Book Review: On a Dollar a Day
Could you survive on one dollar's worth of food per day? Vegan high school teachers Kerri Leonard and Christopher Greenslate endured a one month experiment where each of them consumed one dollar of food per day. In On a Dollar a Day: One Couple's Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America (affiliate link), they described their experience and an array of social issues relating to the cost of food.
The book is divided into three sections detailing the three food spending plans the couple chose. The first section detailed their month of eating on a dollar a day, the second describes their experiment in eating on the average food stamp recipient's allotment, and the third is where they had no spending restrictions but tried to eat more healthily. Each section has alternate chapters written by Leonard and Greenslate.
The first experiment of eating on a dollar a day was actually quite difficult to read because this couple was obviously torturing themselves. Although they say that they were able to eat an adequate portion, there were many passages where they described their hunger and stress while on this plan. One rule they set was that they would not eat any food they can get for free unless everyone else has access to it. Due to this rule they did not eat the free foods they had access to at work and other venues, and I thought that was silly because any of those leftover free foods were probably wasted.
The second section of the book describes how the vegan couple tried to follow the Thrifty Food Plan recommended by the USDA and live on a little over $4 per day for a month. They fared a lot better on this, but found that it was still difficult to eat in a very healthy manner because nutritious and fresh foods cost more than processed foods with plenty of calories. This reminded me of Philip Brewer's excellent post The new face of poverty is fat where he writes about why poor people are obese.
The final section of the book focuses on eating for health, and it also seems like the couple have become more savvy shoppers after their months of challenges. The conclusion is that they found that it was possible to plan healthy and delicious meals that do not cost very much.
What I found most entertaining about this book was how these food plans affected the relationship between the authors. It was Greenslate's idea to start the original project, and Leonard played the part of a supportive girlfriend. However, later on it was clear that Leonard was doing most of the work in planning and preparing these meals, and it took a toll on her. Greenslate briefly wrote about how the preparation of food from the grocery store to the table is traditionally the work of women, but I think it would have been more interesting if Leonard wrote her thoughts on the subject.
Finally, there is a short chapter in the book about how to save on food, but those who want to live on a dollar of food a day will not find this book to be a very good guide. Although I felt that the one dollar a day food challenge was a bit forced, I do like the message in the book that you can eat healthily on a small budget. If you want to read more about the project, the authors have a blog at One Dollar Diet Project where they write about food related issues
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book and this post contains an affiliate link.
How much do you spend on food each day?