$3/Day Reflections

Below are my observations and reflections from when I ate for three dollars a day for five days. Come back this weekend to see a more in depth post…with pictures! Enjoy!

Part I: Planning


Before you begin the experience, reflect on how do you think it might feel (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to be food insecure?


One of the main aspects I am expecting to struggle with during this week is not being able to eat out or afford convenience foods. As a full-time student with three jobs, I find myself relying on foods that I can easily pack and eat on the go, such as yogurt, fruit, carrots, and hummus. I imagine that this will make planning my meals throughout the day more stressful.

I also do not have room in my budget for coffee or tea, so I will be going through this week caffeine free, which as an avid coffee and tea drinker, is definitely going to be a struggle. Lastly, I thin it will decrease my social interactions throughout the week, since I will not be able to eat meals with others or go out to eat with them.



Before you go shopping, what kinds of foods do you think you will buy with your $15?


  • Black beans (canned)
  • Brown rice (bulk)
  • Tofu
  • Spinach (fresh)
  • Tomatoes (fresh)
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Strawberries (fresh)
  • Yogurt
  • Granola (bulk)


















Part II: Purchasing Keep all of your receipts. You will turn these in during class on March 20th.


Describe your shopping experience. Where did you shop, what did you buy, and how much did each item cost?


For this assignment, I made a list and completed all of my shopping at Town and Country. My total was $14.39. The items I purchased and their costs are presented below:


Item Quantity Price
Canned Diced Tomatoes 1 Can $0.50
Strawberry Yogurt 32 oz. $2.69
Multi Grain Tortillas 8 pack (8 inch) $2.89
Canned Black Beans 2 Cans $0.79 (each)
Canned Kidney Beans 1 Can $0.79
Pink Lady Apples 3 pounds $1.99
Long Grain Brown Rice 0.80 pound $1.05
Spinach One bunch $0.99
Cranberry Orange Granola 0.60 pound $1.91


Total: $ 14.39


(Shoot, I should have kept those 2 cheese sticks that I put back last minute, not knowing exactly how much my bulk items would cost!)



What strategies did you use to maximize your allotted money?


I purchased bulk items when possible, and also off-brands. I opted for the larger size yogurt rather than smaller convenience size items. I shopped sales, for instance I purchased apples rather than strawberries and long grain rice instead of short grain. I also made a shopping list ahead of time to help while I was at the store.










Part III: The Experience


For each day state what you ate and how you felt physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Record your observations and insights.


Day I


Date and Day of the Week: 03/05-Monday


What I ate:

How I felt:


Today, the restricted diet wasn’t that bad. I missed caffeine and also not having any options for snacks.




Observations and Insights:


Taking time to cook the rice and bean mixture took time, but I cooked the food for the entire week to cut down on preparation time in the coming days.








Day 2


Date and Day of the Week: 03/06-Tuesday


What I ate:



How I felt:


Today I felt very tired. I don’t know if it was due to the restricted calories, lack of caffeine, or a combination of the two. I found myself very hungry in late afternoon, and I ate dinner earlier than I normally would have.



Observations and Insights:


The apples I bought are etremely sour and not very flavorful-guess that is what happens when I buy the cheapest fruit I can find!








Day 3


Date and Day of the Week: 03/07-Wednesday


What I ate:






How I felt:


I felt very hungry all day today. On Wednesdays, I have an early lab, and I did not have time to eat breakfast before lab today. Usually, I can eat a piece of fruit or a yogurt on the way to lab, but since I do not have any convenience foods, I had to wait to eat breakfast until after lab.






Observations and Insights:


Convenience foods are really worth the extra cost to me at this point in my life. While I am on a budget as a college student, they help me maintain a well-balanced diet.






Day 4


Date and Day of the Week: 03/08-Thursday


What I ate:




How I felt:


I seemed to be more used to the hunger today, although I did take a nap this afternoon, which is not a usual behavior for me.







Observations and Insights:


I started to feel sick of eating the same thing over and over today. Since I only had fifteen dollars to shop with, I was very limited in the varieties of food I could purchase, in addition to being limited in quantity.






Day 5


Date and Day of the Week: 03/09-Friday


What I ate:









How I felt:


I was feeling very relieved today that I was almost done with this assignment.





Observations and Insights:


Starting to run out of food, so thankfully this is the last day! Can’t wait to eat whatever I want tomorrow (which won’t be rice and beans), and very thankful that I have the resources to eat other foods.









Part IV: Analysis

For each day complete a diet analysis. Print the diet analysis from each day and turn in during class on March 20th. Take average from 5 days. What were your average intakes over the five days for the following macro and micronutrients? (State in amounts and percentages of recommended values) . Use MyPlate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/supertracker.html) if you do not have access to diet analysis software.




856 kcals 42.3%


7.6 g 25%


130 g 74%


33 g 72%


25 g 100%
Vitamin A


273 ug 39%
Vitamin C


37 mg 49%
Vitamin E


3 mg 20%


453 mg 45.3%


9 mg 50%


7 mg 87.5%


591 ug 148%



Considering nutrients, food groups and other important food components, how well did you meet your nutrition needs?


I did not do a very good job of meeting my nutrition needs, although I did manage to eat foods from all of the food groups and obtain all of the macronutrients every day. Considering I was consuming less than half of my recommended Calories, I feel like I did fairly well of meeting my nutrient needs, and maintaining a balanced diet on the limited resources I had available.





How could your diet have been improved (within your budget)?


I think I should have tried to incorporate some more calorie-dense foods. For instance, I always choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as the yogurt, but a higher fat yogurt could have helped me feel fuller longer, and also help me reach my calorie needs. Also, if I were doing this again, I would probably choose several different fruits and just buy one of each (i.e. (1) orange, (1) banana, (1) apple each of a few varieties). This time, I bought one three-pound bag of apples and even though they were my favorite type, Pink Lady, they are very out of season right now, and it was obvious. Another option would be to buy dried beans and soak them to reduce my sodium intake. I did buy reduced sodium canned products, but due to time constraints, opted for the canned beans over dried beans. Overall, I felt that I did a good job of incorporating all of the food groups into my diet every day, which could be a challenge on this type of budget.






What did you eat that you normally do not eat?


All of the foods that I chose are foods that I very commonly eat. I was careful in planning not to pick a strange food that I might spend all of my money on that I might not enjoy. My staple for the week was a rice and bean mixture, which included the brown rice, two cans of black beans, one can of kidney beans, and one can of diced tomtoes with cilantro and lime. I cooked all of this together, and then throughout the week I would either eat it on a bed of spinach or wrapped up in a tortilla.







What foods do you normally eat that you have avoided?


Coffee and tea would be the items that would stand out to me the most, because they are what I missed most throughout the week. As mentioned above, I eat convenience size yogurts frequently that were not in the budget. I also really like berries, and  even though they are more expensive than other fruits, they are worth the splurge to me. I would have liked to add in some tofu or cheese with my meals, which I think would have helped keep me full longer. I do not eat meat or drink pop, which I think would be hard to incorporate in on a budget if these were items in a person’s diet.







Did you have any difficulty complying with the conditions of the assignment?


When I was at home, it was not difficult to comply with the assignment because these were the foods that I made available to myself for the week. When I was at someone else’s house, it became more difficult to follow the assignment, but I stuck to it.






Could you continue to live on $3/day?  How would doing so change your life?


I think I could continue living on three dollars a day if I had to. I would say my normal daily budget for food is around five dollars for food. One of the main challenges with this assignment was that since it was only for five days, I only had fifteen dollars to shop with. If the assignment (or just when living on three dollars a day) was stretched out over a longer period of time, it would be easier to incorporate more variety into the diet. I think continuing to live on three dollars a day would be more time consuming, because I would have to plan my grocery shopping and meals carefully to make sure I am getting a diet of proper nutrition. I also think I would have to be careful so that I did not become increasingly fatigued.






Part V: Follow-Up


During the five days of the experience visit the county assistance office or other resource and obtain an application for food stamps.  Examine and complete the application. Describe this experience.  How difficult was it to obtain an application?  How difficult was it to complete the application?  Consider how the experience might have been different if you had poor reading or writing skills?


I was able to find an application for food stamps online, which undoubtebly removed ome of the social embarrassment that is associated with food stamp programs. I also understand that while I had access to a computer, printer, and Internet, many people applying for food stamps may not have these resources. The application was very long (11 pages!), and required a lot of personal information. I would not say it was difficult to fill out, because I have things such as pay stubs and bank statements readily available, but I can see it beingn harder if this were not the case. The experience could have been much harder if I was illiterate, because while it states on the application that it is possible to have someone help you fill out the application, it could have added to the humiliation if you needed additional help filling out the application. Also, if I were unable to read, I may not have been able to know that it was possible to get assistance filling out the application, and just decided that I was not able to fill it out.



























What are your overall conclusions about this experience? Describe what you learned, your observations and insights.


One of the observations that stuck out the most to me througout the week was how time consuming the process was. If an individual is living on a tight budget, they would have to devote a significant amount of time into meal planning, especially if they had children. I think it would become even more important to coupon and sale shop to make the dollar stretch further.


I live by myself, so I try to eat according to my hunger cues, which do not necessarily correspond to common meal times. Throughout the course of this week, however, I found myself eating regularly scheduled meals to help me divide my food and make sure that it would last throughout the week.




















What are the important things you learned during this experience that would benefit you as a food and nutrition professional?


I think this was an important experience as an individual who is planning a career in helping food insecure populations. Even though I did not do this assignment with the additional financial stressors that someone in this position would be experiencing, it will help me to empathize with their position in the future. For instance, if a client comes to me and states that they are just too tired to get anything done, I can know to look at their diet to see if it is a result of a poor diet due to budget constraints.


This assignment was eye opening and I think important for anyone going into a human service field to experience.