One Dollar Diet: Healthy Eating On a Dollar a Day?

One woman attempts to prove that you can do it.

ByABC News via logo
March 11, 2009, 9:13 PM

March 12, 2009 — -- It's a daunting and some may say unrealistic task: eat healthily on $1 a day.

But for 30 days, Durham, N.C., resident Rebecca Currie said she did just that.

"What I wanted to do was to show that you can get healthy food for hardly any money," Currie said. "I wanted to see how far a dollar would go."

Currie's goal was to prove that eating cheaply doesn't have to mean eating badly. A November 2003 New York Times article about how poor-quality food is less expensive than high-quality food and a story about a California couple who said a person couldn't eat a healthy diet on $1 a day sparked the 41-year-old's idea for the experiment.

"They didn't do the best job with how they cooked," said Currie, who is a self-employed freelance computer consultant. "They didn't eat good foods."

"I really felt like I could do a better job," she added.

This lifelong food lover, who has spent between $80 and $90 monthly on food for at least the last decade, embarked on her mission and documented her journey on her aptly named blog "Less Is Enough."

What began Feb. 10 with dried beans and $2 because she had to get two days' worth of food ended March 11.

"The food part wasn't that difficult. The first week or so ... getting through that first week was the hardest part," Currie said. "Once I got the rough first week, it was actually not too bad."

But after surviving the first week, Currie said she didn't have any more problems.

"I didn't ever get weak. I felt pretty good through the whole project," Currie said. "I focused on whole-grain foods."

According to nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, however, Currie's frugal diet was not quite enough to eat healthily.

"There were individual foods that were fantastic," Skolnik told "Good Morning America." "But when you put it together, she was lacking. ... She was losing weight from not getting enough."

Skolnik suggested making inexpensive but nutrient-rich additions to foods that Currie was preparing -- like adding powdered milk or concentrated orange juice to Currie's morning bowl of oats.

Those struggling to afford more ingredients on a limited budget, she said, could turn to food banks for help.

During the experiment Currie bought food that would make her meals cost $1 or less. She did it without spices or staples she already had in her pantry.

She aimed for 1,200 calories daily and consumed her normal two meals a day.

A meal of cabbage, rice, leftover beans and a jalapeno pepper costs 80 cents. On one day she had a quart of chicken noodle soup for 60 cents and another brought Jiffy biscuit mix with scrambled eggs and a tangerine.

Shop carefully.

Be aware of prices in different stores.

Eat less processed foods. You can get much more making things from scratch.

Get fruits and vegetables seasonally.

Click here to check out Rebecca Currie's blog.