I had thought that it would be good to start the new year off with a diet.
And then I saw this blog, One Dollar Diet Project, and I thought that instead of the diet I might try something like what they did and see if I could eat on just one dollar a day for a certain length of time. Only I thought two weeks was a better goal for me, where they decided to try it for a whole month.
Some other people thought they would also start off the year doing the dollar thing, like the people at 1-dollar-a-day. Only they have already put their plan into action and are currently on the thirteenth day of their 31 day plan.
If I had started on the first, I would now be on the thirteenth day of my fourteen day plan. But that isn't what happened.
So I thought that a better idea would be to start on a day that I had the house to myself. And today I have the house to myself, and will probably have the house to myself for five days, and possibly a couple of days after that I will have the place to myself again.
But again, I am not really ready to do such a thing. Last week's aliments made me decide to start eating yogurt again. When I am really trying to eat right and lose weight and all of that, I spend more than a dollar a day on just the yogurt. So eating yogurt and doing the dollar a day thing probably won't work out at the same time, even if I only had one serving of yogurt per day instead of two or three like I would want if I were on a diet.
The other thing that I was thinking about the yogurt is that I used to make yogurt, but I haven't tried that in a long time. It didn't seem worth the effort for the little bit of money I saved.
But since I wasn't feeling well, and I hadn't tried it in a while, I made yogurt last week. And I was telling a friend about the cost, but I was kind of vague. I wasn't trying to be vague, just that I wasn't sure about some measurements and I don't do math off the top of my head anymore. So I got some stuff wrong. Let me try again here.
I bought some milk that was on sale for two dollars a gallon. Now, for however much yogurt you want, you have to buy that much milk. Half a gallon of milk will make half a gallon of yogurt. Sort of. I actually end up with just a little bit less yogurt, because a little bit gets wasted when you move the milk and yogurt to different containers, and then the yogurt sort of shrinks a little bit and separates into whey, and if you drain off that liquid you end up with a little bit less. But it is a very little bit, and I really can't measure it very well. So half a gallon of milk makes half a gallon yogurt, or a quart of milk makes a quart of yogurt, or five gallons of milk makes five gallons of yogurt, or whatever.
Then you have to buy starter culture, or just go to the store and buy some yogurt. I splurged on Stonyfield, and they didn't have any plain so I bought vanilla and crossed my fingers. That cost a dollar.
Okay, making yogurt isn't rocket science, but it does take time and is somewhat annoying.
I left about four cups of milk in the container, just in case one of us needed milk for cereal or mac and cheese or something. I poured the milk into a couple of crockpots. I figured this would take longer than the stove top, but I would also be less likely to burn the milk and ruin the whole thing. You have to heat the milk to about 180 or 190 degrees, without really making it boil a lot or get burned at the bottom of the pot. Then you have to cool the milk down to about 110, and then you add the yogurt or starter culture. After you've really mixed in the starter, you either put the milk/yogurt into the little containers of the yogurt machine or in the crockpot set on warm or some other method of keeping the mixture at this warm temperature for a long time. I like twelve hours.
After the twelve hours of being warm, you should have plain yogurt. Then you decide what you want to do with it and put it into containers and into the refrigerator. I spent about about a dollar and thirty cents on stuff to flavor the yogurt, but that was stuff that I bought a while back when it was on sale, so sometimes that part would cost more.
Okay, so here's where I got vague with my friend, but I didn't mean to be vague. A serving is about a cup, and I was trying to figure out how much it costs per cup. So I left about four cups of milk in the frig, and the rest I made into yogurt. I have a couple of containers that hold about four or five cups each, so let us say nine cups for the two, and I have four other cups, but I have to keep one plain and save as the starter for the next batch. And then I had some leftover yogurt that I put into a strainer for a couple of days to make yogurt "cheese", and I got about half a cup of that.
So for spending about four dollars and thirty cents I have about four cups of milk, twelve cups of flavored yogurt, half a cup of "cheese", and a cup of starter for the next batch. Not sure how to divide that up. If I just count the 12 cups of flavored yogurt, that's like paying 36 cents a cup and then having the "cheese" and the leftover milk and the starter for free. If I do the same with the next batch and get the same results, that would end up being 12 cups of flavored yogurt at 28 cents a cup with leftover milk and "cheese" and starter for free.
But that's assuming that I can find more milk and similar flavoring stuff on sale at the same price. The flavoring stuff I can stock up on when there is a sale, but for the milk you just have to pay whatever it happens to be at the time.
Homemade yogurt never seems to be as thick as store bought yogurt, unless you do something to it. It will firm up during the 12 hour warming process, and it might firm up a little more in the frig. But then when you flavor the yogurt, maybe by putting it in a blender with chocolate syrup, it all turns liquid again. For it to really firm up you have to strain out some of the liquid or add gelatin or something.
Okay, so that's it for the explanation of the yogurt.
Anyway, if I was doing the dollar a day thing, and even one cup of yogurt would cost 28 cents or 36 cents or whatever it would cost when milk is more than two dollars a gallon, then that's already a big chunk out of the dollar. Eating two of three cups a day would take up the whole dollar and leave nothing for actual meals.
I suppose that it still isn't impossible. I make this black bean soup for about 25 cents a cup. I've been told that the soup by itself isn't a complete protein or some such thing, and that I at least need to add some rice, and I don't know off the top of my head what that costs. Plain hot dogs also cost about 25 cents. Frozen burritos are often on sale for 39 cents. Eggs are frequently on sale for about 10 cents each, and ramen noodles are 6 for a dollar.
At least, ramen noodles used to be 6 for a dollar. I saw them at 3 for a dollar yesterday. I'll have to check the other stores later to see if it is just that one store or if the cost has gone up at all of them.
Okay, so 36 cents for yogurt, 25 cents for soup, 10 cents for an egg, and 16 cents for ramen noodles adds up to 87 cents, which leaves 13 cents for stuff like drinks and rice and peanut butter and bread and vegetables and maybe another egg.
I'm not sure how much of that other stuff I could get with 13 cents. Probably not enough that I would want to try it right now.
A 2-litter bottle of Coke costs a dollar on sale, which adds up to about 13 cents for an eight ounce glass. An eight ounce glass is very small. Even a kiddie cup is usually twelve or sixteen ounces. But I really like Coke or Pepsi or something with my black bean soup, and going without any cola causes headaches. The store brand soda is usually 80 cents or less, or 10 cents for that eight ounce glass. Store brand sugar-free lemonade mix is 30 cents for the 2 litter bottle, and diet Tang is sometimes on sale for 55 cents. So that's 4 cents a glass for lemonade or 7 cents a glass for the Tang. When milk is on sale for two dollars a gallon, that's about 13 cents per cup.
Rice is about 75 cent a pound, which is about 35 cents a cup dry, which makes about three cups. At least, I think that's the way it adds up. Store brand peanut butter is often on sale for a dollar for about a pound, or about 4 cents per tablespoon. A twelve ounce bag of mung beans costs less than a dollar from the Asian market, and there's about 23 tablespoons per bag, or less than 5 cents per tablespoon if you want to make bean sprouts.
Some stuff is harder to figure out. The 17 ounce bottle of hot sauce says that it has 96 teaspoons. But the bottle is half empty, so I must use a lot more than a teaspoon. The bottle costs two dollars, so that's about 2 cents per teaspoon.
Fruits and vegetables are hard to figure out in a budget, unless they are in cans. If I bought a 15 ounce can of tomatoes or corn or something for 50 cents, I would want half of the can. But that would be 25 cents, which would be too much to pay on the dollar a day thing. If a fresh vegetable is two dollars a pound, I have trouble figuring out how much that is for a serving, but again, probably too much. On the other hand, the over-ripe bananas are often twelve for a dollar, or about 8 cents each. And on rare occasions oranges are on sale twenty for a dollar, or 5 cents each.
I record all of this to figure out my own budget. If someone else used my numbers it would probably come out all wrong, since food might not cost the same in other parts of the country. And not everyone has an Asian market or a Mexican market.
Okay, so today isn't such a good day to try the dollar thing. But I haven't given up on the idea of trying it at some point. And this week I plan to really watch how much I spend and what I eat, even if I can't keep it down to a dollar a day.