Earlier this year, my partner and I wanted to see how cheap we could eat over a month, with the aim of spending less than $5 per day. If you would rather watch my experience of this challenge rather than read, check out the video below!
At the start of the challenge, I posted to social media with the following post (unfortunately no one else wanted to join in (apart from my partner) 😛 ):
I wanted to do this for a few reasons:
- I just started saving for a house deposit, so I thought it would be a great way to see if I could save a little extra money.
- To really show people how incredibly expensive it can be to eat out, especially when compared to buying all your food from the supermarket.
So for this challenge, we tried not to eat out, we went bulk food shopping every 1-2 weeks to stock up on some key ingredients like rice, lentils, pasta, vegetables, fruit, sauces/spices and anything else we thought we would like to eat. Check out below for a quick video captured during our first visit to the shops.
First Visit to the Shops
As you can see, we have a variety of foods and vegetables (including fruit). We wanted to do this as a way to keep it sustainable and something that we could easily continue if we wanted to. We could have easily done this on just rice and lentils and been insanely cheap per day, but we included 2 pieces of fruit, and a lot of variety in our meals to make sure we also obtained the micronutrients we needed.
Our first shop came in at $66, for the following foods, showing their total cost over the 30 days:
As you can see, the 30 day cost of those items (we did eat all of what we bought that first day) is incredibly low, with the most expensive things surprisingly being a box of oats (could have bought a cheaper brand like homebrand, but we prefer Uncle Toby’s over them).
All that rice, lentils, and vegetables, made for a really awesome lunches and dinners!
For breakfast, we had a bowl of oats, with some walnuts, and sometimes banana and sugar. This was filling, tasty, and most of all extremely cheap! (Except for the walnuts – but as mentioned, we wanted to keep the meals healthy and eat some good fats from nuts).
For lunch and dinner, we usually had similar meals, with slight differences between them (by using different spices, sauces, or swapping rice for pasta).
These meals typically contained rice, lentils, carrots, zucchinis, vegetable stock, tin tomatoes, and onions. We normally cooked a huge batch of food and then made meals for the week (or more). For example, one of our main lunches we cooked (using the ingredients above), could be split into 13 meals, coming out at $0.75c per meal! So if we had it for both lunch and dinner, that would only add $1.5 to the total daily cost! So cheap!
Check out below for some photos to show the food!
We did on occassion treat ourselves to some nicer vegetables 😀
We did of course change up the meals every now and then, but still with cheap foods, such as oven roasted vegetables, pasta and pasta sauce, etc.
Pumpkin and home-made bread are super cheap and tasty!!!
Also, check out the food that we bought from ALDI, all for less than $10!! Yes, that’s right, that is a jar of grilled artichokes! Yum!
Twice over this 30 day challenge, I ate out at a restaurant (Italian) and once at a fast food place (Hungry Jacks).
Even though this boosted up the daily cost of food, I’m really glad I did because it is just a prime example of how expensive it can be.
I got a $22 meal from a restaurant, which was amazingly good! It was a risotto, with spinach, walnuts, and other vegetables.
While the meal was great, I was of course concious about the price. Given the meal was $22, that results in the daily cost of that food over 30 days being $0.73c. It may not sound like a lot, but this amount is added to my daily total, and comparing it to my picture above, with 2kg of rice at $0.13c per day… it sure is quite a hefty addition!
But of course, we go to restaurants not because the food is expensive, but for the atmosphere, convenience, taste, setting, catching up with friends, helping out local restaurants, and all the other good stuff.
There were a few times over the challenge that I was invited out to dinner (eat take-away at someone’s house), but instead I stuck true to the challenge and I brought my own meal over and reheated it in their microwave. Perfect! And I’m glad I did, because if I did add another $0.70ish cents to my daily total, I wouldn’t have reached my aim of less than $5 per day!
Although, IKEA had just released a new vegan hotdog, for $1! Yes you read that right, $1 for an amazing serving as shown below! Couldn’t say no to that!
Calorie Consumption and Energy Balance
You may be thinking that we aren’t eating enough per day, and we are restricting ourselves by only eating 3 big meals with some fruit for snacks. However, we were pretty much never hungry, especially after eating a cup of rice and lentils. I weighed myself at the start of the challenge and at the end, and I managed to actually put on a few hundred grams. All this with continuing to go to the gym, cycle to work, and also halfway through starting my challenge of running 5km every day for 30 days!
So based on above, that shows that the amount of food we were eating was more calories than my body required to maintain weight, and considering the exercise I was doing daily, I’d say that’s pretty good!
To make sure we really saw how much everything cost over the challenge, I kept an excel spreadsheet (as shownb above) to see what we spent and ate. If you want to see the complete breakdown of what we ate and how much it all cost, check out the document below!
So there we have it, after 30 days of this challenge, the end result (for me personally) was $4.29 per day for 30 days.
Super happy that I broke the $5 aim, and you can see that if I went out for another expensive meal out, it would have pushed it over the $5.
You can also see that if I remove my lunch out, it drops the value down to $3.55! Crazy! This includes things as shown at the bottom of the list, such as coffee, oil, flour, salt, and sugar!
There we go! I lived (thrived) on $4.29 per day for 30 days – and I could easily do it again!
Hope you enjoyed the read! If you have any questions, let me know!
Until next time,