Before going to bed last night I said to Cheryl, “Let’s go to Walmart tomorrow.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I was taken aback. I never expected those words to come out of my mouth again after I made the choice to stop giving them business a few years ago. But I feel that this project calls for it. Millions of people shop at Walmart for groceries and some people around the country have told me that it’s their only “grocery store” nearby. This is also where much of the community of Bankhead gets their groceries so it’s a must see.
But we still had fresh produce so it was more important to head to the thrift store to get all of our kitchen supplies. I think a lot of people out there think you need fancy tools to make good food. That is so far from the truth though. Not only would that be cost prohibitive for many but that could also make the whole idea of cooking a lot more challenging.
So I’ve made a list of all the items that we will be using this month. Where you find a * I’ve given a suggestion of how you can make or get this item for free.
-Large pot (1+ gallon) -Small pot -Pan -Knife -Spatula -Mixing bowls (2) -Cutting board
*Can be made out of wood or plastic scraps as long as it is not treated wood.
-Baking pans (2) -Dish sets (2) plate, bowl, cup
*Glass jars make great cups
-Utensil set (2) spoon, fork, knife
*Most people have extras lying around
-Towels for cleaning and picking up hot items
*Old bath towels, sweaters, etc. make great towels
-Assorted jars for fermenting, soaking, sprouting, and storing
*Can be collected for free from recycle bins or repurposed from purchased foods
*Some jars have measuring units right on them. Otherwise you can borrow a measuring cup and use it to make markings on a clear glass or plastic cup of your own to make your own.
-Grater -Sprouting cap
*Simply poke holes in a metal jar lid such as a jar of spaghetti sauce
-Nut milk bag for making nut milk or straining juice and can also be used as strainer
*Make your own out of excess fabric or clothes
-Stove and oven
For people that don’t have a stove you can get a 2 burner propane stove for around $20 along with a 5 gallon propane tank. I did this for a whole year when I lived off the grid in San Diego. An oven is not necessary as I lived without one for a year but it’s great for bread. A solar oven is always an option.
-Other items that are not necessary but could be nice include a blender, ladle, peeler, can opener, scissors, strainer, and tea ball.
We managed to get almost everything we needed for $65 at the nearby Salvation Army thrift shop which we took the bus to. This does not include a blender, knife, or ladle which they didn’t have. We travel with a sprouting cap and nut milk bag so we already had these. Most people reading this will already have a lot of these items but if you don’t it’s safe to say that you can get everything for under $100 at your local thrift stores.
I’d also like to share a few tips for kitchen supplies. -Choose steel or cast iron pans and pots and avoid teflon and aluminum. -Avoid plastics and choose wood and metal. -Ditch the microwave if you have one so that you have no choice but to cook healthy food. –Don’t buy anything that is one-time use or disposable such as dishes, utensils, cups, napkins, paper towels, tin foil, plastic wrap, and so on. -If you are going to buy something new, buy quality so it won’t break.
After all that being said here is a photo of all of our kitchen supplies for the month. You’ll notice that there is very little plastic in any of it.
For lunch and dinner we had a lentil, potato, kale stew and for breakfast we had a delicious oatmeal.
I didn’t calculate the cost of food today but we were definitely under $4 each. Cheryl went over to her friends house for the night and Giselle and some of her gang came over in the evening to talk about our plans for this Saturday. We are going to be building gardens for people in the community throughout the month so they’ll be able to eat their own home grown veggies. Along with the garden, we’ll also set up a little rainwater harvesting unit and a compost pile to help them become more self sufficient and garden in a more earth friendly manner.
I was up on the computer until past midnight and I am exhausted. This project has been extremely time consuming plus I’m working on a handful of other projects right now. Some days I’m going strong for over 12 hours. It will all be worth it though!
Day 5 – July 12th
I plugged away on the computer for the morning until Cheryl got home from her friends house around 2:00. She stayed over there for the night. And for anyone wondering, she brought food from our supply and cooked it over there.
Around that time a new friend from Facebook named Phillip Ranglin came over to help out with planning for the gardens we’re going to be making this month. He lives mostly off the grid in Atlanta and is using a rundown warehouse space to do composting and algae farming. He grows food, harvests rainwater and is living a pretty sweet life in his little peaceful oasis in the middle of the city. He was born in Jamaica but has been in Atlanta for a quite a while. We’re both pretty excited about the first garden we’re making which will be at the house I’m staying at. It will be a demonstration site for the rest of the community. We’re going to make 5 different raised beds all out of different repurposed materials such as book shelves, dressers, pallets, bathtubs, bricks, and tires. The idea will be to show how people can make gardens and grow food almost for free. We’ll show how to make their own compost, harvest rainwater, and use wasted materials to keep costs to a minimum.
Today I finally started sprouting some lentils. In my experience lentils are one of the most widely available foods that are truly healthy and cost very little. And sprouting them brings it to an even greater level of nutrition and bang for the buck. Sprouting grains and legumes makes them more digestible, reduces the amount of starch, and boosts nutritional value. All you have to do to sprout lentils is soak them overnight and then rinse them to keep them wet for a few days until they have become a sprout. I’ll go into that more in a later blog once they are ready and teach exactly how to sprout grains and legumes.
Around 6, Cheryl and I headed to the Walmart on the train. It took about 20 minutes to get there and it brought us to a new neighborhood. This is the neighborhood that holds Morehouse College, where Martin Luther King Jr. went. It was a lively neighborhood and I look forward to exploring it. For now, we had to get to the store so that we could make sure we were home before dark.
When I stepped into Walmart I felt a little sick to my stomach from the excessive materialism. It seems mostly everything there is cheap crap at low prices that is horrible for the world. But as I said yesterday, I’ve heard that for some people this is their only nearby grocery store so I feel I must learn about it. I’m not unfamiliar to Walmart as this is where I shopped during much of college but I don’t think like I did back then so it’s a new experience for me. We checked out the food that they had and looked at all the prices. I saw some healthy food such as olive oil and coconut oil for really low prices. Some things I found cheaper there than I’ve ever seen elsewhere such as Chia. I also saw that buying some items in bulk drastically lowered the price. For example, a 5 pound bottle of honey was just 18 cents/ ounce while the smaller bottles of similar quality honey were as much as 34 cents/ ounce. So for people who want to eat healthy on just $4/day my suggestion is to plan it out so you can buy staples like this in big bulk. This could make your money go twice as far with some products. This is one of the 17 grocery shopping tips that I’ve come up with over the last few days.
At the checkout, I said to Cheryl “I’m a little worried. How much do you think this is going to be?” It turned out to be $36.09 which was a relief for me. Here’s a photo of what we got along with the receipt.
Note, when this photo was taken I had already eaten 2 bananas, 2 oranges, a few bites of carrot, 1 piece of broccoli, some mustard greens, and some beet greens. Our total spent is up to $127.91 and we have $112.09 left. We’ve spent just a little over half of our budget for the month. This might seem like a lot but you’ll see from tomorrow’s photo that we are pretty well stocked.
Day 6- July 13th
Upon awakening I was excited at all the fruits and veggies we had so I spent the next few hours seeing how much of it we could actually eat. I wanted to know if someone can afford to get the recommended 5 servings of fruits and veggies on $4/day. And I’m not even close to accepting the idea that frozen or canned is the only affordable way to do it. I will calculate that but first I started with what I think people deserve and that’s the fresh stuff.
In order to do this though I had to do research as to what is considered a serving and what the actual recommendation of fruits and vegetables are. A serving is 1 cup of most any cut fruit or vegetable, one big piece of fruit (ex: an apple, orange, large banana, etc.) or 2 cups leafy greens. That’s pretty straight forward. Of course when you look more deeply not all fruits and veggies are created equally but I’ll pass on that for now. I had heard that the recommendation had been increased quite a bit (to around 9) but in my research I found that it’s still around 5. I found sites that said 9 but when I looked at what they considered a serving it was ½ cup instead of a cup which meant that the actual amount of fruits and vegetables was the same and the way of measuring a serving was just different. I’ll dive more into that this month, so for today I just decided to stick to 5 servings per day.
I’m very happy to report that after 2 hours of number crunching I can absolutely, totally, certainly afford to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables. In fact, I calculated that it would cost just $1.42 cents with the produce that I found at Walmart. This included carrot, broccoli, potato, onion, orange, and banana for this exact calculation, but I’m certain there are dozens and dozens of combinations that can be made. This is something that I will be diving much deeper into throughout the month but I wanted to share the good news now both for Cheryl and I and for people who didn’t know they could afford fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here is our beautiful shelf of food. I got the shelf for $20 at a little nearby thrift store and the baskets are hanging by rope from a nail.
I’m really excited about all this food. The second shelf down is my favorite shelf. That’s got the sourdough starter, ginger bug, sauerkraut, and sprouting lentils on it. It really is looking to me like most US Americans could eat very healthy on $4/day. The barriers standing in the way such as accessibility, time, exhaustion, motivation, and education are probably stopping way more people in reality than money.
In the afternoon I had a few online calls. I’m learning how to use my YouTube channel more wisely. Within the next year I have 4 great series planned including 2 cooking series this month for eating on $4/day. After that I cleaned the house a ton more because a clear house is a clear mind. I vacuumed up more rat poop than I’ve ever seen in my life from the laundry room, which is directly adjacent to our room. While I did this Cheryl mixed up the sourdough starter with fresh flour and water to make our first loaves of bread. I’ll save photos and information about that until tomorrow though.
In the evening we went for a walk in the park and on the way there we met a few real nice people. A 13 year old on a bike named Carlos showed us around the neighborhood on the way to the park. On the way an old man named Mike came out to greet us in the streets. In the 15 minutes we talked to him he set the record for how many times you can possibly say “Welcome to the neighborhood” without it being too much. It was about once per minute. He showed us around his yard and wants to “learn Cheryl to drive a jet ski” and “learn me how to fish”. I’d really like to go out with him. We’re still feeling out the neighborhood but everywhere we go people are really friendly and want to talk. At the park we ran into Chris who I met back on day 1. That’s the second time I’ve run into him already. It turns out he lives right in front of the park where we were walking and it turns out there’s a nice creek down there. Looks like tomorrow I might be in for a little swim!