$4 A Day Food Budget Challenge

In March, I decided to embark upon a social experiment. I was preparing to post the results when I got side-swiped by the devastating loss of my mentor, Prince, in April.  Although I don’t think I will ever be able to move on, It’s been a tough 4 months, but I know that I must continue to move forward.

With that said…

In this social experiment, I posed the question: Can one person live realistically on a food budget of $4 a day?

Living on a fixed income can be taxing. Not everyone is aware of the many roadblocks and setbacks involved in trying to eat healthy on a tight budget. So I was excited when I read about this $4.00 A Day Meal Challenge. My question was, “Is it really possible to eat healthy on $4.00 a day?”

I initially wanted to do a blog post and book review, but after meeting a woman named Pinky on the train, I ending up doing the entire challenge myself, for a full month.

When I read the Daily Worth article, “I Tried to Eat Well on $4 a Day — This Is What Happened” by Emily Co, I was inspired to possibly give it a try.

I found the article interesting, but I’m afraid I did not find many of the meal choices as palpable—not for my personal taste anyway. I also didn’t find them particularly healthy.

I just couldn’t with some of those options—especially the Eggplant Pasta. I would literally die if I had to eat eggplant more than once a year. I know some people like it, so it’s just a matter of personal preference. Or maybe I just don’t know how to cook it. But I too have my favorites. I can eat oatmeal every day as long as I switch up the additives. At Trader Joe’s grocery store, bananas are only $0.19 each. A 1lb bag of Sunflower Seeds is $1.99, and a ½ lb bag of dried cranberries is $1.79. I’m perfectly fine with adding any of these to enhance my oatmeal breakfast experience.

Emily Co did the challenge for a week, and concluded that she did not get to eat as many fresh vegetables as she wanted to. The reality was, she didn’t buy as many as she would have needed. I think her outcome would have been more positive if she had a better sense of food prep and budget shopping. Unfortunately, she ended up buying food items that would not work well enough for a whole week worth of meals. Although I’m pretty sure I would not be comfortable with buying certain meats or dairy at the dollar store, I believe less perishable items should be perfectly fine. Dollar stores carry rice, beans, frozen fruits and veggies. Those are all one ingredient whole foods. You can’t go wrong with those. The exact plan she used was definitely not for me, but the whole idea of the challenge was very appealing and quite inspiring.

What If My Cupboard Were Bare?

I downloaded the FREE cookbook, “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” by Leanne Brown, which Emily referenced as the inspiration for her challenge. I immediately concluded that it’s easier to create meals valued at approximately $4.00 a day when you have a pantry full of ingredients that would cost more than $124.00 a month to purchase. $4.00 a day would translate to $124.00 per month ($4×31 days). You can’t make these dishes unless you can afford to buy the ingredients. But what if all you could spare, for your monthly grocery run, calculated to $4.00 a day? Leanne addressed this issue, as well as the issue of people in substandard living conditions who don’t even have a place to cook. She was very hopeful that one day changes would be made so people won’t have to wonder how to afford, or even where to cook their next meal. I too am hopeful that this will soon be a non-issue, but for now, there are people who do have access to kitchens, but don’t believe it’s possible to eat well on this budget. Fortunately and unfortunately, at the moment, those are the people I’m able to address in this challenge.

Although Emily was not able to purchase many of the staples needed to make some of the recipes in Leanne’s book, I do believe that it was because she was only doing the challenge for a week. This didn’t provide her with enough money to have a pantry full of good staples, so she had to improvise. Her bare cupboard created a pitfall in her challenge. That’s why my main focus was on pulling together my list of pantry items, within this budget, that would carry me through the full month of March. My first challenge was to decide which items in my pantry I would need for this challenge, and which ones I would have to go without. Needless to say, truffle oil would not make an appearance in this challenge, and unfortunately my $19.00 bottle of Grade B maple syrup had to be pushed to the back of the pantry.

Ramen Noodles, Yay or Nay?

Ramen with Mushrooms, Onion, Broccoli & Carrots (Broccoli Slaw)Warning… My food photos are horrible. LOL!!!! 😂 At one point in the article, Emily appeared to be embarrassed about buying Ramen Noodles during her challenge. I have no problem with buying and eating Ramen Noodles. If you can eat pasta, you can eat Ramen. That’s all it is—pasta. I love Ramen. However, I do take issue with those little silver packets of heart failure they come with. Just throw those bad boys in the trash. Make your own broth or use chicken or vegetable stock and chopped veggies or frozen mixed veggies. You can get 5 packs of Ramen Noodles for $1.00. That’s amazing, and practical, as long as you don’t use the conveniently provided little silver death bomb. Doing so can be unhealthy and possibly detrimental. You can even use bouillon cubes instead. I just couldn’t find any without MSG, so I used store bought or homemade stock, just to keep it simplistic. What is MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)? It is a naturally occurring amino acid that is used as a flavor enhancer (Umami). It’s naturally found in seaweed, so there’s nothing really wrong with that. It’s the change in the process of how it is made that makes me hesitant about products containing MSG. But despite the bad rap MSG has received, if you are not allergic to it, it should be fine to use in moderation.  It can actually help you use less salt. It bumps up the flavor with only 1/3 the sodium of salt.  So if you’re not allergic, or have personal problems with products containing MSG, you can use the Ramen seasoning pack, but only use ½ or a ¼ of the pack, and save the rest for other recipes. It contains way too much salt for the portion of noodles in that package. You can actually train your pallet, over time, to be content with less salt by minimizing your intake. That way you won’t miss the salt in some of these dangerously sodium packed foods. Then you can enjoy these little packets of delicious frugality without fear.

Budget Animal Protein

I loved some of the recipes in the book download. The Note section, Pantry Basics, and tips are really helpful segments too. There were a few cheese dishes. Cheese is one of my favorite foods, but on this budget, I think good quality cheese can be a bit of a luxury—depending on the type and portion. There were dinner recipes for Pulled Pork, Roast Chicken and Tilapia. I didn’t want to be negative, but my first thought was, where is Leanne buying these animal protein items on a $4.00 a day budget? I know the Inwood Heights neighborhood, and I couldn’t imagine being able to buy a portion of pork or even chicken that would fit in this budget. But she did make it clear that you have to choose what is in your budget. She also stated that if you shop in season, and keep your pantry stocked with good staples, creating these dishes would be much more feasible. They would still be splurge items, but they wouldn’t be as out of the question, budget wise, especially if you can catch a good sale.

The best part about it is if you purchase a whole chicken or pork loin, it will last more than one meal, and can be used to create several other dishes. You can make Chicken Soup or salad, Pork Fried Rice or Samosas. It can be done if you use your leftovers wisely. If you don’t know how to make a dish, Google it, or do a search on Pintrest. It doesn’t have to be exact. You can always substitute. And if you don’t have a computer, or access to the internet, your local Public Library is still free, and it’s still the best research tool for those who can’t afford to have internet access.  At the library, you can get access to cookbooks or even go online without incurring any cost. So if you are starting with a bare cupboard, make sure you fill it with essential staples so the big ticket items won’t blow your budget.

Living on a Budget is No Laughing Matter

On my way home from work, I met a young woman named Pinky on the 6 Train.  She was reading “Eat, Pray, Love”.  It was one of the books on my to-read-list. I asked if it was worth the read. She smiled and began sharing how she wished she could just take off like the character in the book. Run off to some exotic place and really live, but she couldn’t afford to do anything like that. We got into how expensive it is to just have lunch in Manhattan. A simple cup of coffee can cost close to $4.00. I mentioned that I usually bring my lunch and sometimes breakfast because of my tight budget. She informed me that my budget couldn’t be anywhere near as tight as hers. It turns out; she is a recipient of benefits from the SNAP program that was mentioned in the challenge.

I told her about Emily’s article and the menu items that she chose. We laughed a bit about the improbability of some of the meal choices. A sudden shadow came over her face. She said, “I wish I could believe it was possible. I struggle so much with family meals. Sometimes I feel like I can’t ever offer my family good food.” I felt so bad. Building a healthy meal for your family, on a limited budget, is not a laughing matter. She wanted so much for this to be possible, and at that moment, so did I. I gave her my blog address and told her that I was posting a review of the article on my blog, and that maybe I could, through additional research, find some more tips that might be helpful.  I wished her luck and got off the train. I went home heavy hearted. I believed it was possible, but how was I to know for sure?

For about 4 years now, I have been using the online budgeting tools at Mint.com to keep my finances in check.  When I checked the food budget on my account, I saw that I had a grocery budget of $160.00, with $40.00 for restaurants. $200.00 a month in total. I looked back through my budget history. There were a few months where I went over budget, but most of the times it was just a few dollars over, or due to dinner out with friends, and the rest of the times, I was slightly under. If I can budget $160.00 a month for groceries, I can cut back even more to make $124.00 a month work. I knew at that moment that it was important for me to make this happen. Not just write a review of a blog post, but to actually execute the challenge. I wanted to show Pinky proof that it could be done.

I believe that a person in a difficult financial situation can do this challenge for a few months and knock down some of the weight of other bills, like credit cards and personal or student loans. This might free up enough money to increase the food budget again. It’s all about keeping life in balance, so you can have good things to truly laugh about.

Keeping It Real

In order for me to prove to myself that this was a realistic challenge, I changed my monthly food budget in Mint to $124.00 for March, and agreed not to spend more than that on creating the meals for that entire month.

This is what my food budget looked like in Mint 2 days into the challenge. I totally forgot to take screen caps on the 1st day.

030216 Mint Food & Groceries Budget

I re-read “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” and focused on the Pantry basics, Shopping and tips.

The one thing I had to accept about this challenge was that if you are a diehard carnivore, this particular challenge may be a bit difficult for you. But I still think it’s worth a try.

Let’s Get It Started

On March 1st, I set my Mint account to $124.00 for my entire food budget with $0.00 for Restaurants. This screen shot is from day 2.  I had already made one grocery purchase for the month. It was actually $7.40, but Mint rounded up to $8.00 on this screen.

Mint Food & Groceries Budget

I was sure I could go without dining out for one month. It would certainly be worth the effort. I kept a food diary to calculate the cost and keep track of the staples I used. I didn’t calculate $4.00 a day because I don’t think that’s the gist of the real challenge. Most people live on a monthly budget, not a daily budget. This figure is loosely based on the food stipend allotted to people using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) [Formerly the Food Stamp Program]. For the sake of those who really want to learn to eat well on a tight budget, I did my best to get to the end of the month, before I got to the end of the money. Keep in mind that the challenge of $4.00 per day is per person. If you have 2 people, it should be $8.00 per day. At least I hope that is how the SNAP program calculates for families. If not, then congress has more issues than I could ever have imagined. And they need a serious body check.

Pantry Staples2 - $43.16To avoid having to shop for things I already had, I decided, before the 1st day, which items from my pantry I was going to use for the first week. I didn’t want to buy salt, pepper, rice or lentils because those are already staples, and would never be absent from my pantry. But to be fair to the whole challenge, I created a manual entry of $43.16 on my Mint account to represent the purchase of my Pantry Items, as if I had gone to the store to buy them for the challenge. Many of the items I could get from Dollar Tree, so I used that price where possible. I chose to enter the cost at the mid-point of the month (3/15/16) because I was almost halfway through the challenge, and that gave me a better idea of how much money would be left for groceries for the remainder of the month, and what items I would need to list.
Pantry Staples1 - $43.16

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to having a cup of tea to ward off the snack monster that lives inside me. I don’t always win that battle, but most of the time I drink water with every meal.  I don’t drink soda or coffee, so that made it a lot easier for me to navigate this budget. Since I have a NutriBullet, making a quick Agua Fresca is also a great refreshing beverage or snack option. Throw in a couple of chunks of fruit, water, a teaspoon of honey, and take it for a spin. Now you have Vitamin Water with no preservatives or funky unpronounceable ingredients.

The Pantry Raid
On Sunday March 6th, I ended my first week with a windfall. It actually made me quite confident that I could do this. The key to success in this challenge is that you know and understand that you must have a well stocked pantry.

Everyone will have different staples. There are some things I like that others may not like, but we must all agree that salt is a universal staple. Even if you have high blood pressure, salt in extreme moderation is still a must. It’s actually a dietary necessity—an essential nutrient.  You should at the least have salt and pepper in your pantry if no other spice. Ms. Dash & McCormick have really flavorful salt-free options for those who want to avoid additional salt altogether.
BBQ Stew Crunch Wraps & Apple Salad
I know this sounds crazy, but I love Burrito wraps and barbecue sauce. My pantry will always have those two things. If I run out, I will not be a happy camper. I would honestly eat broccoli with hummus or broccoli with refried beans and barbecue sauce in a crunch wrap or burrito.  And I seriously don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.


The must have items in my pantry, outside of salt and pepper, are as follows:

Burrito Wraps
Barbeque Sauce
Dried Cranberries
Sunflower Seeds, Almonds or Pecans (Whatever is in budget at that moment)
Sunflower Butter or Peanut Butter (Almond Butter would be great but it’s so out of budget)
Rice (Basmati preferably)
Seasoning Blend (Usually Adobo, McCormick Tuscan or Smokehouse Maple Seasoning)
Smoked Paprika
Garlic (fresh or powdered)
Honey (Maple Syrup or Turbinado Sugar – I try to keep all 3 on hand)
Rolled Oats (Oatmeal –Regular & Quick Cook)
Olive Oil (Most times I have both Olive oil and Coconut Oil)

Those are the things I will cry fail, foul and faint if I don’t have. You have to find the things you like and mark them as staples in your pantry—things that you won’t grow tired of eating if you have to eat them often.

There are some things that are key to making so many dishes that you must have them in your pantry. You should always have some type of oil in your house. I have olive oil and coconut oil. It’s good to have flour and Raw, Turbinado or Demerara sugar as well (gluten free, coconut or chickpea flour will work for those with allergies). I like Asian dishes so I also keep cornstarch. If you don’t use sugar, you can have honey, or real maple syrup. The kind where there is only one ingredient listed—Maple Syrup. You can also use Agave or Stevia. But in all honesty, you can just use what works for you. I usually have Honey, Maple Syrup and Demerara/Turbinado Sugar, but for this challenge I would not be able to buy all 3, so I made a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) using brown sugar, water and vanilla, reduced slightly, to take the place of the honey and maple syrup. (Simple honey)

Spices and seasonings are very important. For me, seasonings include fresh onions, garlic, lemons and vinegar. You can take the exact same ingredients, spice and season them differently, and come up with a whole different dish. You can find many different types of spices on sale. Spices and seasonings are only $0.99 to $1.99 at Trader Joe’s. You can also find them at the dollar store. Just be careful when shopping at any store. I was so excited when I saw the frozen Tilapia at Dollar Tree, then I read the ingredients.  It said, Carbon Monoxide added to preserve color.  WTF????  What is Carbon Monoxide doing in the Talapia? What did they do—shove the fish up the tailpipe of an SUV? I was mad because I wanted the Tilapia.  But I did not want the Carbon Monoxide, so I had to throw that one back.

I also wanted the Simulated Frosted Mini-Wheat’s, but I didn’t want the BHA that came along with those. You don’t want BHA in your cereal.  The sad thing is that the FDA allows this to continue. But to be fair, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is not focused on protecting lives, they are charged with protecting Food and Drugs. BHA is allowed because it preserves food, and that’s obviously more important than preserving lives. So we are on our own. No matter where you purchase your food items, always check the ingredients. And please remember, you can buy bananas for $0.19, so just because it’s cheap, doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad for you; but also keep in mind, just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better for you either. Check your ingredients. I believe, in all honesty, that it’s much better to buy items that only have one ingredient.

If you currently have nothing, I am slightly worried, but you can most definitely still be a candidate for this challenge. Some people only have packets of ketchup and soy sauce in the fridge. It happens. For this challenge, you can start with just salt and pepper until you are able to add to your arsenal. Basically, start with what you have and make the things you like to eat within this new budget.

Because I have staples like Rice, pasta, dry beans and seasonings, I shop for complimentary sides. I can buy a butternut squash, dice and roast it in the oven and toss it with the beans. If I want an additional vegetable, I can buy one cucumber and make cucumber salad with onions, vinegar and a little honey. That’s a whole meal with only the additional cost of the squash $1.03) and the cucumber ($0.66). That’s less than $2.00. The next day I can take some of the leftover beans and rice and make a black bean burger, adding one egg and some oatmeal. Top it with some raw or caramelized onions and a slice of tomato.  If I have a potato, I can make a side of fries. I usually quick boil, toss in olive oil and seasonings, and then bake my fries. All I have to do before going to the store is meal plan for the next 3 or 4 days.  I like fresh veggies, so I don’t buy certain things too far in advance. I will buy 2 tomatoes, 2 lemons, one onion and maybe 3 potatoes. Everything else, I will decide based on my meal plan for the week.

The Halfway Mark Menu
My daughter is a Vegan, and I eat Vegetarian or Pescetarian about 90% of the time. I fail sometimes when I pass Smashburger. But for the most part, I’ve gotten used to eating mostly vegetarian dishes.  If you are considering adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, the book “The Vegetarian Flavor Bible” is one of the best places to start.  It will help with creating top notch flavor profiles that will make it easier to acclimate to a plant based diet. This book can be used by Vegetarians, Vegans and Pescatarian. It can also be used by meat eaters to spice up vegetable dishes.

Although the majority of my dishes are either vegetarian or vegan, the week before the challenge, my daughter was away and I made meatloaf with a little less than 1lb of ground turkey.  I used rice and veggies as filler and was able to get about 5 different meals out of a $2.66 pack of ground turkey. So if you eat meat, it can be done. Since I usually have some food leftover, I may add a little frozen spinach or broccoli to make a too small portion larger. I can take that to work for lunch the next day. On a tight budget, you have to learn how to stretch a meal as far as it will go.

Below is my menu for that first ½ of the Month:

March 1st
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Banana
Lunch: Sunflower Butter & Jelly Sandwich
Dinner: Sweet Potato, Yellow Squash & Lentil Stew with Rice

March 2nd
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Simple Honey & Blueberries
Lunch: Leftover Sweet Potato, Yellow Squash & Lentil Stew with Rice
Dinner: Pasta with Tomato Lentil Sauce and French Green Beans with Sunflower Seeds
Snack: Air Popped Popcorn

March 3rd
Breakfast: Toasted Roll with Jelly
Lunch:  Leftover Pasta with Tomato Lentil Sauce and French Green Beans with Sunflower Seeds
Dinner: BBQ Leftover Sweet Potato Stew Crunch Wraps & Apple Salad

March 4th
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Dried Cranberries
Lunch: Sunflower Butter, Jam and Banana Sandwich
Dinner: Lentil Soup with Rice & Broccoli

March 5th
Breakfast: Caramelized Onion Omelet
Lunch: Sunflower Butter and Bananas
Dinner: Black Bean Burger and BBQ Beets

March 6th
Breakfast: Sunflower Butter, Strawberry & Banana Crapes with Cinnamon Syrup
Lunch: Strawberry and banana smoothie
Dinner: Mushroom Rice Pilaf and Avocado Salad 

March 7th
Breakfast: Toasted Roll w/Sunflower Butter and Jam
Lunch: Leftover Lentil Soup with Rice & Broccoli
Dinner: Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries, Sweet and Sour Dressing; and Rice and Bean Balls
Snack: Joe’s O’s (Like Cheerio’s) 

March 8th
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon & Sugar
Lunch: Leftover Mushroom Rice Pilaf and Avocado Salad
Dinner: Black Beans, Rice and Plantains 

March 9th
Breakfast: Joe’s O’s with Milk & Simple Honey
Lunch: Leftover Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries, Sweet and Sour Dressing; Black Beans
Dinner: Red Rice with Mushrooms and Cucumber Salad
Snack: Joe’s O’s with Cranberries 

March 10th
Breakfast: Carrot Walnut Bread Fail (I don’t recommend this for the challenge) $3.25
Lunch: Leftover Red Rice with Mushrooms and Cucumber Salad
Dinner: Potatoes with Onion Gravy, Broccoli & Homemade BBQ Seitan

March 11th
Breakfast: Oatmeal, Brown Sugar and Sunflower Seeds
Lunch: Mango Avocado Salad and Tomato Soup
Dinner: Ramen Noodles with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

March 12th
Breakfast: Joe’s O’s Cereal with Milk and Simple Honey
Lunch: Sunflower Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Dinner: Rice Pilaf with Broccoli Slaw & Sunflower Seeds

March 13th
Breakfast:  Kale, Onions and Tomato Sauce Omelet on Toasted Garlic Roll
Lunch:  Black Bean and Broccoli Slaw Wrap
Dinner: Ramen with Mushrooms, Onion, Broccoli & Carrots (Broccoli Slaw)
Snack: Air Popped Popcorn

March 14th
Breakfast: Oatmeal & Banana
Lunch: Leftover Potatoes with Onion Gravy, Broccoli & Homemade BBQ Seitan
Dinner: Tomato Soup with Toast
Snack:  Hostess Fruit Pie (Well, it was National Pi Day. 3.14159. I got an individual apple turnover from Walgreens)

March 15th
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds
Lunch:  Sunflower Butter & Banana Sandwich
Dinner: Potato, Squash & Lentil Stew, Garlic Bread

I almost made it to the midpoint without fail… until the 10th.  I usually make my breakfast in the kitchen at my office once I get settled, but I had a big client meeting and had no time to get settled.  So I stopped at the coffee shop and got Carrot Walnut Bread. I’ve done this before but this is the first time I realized how expensive these treats are. That one fail is going to cost me a portion of my budget that I didn’t want to lose. $3.25 for one pastry???  Before this challenge, I must not have thought that was as crazy as I do now. But that’s what happens when you eat out as opposed to making your own. National Pi Day didn’t help either.  I almost bought a whole Lemon Meringue Pie for $8.00, but I managed to walk away with just a single-serve Hostess Apple Pie for $1.89. That also saved me from eating that whole Lemon Meringue Pie in one sitting and breaking my scale.

Bringing It Home

The 2nd half was a bit harder.  Once I reached the halfway mark and realized that I still had over $80.00 left, my snack monster started making requests.

Snack Monster:  Why can’t we have Rice Krispies Treats?
Me:  Because Rice Krispies are like $5.00 a box and we don’t have Marshmallows.
Snack Monster: Marshmallows are only $1.00 at Dollar Tree.  😄 🎉
Me:  SMH…  Fail!! 😞

March 16th

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Banana
Lunch: Strawberry, Banana, Sunflower Butter Smoothie
Dinner: Pasta and Lentil sauce with Broccoli
Snack: Cinnamon Pear Bread (It suddenly got real with a can of pears and some flour)

March 17th
Breakfast: Cinnamon Pear Bread
Lunch: Leftover Potato, Squash & Lentil Stew
Dinner: Ramen with Mushrooms, Onions, Broccoli & Carrots (Broccoli Slaw)

March 18th
Breakfast: Joe’s O’s with Cranberries & Milk
Lunch: Leftover Pasta and Lentil Sauce with Broccoli
Dinner: Broccoli and Black Bean Wraps
Snack: Popcorn with Cranberries & Sunflower seeds and Melted Marshmallows (Popcorn Krispies Treats)

March 19th
Breakfast: Mushroom & Onion Frittata
Lunch: Sunflower Butter and Banana Smoothie
Dinner: Broccoli & Caramelized Onion Flatbread Pizza

March 20th
Breakfast: Mixed Berry Jam Flatbread
Lunch: Sunflower Butter and Jam on Flatbread
Dinner: Lentil Soup with Rice
Snack: Joe’s O’s with Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds and Melted Marshmallows (Joe’s O’s Krispies Treats)

March 21st
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Bananas & Cranberries
Lunch: Ravioli from Jack’s $0.99. (Forgot to bring lunch)
Dinner: Rice & Beans with Cucumber Salad
Snack: Mini Peanut Butter Cups ($0.99 at Trader Joe’s)

March 22nd
Breakfast: Cream of Wheat
Lunch: Pasta with Black Beans and Broccoli
Dinner: Black Bean Stuffed Red Peppers  with Rice and Broccoli
Snack: Vegan Carrot Cake (Treat from my baby)

March 23rd
Breakfast: Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Sunflower Butter and Jam
Lunch: Tomato Soup with Rice
Dinner: Red Bean and Potato Cake, Rice and Broccoli Slaw
Snack: Mini Peanut Butter Cups

March 24th
Breakfast: Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Butter
Lunch: Artichoke Pizza  (Co-worker treated me to pizza)
Dinner: Sweet Potatoes, Pasta and a “Chicken” Cutlet (learned to make fake chicken with beans and flour)

March 25th
Breakfast: Joe’s O’s with Warm Milk, Cranberries and Simple Honey
Lunch: Pasta, Red Beans and Broccoli Slaw
Dinner: Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Fries (Kennedy’s Chicken sells 2 fried chicken breasts for $3.49)
Snack: Snickers Ice-cream Bar (from Dollar Tree. I wonder how much they really cost?)

March 26th
Breakfast: Waffles with Jam and an Apple
Lunch: Bagel with Sunflower Butter and Jam
Dinner: Red Beans, Rice and Broccoli

March 27th
Breakfast: Waffle Omelet Sandwich with Kale, Peppers and Onions
Lunch: Ramen with Onions, Carrots and Broccoli (Broccoli Slaw)
Dinner: Fried Chicken with Sweet & Sour Broccoli Slaw
Snack: Banana Oatmeal Cookies (Oatmeal and over ripe bananas)

March 28th
Breakfast: Toasted Bagel with Jam
Lunch: Chocolate Cheesecake Muffin (Bad influence coworker talked me into getting a Muffin) $2.25
Dinner: Lentil Stew with Broccoli and Rice
Snack: Pop Chips ($1 at Dollar Tree)

March 29th
Breakfast: Cream of Wheat
Lunch: Leftover Lentil Stew with Broccoli and Rice
Dinner: Sweet Potato Lentil Soup with Kale and warm Flatbread
Snack: Banana Oatmeal Cookies

March 30th
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Banana, Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds
Lunch: Leftover Sweet Potato Lentil Soup with Kale
Dinner: Rice &  Bean Patty (leftover Rice, beans and an egg), Mac and No-Cheese (fake cheese sauce made with béchamel sauce, Turmeric and smoked paprika) and Broccoli
Snack: Popcorn (I love my air popper and I love popcorn)

March 31st
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Banana, Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds
Lunch: Leftover Mac & Cheese, Red Beans and Broccoli
Dinner: Rice Pilaf with Sunflower Seeds, Broccoli & Carrots (Broccoli Slaw)
Snack: Maui Dirty Potato Chips

It Can Be Done

033116 Mint Food & Groceries Budget

I’m glad I decided to take on this challenge. I have already learned a lot about myself and about eating healthier on a budget. It’s difficult to get over the hurdles of bad eating habits; especially if you don’t know how bad they are.  This challenge forced me to recognize just how often I look for snacks. My Snack Monster went bonkers after the first half of the challenge.  I have to step back from033116 Mint Food & Dining Transactions that as much as possible. It also showed me how difficult it is to not get swayed by the people around me.  At some points it was a minor struggle, but being that on several occasions I shared my prepared meals with my daughter, it made me realize that this is a lot more possible than I initially thought. If it was just me the whole month, I would have had a lot more leftovers and fewer meals to prepare.  This would have left me with more money at the end of the challenge. But even with that, I still managed to get to the end of the month with only a few dings to my food budget, and $0.58 under budget.

I wanted to post this article the day after the challenge ended, but I felt that I needed to share more information—more details. No matter how much I wrote, I never felt that it was enough. I couldn’t rein myself in. I finally had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you just have to accept that what you have given will be enough.

This is for you Pinky, and anyone else going through the food budget struggle. It can be done. It definitely is possible, and it was most certainly a rewarding challenge.  I will help in any way possible. Let’s get together and go food shopping.

“The Vegetarian Flavor Bible”



10 thoughts on “$4 A Day Food Budget Challenge

    1. No. Unfortunately you can’t flourish on that type of budget. But it can put you on the track to plan a possible escape from it. It helped make me more aware of the type of foods I eat. It also showed me that this type of writing can also bring me joy. 😊 Who knows where that will lead. Hopefully somewhere good.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As I enter Your site, and reluctant to go into a ‘Reblog,’ as I scroll down, meet this Your post, and am Filled with Admiration and Astonishment at the Sheer Amount of Work, Research and Energy You have put into this, my Dear Belinda. Hearty Kudos Again and Love. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Dear Belinda, have been Anxious whether You have felt bad in and by the way my above post was written. My intention had NOT been to show that We in India live More cheaply. Ok, let the double meaning be there.

    This has been working on my mind. Your Excellent article here has my Respect. I have Not given a ‘Like’ to it, because I find the subject painful; that governments would leave its Citizens to have such a hard time, while Billions go to waste.

    Have written another post to follow up on my former, as in: http://wp.me/p4e7b5-25f

    Please do respond. I Like and Appreciate You and Your posts, Very much. Love and Regards.

    Liked by 1 person


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