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Boston on $2 a Day

June 2006

Day One–Total Spent: $6.26
Bag of generic oats–$1.99
I am used to cooking the instant oats that come in a package. My plan was to buy a big bag of oats and eat oatmeal for breakfast and dinner. I was very inept at making oatmeal on the stovetop. In addition, I was already at the $2.00 mark so I decided not to buy sugar or butter to add to the oatmeal. This was disgusting and I was unable to eat my oatmeal for breakfast let alone dinner. My plan was to eat oatmeal for breakfast all week. I quickly gave up on this plan completely.

Lunch–Thai Lemongrass and Ginger Noodles (chic version of Ramen) –.99

Goya Chick peas —one can–.99
Bird’s Eye frozen spinach —one pack– .99
Two fresh tomatoes–.60
One red onion–.70
Donated items: 2 teaspoons of olive oil, dash of salt, pepper, sweet potato, garlic, cup of couscous

Day Two–Total Spent: $2.50

Lunch– Leftover chick peas and couscous

Dinner–Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, bread, butter and cheese–Invited to dinner by co-worker

Since I had leftovers for lunch and was getting a free dinner from a co-worker, I splurged and spent an entire $2.50 on an almond croissant for a snack at 3pm.

Day Three–Total Spent: $4.38

Lunch–Leftover chick peas and couscous

Dinner–I decided to have breakfast for dinner. I went to buy eggs and bread. After buying organic eggs for such a long time, I just could not get myself to buy the non-organic ones. Spent $2.49 for six eggs.

Whole wheat bread–$1.89
Donated Items: Part of an onion, Salt, Pepper, Tablespoon of oil, Butter and jam for toast

Day Four–Total Spent: .99

Lunch–Thai Garlic and Chili Noodles–.99

Dinner–Had a meeting with a friend and she shared her dinner with me —some sort of fried rice with veggies. It was dinner for one that we made dinner for two.

Some Thoughts

Kindness of others. I was grateful for the kindness of others for these four days. I was amazed at how generous my co-workers and friends were. Donating an onion, a tomato, salt, pepper, etc. They even provided whole meals for me. I would have had a very different experience if people had not pitched in to help to try to make this challenge easier for me. I found myself liking the people around me a lot more, but this forced me to imagine how miserable life would be if I HAD to depend on others to help me out on a consistent basis. I would not be the independent person I am and I doubt that people would have been so ready to help if they thought it implied a long-term commitment.

SPLURGING. The act of splurging, spending my entire allowance on something utterly frivolous, might be an indicator of lack of priorities and an inability to budget. Coming from a family of nine kids raised by a single parent, there were a number of occasions where we had to eat the same thing for a week. I have vivid memories of my mom splurging and buying us Chinese take-out once every two months. Splurging is something my mom whole-heartedly believes in. Splurging is often an affirmation of self-worth. The occasional splurge is what makes the monotony bearable. So after attempting to live on $2.00/day, I discovered that I also believe in the occasional splurge.

CHOICE. I spent over to $6.00 my first day. At the end of the day I sat in bed, grateful, that I had the $6.00 to spend on food. I did not eat the oatmeal for breakfast. I cooked it and then dumped it down the garbage disposal without much of a second thought. I later thought about what a luxury it is to be concerned about taste and flavor. I, obviously, was not that hungry because hunger would have provoked a very different response. I hated the idea that a good smell and taste (flavor) to my food were luxuries. Food is a human right, but this does not mean it is supposed to be purely functional. A meal should also be an enjoyable experience, a social experience, appetizing. A good chef is an artist and the meal a work of art.

Most days I was unable (or I refused) to stick to the $2.00/day limit. Despite my resolve (or lack thereof), it was difficult to choose to forego a healthy meal. I ended up skipping breakfast, eating smaller portions to ensure adequate leftovers and drinking a lot more water than usual. It is hard to be firm about something when necessity is not the motivator.

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