The $30 Project – Day Six and Seven – The $30 Project Wrap-up March 2, 2009

The weekend wasn't as tough as I imagined. After the wonderful soup I made for lunch on Saturday, I had a great pasta dish in mind to make that evening. It ended up being a total bust – like INEDIBLE bust. I had a great idea that just didn't pan out the way I wanted. So…basically no dinner last night. This morning and evening's meals had eggs and the potato I had left with some diced tomato and rosemary, using again only the ingredients I had in the house and from my shopping trip.

The snowy weather, when it happens, always paralyzes Atlanta so much that it was a great day on Sunday to stay at home…which led to lots of reflection about the challenge this past week. Being snowed in meant that I actually ended the week with a little over $4 left in my budget.Curses – I could have bought that Diet Coke after all!!!

I can safely say that doing the $30 Project was extremely eye opening and there are habits and ways of doing things that won't ever be the same for me. Having to put so much conscious thought into how much things cost took a lot of spontaneity out of my schedule – lots of my activities I take part in have to do with food. However, having a core group of ingredients to work with and finding ways to stretch them out over several meals was actually extremely inspiring. I came up with great recipes this week and most of them were on the fly.

It's also changed how I treat the food that I purchase. When I was shopping before, I would buy stuff that liked or had a craving for. I would eat what I wanted of it and then a good bit of it would go to waste. If it went bad before I could get around to using it….oh well. I have the money to replace it or move on to something else. This week, everything was wrapped up and stored really well once it was opened. I used every bit of things and found new approaches to some kitchen things – I made breadcrumbs off the ends of my baguette early in the week to have to use where I would have just purchased some if I needed them.  Common sense techniques and tips that I should have been implementing long ago.

The purpose of this challenge was not to see if we could live like someone on food stamps or government assistance. It would be unreasonable and unrealistic – as well as making light of a very serious issue in the US. A statistic I read stated that 36.2 MILLION Americans struggled with hunger and lack of food resources in 2007. Can I go back to being so flippant about food and careless consumption? Not hardly.

I don't pretend that doing this for a week came close to giving me – or the other participants – a very clear picture of what it's like to be hungry. Especially with my career field, the perks are there and I will never "starve". It's just not in the cards. However, I think that there is more to explore here from a "how do you creatively approach budget eating?" standpoint.

So, I will be picking up the $30 Project on Wednesday for another week. This time, I am going to allow myself the basics I have in the house that I didn't allot for last week such as flour, sugar, baking soda, etc…but on this round, I am going to shop at my grocery store only. No farmers market. I've been super inventive with my cooking and the inspiring veggies at the market. How will I do when I'm left to overpriced grocery store produce and more prepared foods? We'll see, I guess.

How did the others taking on the challenge do? Some were successful – others weren't. See for yourself at their blogs:

  • Paul has created a blog inspired by this challenge at The Seven Day Project
  • Mike who invites you to follow his Twitter feed and his Flickr posts about the challenge. He has also started a blog especially to document this challenge, which you can see here
  • Molly aka GrabMol, the author of the awesome blog Disposable Income (oh the irony!)
  • Dave of the super funny blog Extraface

Speaking of inspired, my friend Jake suggested that when it snows…make snow cream! This simple recipes used cream or milk (in my case coconut milk), sugar and vanilla – all things many people have on hand. It felt childlike, whimsical and spontaneous – all feelings I was seriously lacking during my $30 week. Thanks, Jake!

Snow Cream

  • About a gallon of fresh snow. This will reduce down as you mix it.
  • 1 cup milk, cream or coconut milk per gallon
  • 1/2 cup sugar per gallon
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla per gallon

– Collect fresh snow in a container. In a separate bowl, mix all the other ingredients. Fold – don't stir – the snow in gradually. The snow will start to melt pretty quickly and create a slushy texture. You can eat it as is or freeze it a bit for firmer texture.


Zachary Smith Mar 2, 2009 07:03 am

Nice modifications to the challenge! A future one might be: only buy food using public transportation.

Molly Mar 2, 2009 07:03 am

I was thinking something that I might try in the future would be to give myself a $30 budget Monday through Friday to spend on any groceries or eating out. I think this would encourage me to use up the items I already have in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.
Though I wasn’t the $30 champ that you were, Tami; I think I made some good habits. In fact, I didn’t even go out to get a latte this morning! I happily drank my 20 cent coffee instead.

Paulie [eatl/ga] Mar 2, 2009 07:03 am

I’m happy to see at least one of us made the goal.
I came close but my desire to drink beer pushed me $0.97 over budget, even though I didn’t eat lunch on Saturday or Sunday.
Thanks for kicking this off. I feel like it’s been a rewarding eye-opening experience for me.
I look forward to eating out with some of the participants tomorrow night and ordering a glass of wine that will cost as much as two day’s food/drink intake this past week.

Mike Boutté Mar 2, 2009 08:03 am

Thanks so much for doing this. It has been a very interesting week for me. I have learned quite a bit about some habits I have and how to change them for the best.
I can’t wait to see how the next round goes for you and what recipes come out of it.

Amanda Mar 2, 2009 08:03 am

I love this $30 challenge ! Such a great idea. As I just moved out of my parents house and got a “real” job, I need to minimize my spending and save. You’ve definitely got me thinking about where my $ goes.

mingaling Mar 2, 2009 12:03 pm

I have to say you’re very brave to actually eat snow nowadays!

emiglia Mar 3, 2009 08:03 am

I think this is such a great idea! I’d love to try it sometime. Let me know if you plan on doing it again!

snobound Mar 4, 2009 07:03 am

I have been lurking on here for months now, but have been particularly inspired by this week’s $30 challenge. Unfortunately, eating on a budget isn’t new to our family, nor to millions of others. I found it very interesting to read your reflections on each of your meals – as it is for many who find, for the first time, eating this way is really do-able, enjoyable, and eye-opening. Being able to enjoy the luxury or eating out whenever, wherever and how ever you feel as well as shopping willy-nilly is something we as a society often take for granted – not paying attention one bit to the amount of food we waste. I’m glad you stuck to the challenge and are going to be taking it to the next level. Best of luck!
Because your blog inspires me so, I’ve awarded you with a lemonade award! Really, no joke! Come to my blog to get the details for what to do next! ~b~

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Imee Apr 2, 2009 03:04 am

I really think your $30 Project was interesting. I may be doing something similar soon, not as a project but rather as an experiment myself. I’m not on food stamps but I want to live healthier, yet still on a budget.