$30 on Food a Month

. 3 min read

I'm starting to realise just how lucky I was where I was living whilst studying abroad in New Zealand. Toying with the idea of financial independence I made it a goal to minimise my costs; each month I assessed my spending habits. This lead to some very scary realisations. It's freeing to know you can get by for over two-months with around NZ$800 (all expenses!) but that's also the scary part - when having a full-time job became optional a big question mark fell upon the previous 5 years of education and the future 50 years of a career. What was I working towards when I could happily cover my expenses with a minimum wage job at ~20 hours a week?

Before I start I'd like to say it's been a few months since finishing this self-impossed challenge. I honestly couldn't recommend it, or say it was a healthy choice. Especially long-term. Having had time to reflect I would say if you feel compeled to challenge (experiment on) yourself in such an extreme way - keep it to a month and already be very healthy.

I went for around three and beleive it cannot be sustained whilst working/studying full-time...

The only way I think I could sustain these low costs is by using the new found free time (switching to part-time) to gardening/foraging. Which, to be honest, appeals to me, but I guess not to most. It could also help if the job was in a kitchen (free food).

What I Ate

In the first month I went to a local supermarket and bought the cheapest source of oats rice and pasta and started from there:

  • 3kg rolled oats $8.38
  • 3kg sugar $4.99
  • 1kg peanut butter $5.99
  • 1kg pasta $1.58
  • 10kg white rice $6.49

Total: $27.43

thats what I purchased but free food wasnt out of the question, if I was offered food by flatmates or something was growing in the garden I saw no reason to hold back. However I did stop myself from eating any food I had before the start of the challenge.

In this first month I was a lot more confident of the sustainability of the diet. After all Christchurch is a surpringly abundant city - the red zone is full of fruit trees - and fejoa was in season. Not only that but we still had some fresh greens and tomatoes growing in the garden. This is where the questions started coming in. If I wasn't working/studying then I'd have more time to forage and garden increasing the healthfullness of the diet.

After a month break from the diet (during a road-trip) winter had long sinced rolled in. I was in the deep end.

Crunching the numbers it seems the rice and sugar were the cheapest source of calories so on my next attempts I skipped out on the oats and pasta, the former not sitting with me well. Foreseeing the end of my time in New Zealand I decided to start getting through my food from before the challenge (only around 2.5kgs of lentils) this meant that I lasted over a month with the next lot of shopping.

I've since lost the reciept for the second wave of purchasing but for a long-time it was literally just sugar-water throughout the day with peanut-butter sticky (more sugar) rice for dinner - when I was out of peanut butter I switched to lentils. Funnily enough this reminded me of when I tried Durianrider's sugar challenge. With the constant supply of sugar I actually felt incredibly good (there was no crashing)... until my body adapted to the sugar and was drained of nutrients after a few weeks. The glow my skin had from when I tried raw-veganism had slowly faded... as did my mood. It was time to go back to a "normal" diet.

Have you made an effort to reduce your food costs? What do you find does/doesn't work? Share in the comments!

Graeme Russell

I created this blog as a way to reach people about topics I care about: ethics, self-improvement, and lifestyle. I hope you can find something of value here.