The $30 Project: Day 1

This week I’m participating in an eating and budgeting experiment started by Tami Hardeman. Along with Molly and a handful of other folks, I’m doing my best to eat and drink from Monday through Sunday night all within a $30 budget. Molly brought Tami’s challenge to my attention over the weekend, and although (or perhaps because) I was immediately scared of and fixated on missing out on specific foods, it sounded like a worthwhile thing to do. I fast for a day every year on Yom Kippur, and I like the appreciation that gives me for a day’s worth of food and cravings. It’s something of a reset on appetites and whims. Tami’s project sounded like an opportunity to do something similar in a slightly different direction.


The impetus for the challenge came as Tami compared the amount of weekly federal assistance an individual received on average for food in 2007 ($21) to her own food and drink spending habits. In a reply to a comment on her blog, she further explained:

“For most of us, the challenge is enough in and of itself to tame back our spending, to focus on being conscious of our level of consumption, and to be mindful of what we’re eating.

My approach to the challenge is not to drive all over town in search of the cheapest food. I live within minutes of the DFM and within walking distance to a Publix…and those will be my two sources of groceries.

This isn’t just an exercise to “pretend” that we’re receiving federal assistance. It’s to re-evaluate our spending in a time that is tough for everyone, in one way or another.”

It’s not all solemn and somber — trying to out-cheap each other and support each other’s cheapness can be a good time. At least on the first day it has been. I think often about an image from an old Mighty Mouse or Tom & Jerry episode where times are so tough, a single bean is split in threes with a knife. Today I accused Molly of living high on the hog when she asked if we might eat rice with our beans for dinner. And all week I plan to make a nuisance of myself asking “does that count?”

bread and peanut butter
No complaints about breakfast

Today’s tally (cost breakdown and analysis later): For breakfast I ate a slice of wheat bread with good peanut butter on it along with a cup of coffee. At lunch I fell off the wagon. I was at an all-day training where work supplied a sandwich from Quizno’s, bag of chips, can of soda, and a cookie. I had half the sandwich, but that still could have blown half the week’s budget. Tomorrow I’ve told work not to include me in the lunch order, and I’ll work on bringing my own. For dinner tonight, I had canned butterbeans sauteed in a little butter, over basmati rice. Molly had the same but with black beans. Both were pretty good.

It’s not too late if you’d like to join the project. Don’t worry about the specific weekly budget, or pro-rating the $30. Just think about eating as cheaply as you can this week, and remaining mindful of exactly what you spend on everything you consume.

Update: Costs for the day –
Coffee – $0.20
Bread – $0.21
Peanut Butter – $0.28

(Supplied by office)

Beans – $0.93
Rice – $0.22
Butter – $0.15
Can of Coke Zero – $0.33

Total for day 1: $2.32.

1 comment

  1. I don’t think eating the lunch provided by your workplace is cheating. I really don’t think anyone receiving assistance would turn down a free meal provided by their work. I have had several minimum wage jobs that sometimes offered an employee meal, like pizza, as the result of winning a sales contest or because we were working late for inventory, etc.

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