On days when I need to eat something very quickly, I’ll choose broccoli or cauliflower and rice. This is actually a good foundation from which it is easy to add other ingredients such as fruits and other veggies. You can either cook them or fry them in a frying pan. One day I’ll add in some cut pineapple bits, while another I might add some papaya. You see, food never has to be dull if you add a spark of fun and creativity to it. Another simple recipe uses artichokes and pasta for a truly delicious and filling dish. Again this is an excellent foundation from which it is very easy to add a host of other nutritious ingredients such as cheese.
Further Tips To Cut Down Your Food Bill
There are several things to keep in mind when trying the $5 a day diet to help you get through it with ease.
- Remember to always stick to your budget no matter what. This can be made easier by never going out to the supermarket in a hungry state.
- Clip coupons. If you are careful enough, you will find many stores offer coupons. Sometimes you can even snatch a few free products or at least save a certain percentage on your next order.
- Spend a few moments each week to write up your grocery bill. This will make your trip to the supermarket so much easier each week.
- Put any leftover food into the freezer. This ensures that food won’t expire as quickly allowing you to use them again at some point in the future.
My greatest tip is to always maintain an open mind and a very flexible attitude. It will help you keep the diet going anytime you hit an obstacle and are ready to call it quits!
Hey Moms, Dads, Students and Bachelors, It’s Possible!
Calling out all single moms, dads, students and bachelors! Guess what – it is possible to live on $5 a day. Yes, even in today’s scary economy, where inflation and unemployment seem to form an evil gang that continuously blocks any attempts you make to save money. I actually tried the famous $5 a day for myself and followed it religiously for a couple of weeks. Surprisingly it wasn’t all as bad as I had envisioned it would be. In fact, I even lost a couple of pounds, managed to increase my dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and quite frankly felt really good about myself.
The last time I gave the $5 a day diet a try was probably unconsciously during my student years. Well, maybe only on the days when I didn’t also spend $5 on booze alone. Yes, these were the endless night of cramming for exams and eating a horrible diet, with the same old pizza and pasta every night. It’s too bad I didn’t know as much as I have learned about nutrition and cooking in recent years, as I would have transformed those dull take-outs into truly awesome meals.
How To Live on $5 a Day Without Looking Like You Came From the Ghetto
First off, the most important secret to surviving the $5 a day diet begins when you enter your local grocery store. You have to understand precisely what the shops are doing in their attempts to extract as much money as possible from your pockets. You see, they’ve hired many marketing and consumer advocate experts to closely watch all of your habits and weaknesses when shopping around for food. Experts know that the more times you’ll be exposed by the shop to things you do not need, the more opportunity that you’ll purchase one or more of them.
You can stop falling into the traps by stopping yourself from buying large quantities of food at whim. Grocery stores have a very funny way of placing things on display throughout their shops, so that you are more inclined to buy things at impulse. It’s always much better to make a grocery list of everything you want to buy and then stick to it no matter what! Don’t add items you do not want. Just leave them and say “No”. Not only are you going to save money but you’ll also eat healthier.
Ensure that your list contains your all the food you’ll need for a complete week. That means setting up a budget of no more than $35 for seven days of food. Believe me, it can be done! In this article, I’ve included a short list of some of my favorite gourmet recipes to help you make it through this painfully, difficult time.
With your list armed in hand as well as your limit to the amount of times you will visit the supermarket this month, you finally have an excellent shield against the supermarkets primary technique to get you spend more than you need to.
Now let’s move on to the actual fun part of the $5 a day diet by including what you’ll actually be able to eat. Let’s begin with the food item that enabled me to survive my entire college years – pasta!
Delicious Recipe Ideas To Try on the $5 a Day Diet
Even though many people believe pasta is not quite wholesome, there are now several types of whole grain pastas accessible which might challenge that idea completely. Pasta is also a type of dish that is very flexible. You can make it your appetizer or principal dish or combine it with many other types of ingredients for a very wholesome meal. Why not add it to your soups as well for a few extra calories to help you get past the day? The best pastas to use in soups are orzo, bow tie or even little elbows or shells. For main dishes, most folks prefer to use bigger noodles including spaghetti and linguini.
Here is a recipe that can yield 5 pounds of delicious yum and is packed with nutrients with a taste to die for:
Spaghetti Bolognese with a Touch of Pepper and Zucchini
- 1.5 lbs. Ground Beef
- 6 Tomatoes
- 3 Zucchinis
- 1 Large Onion
- 1 Large Bell Pepper
- Few Cloves of Garlic
- Powdered Oregano
- Salt and Pepper
- Dash of Sugar
Sautee the garlic and onion in a frying pan. Then add the ground beef. Once the beef change color to grey add the sliced tomatoes, zucchinis and bell peppers. After frying everything together you can add the oregano, salt, pepper and dash of sugar. Mix thoroughly together with your favorite pasta and Voila! You have fantastic pasta ready for you in less than 15 minutes. Don’t forget to sprinkle a little bit of grated Parmesan over it, which can be easily purchased cheaply.
Here is another I use on a regular basis, even when not on the $5 a day diet. Although, do keep in mind that this one is a little more labor-intensive.
- 1 Squash – seeded and halved
- 2 Tbs. Olive oil
- 1 Tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice
- ½ Cup Parsley – freshly chopped
- ½ Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
Heat your oven up to 430°. In the meantime pour the olive oil over the squash and sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper. Put the cut side facing down on your baking sheet and bake it in your oven for about one hour. After letting the squash cool, use a fork to remove strands of squash at them into a bowl. Next, mix in the rest of the ingredients and your sauce is ready! That is just a matter of cooking your favorite pasta and you have another spectacular dish – gourmet ready!
Pasta is cheap which is why it is used so widely. Families with big or small budgets enjoy eating pasta and are grateful for the savings they incur as a result. It is a very filling dish that can be mixed with plenty of other food items to make for truly fascinating dishes.
Oh yes! We hit the word gourmet but we’re not done with it!
To think about all the lovely Asian recipes that can be easily made from home without having to rely on take-out menus such as stir fried vegetables with shrimp or chicken. It works best if you can get your hands on a WOK pan, but even a regular frying pan will do. You can also stop by a local farmer’s market to get all the required vegetables at a cheap price, such as red chili flakes, baby Bok Choy, Chinese broccoli, Napa cabbage, and long Chinese beans.
Eating Out While On the $5 a Day Diet
I can hear you saying “No Way” already. You would probably think that this heading should be more aptly named “You’re not allowed to eat out while on the $5 a day diet”. Well, yes and no. You can certainly forget about going to your favorite exclusive restaurant where a single dish of fish costs your entire week’s budget on food.
What I’m talking about is more in the area of cheap pizza take outs that also offer coupons for regular customers. You know, those “buy one get one free” offers found at Domino’s or Pizza Hut. Start collecting those coupons and make it a night out you’ll always cherish – or that your bank account will always cherish, shall I say.
One of the biggest keys to saving big on eating out is to avoid ordering soft drinks. Actually, you might just want to avoid them altogether for health reasons. If you’re able to do this successfully, it might just make a substantial difference in your entire food budget for the year.
Think about it this way…
Since people eat out between 10 times to 20 times per month, let’s use the amount of 15 for illustrative purposes. Think about the drink prices you are paying for all those meals out. If you take a Cola or Pepsi with your meals you’ll be spending about $2 for each beverage. Over the span of a year you’ll have spent $360 dollars!
Why not go for regular tap water instead of shelling out on soft drinks every time. Can you envision the incredible saving that you can get for family of four using this technique? That’s close to $1500 saved annually!
The idea here is not to starve yourself out of life’s pleasures. Go for the soft drink from time to time if you truly feel like it. However, by gaining new habits you can put a ton of cash into your pocket and save your family’s budget, while eating healthier and avoiding all the health hazards that come from consuming too many soft drinks. This is yet another way to live inexpensively but feel rich.
There you go, eating out and enjoying quality food at the same time – for only $5 bucks a day. I challenge you to give it a shot and let me know what you think.