How to Eat Healthy on $5.00 a Day: Day 1

[Note to reader: If you haven’t read why I’m writing this five-day blog series, please refer to my first post, “How to Eat Healthy on $5.00 a Day,” which explains my intent.]

I marvel at the choices of oatmeal available to us in this country. In Bill‘s and my house alone, we have three: rolled oats, quick rolled oats, and instant oatmeal (all organic).

You can also choose from conventionally-grown oats, and instant oatmeal with a variety of flavors, such as maple and brown sugar, apple-cinnamon, etc. So it was interesting to see how the prices vary on just the three types we have in our house.

Of course, instant is most expensive because you’re paying for the convenience. But couldn’t you also say you’re saving energy since you don’t have to wash a pot? That’s my favorite part about instant oatmeal. Today I opted for quick rolled oats, cooked in a pot for about two minutes, which actually seemed faster than heating water for instant oatmeal and then waiting for it to set. Oh, the choices we have!

Check out the menus and the tallies for today’s experiment at trying to eat healthy on five bucks.

Here’s what we ate today, broken out by meal, person, and cost.


So being a breakfast lover, I started off the day with a good ol’ bowl of fruit and fiber, adding a chopped apple from my stash of Michigan apples I’ve been keeping in the garage since last fall. I learned from a farmer that if you keep them in a cooler, they stay cold enough without freezing during the winter. We get raw milk from a local farmer once a week, which I enjoy in both coffee and oatmeal. The best thing is that Bill can drink it even though he’s allergic to cow dairy products because we think it’s the pasteurization that alters a protein in the milk, making it harder for him–and others with cow dairy allergies–to digest. However, today he had spelt flakes (no wheat) cereal with rice milk and Russian tea , which I picked up at the Kalamazoo Russian Festival last fall.

Some variations you could try, besides the types of cereal, include different fruit options such as sliced banana, dried cherries, cranberries, or blueberries. For extra protein, add some walnuts or almonds (at 31 cents for a half-ounce). If you’re not a breakfast fan, you’ve saved yourself some cash! (But you still might want to consume a piece of fruit and some nuts to get your brain in gear!)


 As with breakfast, sometimes Bill and I eat the same thing, sometimes we don’t. For today’s lunch we opted to go separate ways, him enjoying a bratwurst that he picked up from Crane Dance Farm at the Fulton Street winter farmers market, and me deciding on a Veggie Wrap with Garbanzo Bean Schmear. He placed his braised brat on a bed of white rice that was seasoned with annatto and onion, all atop a tortilla.

You can check out the recipe to see how I made my wrap.  The garbanzo beans, as well as the sunflower seeds (who knew they were so cheap?!) gave me the protein and energy boost I need for my afternoon. And I love grated carrots because they add bulk, juice, and flavor to anything. I even went shopping for a specific Oxo ergonomic carrot grating tool to make this job quick and easy. Once the tortillas are rolled up, they could easily be taken along for lunch if you pack one for work or need food on the road.


For dinner, we each had a quarter pound of ground beef from our mixed quarter cow from Lubbers Farm and Bill made Grassfed Beef Burgers on the grill. Inspired by a recipe from Food 52 called One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf, I made a quinoa nest for our burgers. We only ate half of the recipe (which didn’t include the yummy goat cheese, walnut oil, or pine nuts due to cost) so we’ll have leftovers for another meal this week.

Bill also enjoyed a snack of peanut butter on millet & flax toast during the evening. All in all, I think we did pretty well for our first day, coming in at $10.23 for two people.


  • Our most expensive items, not surprisingly, are meat. It’s especially expensive because we only buy pastured and grassfed meat products but our outlook is long-term: We believe in paying the expense now and not the healthcare costs of eating factory farmed meat later. And the reason our ground beef is so expensive is because it’s based on the price per pound of all our beef, so a rib roast and ground beef net out the same.
  • Why beef and not chicken, you might ask? Actually, our beef is more economical. I had wanted to start of the week roasting a chicken and make three meals out of it but a pastured chicken costs a lot more than a factory farmed bird (which I cannot stomach).
  • The greens, which we get biweekly from our CSA, Mud Lake Farm, are also pricey. But they are fresh, local, and in season, right from a greenhouse in Hudsonville, Michigan.
  • I was definitely hungry and ready to eat as each mealtime approached, although dinner was the most filling.

Here are some more photos of the foods we consumed today:

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2 responses to “How to Eat Healthy on $5.00 a Day: Day 1

  1. Marcia,
    This is terrific, showing that you can eat healthy for less and without Fast Food. Years ago, the father of a friend of mine contacted a nutritionist at the University of Minnesota for a healthful plan because he had eight children and lived on a meager private college professor’s income. He raised the most children.
    Thanks for all your planning, all your doing, and all your sharing. Extremely valuable.

    • Thanks, Waltraud. It is turning out to be quite the research project! The mental energy is killing me but at least the food is sustaining me!

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