I got this book, On a Dollar a Day: One Couple's Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America, a few weeks ago and wasn't sure whether or not I'd like it. Since I was home sick last week I decided to read it and was surprised at what an easy and engaging read it is. The first section covers how this couple, two San Diego high school teachers who are fed up with their high grocery bills, decide to try to feed themselves on one dollar each, per day.
The rules for the dollar a day project were as follows:
1. All food consumed each day must total $1 for each of them
2. They could not accept free food or "donated" food unless it was available for everyone in their area (i.e. foraging, samples in stores, dumpster diving)
3. Any food they planted, they had to pay for
4. They would do their best to cook a variety of meals; ramen noodles could only be prepared if there is no other way to stay under one dollar
5. Should they decide to have guests over for dinner the guests must eat from their share; meaning they don't get to eat their own dollar's worth of food
Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds. In the first section, authors Kerri Leonard and Christopher Greenslate describe how they did it or, rather, how hungry and under-nourished they were on $1 a day each. This was the most interesting section and I was surprised to see that the whole "dollar a day" project was wrapped up within the first third of the book.
The second section discusses their attempt to try to live on essentially the Food Stamp budget (now called the Thrifty Food Plan), carefully following the USDA nutritional and food planning guidelines. This was particularly difficult for the couple given the fact that they are both vegan and the meal planning was very meat based. This was not too dissimilar to the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge we did last year, except that they could buy unsustainable and crappy foods.
The last section covers how to eat well, but on a limited budget and covers such topics as how food companies "short size" packages so that you pay more for less food, why one tablespoon of salad dressing costs as much as a whole orange, how grocery stores auction off foods past their "sell by" dates and why it takes so long for food prices to drop, even after fuel and shipping costs go down. Most compelling is how 36 million Americans have limited food options, even during a national obesity epidemic.
Overall, I liked the book and found it entertaining and informative although Kerri ends up looking like a saint and Christopher, well, struck me as a selfish jack-ass. But, that's just me. I would be pretty pissed how he enforced such strictness and guilt on her, yet was occasionally lax in his own diet.
If you would like the chance to win a copy of this book, please add your name to the comments of this post. You have until Saturday, March 6th, at midnight PST to enter. Good luck!