The $4.75/Day Experiment

It's been a while since I've last update this blog. I don't know what happened. I think life got less boring and now it's boring again so I'm back!

Let's start with some updates. I work for Habitat For Humanity of Greater San Francisco now. This is important because it leads to the experiment. Recently, on one of our job sites, we have a group of AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers. It stands for AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. I was asking our construction manager for some boxes so I could start my "donate/throw away" pile (this is a whole other life experiment) and she said to save some for the NCCC folks. Why? Because in the Bay Area (and some counties in California) there's a ban on plastic shopping bags so if you go shopping and need a bag for your stuff, you have to pay $0.10 or $0.25 at some places. Anyhow, the NCCC folks only get $4.75/day for food stipend so they can't afford to spend $0.10 for shopping bags. This blew my mind. You can't even get a cheap ass sandwich for $4.75! And we live in the Bay Area!

These volunteers are living in Novato, CA, where the median household income in 2014 is at $76,609. The median household income of the whole US is at $53,482 according to the US Census Bureau. That's the long way of saying that we live in a fucking expensive area.

Since I though living on $4.75/day for food is pretty ridiculous, I decided to take it upon myself to see if it's possible. So starting on June 18, 2016, I set out of eat frugally. However, since I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself and I also don't believe in self-torture, these rules were set:
1. Whatever, that I have in my place that is already half-way used/opened, I will not count toward the weekly budget.
2. I don't count salt, pepper, spices, etc. that I already have at home.
3. Free food is free and doesn't get counted. A real AmeriCorps would NEVER say no to free food!
4. I would try to keep going out with my friends at a minimum and will not count it as a part of my budget because if I go out once, that would blow my budget for the whole week. I also would like to keep in touch with my friends using our normal activities (eat like gluttons) and not be a hermit for the month.
5. To normalize thing, weekly costs of food will be kept but average cost per day will only be calculated at the end of the experiment period.
6. I have to eat a balance diet. I cannot cheat by just eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches or ramen.

With that being said, behold the spreadsheet (click on it for a better view):

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 12.04.30 PM

As you can see, I spent a total of $24.18 on food I ate this week (not counting free food). The weekly budget is set at $33.25.

Breakfast for the last week looked like this:

Typical meal looked like this: IMG_20160618_120453

A few observations from the past week:

1. There's a small voice saying "I'm hungry" in the back of my head all the time.
2. I take full advantage of free snacks at work. That means I ate a lot of M&M candies and Oreo cookies.
3. My friend Emily thinks that I'm a starving child so she invited me to dinner and fed me food. She also packed leftovers for me so I got a bunch of free meals from Emily.
4. My friend Helen also made me a free sandwich and gave me an avocado.
5. Afraid of going over budget, I tend to not eat a lot which affected my weight lifting abilities. I struggle to meet my ever increasing goals to lift more weight each time I hit the gym.
6. Overall, I'm not dying.
7. It helps to not eat meat. I did eat some shrimps I have left in my fridge and tilapia.
8. My poop smelled like plant materials. There's that green smell.
9. Seeing that I am under budget. I will allow myself to eat more food next week.
10. I only eat oatmeal for breakfast everyday.
11. I supplemented my protein intake with protein powder (because I really really need to build muscles) and didn't count that as a part of the budget because I have half a jug of protein already.
12. I made a corn and black bean salsa but didn't eat it at all last week. It'll be saved for this coming week.
13. I only went out to eat with my friends once this week. I made to sure eat at home before hand so I wouldn't go full force and order a lot of food.

Why does it say $4.95/day experiment on the spreadsheet but it's actual $4.75/day, you ask? Because originally I thought it was $4.95/day but later found out that it was actually lower than that!

Overall, I think I'm having fun with this experiment. It makes me get creative. I have to give up on a lot of my favorite foods. I can't just go and get sashimi or buy a tub of ice cream.

I'm actually surprise at how supportive my friends are with this experiment. If my parents know about this originally they would try to send me free food which will defeat the whole purpose of the experiment! Until next time, all!


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