Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Getting back on board.

Well, obviously I never finished writing about the experiment. I'm thinking about taking a new direction for this blog - writing about eating cheaply and well. As you all know, a large portion of the population eats on a three dollar a day budget. And while I wanted to explore the truth of living on that sort of budget through this blog, the fact of the matter is that writing about "suffering" (in the sense of having to deal with understaffed and underfunded public transit, walking to work, things of that nature) tend to feel very self-indulgent to me.

What doesn't feel indulgent is sharing information. What doesn't feel indulgent is educating people about their options - how to cook cheaply, eat cheaply, and more importantly eat WELL. Anyone can eat on a three dollar a day budget - but do it for a few years without any guidance or suggestions and tell me how your health problems start stacking up. The difficult thing is eating things that are relatively HEALTHY while eating on that kind of budget, and that's a trick and a half.

So. Whether there's interest out there or not, I'm probably going to start blogging about that soon. Look for a revamp of this blog shortly.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What a night.

I'll accept with poise, with grace / When they draw my name from the lottery - Jimmy Eat World, "Big Casino"

I've got a story to tell you that is only tangentially food-related, but I think you'll enjoy it and it does make sense in the context of this blog. It's all about my day yesterday and how, if I were the type of person who really was living on three dollars a day, the events of yesterday would have affected me far more profoundly than they have affected me. (For new readers: I have not yet begun the experiment. The "eating on three dollars a day, using my bicycle/public  transportation to get everywhere"part starts in June.)

I started out the day yesterday attending a luau at work. Yes, I got "lei'd" by someone from Human Resources, a joke that surely never gets old - but I had a good time talking to people from my department in a more casual setting and the food was good. Like, really good. When I mentioned eating free food in an earlier blog it was events like this I had in mind. The food was plentiful and masterfully cooked and it took some real willpower not to go back for seconds (or thirds!).

Anyway, after all the food was eaten we had a little raffle giveaway. Now, I'm sure this is confirmation bias or something similar, but I've always held myself as being uncommonly lucky. I've been to casinos dozens of times and only lost money once, and then it was only $2.50. I win games of chance more often than the average person, or at least it feels that way. So when I was chosen to pick the first winning ticket out of the raffle - well, it came as no surprise to me that I picked my own name. I won a twenty-five dollar gift card to Publix, a regional grocery store, and I immediately thought of this blog - after all, twenty-five dollars would buy almost two weeks' worth of food on a three dollar a day budget - but when a colleague who doesn't own a car won a twenty-five dollar gift card to a gas station, it only made sense to trade.

With my new, free gas in my car, I thought it'd be nice to take a trip over to Tampa and specifically to hit the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. After all, I was having a lucky day, it makes sense to try and make a little money while I'm at it, right? (I promise this isn't a story about how much money i won or lost; I wouldn't really brag about that unless it was enough to pay off all my bills).

To cut through a long story involving me winning money, at the end of the night I'd turned sixty dollars into two hundred dollars - or so I thought. As I reached into my pocket to put my newest shiny hundred dollar bill into my wallet, I noticed that my wallet was missing. Long story short, it appears some sly person stole my wallet while I was gambling. I've reported it to the police and so forth, but I started thinking: the biggest things I lost were the hundred dollar bill and my driver's license. (I also lost a professional license related to my job, but that's of lesser concern at the moment.) I've already hopped online and ordered a new driver's license (the state of Florida makes that surprisingly easy, much to my relief) and, truth be told, I won't miss the hundred dollars - it was money I'd won, after all, not earned.

But what if I had no internet access? I'd have had to go to the DMV to get a replacement license, possibly having to miss work in the process, something few people can really afford to do.  What if I'd been gambling with my rent money (as more than a few people are prone to do) - how bad would that have sucked, to have that stolen out from under me by someone who's likely a professional thief?

Even a small setback like getting your wallet stolen can be a major stumbling block for someone on a limited budget, even more so if you tend to carry cash (as many people I know do - poor credit leads to them being unable to get a "regular" checking account and so they simply cash their paychecks and carry the cash - which, of course, means they never establish proper credit and the cycle continues.)

Anyway, that's all for today. Here's hoping none of you get robbed this evening, it's a real bummer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Take me out to the ballgame

and i can tell you my love for you will still be strong after the boys of summer have gone - Don Henley, "Boys of Summer"

Let's talk about how we interact with food, shall we? I'm really just going to be covering one portion of that subject tonight, but I feel like it's an important aspect (and one that I'll go over in a more specific way in June).

There are lots of places that exist solely to sell you food, and many more that have the option of selling you food. This Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend a Tampa Bay Rays game, my first professional baseball game in around fifteen years. While the Rays didn't return me the favor by winning (or indeed, scoring), I was a little interested in seeing the food offered. You see, certain stadiums have a reputation for being particularly good gastronomically, others have a reputation for sucking. Tropicana Field is known for featuring some authentic Cuban food (by way of being located in Tampa Bay, which is a hotbed for that sort of thing).

On my way to my seat, which was excellent, I was assaulted by the choices offered. Along the first base side I was offered barbecue, pizza, burgers, and Cuban sandwiches (made, inexplicably, in the Miami style) before even getting to my seat. And once I got to my seat? The chorus really never stopped, even during at-bats. "Peanuts, getcha peanuts here!" "Carvel ice cream!" "Beer here! Ice cold beer here!" The only item genuinely tempting was the beer, and since it was what Greg of Stone Brewery would call "fizzy yellow beer" (Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light - so, four american pale lagers? What diversity!), I never even reached for my wallet. But time and again I watched people buy food when I'd just seen them eating, food I was certain they weren't genuinely HUNGRY for. They were eating because it was something to do during the game, they were eating because it was socially acceptable to eat.

That's the heart of the matter for a lot of us: we eat because we can, because we want to, not because we need to. I know I'm guilty of it, I suspect we all are. It's an attitude I'll have to change if I hope to successfully get through June.