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Eating Healthily for $3 a Day



A few weeks ago I challenged myself to go from microwaving corndogs and boiling pasta to cooking a fancy meal in a weekend. Sixteen hours of work later, I emerged successful.

Are my food problems all solved? Not yet. Though being able to cook fancy is great for special occasions, it’s not something I can do every day. It’s time-consuming, expensive, and, unless I watch carefully, not very healthy. On a day-to-day basis, I want food that’s cheap, healthy, and quick to prepare. (Oh, and tasty — but let’s ignore that little detail for now.)

Preparation speed isn’t such a big issue — I can always reheat leftovers. But what about the other two? How cheap do I want my food? And how healthy?

I want it to be as cheap and as healthy as possible, of course. But those goals seem opposed. After all, I could heat up Ramen noodles and live — at least for a little while — on about a dollar a day. But that’s a terrible idea: I want to save money, but I don’t want scurvy.

Healthy food is more expensive than Ramen. But just how much more expensive is it? A week ago I issued a new challenge to myself:

I want to find the cheapest daily diet that meets all common nutritional recommendations.

Now, nutrition is tricky business. Nutritional guidelines change often. New nutrients are found. “Good” nutrients are discovered to be bad, and vice-versa.

For this reason, some experts — Michael Pollan comes to mind — recommend ignoring complex nutrition advice altogether. Instead, they suggest keeping it simple: Eat a variety of fresh, unprocessed foods. Focus mostly on produce and, if you’re an omnivore, choose high-quality meats.

I don’t want to stray too far from that advice. Besides the health arguments, I’m drawn toward unprocessed food on an aesthetic level. I want to keep things simple. But at the same time, I want to make sure I’m not straying too far from standard nutrition advice — stuff about fat percentages, vitamins, minerals, and so on. I’m not a nutrition expert, after all.

So I’m making sure my hypothetical cheap and healthy diet meets the following requirements, which come mostly from the standard USDA recommendations:

  1. Provides 2000 calories per day
  2. Maintains the standard caloric ratios: 20-30% of calories from fat, about 10% from protein, and the rest from carbohydrates
  3. Meets standard vitamin recommendations for A, C, E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, B12, Pantothenic acid
  4. Meets standard mineral recommendations for Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium
  5. Meets standard fiber recommendation
  6. Keeps saturated fat to a minimum
  7. Keeps cholesterol to a minimum

Sounds complicated, right? Fortunately I’ve found a handy website that gives me nutritional breakdowns for lists of foods and quantities.

Of course, I could really geek out and write a computer program that solves a constraint optimization problem given nutrition data and prices for a variety of foods. But let’s not get carried away. Nutrition isn’t an exact science and prices vary, anyway. (But if anyone else wants to do that, let me know the result!)

I decided early on that I want the staples of my theoretical diet to be rice and beans.

Both are extremely cheap by calorie. Beans are high-protein and filled with vitamins and minerals. Together they contain all essential amino acids, which forms a complete protein. (I don’t really understand what that means, but it sure sounds good, right?)

i-beans-pintoIt turns out that beans — kidney, pinto, black, white, etc. — are pretty equivalent as far as nutrition goes. They’re cheapest when bought dry. The best deal I found was on pinto beans at Safeway, where you can get a 20-pound bag for $15.19 — or $0.76 / lb. That equates to 2042 calories and 126 grams of protein per dollar!

brown-riceBrown rice has more fiber and other nutrients than white rice, so I chose it. I wasn’t able to find any great deals in local grocery stores, but you can buy 50-pound bags of the stuff online for $61.48 (including shipping), or $1.23 / lb. That equates to a still-impressive 1364 calories per dollar.

Unfortunately — or perhaps for variety’s sake, fortunately — rice and beans form a very incomplete diet. Both contain almost zero fat, and it’s important to get a substantial portion of calories from fat. Their combination is also low in a number of vitamins and minerals — most notably vitamins A, C, E, K, and B12, riboflavin (gotta have it!), and calcium.

broccoliI turned next to fruits and vegetables. Of the two, vegetables seem most nutrient rich for the money. After looking at a lot of vegetables, I decided that broccoli and sweet potatoes looked most promising. Both are reasonably priced by the pound and packed with nutrients. They’re both often called “superfoods.” They’re also both in season right now.

0411p30c-sweet_potato-mThe lowest price I could find on broccoli was at Golden Produce, a local shop, where it was about $1.33 / lb. Sweet potatoes sell for $0.99 / lb at KJ Produce, another local shop.

At this point, the major holes remaining in the diet were fat — there was still almost none — calcium, and vitamin B12. For fat, I decided to use a combination of oil and seeds or nuts. I couldn’t use only oil, as way too much would be necessary.

how-olive-oil-works-31222748225I chose olive oil, which seems universally regarded as healthy and is quite reasonably priced. At Safeway, I found a 44 oz (88 tablespoon) bottle for $15.99. That equates to $0.18 per tablespoon.

Peanuts are the cheapest nut, but I didn’t pick them. They’re pretty high in saturated fat and less nutrient-rich than many other types of nuts. Almonds are a lot better, but they’re also a lot more expensive.

sunflower-seedsI settled on sunflower seeds, which are somewhere in the middle nutritionally. They’re a good source of vitamin E, niacin, and zinc, which were still lacking. They sell at Safeway for $1.59 / lb (unshelled) in bulk.

milk-organic-FD-lgThe remaining nutrients needed were calcium and vitamin B12. Calcium is easy — milk is the best source, and it’s pretty cheap. It costs $2.99 per gallon at Safeway.

Vitamin B12 is tricky. There’s some in milk but none in any of the other foods I’ve chosen so far. It’s the one vitamin that’s missing in vegan diets, and all the foods I’ve selected (other than milk) are vegan. It’s recommended that vegans supplement their diets with B12, either in fortified health foods or as a separate pill.

Why not just include meat in the diet? Well, first, it’s not very cheap. But more importantly, I’d rather buy the cheapest grains and vegetables than buy the cheapest meat. Bargain basement meat is likely produced in atrocious factory farming conditions and pumped up with hormones.

So … B12. I’m copping out. Take a supplement! It’s only a few extra cents a day. This diet provides adequate quantities of all other vitamins and minerals.

Time to wrap up.

I settled on the following daily quantities of each of the foods listed above, with prices listed:

  1. 3 cups cooked brown rice ($0.53)
  2. 2 cups cooked pinto beans ($0.23)
  3. 2 stalks cooked broccoli (360g) ($1.06)
  4. 1 baked sweet potato (180g) ($0.40)
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil ($0.18)
  6. 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, shelled ($0.22)
  7. 2 cups nonfat milk ($0.37)

The total cost per day is $2.99.

This diet supplies 2090 calories and all essential vitamins and minerals (with the exception of B12; see the discussion above). Fiber is high. Saturated fat and cholesterol are very low. 23% of calories come from fat, 15% from protein, and the rest from carbohydrates.

This diet is quite high in protein (at 174% the daily recommended value). I don’t think there are any problems with that, but it’s something to keep in mind. (And it’s interesting to note, since many think vegetarian diets are low in protein.)

See the vitamin and mineral charts below, courtesy of

vitamins   minerals

(Notes: add salt to taste if you want more sodium. Vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight!)

Am I recommending eating exactly the foods listed above every day?


And would you do that even if I were recommending it? Didn’t think so. My goal here isn’t to suggest an exact diet. It’s only to see how cheap it’s possible to go while remaining healthy.

The diet above is very nutritious. I’m sure, in fact, that it’s quite a bit more nutritious than what I’m currently eating. And it’s only $2.99 per day.

I’ll definitely be looking more closely at what I’m eating. With substitutions for variety, spices, and interesting recipes, the basic diet listed above is actually very workable. Of course, I’m not planning to adhere strictly to any diet. I’m too lazy, and exceptions make life interesting.

But for run-of-the-mill daily meals, it’s nice to make sure I’m eating healthily and cheaply. And clearly it is possible to do both.

Written by miketuritzin

November 2nd, 2009 at 11:50 am

Posted in Articles

72 Responses to 'Eating Healthily for $3 a Day'

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  1. Mike, I love it! Thanks for the research. My grocery bill is second most expensive only to rent, with healthy eating as the main culprit. Good to know that this is not the case.


    2 Nov 09 at 12:45 pm

  2. Awesome, Rachael. Glad you liked the article.


    2 Nov 09 at 1:23 pm

  3. this is good. Mark Bittman had an article last year about non-traditional, healthy breakfast ideas that I think you would like:

    (Speaking of bittman, you mind find this video interesting also:

    I would substitute Soy Milk for the non-fat milk, because the broccoli and beans have enough calcium, plus milk is as bad in terms of factory farming as meat production. If you do that you’ve gone vegan!

    Also if you want to spend more I would get walnuts and pecans instead of the sunflower seeds. I will not make a joke about nuts.


    3 Nov 09 at 10:39 pm

  4. Cool, thanks for the link. You’re right about milk and factory farming.

    It’s true that the vegetables/beans have calcium, but they don’t have enough to allow the diet to remain cheap. If I remove the milk the rest of the food gives less than 50% of the recommended calcium intake.


    3 Nov 09 at 11:06 pm

  5. Hi Mike, this is timely given that many people eat cheap fast food because the dollar menus they offer are easy on the wallet. For 3 dollars a day this is clearly a better option. The only caveat would be for people who have to travel long distances to find/order all the products (many poor neighborhoods don’t have grocery stores or group gardens), so some money would have to be saved for transport. I’ll try your method and save the 200 bucks I run up in groceries! take care, V


    4 Nov 09 at 5:28 pm

  6. don’t forget the farmers markets! delicious things and low costs.


    9 Nov 09 at 7:02 pm

  7. Thanks for your comments, guys. (BTW, I just noticed the comments now, so my comment moderation must be screwed up!)

    V: Yup, you’re right that it can be hard to find produce in some areas. I’m lucky to have a few places in walking distance from where I live!

    Ashley: I’ve been intending to check out the farmers’ markets in SF, but I just haven’t gotten a chance yet. As I remember, the one in my home town (Modesto) is really nice.


    20 Nov 09 at 3:19 pm

  8. Wonderful wonderful! I enjoyed your article very much.

    I watched Food, Inc. and after that I could no longer have non-organic meat.

    Also check out chia seeds, which contain omega 3-6-9, among a variety of vitamins, and they’re hydrophilic!

    Paulette Tang

    11 Mar 10 at 2:26 pm

  9. Great article if you manage food only for yourself. Mates tend to not agree on what tastes good. When I found that I was diabetic, it forced me to manage my own diet, and also make many of the healthy choices that you suggest. I have eliminated 90% of sugar and can still enjoy food with artificial sweeteners. When visiting in health food stores it is best to lie about eating arificial sweeteners. Try oatmeal mixed with mineral oil, artificial sweeteners, cocoa, and peanut butter. Actually kind of healthy cookie.


    5 Nov 10 at 8:17 pm

  10. It’s possible to get soy milk that’s been fortified with B12. Silk makes one ( that I like quite a bit. It’s also fortified with Omega 3, which is something that vegans should be concerned abot.

    There’s no Omega-3 in coy milk, so your proposed diet isn’t any different.

    Someone else suggested walnuts, which do have some Omega-3, so that might be another source.

    Of course, soy milk and walnuts are likely to bust your $3/day budget.

    Dave Rolsky

    27 Apr 11 at 8:17 pm

  11. Unfortunately, the protein component of RDA recommendations is woefully outdated and so is the notion of having 60%+ carbs …

    As per wikipedia:
    According to US & Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines, women aged 19–70 need to consume 46 grams of protein per day, while men aged 19–70 need to consume 56 grams of protein per day to avoid a deficiency. The American and Canadian guidelines recommend a daily protein dietary allowance, measured as intake per kilogram body weight, is 0.8 g/kg. However, this recommendation is based on structural requirements, but disregards use of protein for energy metabolism. This requirement is for a normal sedentary person.

    Ultimately, the diet depends on one’s daily activities, body weight and composition, and so on .. it can’t really be one size fits all ..


    27 Apr 11 at 8:22 pm

  12. Great article. I just forwarded it to an ultra-skinflint buddy of mine, who’s also been focusing on his diet lately; good timing! I love the way you break it all down, and how you prove that nutritional value doesn’t actually have to cost very much. Nice work!

    Robert S.

    27 Apr 11 at 8:54 pm

  13. First of all, isn’t it about time to jump off the “saturated fat is bad for you” bandwagon?

    Second of all, why not eggs? Eggs are a complete food and extremely cheap compared to other sources of fat/protein. Milk is also a great option but is of course more allergenic so not good for everyone.


    27 Apr 11 at 9:02 pm

  14. How are you cooking the beans and rice? Have you considered pressure cooking?

    It would be interesting to see the amount of energy it requires to produce a meal of this sort.

    Great read, thanks.


    27 Apr 11 at 9:13 pm

  15. An option for your Vitamin B12 – Marmite. Hard to describe, but fantastic on hot buttered toast.
    I love the stuff. But it does look like road tar 😀
    You can get it in the US.

    Or there is Vegemite, the Australian version with an easier taste.

    Lee Walker

    27 Apr 11 at 9:53 pm

  16. You could try fish instead of high quality meat. Fish can be pretty cheap, you can get it in cans if you always want to have some at home, and there shouldn’t be any big quality differences if you know what kind of fish to get. It also provides loads of Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 IIRC.


    27 Apr 11 at 10:56 pm

  17. I probably spend $15/day on food and it’s very unhealthy (I don’t have time to cook – I work for a living and have plenty of projects to work on). It’s gross and I’m unhealthy, but at least I’m not living on beans and rice, which would be grosser. Also, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to have 60% of your diet as carbs! I’m *pretty* sure protein is supposed to make up 20% to 25% of your diet.


    27 Apr 11 at 11:01 pm

  18. You’ve done well considering, but you’ve been misguided.

    Carbohydrates are the enemy, saturated fat and cholesterol aren’t. (The only kind of fat that has been found harmful, AFAIK, is trans fat — all other fats are either neutral or good for you).

    There’s no problem with going all-protein with no carbs, or 10% carbs or so.

    Don’t take my, or pratyk, or Pollan’s words for it; Read Gary Taubes “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. It is dense, meticulously researched and very convincing. One of Pollan’s articles (and I guess books) recount how USDA recommendations were formed – either “Unhappy meals” or “Eat food; not a lot; mostly vegetables”. tl;dr – it was a political decision that was not based on science and though did not really contradict the research at the time, definitely does contradict currently known data.

    (Other interesting reads: Seth Roberts’ “What makes food fattening” which you can find as a PDF by googling, and Tim Ferris’ “4 hour body”).

    No One

    27 Apr 11 at 11:09 pm

  19. Just to be sure, too much protein can be bad for kidneys, especially if you aren’t used to the intake. With that said, I don’t think 174% of the recommended intake would be harmful.

    Rohit Razdan

    27 Apr 11 at 11:10 pm

  20. A few things that others have not mentioned:
    1. Most milk has been fortified with Vitamin D (typically on the order of 25% per 8 ounce serving), so you are most of your way there. Though, depending on your sun exposure, you still may not be getting enough.

    2. If you are taking a supplement for B12, there is no reason not to take a multivitamin to cover any of the other random micro nutrients that are not covered in your list; One-a-Day, Centrum, or a generic are usually about the same price as a single-vitamin supplement, and can round out your Vitamin D intake.

    3. Protein is really good for your body. Unless you have a metabolic disorder, you could easily consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight without issue as long as you drank enough water. I wouldn’t suggest doing it with veggies (you’d spend as much time on the toilet as you would eating), but replacing some of those carbs with fat/protein in the form of nut butter (almond is the big thing right now, but peanut and cashew are also good), eggs, more milk, or even a protein powder (which run on the order of 50 cents per 20 grams of protein for whey protein) a few days a week (or every day) is a good alternate.

    4. If you want an alternate oil that is pleasant, good for you, and relatively inexpensive, you should try canola oil.

    If you are really serious about nutrition, you should learn more. Tim Ferris’ “Four Hour Body” has a lot of interesting information (some good, some strange, some potentially dangerous, all interesting), and he’s gone above and beyond in documenting his experiences. At $10 for the e-book on Amazon, it’s totally worth it.


    27 Apr 11 at 11:17 pm

  21. Hey Mike,

    Broccoli is on sale this week at Lucky for $0.57 / lb, which should allow you to shave at least $0.50 a day from your budget. :-)

    It’s often on sale at Safeway for less than $1/lb, too.

    Jeff Hunter

    27 Apr 11 at 11:26 pm

  22. Good point Jeff – AnyLeaf did not yet exist when I wrote this article :)


    27 Apr 11 at 11:53 pm

  23. My breakfast today is Broccoli, almonds, banana, and nuts(I’m Spanish, we have an ugly dark nut but way more tasty than California nut, witch have not taste at all).

    If I were American I will add blueberries that you have a lot.

    I want to create some place on Internet when people can look at the nutritious value of different specific food, I mean it is not the same thing a broccoli from one place than another(the soil is different, the people that cultivates it and the way it is handled is different too).

    Also when you store food, it looses its nutritious value with time, this is critically important when you use the freezer or refrigerator, you can eat an entire fruit witch has lost its properties. People need a simple way to know that.


    28 Apr 11 at 12:45 am

  24. Fred Concklin

    28 Apr 11 at 1:17 am

  25. “Maintains the standard caloric ratios: 20-30% of calories from fat, about 10% from protein, and the rest from carbohydrates”

    I read this far, but after this statement the title “Eating healthily” was misleading.

    Sorry :(


    28 Apr 11 at 1:36 am

  26. Great article and nice tips, Mike!

    I have personally replaced milk completely with kefir in my diet because it’s predigested by good bacteria and therefore more easily absorbable and puts less strain on the digestive system + it replenishes your gut with beneficial cultures. Also the true kefir (self-made, not the one in stores) is rich in lactic acid and enzymes which both help you digest the rest of the food that you eat along with the kefir.

    I also think that including fresh veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers etc is pretty cheap (at least in my country) and provides you with enzymes that are not available in dried foods.

    Btw, you should be able to get B12 from eggs. It is a supernutritious food and it is cheap. I still can’t quite comprehend why many vegetarians consider eggs to be equal to meat though.

    Priit Raag

    28 Apr 11 at 3:16 am

  27. Have you read Eat, drink and be healthy by Walter Willett? It’s an incredible follow on to Pollan’s books in my opinion. I’m just starting it and so far it’s the most significant book I’ve ever read about food. I mention it because of your reference to the USDA recommendations, they were a big part of the inspiration for this book, because they’re so vague and in many ways just plain wrong.


    28 Apr 11 at 3:23 am

  28. This is just awesome research! Anyone with $3 can stay healthy. Amazing.

    Imran Hussaini

    28 Apr 11 at 4:07 am

  29. Apparently, it’s combining carbs and fats that are bad for you. I can’t find a web-site I remember (it was before I discovered but Google turns up a few related posts. The point that was made is that the Japanese live long healthy lives on a diet that’s almost pure carbs, while the Atkins diet gives similar results on an almost carb-free diet. Somehow eating super-sized amounts of a mix of the two triggers all sort of bad things.

    BTW, this post has been referenced by Hacker News today, which is why your getting a lot of readers after a year and a half. So, are you continuing to eat the foods you thought would be good? If not, why did you change?


    28 Apr 11 at 4:20 am

  30. This, sir, is awesome. Thank you.


    28 Apr 11 at 4:32 am

  31. All you anti-carb people don’t know what your talking about. Sweet potatoes and brown rice are both good carbs. You can’t live without carbs. You need to avoid bad carbs: added sugar, white flour, white rice, potatoes. The rule of thumb is brown is good, white is bad. Don’t drink soda or drink as little as possible. Same with most juices. Too much added sugar. Keep away from white grape juice. It’s added to many juices in place of sugar.

    Sugar and white flour are the big culprits in most western diets. Stay away from processed foods and you’ll stay away from them.


    28 Apr 11 at 5:32 am

  32. Man, are you Brazilian? Rice-and-beans is soooo Brazilian food, so much so that the expression goes for “everyday stuff”. If you do that diet for a while then come to Brazil you’ll totally feel comfortable LOL.

    Anyway, i do have a friend who says he’s been eating like 90% ramen for years now and seems pretty healthy. He says he’s living proof that this won’t kill you. Who knows? LOL

    I really dig your point, i.e. that eating well can be very cheap if you try. The details do not really matter. Appreciate.

    Marcio Baraco

    28 Apr 11 at 6:22 am

  33. As a sidenote: beans are actually one of my favourite foods, and although i am not a good cook, i would say that a good, spicy preparation of the stuff can make a lot of difference. As in: Beans the way we do it in Brazil are way better. As in: Beans do not have to be lame.

    Marcio Baraco

    28 Apr 11 at 6:26 am

  34. Best part, it’s all gluten free too! Good to know you can eat cheap, gluten free.


    28 Apr 11 at 6:41 am

  35. “Peanuts are the cheapest nut” Actually, peanuts are not nuts; they are legumes.


    28 Apr 11 at 6:48 am

  36. […] Mike Turitzin blog […]

  37. Great article, although I would suggest adding more protein and fats. I like eggs, gravy (turkey), and pastrami or corn beef. Yam or sweet potato with gravy and a little meat is awesome. I also bought a 11lb ham at safeway (last week in Portland) for $8.00. Also I do split peas, carrots, and lential. I’ll use the ham bone for the split peas in the crock pot. I roast garlic every night with olive oil and drink milk before I go to bed. In the morning I eat a few bananas, apples, oranges, or grapefruit depending on what is on sale. Also, a super cheap meal is French onion soup: saute onions in olive or sunflower seed oil on cast iron, and then add it to some boiling water with beef bullion; it will reduce your blood pressure and fill you up. Buy a cheap pressure cooker as well can you can cook your beans in 15 minutes. (3 qt one for $25 on amazon).


    28 Apr 11 at 7:35 am

  38. Great post! You’ve successfully busted the myth that a healthy diet is an expensive one, and I like how you’ve balanced diverse considerations to arrive at a practical, economical solution.

    Something to think about: One of the principles behind CRON (Calorie Reduced Optimal Nutrition) diets is that reducing caloric intake while maintaining high nutritional content promotes health and longevity. Another experiment would look at which foods are cheap by nutritional content instead of calories.

    Please continue your investigations and blog about them!

    Milind S. Pandit

    28 Apr 11 at 7:57 am

  39. Simply meeting RDAs for certain nutrients *is not* actually enough to stay healthy. For example, as @pratyk points out above, the notion of a high-carb intake being healthy is the old way of thinking. Most fitness people I know all suggest using the 30:30:40 ratio for caloric intake:

    30% Protein : 30% Fats : 40% Protein

    More here:

    I would suggest doing some research on the “Paleo” or primal style of eating and attempt to incorporate your cheap diet into that way of eating. Pumping animals with hormones was one of the reasons you opted out of eating “bargain meat”, but yet non-organic milk is loaded with artificially injected growth hormones, antibiotics, etc. Yikes.

    Mark’s Daily Apple is an awesome “primal living” resource:

    Mike Walker

    28 Apr 11 at 8:00 am

  40. We get by with B12 with nutritional yeast (which is fortified with the stuff, apparently). It’s a little weird at first, but adds a cheesy flavor while still being really healthy. Not too pricey if you buy it from the bulk bins, iirc.


    28 Apr 11 at 8:16 am

  41. Hi Mike,

    I’ve been a vegan for 15 years. A great cheap source of B12 is Nutritional Yeast.


    28 Apr 11 at 8:29 am

  42. With quality of produce like what you are getting from Safeway, you are sure to missing a billion micronutrients, vitamins and minerals.


    28 Apr 11 at 9:44 am

  43. compared to a diet of junk-food what you have proposed as a guideline here seems to be brilliant.

    Everyone knows everything about nutrition, hence you being bombarded with stats and links etc. Some is probably right, some probably isn’t.

    Just keep in mind that you’re not too far off the right tracks – a lot closer than fast-food.

    Great work mate. Eating healthy was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – placebo or not : )


    28 Apr 11 at 10:59 am

  44. […] online for tips on how to lose weight without having to spend a fortune. I recently came upon this article on how to eat healthily and only spend $3 a day. When I first read the title I thought it was […]

  45. […] Eating Healthily for $3 a Day ( […]

  46. Noticed that the Vitamin K amount and %RDA in the chart are negative – what should those numbers be?

    Lex Ein

    28 Apr 11 at 11:12 am

  47. And then there’s this:

    $18 a week instead of $21 :)

    It could use more fat in the equation, but nothing a $3 carton of eggs wouldn’t solve.


    28 Apr 11 at 11:44 am

  48. fantastic post. reminds me of college :/


    28 Apr 11 at 12:51 pm

  49. thanks for this post–I’ve been contemplating a similar experiment, and you’ve gone and done a bunch of research for me :)

    As others have already said, nutritional yeast is a great source of b12. As a vegan I eat it regularly.

    And as for calcium, there are plenty of vegan sources (google has a lot to say) that avoid the icky-ick of growth hormones etc in milk.

    One question: Are you concerned at all about organic foods? It raises the prices for each food item, but I always opt for it.

    Nathaniel Smith

    28 Apr 11 at 1:01 pm

  50. Replace cow’s milk and for maybe a buck more buy fortified soy milk. Just about all soy milks /tofu products offered in the market usually have added b12 (1glass of silk is 50% rda of b12) calcium, and other vitamins. Food for though :)


    28 Apr 11 at 1:08 pm

  51. Interesting experiment.

    Overall, we either pay slightly more for eating healthful foods on the front end, OR we pay much more in medical expenses and health care on the back end.

    Natalie Mann

    28 Apr 11 at 4:17 pm

  52. Funny, I do think I could eat that every day if I got creative about preparing it one way one day and another way the next!

    The BabbyMama

    28 Apr 11 at 4:48 pm

  53. costco lamb comes from NZ, supposedly grass fed/free range. might be a good source for meat if you can ignore that it is not local


    28 Apr 11 at 6:11 pm

  54. B12 can be found in nutritional yeast, which is tasty and not too expensive in bulk.


    28 Apr 11 at 8:56 pm

  55. Nutritional yeast is high in Vitamin B12, and cheap. You can sprinkle it on pretty much anything; it has a nice nutty cheesy flavor to it.

    Andy Mesa

    28 Apr 11 at 11:52 pm

  56. In five years of being the “kitchen manager” wherever I’ve lived, I’ve learned two things:
    * buying in volume and sharing costs with housemates, family, etc. is a great way to minimize costs
    * cooking for yourself is absolutely essential if you want to save money

    Thanks for the post, Mike. Like most of us, I’m just discovering it now. Fortuitous reposting timing, actually.. I’ll be posting the food purchasing data I’ve collected over the past 3 years at our own blog early next week:


    29 Apr 11 at 8:00 am

  57. lose the milk for better health.


    29 Apr 11 at 8:20 am

  58. […] Eating Healthily for $3 a Day <<It’s a common misunderstanding that healthy eating is expensive. It certainly doesn’t have to be. (Mike Turitzin) […]

  59. […] Eating Healthily for $3 a DayBad eating habits are quite common in the hacker community, so I decided to include this link. For me the main problem when it comes to healthy eating is having to work, but even there you can manage without too much overhead. […]

  60. @Priit Raag – some vegetarians (like me) consider eggs to be problematic for the same reason as we think milk is problematic: the needless slaughter of tens of millions of male chicks, and the slaughter of hundreds of millions of chickens for no reason other than a drop in egg-laying productivity. The same holds for cows (and male dairy calves).

    One thing that Mike might need to supplement on a quasi-vegan diet is IODINE – low iodine levels are a menace; it’s better to get it through a supplement than to use iodised salt (which has aluminium and processing residues in it). But I notice he has a couple glasses of nonfat milk, so that oughta do it – but the broccoli (being a brassica) will reduce iodine uptake – and that will already be compromised if you live in a fluoridated water area.

    I would also rotate some pulses through – red lentils, Puy lentils, Chickpeas, and Soybeans/Edamame; they’re all cheap. We’ve even made our own tofu at home (and it was sensational) and used the fibrous by-product to make burgers. We make Spicy Coconut Daal (red lentils, vege stock, coconut milk, green chillies, tomatoes and onions – takes 20 minutes to cook), Chickpea (Channa) Masala, Tofu Rendang (sometimes with ‘fake beef chunks’), Aloo Gobi (potato and Cauliflower curry), Tofu Panaeng (again, sometimes with fake beef chunks).

    Our main meals cost out at about $0.80-$1.60 per serve (excluding electricity), there is NOTHING ‘dull’ about them, and I can still bench my bodyweight (110kg) for 10 reps, easy. Can’t do pullups though… working on that this year.


    4 May 11 at 1:50 am

  61. […] recently came across a (kind of old) article about eating cheaply. Now I know I wrote about this rather recently, but while the premise is interesting, I find myself […]

  62. Vitamin B12? Eat Marmite. Has a bunch of other good stuff, and probably on par with the cost of a supplement.


    15 May 11 at 2:17 pm

  63. Good article overall! May i suggest the Fb page Vegan for 3.33 a Day if you want to avoid eggs and dairy for enviromental, ethical and health reasons. Namaste


    31 May 11 at 7:14 am

  64. I’m a vegan and as much as I hate to admit it, I supplement with b12 (from ) to avoid health problems.


    13 Mar 12 at 9:59 pm

  65. This diet is pretty nice. Please be aware, though, that it exceeds the DRI’s upper limit for vitamin A and Manganese.

    abl;a asd

    26 Mar 13 at 6:27 am

  66. This is awesome! I am going on a 2 week camping trip and can only spend $3 a day, so this is perfect. I can bring all of the foods on my trip except for milk….. do you have any suggestions


    20 Jun 13 at 1:28 pm

  67. Great article and great work, even all these years later, as it looks to have been published in ’09?

    I think all the people saying X is better than Y food or macro this versus macro that are missing the point. It’s a starting point. This is a proof of concept that it is indeed possible to eat heathlyish on and survive on a very small food budget. Does it *need* to be exactly as outlined? No. But with all the resources these days, you can eat on a limited budget and know what you are eating. Thanks for this inspiration!


    18 Aug 13 at 4:27 pm

  68. Hi,

    I think you will find this article interesting:

    It was the results of an optimization problem done on nutrients and food.


    30 Sep 13 at 8:02 am

  69. Just wondered upon this and was happy to see another person saving on food…I have been eating dark and lite kidney beans ( i switch each week) 3x a day , For dinner I add brocoli and brown rice for almost 5 years now and yes, a 2 cusp of milk for breakfast and lunch as a snack. Once a month I have 3 eggs and waffles with syrup for my breakfast so I have something to motivate me all month. I also buy a bag of pretzel rods for the holidays and eat that as a snack once a year around this time. Im perfectly healthy and my grocery bill is aprrox. 2000 dollars a year because I have two cats.


    22 Dec 13 at 5:58 am

  70. Uh, where’s breakfast? This doesn’t seem very palatable. I just can’t imagine it. It just seems like you overlooked some foods which are delicious and yet cheap like oatmeal, eggs, popcorn, cream of wheat, pancakes, veggie soup from scraps, etc. Also, adding a small amount of meat can add a tremendous amount of flavor. Same for a small scrap sharp cheese. Now, on the positive side, thanks for bringing up that a lot of people eat on the cheap. This article is a great jumping off point. I thought that a lot of your readers had some great suggestions. One thing I do is make muffins every week. They’re easy, cheap, and full of nutrition (I make them with flax and oatmeal). If you’re going to eat like this you need to plan and cook.


    11 Mar 14 at 8:21 pm

  71. My only question, why did you choose non-fat milk? I would’ve gone with 2% or whole milk.
    You said that you had a hard time getting enough fat anyway.


    29 Apr 14 at 11:11 am

  72. […] – After searching around on Google for budget friendly meal plans I settled on this website: This person recommended the following […]

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