Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ramen noodles and the One Dollar Diet Project

Lately I have found myself clicking on some of the news headlines that I have to look at before I can read my emails and such. One headline was something about a sixteen cent meal. I clicked on it, thinking that it was going to be some sort of beans and rice recipe. It wasn't. It was an article about ramen noodles.

I'd forgotten about ramen noodles. I used to eat them all the time, but not so much recently. So I went out and bought a bunch of them and have enjoyed eating them. Not quite tired of them yet, but I probably would be if I had to live on them all the time.

So a few days ago I clicked on some other headline about saving money on food, and it led me to the One Dollar Diet Project blog, about a couple who tried to eat on one dollar a day for the month of September.

In the past I have tried to keep my meals down to a dollar each, but not three meals a day for a dollar. And then the dollar a meal didn't include milk or sodas or orange juice, or even the occasional dessert or popcorn or veggie snacks between meals.

A dollar a day? Can it be done?

Okay, this was more what I was thinking, with a lot of beans and rice.

The couple doing the experiment said they were vegan, so there were no eggs, and no milk and no cheese and no mention of what might be done with ten pounds of chicken leg quarters. Still, there were a lot of things that they didn't do that surprised me.

First thing was that they were trying to avoid eating ramen noodles. This is the main thing that some of us eat when we don't have any money. They bought six packages just in case, and only ended up using one or two of them. I don't remember them eating any humus. And there was no mention of bean sprouts. Really, those two are healthy and really really cheap if you make it yourself, and they didn't even mention either one. And they didn't figure out to try making soup until they were already twenty days into the experiment. And there was no mention of TVP either.

They did a couple of odd things, but it's their experiment, and they can do odd things if they want to. One thing was their rule that they didn't take free food that other people couldn't have. I would think that this rule was to prevent people from offering to have them over for dinner several nights a week during the experiment. But at least twice they turned down food that people really trying to save money would not have. In fact, this part of the experiment was on the wasteful side. They skipped a lunch that was bought buy their employers for everyone at work. I think that they should have gone to lunch with everyone else and just made a note of it that they didn't have to buy lunch that day and maybe try to spend a third or fourth less that day. But they skipped lunch, which meant that either someone else ate their share and gained weight, or their share was just thrown out. And they went someplace like a convention or a lecture, and they were offered free food but didn't eat any. Some of it they wouldn't have eaten anyway, cause it had bacon or some non-vegan thing, but again it seemed a waste to me to turn down food that was bought for you and probably ended up being thrown away.

I'm glad that they didn't crash parties or pretend to be college students and get free lasagna from the BSU or pretend to be interested in the Astronomy Club to get free pizza or donuts. But turning down free food seems silly, especially since they don't really object to free food, just free food that isn't available to everyone.

Then there was comments left on what they did consider free for the taking. While they turned down meals that were actually bought for them, they ate free samples at the grocery store, knowing that they had no intention of buying the items being sampled.

And then there was the stealing from McDonald's. Not that they stole Big Macs or anything, but they did go in and get ketchup and pancake syrup. Most of the people leaving comments thought that this was clearly stealing, since they were not customers. I'm not quite sure it is stealing, but it isn't the right thing to do either. If they had kept left over pancake syrup from an earlier trip, that would be good, because packets left on the table are probably thrown out anyway. And maybe some of us even ask for more than we plan to use that day, knowing that we can take home the extra and not have to buy that bottle of ketchup that we rarely use at home anyway. But I would never just go into a restaurant and ask to be given something if I wasn't a paying customer that day.

I think I would have liked it better if they got this "free" ketchup and mustard from gas stations. At least they were customers buying gas even if they did not buy the food that the mustard and ketchup were provided for.

I have not yet read all of the comments, but I have read some dumb ones. Some people just did not believe that a tablespoon of peanut butter only cost a nickel, or that beans or rice only cost a dime, etc.... Later they went and listed all that they bought for the experiment, and showed that if you buy a large quantity of rice that it only costs so much a cup, or if you buy the large four pound jar of peanut butter that it only costs a nickel per tablespoon, etc.... The main thing is that you make everything that you can from scratch, and that if you buy in bulk you get a discount. So this one comment made the valid point that poor people would not always have available cash to buy in bulk, or the membership to the discount club, etc...so if they had bought small packages of stuff at Safeway the daily cost would be more. Some of that is true. But then the commenter totally misses the point and produces a shopping list of what a poor person would buy at Safeway, with the ten envelopes of flavored oatmeal for two dollars and the four packages of microwave popcorn for a dollar and two cans of beans would cost a dollar, etc.... So the commenter missed the whole point, because I'm sure at Safeway one can buy plain oatmeal for a dollar a pound and also pound bags of beans and popcorn for a dollar.

I'm debating about doing a similar experiment myself, only I probably wouldn't do a whole month. Two weeks is more my speed. And I'll be eating ramen noodles if I want. And if someone buys me a free lunch, I'm going to eat it.


dmarks said...

I guess I think that even taking a straw or napkin from McDonalds that is not goingto be used for one of their drinks or burgers is some sort of theft.

My own blog post later today will be linking to this one.

Natalie said...

Ramen can be delicious when doctored up. Buy some cheap veggies, bean sprouts, broccoli, scallions, and boil them in the water. I like to add a little tofu also but some people don't like it. Add a bunch of spices along with the flavor packet. Delicious and you can use the veggies for many packets of ramen. I also often add some vegetable stock or extra water when i do this. The extra spices don't make it taste watery. That way you get a much more filling meal.

citizen of the world said...

Here via dmarks. Taking ketchup or what have you is, indeed, stealing if you aren't there as a customer. You wouldn't get arrested for it, but still. Taking grocery store samples isn't since they are being intentionally handed out in a no-strings way. However, it would be cheesy to go into a grocery store just to eat samples without buying anything. I think if they let others subsidize their eating, they aren't really living on the amount set. (Puts me in miond of Thoreau's version if simple living which relied heavily on a support team!). All that said, however - if someone was in a circumstance involving a job loss or a rent payment they were barely able to make, I wouldn't judge them taking whatever free thinsg they could find.

laughingattheslut said...

Welcome Nat and Citizen.

I'm not against ramen noodles. I'm not even against cheap ramen noodles that don't have anything added to them. But until recently I had given up eating them, because I had all of these plans to eat stuff that was better for me and trying to lose weight, etc.... Not that I actually did much of that, so I figure until I do I might as well go back to eating them, maybe sometimes minus the spice packet that is full of salt.

Unfortunately, tossing the spice packet has made me use half a bottle of hot sauce from the Asian market, and I'm almost out of sesame oil, so I'll have to go back to the store.

As for sampling things in the grocery store, I'll all for that too. I'm just saying people shouldn't make a special trip to the store just to do that, especially after allowing a perfectly good lunch to be thrown away.

Me, I've spent several long leisurely trips to Whole Foods and Central Market trying all the samples, knowing that all I'm going to buy afterward is some TVP and cereal. There have also been trips to Sam's club when I did not buy anything, and since I'm not a member I'm not even allowed to buy anything, but the reason for going to Sam's was not to get anything for myself, but to assist my mother getting her purchases to the car and giving her second opinions about this color blouse and is the cheese dip better than the shrimp dip, etc...

Eventually there will be enough of us out of work and such that they will put up signs telling us not to take samples of stuff we aren't going to buy and don't take home extra packets of ketchup, etc.... These people doing the experiment were just doing an experiment and we not actually in need of the stolen ketchup and pancake syrup, so I'm going to go ahead and say that's the wrong thing to do when you're not in real need of it.

KARLA and AMY said...

Great discussion - and good efforts by Christopher and Kerri. Regardless of opinion, they managed to make it thru a difficult social experiment.

As I prepare for my mission trip to Zambia, I am reminded that living on just $1 a day is their norm.

Come follow our progress on our own ''dollar a day'' challenge.




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