$2 day: Is it dinner yet?

It is 3PM and I am hungry, which makes dinner feel far away.  I can’t imagine being hungry for hours every day, and even worse, I cannot imagine routinely having hungry kids and not be able to feed them.

Breakfast was oatmeal.  I made about 3/4 as much oatmeal as usual, so the serving sizes looked smaller but not ridiculously so.  Except usually we also serve toast and raisins and juice, so it did feel lean. My littlest daughter doesn’t like oatmeal so I only gave her a little.  The teenage boys had the fullest bowls since they are our biggest eaters, and I figure they are the ones most likely to be ravenous by the end of the day. We all walked away from the meal knowing we’d been fed, but I don’t think any of us were truly full.  And I really, really missed my coffee.

At noon I was glad to get the split peas and rice cooking.  I made the rice in the rice cooker and cooked the split peas with a tablespoon of oil, half an onion, water, and some salt.  It just felt hopeful to have food simmering away.  Kids were definitely more focused on the food than usual, wandering into the kitchen to peek into pots.  Several of them had been hungry since 11:30 or so, but I held off serving lunch until 1:00, because I didn’t want the food to run out hours before the end of our day.

The plates of food at lunch looked more abundant than breakfast.  Once again I served carefully, trying to take usual appetites into consideration, but I was able to give kids basically normal sized servings.  There was enough left over that everyone who wanted seconds got them, and at the end of the meal there was about half a cup of split peas left over in the pot.  I promptly added a few cups of water to the pot and sloshed it around to clean the sides of the pot– I didn’t want to waste a bit.  Then I stuck the pot into the fridge.  This would be the start of the barley soup for dinner.

Around 2:30 I came back into the kitchen to start making the bread for dinner.  Unused to making only one loaf of bread at a time, I began with too much water, and had to add 2 more cups of flour, for a total of 6 cups of flour.  The dough is rising now and I’m guessing it will probably make nearly two loaves of bread.  I may save that second loaf til tomorrow.  Or that second loaf may be our bedtime snack.  In any case that boosts the day’s food cost to somewhere around $2.60.   I’m also looking at the cabbage in the fridge and thinking about adding that to the pot to make the soup more substantial.

This day has made me realize how automatically I tend to add ingredients to my recipes to make them more substantial, and how even ‘affordable’ ingredients can feel like luxuries when your budget is tight. Last night when I was laying out food to take a picture, I thought hard over eight cents worth of garlic before setting it aside.  I chose to put another carrot onto the pile instead.

Another small hard choice as I planned last night:  I thought of adding powdered milk to the oatmeal for a bit more protein.  Except 1/3 of a cup only provided 80 calories and cost 13 cents.  I chose instead to add another 1/2 cup of split peas, which provided triple the calories for only a dime.  I could make that choice because of access to nutrition charts, something else that mothers in poor countries don’t have.

And in floods more gratitude, along with the wish that mothers around the world didn’t struggle so much to feed their children.



  1. I really admire you hard work and all that you do to teach your children about how the rest of the world is living. My son is highly allergic to all grains,eggs, and most nuts as well. I wanted to try this but couldn’t think how. Just from thinking it about it made me realize how blessed we are to be able to eat a diet that sustains my son. Good work.

  2. I’m amazed that you are sticking this out for the entire day. I thought of you as I grabbed the parmesan cheese out of the fridge and noticed I paid $3.82 for the container. Probably used a third of it tonight. Stuff I don’t normally think about.

    Hope you all make it tonight. But if you don’t, nobody here is going to judge you. 🙂

  3. So here’s a question. Where do your homegrown frozen/canned garden veggies come in? Your jars of tomatoes probably only cost you a penny or two for the seed packs and a bag of (homegrown)frozen veggies ditto. Though I suppose that most ppl on budgets this tight don’t have the luxury of putting up any garden stuff so those things which for you are nearly free are much more expensive for them…

    • True! I’ve also got a home-grown pumpkin sitting in the garage, and chard in the greenhouse. And the hens laid 3 eggs today. Any of those things could theoretically have been used. But I decided to just stick with things we actually bought today…

      • very humbled and blessed by your experiment. I have 9 children, and have only had $180 to spend on food and toiletries over the past 3 weeks. Money is very tight. Thankfully, some food has been given to us too, but we eat very very lean, and I’m sad when my children complain. So many would be thankful for bean soup for lunch.

  4. You know what Mary? I think it’s awesome that you skipped your coffee. I don’t have that habit but from what I am told, it is not easy to do. Isn’t it going to taste fabulous tomorrow? !)

  5. I wondered what did your kids say about their meals?? I know my boys are hungry all the time (10 and 12) – I can’t imagine your teenage boys! – what a great lesson about how lucky and blessed we are – I can’t imagine what a mother must feel like sending her kids to bed hungry – it must be so hard – thanks for the lesson for me on how blessed I am . . . . .

  6. What a humbling experience. I pray that the Lord would fill the bellies of the hungry all over the world tonight.

  7. What a blessing that you and your family were able to do this today! Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that sometime in the future (when it is not a birthday day) we are able to do this.

  8. This brings ‘mindful eating’ into a new context. I hear that phrase used when individuals are working to reduce emotional eating (or non-eating), reduce binging, or to improve the quality of food that they choose to consume. I will not minimize the aforementioned emotional food struggles with the general “first world problem” rhetoric. Your experiment is illustrative in a way that is important.

    So thanks to you and thanks to your kiddos for their cooperation.

  9. Mary~ Was your budget $2 per person, or $2 family grand total for the whole days meals?