This nonfiction book stemmed from a project taken on by two high school teachers in California. The high prices of groceries made them wonder what it would be like to live on just $1 a day. After a carefully planned trip to the grocery store, the two lived on $1 worth of food apiece for one month. The results were two tired, hungry, and cranky teachers. Later, they decided to try living on a little over $4 each day, a number they reached based on the allotments for families using SNAP assistance (formerly known as food stamps). The final section of the book consisted of their reflections on the project and their conclusions about the state of the American diet when restricted by income.
I will preface my review by saying that I lead a pretty frugal lifestyle and fancy myself a decent cook. This book did its job to spur a discussion in my household. It also taught me about the history of food stamps and made me realize how others think much differently about money and food than I do. My criticisms of this book revolved around the fact that they seemed snobby and uncreative when it came to food. They complained incessantly about eating oatmeal for breakfast every morning but didn’t try to make it taste better. In the second part of the book, they followed some suggested recipes that are available to SNAP recipients and complained about how awful the food was and the lack of nutritional value. They were vegans and bought meat substitutes to make the casseroles even though this surely hurt their budget. Why not just leave out the meat or substitute it with beans or lentils? I’m sure they could have made meals that were less expensive and more to their liking while still illustrating their points. The scene in the book that really blew my mind was when she forgot her water bottle at home and was so thirsty that she had to spend money to buy a can of pop from the vending machine. Even the most poverty-stricken schools (which was definitely not the situation here) have water fountains. When they finished their project, they claimed to be more conscious of their spending and had whittled down their monthly grocery budget to a little over $400. This amount seems absurdly high.
While this book was interesting and thought-provoking, it could have been better. A listing of their menus for the two months and a breakdown of their costs by item and by meal would have added value. Tighter editing would have been beneficial as well.
I guess I should do my own project and write my own book.
2 out of 5 stars