The “Beyond Mr. Noodles” Project

mr_noodlesCould you live on a food budget of $5 a day? Could I? That’s the challenge I am setting for myself for the month of November. Why? There are a myriad of reasons. But it all started with a package of Mr. Noodles. Actually, many MANY packages of Mr. Noodles. I was helping out at the Whitehorse Food Bank recently, sorting through mounds and mounds of donated food. There was Kraft Dinner, instant rice and pasta packets, canned fruit and veggies…and hundreds of packets of Mr. Noodles. I remarked to a colleague that while this food might fill bellies, it certainly wasn’t what I would consider nutritionally sound, and it was likely pretty low on the enjoyment scale. At the same time, I was hearing comments both in the media and in my own community about the high cost of organic food. I belong to the Potluck Food Co-op, and as much as I can, I try to choose food that has been raised or grown in a way that is earth friendly. On the surface it might appear more expensive than groceries in the big box stores, but it’s really not when you add in all the hidden costs of industrially produced food. That being said, if I am a single mom struggling to make ends meet each month, I’m probably not even thinking organic is remotely possible. Could I convince them otherwise? My brain started working. Could I feed myself in a way that is good for both body and planet, and do it on a very limited budget? Some research showed that a number of people in the U.S. have done this sort of thing. Some ate on $1 a day, but that was non-organic, only eating two meals a day, or using their skills as an extreme coupon clipper. When I looked at their diets, I wasn’t convinced that they were getting all the nutrients they needed. I considered $2 a day. But not even that was realistic here in the North, given our higher food costs. So I hit upon $5 a day. It’s a pretty arbitrary number and I am not at all sure that I can manage on $5 a day. But I’m willing to take the plunge to find out. Here are the rules:

  • I have $150 to spend for the month. I can spend it all at once, $5 a day, or anything in between.
  • I can use coupons if I find any that are useful to me (often but not always, coupons are for pre-packaged foods that leave a lot to be desired in the nutrition department)
  • I can use food I already have in my cupboard or fridge/freezer, but I have to calculate how much it cost and subtract it from my $150.
  • Within the month, I can accept one evening out at a friend’s house to enjoy a meal, I can partake in one work-related event that involves food, and once during the month I can accept a gift of food from someone. Apart from that, all my other meals must come from my grocery budget.
  • I can forage for food, although this is likely a moot point since I doubt I’ll find much in November in the Yukon.
  • All my spices and condiments that I use must also come out of my $150 budget.
  • I won’t ask my family to participate with me. Joe and Jamie will continue to cook and eat as they normally do. I may even help cook some of their meals, depending on what else is going on in the household at the time.

Have I forgotten anything? I’m open to any suggestions you have for inexpensive but healthy ingredients and recipes. I’m expecting to learn lots, and I hope you will follow along with me on this journey.  I will start on Nov. 2nd (Nov. 1st has already been scheduled as Joe’s birthday dinner and I am not willing to forego that) and will continue until I run out of money or until I make it to Dec. 1st. Wish me luck!

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4 thoughts on “The “Beyond Mr. Noodles” Project

  1. It can be easier than you think, though if you want it all to be organic, that’s a huge handicap. I’ve been living on an annual food budget of around $1,100.- to $1,300.- for years (shopping in Whitehorse), though I don’t buy organic. We do hunt our meat and catch our own fish, which makes a big difference.
    Try trading for local food items – if you know somebody who owns chickens, maybe you and the kids can clean out their coop every so often in exchange for a meat bird or eggs. I was also offered goat meat years ago from Brian at Lake Laberge in exchange for helping with the slaughtering. I’m sure you’ll find more opportunities as these if you look around – sure, it’s work, but that’s why local organic food isn’t cheap.
    Avoid all ready-made meals and cook and bake (as in bake bread) from scratch. You cook a large pot of something and bake a few breads in one go, and then freeze them so you’re not constantly slaving away in the kitchen.

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  2. I am really curious to hear more about how you do! I don’t think I would be able to do that living in a community, but I am pretty good at keep our costs low. Looking forward to updates!

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