Can $30 of Food Keep You Alive for 30 Days?

May 4, 2008 at 7:09 pm 3 comments

Since the beginning of this challenge, there has been some tension between people who think that my bartering for local food is “cheating” (Hi, Mitch Albom!) and people who were concerned that it would be impossible to survive without the extra calories and nutrients I have been getting. Considering that I work as researcher, I figured I would let the data do the talking on this issue. Since I have saved the receipts from every item I’ve purchased during this challenge, I have been able to add up the cost of everything I’ve purchased with my $30 and used either the package information or Fitday to calculate the total calories those items contain. Here are the results:

30 Days Calories 

As you can see, I was able to purchase enough food to average 1,382 calories per day. I’m a pretty small person, so I could definitely survive for 30 days on this. It would be the equivalent of a weight loss diet. The major problem is that the nutrition profile of this diet is pretty out of whack. As you’ll notice, the only fruits and vegetables I was able to purchase were carrots, 1 apple, 2 onions and a jar of salsa. My only dairy was evaporated milk (yuck!) and not quite a pound of actual cheese. The item I labeled “Fake Cheese” is made mostly from hydrogenated vegetable oil (yuck!).

One interesting fact I wanted to point out is that this list consists of food that is quite healthy – oats, brown rice, legumes, etc. – and items that are completely artificial. It’s a strange juxtaposition that I’ve been trying to work within. Unfortunately, most whole foods are priced out of this extreme budget. Even inexpensive vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, and frozen broccoli just don’t provide enough calories per dollar to justify their purchase in this scenario.

So What’s the Verdict?

I think it’s possible for someone to survive on $30 for a month if:

  • they have transportation to low cost stores
  • they are pretty healthy going into the month
  • they aren’t too much bigger than me and don’t have to do lots of manual labor

I still say Don’t Do It! This is not a safe or sane weight loss strategy or budgeting strategy. If a person was really in a position where he or she only had $30 for food for the month, I would definitely recommend a food pantry or other sources of additional food.

I will say, however that living on $1 per meal or $21 per week seems like an attainable goal. That level of budget leaves room for more vegetables, fruit, and probably even some meat – if you’re in to that sort of thing 🙂


Entry filed under: Local Food. Tags: .

Week 3 Update Jack Johnson is Going to Match Your Donation!!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve  |  May 30, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    I’d like to make the comment that your post here clearly shows a dismal situation that poor people are in. They dont get the opportunity to do this on a month long basis, nor as a controlled experiment with research management of the project as a goal.

    So the actions and results vary widely im sure with people that A) dont have proper nutrician on a long term basis, B) could become more susceptible to illnesses C) perform at a lower level for jobs or schooling. D) might succumb to temptation and use their money for say…a pizza or something like beer or cigarettes or donuts as an Immediate gratification fix knowing their situation wont end in a month, thereby causing more desperatation throughout the period, or maybe even make the decision to sacrifice their child’s nutrician or caloric intake to give themselves enough to keep working.

    I think this was a great experiment for the sake of others. It provides a lot of perspectives that many people not only cannot fathom but have not and will not ever live through.

    I think theres too many people in the community that dont even realize there are too many Other people in their own communities that are going through that kind of real live poverty and those people often come home and cry at night.

    Did it ever occur to readers that some kids hate summer? –
    Because it means they’ll be left alone at home while their parent goes to work at 2 jobs, and theres no school lunch to feed them and they go hungry often.

    • 2. Bob  |  November 9, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      at the schools where I live lunch is NOT free >=C

  • 3. Bob  |  September 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Could I survive on rice and beans for years? If supplemented witha multi-vitamin?


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