How to Feed yourself for $3 Per Day

IMG_20121206_1820092 Weeks of Food $42 (Plus Tax)

Since moving out on my own I have lacked a stove or oven. I have access to them, but they are both upstairs and that means dealing with my RoomLords and their kids and putting on pants, even at 3:00 AM. To accommodate this lifestyle of not cooking food for myself, I turned at first to things like sandwiches and frozen burritos. They were expensive and didn’t last long. It led me to buying more fast food, and since I’m not exactly a financial giant at the moment, that was just not going to work for me.

Then, I flashed back to when I was first living on my own and extremely lazy. I remembered Michelina’s, and the glory returned.

Michelina’s Frozen Meals are all between 300-500 calories and can usually be picked up for $1. Actually if you’re a thrifty shopper, you can usually refill your stock for cheaper because they seem to always been on sale somewhere.

The great thing about them, for me, at least, is that they are highly portable and portion controlled. They aren’t the healthiest choice in the world, some of the meals have 50% of your daily sodium in on serving, so you have to be choosey about which ones you devour. Still, that’s better than the go to staples of single America: Ramen and Hot dogs. 

I can grab one on my way out the door to cook at work and toss one in the microwave when I get home. A one person meal is ready in 5 minutes.

That’s lunch and dinner in the bag for $1 each.

There is a pretty big variety of meals available, too. This is actually a wider variety than I would normally eat because I’m not eating left overs so I don’t have the same meal twice.

If you get bored with what Michelina’s offers, there are other types of frozen meals out there for the same basic price. I’m a fan of the Banquet pot pies, too.

For Breakfast, I’ve gone through a variety of different choices trying to find the best value, nutrition and taste. In the end I’ve settled with Lean Pockets breakfast pockets because they come 2 to a box for $2 (that’s still $1 per meal) and are pretty tasty with the right stack of calories (around 300) and protein (around 10 grams). Again, I can grab one on my way to work and heat it up when I get there. It’s a lot less hassle than cereal (although cereal is cheaper) and it’s warm, which is important in December.

Making Up the Missing Calories

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed that if I was only eating pre-packaged meals, I’d only be eating a maximum of around 1500 calories per day, which is not really enough for a guy my size. Of course, I get around another 200-300 calories per day in the form of my chocolate and sugar heavy coffee drinks at work, but it’s still not quite where I need to be. I filled in that part of my diet by adding another $10 to my budget (making it $52 for 2 weeks of food) and bought a snack variety of chips. Each bag of chips has 140 or so calories in it, so I can eat them as a snack between meals and stay on goal for the day.

Weight loss has become important to me. When I hit my heaviest ever this year (380 lbs or 172.4 kg), I got nervous about my size. I’ve always been big, and that’s never really bothered me, but this was different. I had this sudden fear that I was going to get so heavy I couldn’t walk anymore. It terrified me. On the first of October, I had managed to get down to about 375 lbs after a few months of working on it, and now, two months later, I’m down another 7 lbs to 368.

I think that has a lot to do with the ability to portion control that comes from how I’m eating now. Before, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and I ate until I couldn’t eat any more. The food that I was eating when living with my parents was delicious and down homey, not exactly healthy, but not bad. I just couldn’t stop myself from eating it. I actually don’t allow myself to buy hot dogs or bologna either because if I do, I’ll eat an entire package the moment a open it. I just don’t have self control.

Now, I have a pretend self control, and a clear cut calorie count. It makes it pretty easy to determine if I’m being a pig, and it makes me feel better about myself to know how much I’ve eaten.

Money savings alone (and I could probably save more by cooking), that makes what I’m doing worth it.


Maybe it’s not the healthiest way to live, but it’s working for me, and making something work for you is important.


PS: I supplement my diet with vitamins. I know that prepackaged food doesn’t have everything I need in it, but neither does what I’d cook on my own. When you buy a giant industrial size one-a-day bottle, it also only adds about $0.3 per day to the cost of my groceries.

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