Inspired by the #SurviveOn35 challenge and my last WIAW post, I wanted to try to get my food cost for one day even lower. I’ve always been a somewhat budget-conscious person, but I wanted to experience what it’s like to be on a really tight food budget.
Please note that I’m not doing this just for fun! While my financial situation is quite fine at the moment, things might look different in just a few months. In that case, the lessons I’m learning through this may be crucial.
So, here’s what I ate on Monday, a typical day at the office.
(Note: All prices are in Euro! 1 Euro = 1.23 USD [Source: Google - July 30th, 2012])
Breakfast was the usual, 1 1/2 slices of whole grain bread with veggie pate. This one was based on nutritional yeast, apple onion flavour, and on sale. A bit boring but cheap and filling.
Total cost for breakfast: 0.60 €
[Somehow I can't find the photo of my lunch. Imagine a big round plastic box with salad in it right here.]
Last week I bought a bag of dried chickpeas and cooked a large batch. That’s not as quick and easy as using canned chickpeas, but I think they do taste better, and I get to save some money. For Monday’s lunch I threw together a simple salad with those chickpeas, brown rice, tomatoes, cucumber, and a tangy balsamic dressing.
Total cost for lunch: 0.80 €
Sunday night I was craving pasta with marinara, so I cooked a big pot of sauce to eat during the week. All I had to do on Monday night was cooking some pasta and re-heating one serving of marinara. For an extra protein boost, I added a handful of red lentils to the sauce. When they were cooked through, I blended it all until I got a smooth, creamy sauce. One zucchini and one carrot were chopped up and added to the pot as well. Dinner was served in a flash!
Total cost for dinner: 0.70 €
I think I slightly miscalculated the cost for my drinks last week. One serving of each coffee and green tea is probably a little less than 0.10 €. Sure, I could have gone without any coffee or tea, but I would have been a very unpleasant person and not very productive. So it’s a necessary investment.
Total cost for drinks: 0.30 €
Last Sunday I took the time to make a batch of chocolate oat bites. They were supposed to be cookies, but they didn’t taste like cookies at all. The recipe is from a book, just slightly adapted, and makes about 20 small bites. (Or probably 10-15 big ones. I prefer smaller ones, though.) I expected them to be quite budget friendly, using mostly low-cost ingredients like flour, rolled oats, sugar, soy milk, and cocoa powder. After doing some math I was shocked to see that those cookies cost only 0.05 € per piece. Wow!
I snacked on a few of them during the day, paired with some nectarines that were on sale, and my daily banana. Late night snack was a shot glass of soy milk and more oat bites.
Total cost for snacks: 1.30 €
Total cost for the day: 3.70 € = $4.55
Conclusion: I did it! I guess it is possible to eat well on a very low food budget, but it takes some planning, preparation, dedication, and practice. And the discipline to say no to a few things, like tropical or non-seasonal fruits, my beloved peanut butter, and eating out. It’s kind of crazy to think that my entire food for the day cost less than what most of my co-workers spend on lunch every day!
This is the proof, in my opinion, that a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be expensive. Just stick to the basics, like whole grains, legumes, seasonal fruit and vegetables, and you’re fine.
Another lesson that I’ve learned is that homemade is really better. You can control the taste and the ingredients, and you’re even saving money.
Do you like to make your snacks from scratch? Or do you prefer store-bought goodies?