Monday, June 18, 2007

Custom titles and Chicken

Rather be dead, than alive by your oppression
-Refused, "Rather Be Dead"

Seems I pissed SOMEONE off on the Something Awful Forums, as I logged in today to find a fun little furry avatar waiting for me. I guess you got your SICK BURN in, random internet person.

No real news to report other than the fact that I made barbecue chicken tonight and it was the most wonderful thing I've eaten since the month began. It's so easy, too. The seven dollars that went towards buying two whole chickens will feed me for quite some time, so I can definitely justify it.

I'll write more later, but for now I just had to share my chicken-based happiness with you.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I need to take better care of my feet.

Eatin' red beans and rice with the rat's hole, it's nice or anything you wanna try.
-ZZ Top, "Down Brownie"

The title of today's blog isn't as witty as I'd like it to be, as it's just a literal statement of the truth. I've got to start taking care of my feet, especially with as much mileage as I've been putting on them lately. Today's seven miles of hiking proved the point more clearly than anything else so far.

I'll have pictures of me hiking later, as I forgot to put a media card into my digital camera, and so must wait for my friends to develop and scan their pictures. What really interests me today is the reaction this blog has gotten that you guys haven't seen.

I have had several people email me and comment on what a great, Christian thing it is I'm doing here. Now, unless I've just forgotten it, I've never actually mentioned my religious beliefs in this blog. I've always felt that if you just live your life in accordance with your beliefs, you don't have to wave a flag and let everyone know what religion you follow. Guess I was right.

One of the editors of a very cool e-zine called Wrecked for the Ordinary contacted me the other day about writing about the challenge for their site. On Wednesday, you can head over there to read a far more coherent version of the last few weeks.

I promise that tomorrow I'll write a lengthier, more prosaic post: right now my headache and sore feet are preventing me from thinking clearly. (My feet will still be sore tomorrow, but at least my head won't hurt. Hopefully.)

Currently full on: a bowl of spaghetti.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Buttons and baliwicks

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
-Professor Charles Xavier

Having had two social evenings in a row, my budget for this week is close to wrecked, which is all right because I've got such a ridiculous amount of stuff left over from last week that I could seriously not buy groceries this week and I'd be okay. Not great, but okay.

I went to see the Pine Hill Haints last night in Auburn, and while the bouncer was kind of a jerk to my underage friends, the show was enjoyable if extremely long. (On the subject of bouncers and minors: look, either you guys let minors in or you don't. If you don't, then you don't, if you do, don't be a dick about it, please.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I did drive to work today, but only because there was literally no other way to get to work on time. I'm not going to neglect my real, normal responsibilities for the sake of this experiment, no matter how authentic I might want it to be.

Home fries are the order of the day, at least for breakfast/lunch. I think I'll make spaghetti when I get home tonight; nothing says "I'm hungry and want to eat in 10-12 minutes" like making spaghetti. (If I'm really feeling ambitious, I'll make toast to go with it. Not garlic toast, mind you, because I can't afford all that. Just some toast to sop up the leftover sauce.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

I hunger.

I am extraordinary, I am just your ordinary average every day sane psycho
-Liz Phair, "Extraordinary"

I would have paid good money to hear the title of today's blog in the movie I watched last night. I went to a midnight premiere of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, because I've always been a fan of the cosmic side of comic books. Was I disappointed? Not really. I'm by no means a purist when it comes to movies based on things I've already read, so I was happy with it. The speech that was lifted directly from Ultimate Galactus was cool, even if it doesn't work as well with a Reed Richards who's older than seventeen, but I digress.

Today I have to confront the hard question of free food. To be more accurate, I had to confront the question last night and I have to tell you about it today. Last night, I deliberately placed myself in a situation where I would be offered free food.

I can hear the yells of "Cheater" reverberating around the internet now, so let me explain myself. One of my friends regularly performs acoustic sets outside a local pizza place, so patrons can eat their pizza at the outdoor tables and listen to Cure covers. It's not an unusual thing for me to go and watch him play, and so I didn't think that me going to his show, knowing that he'd offer me free pizza, was out of bounds. If so, all of you may feel free to deduct two slices of pepperoni pizza from my body.

I know if I were on food stamps and a friend offered me two slices of good pizza for free, I'd take it. I bet most people would.

Tonight is going to be challenging, because I'll be going to a concert in this bar and grill type place. In order for my underage friends to get in, I'll have to supervise them all night, not have anything to drink, and most importantly we all have to buy food. That's going to be a serious dent in this week's finances, but it's The Pine Hill Haints with The Wednesdays, and I'm dying to see that show.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Complete proteins for minimal costs.

Knowledge reveals itself once, making persuasion the knife...
-Saviour Machine, "Christians and Lunatics"

A man can do anything for a week. After that, it stops being an experiment and becomes a lifestyle. During the first week of this experiment, I was mad at the experiment. I grumbled and complained because of my hunger, I hated the way I felt, etc. Now that it feels more like a lifestyle, I'm just upset about my life.

To elaborate further on the last blog that I wrote, yes, I choked on a bit of roast yesterday, which put me off to the whole "eating roast" thing. To be more accurate, I gagged on a piece of fat. There's nothing in the world like having a partially congealed piece of fat stuck in the top of your throat, and in my experience, there's nothing that will make the rest of your food come up faster than that. I'm sticking to potatoes for the time being, at least they don't have any fat to get hung up on.

The rapid weight loss I was experiencing at the beginning of the month has tapered off. I suppose my body is getting used to operating on a different kind of fuel and working harder on that amount of fuel. I know it hasn't affected my irritability any at all - I just snapped on a woman who was trying to sell me advertising space when she playfully admonished me for not advertising in her publication. Sorry, anonymous Yellow Book salesperson, I didn't mean to be quite so harsh to you. Blame it on the low levels of sugar in my system.

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are certainly filling, and they provide a good blend of potassium and protein that will keep my energy levels high and consistent throughout the day. The problem is that after eating them for a few days in a row, it's hard to choke down that next one. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Tomorrow should be interesting, as I'll get a chance to skate for fun for the first time in a while. Maybe that will lift my spirits.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Too little time

I've not had any time to update this blog. Suffice to say that I got to eat well on Saturday because I was at a family reunion, but if I eat roast one more time I think I might vomit.

I think that because I choked on it and vomited this morning.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I am officially full.

So I'll chase this sunset until I reach it...
The Apprentice, "My Frustration"

If I were a congressman or governor, this would be the end of my challenge, and I'd be ending it on a high note. My belly is full, my feet feel fine, my only complaint is that my back aches and that's got nothing to do with the challenge. Yes, if I were ending after a week, I'd say that it's definitely possible to do this.

The thing is, I'm almost out of the stuff I bought this week, and I know that I've got a little over three weeks to go on the challenge, meaning that I can't give such a happy, glowing report. I know that I've got to continue walking to work, I've got to continue eating sparingly (except for nights like tonight when I stuff myself), and I've got to keep in mind that I'm doing all of this for a reason, because otherwise it is way too tempting to order some Chinese food and eat until I feel sick.

It's hard for me to focus on this blog when I've got so much going on in my life aside from the challenge, so you'll have to excuse this rut of short entries that I've fallen into. I promise I'll describe my hunger pains in more vivid detail later.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It's hard to make sandwiches interesting.

And here in my Garden Of Eden there’s a coming thunder
Well maybe if it tears me to pieces it will kill this aching hunger
- Steve Vai, "Aching Hunger"

The title of this blog is probably the truest thing that I've written so far. It's very difficult to make eating sandwiches and rice interesting, because frankly it isn't.

I walked to work again today, and noticed that I am rapidly wearing out the back of my Vans. To be fair, I only paid twenty dollars for them, but I'd expect better life out of these shoes. It's got to be hell on people who can only afford five dollar Target or Wal-Mart shoes, whose soles and backs would assuredly wear out faster than my Vans (trust me, I've owned my fair share of five dollar shoes in my life).

While the monotony of eating the same thing day in and out continues, there is hope on the horizon. Either tomorrow or Friday, I'll be going to get new groceries, and with that development comes some diversity in my diet, and hopefully some exuberance for eating. It was three in the afternoon today before my stomach finally decided to be hungry enough to choke down a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly, because I can't afford it).

My feet are sore, my disposition is sour, and I'm eating some more red beans and rice in between typing sentences in the blog.

Maybe the chicken will have me feeling more creative.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

In Which Nick Gets Confronted, and Photographs are Demanded

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
- Douglas Adams, "Life, the Universe, and Everything"

And I bet you guys thought I was going to open every blog post with lyrics.

Today was a day plagued by mistakes that I'd made twelve hours beforehand. When I made the decision to leave my bicycle at work yesterday, I left my messenger bag there with it. That meant that when I went to put on my sunglasses this morning, they were gone - sitting in my messenger bag, six miles away, complete inaccessible. The same goes for my bandanna, which I normally tie over my poor, unprotected bald head to try and stave off sunburns and/or skin cancer. The theme of this week has been paying for past mistakes - I've been eating repetitively because I bought food impulsively, I burnt the top of my head because I forgot to grab my messenger bag, I walked without music because I forgot to charge my iPod, and so on.

Upon my arrival at work, I ran into the previous owner of my shop. Caught in the act of transporting myself to work, he asked me if I'd given up driving. I'm not doing this for attention, and there's no real way to talk to people about this without coming off as an attention whore, so the only people I've talked to about this experiment "in real life" are friends of mine, people who I think would understand my motivation without me having to explain it. I told him that I was walking and biking to work this month to try and lose some weight (in my case, an admirable goal, but not really the point of this experiment). He let it go at that.

"But if you're not doing it for the attention", the unwashed masses cry from their computer desks, "then why are you maintaining a blog?" The answer is this: I'm documenting the experience. Six months from now, six years from now, when I've forgotten what it's like to come home and have only a small bowl of rice and beans to feed my churning stomach until I awake the next morning and slice a single potato into bits, I'll be able to look back on this and remember what it was like. Hopefully, as I go through the experiment, others will learn from what I am experiencing. Perhaps it will teach all of us to look at food stamp recipients in a new light. Perhaps it will lead to a new era of understanding and brotherhood in humanity.

Probably not.

This is my bowl.  There are others like it, but this is mine.

This is my bowl of red beans and rice. It is all I am eating for supper tonight. As you can see, it contains a generous portion of carbohydrates, a full protein to ensure the continued existence of my meager muscle mass, and a generous splash of Crystal Hot Sauce. As you can also see, the exterior of my Crock Pot is filthy and I need to get around to cleaning it.

That's all I'm eating tonight. That's it. It's been pointed out to me that if you can see what I'm eating, if you can see how my budget reduces my ability to sit down and enjoy a meal over an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you might better understand the experiment.

I want you to understand what I am doing. I want you to be aware that while this is just a social experiment of sorts for me, it is life for 10% of Americans. Be aware.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rations: They're Not Just For Combat Anymore

Oh, I'm living on a dollar a day - you think I'm kidding,
I'm for real, I'm starving on the streets of Mobile!
Pine Hill Haints, "Living on a Dollar a Day"

Today is the day when the realities of my little experiment set in. It's one thing to walk to work a few times, another entirely to restrict your diet. The fact of the matter is that staring at a candy bowl all day is starting to get to me, and it is (at times) taking some Green Lantern-like willpower in order to keep from breaking my social agreement with myself, so to speak.

The caffeine headaches are largely over, it would seem, but the hunger pains have started. I am sure that what I am feeling now are not "true" hunger pains, because while I am not eating nearly as much as I was before the experiment started, what I am eating is very filling. These are more like phantom pains: my body knows that I'm not eating as much as I used to, and it's rebelling against that.

I biked to work today, which is significantly more difficult than I thought it would be, and considerably more difficult than walking to work (though admittedly faster). If anything, the presence of a bicycle painted an even larger bullseye on my back as far as motorists were concerned: the amount of hatred that can be transferred from an SUV moving at sixty miles an hour to a bicyclist riding as far to the right as possible without going into a storm drain is unwieldy to write out without using scientific notation.

All I can think about all day is food, at this point. How much food I have available to me, the last time I ate food, the next time I'm going to eat food, the next time I'm going shopping for food (which honestly seems like a Lewisian trip through a wardrobe to a fantasy land of wonders and excitement at this point), food, food, food, food, FOOD.

I was asked today how my sandwich and baked potato was, which is what I had for lunch on Saturday. I responded that I was rationing my potatoes for the remainder of the week to make sure I had a good breakfast of home fries available to me every day. I'm having to ration potatoes, POTATOES - the staple of any poor person's diet, or at least any poor person with (ostensibly) Irish blood running through their veins like myself.

I'm rationing potatoes. If I'm having to ration potatoes, can you imagine how a single mother with two or three children does it? Can you imagine the shame and sadness and anger she must feel when she has to deny her children things like McDonalds or ordering pizza? I'm rationing potatoes, she's having to tell her kids "no" when all she wants is to say "yes". My experiment can't hold a candle to the real thing.

One of the hardest things I've had to do this year was forcing myself to eat slowly when I got home. At that point I hadn't eaten in about seven hours, and the last thing I'd had to eat was a single turkey sandwich, made with two pieces of toast (including the heel of the first loaf of bread I bought), some mustard and four slices of Carl Budding Honey Turkey. I made poor decisions this first week, though I'm proud to say that if you look at things objectively (fat content, sodium content, etc.), everything is fairly healthy. I haven't resorted to Ramen noodles, I haven't even made pasta yet (which is definitely coming in the future).

I said that it was hard to force myself to eat slowly. One of the first things you'll be told if you ever go through a weight loss program is to eat your food more slowly, because you will feel more full if you eat more slowly, or so they tell me. I forced myself to eat slowly to try and feel full, to stop myself from just swallowing everything whole, and to try and enjoy my red beans and rice.

It didn't work.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A day off, envy, and planning ahead

These are the pros and cons of hitchhiking
- Roger Waters, "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking"

While I haven't been doing any hitchhiking, I have been doing a good deal more walking this month than I normally would. Friday and Saturday I walked to work, a six mile walk. Yesterday I developed small blisters on the bottoms of each of my feet, just beneath my big toe. What did I do with my "day off"?

Me at the danger sign

I went hiking. A short three-mile trip around Providence Canyon State Park provided a nice distraction from thinking about food, looking at frugal cooking websites, and re-reading all the cookbooks and cooking-related zines I have around the house. (For the record, some of my favorite recipes have come from zines found in a livejournal community.)

I love the open air. It gives me a chance to think, and simultaneously to stop thinking entirely. It was the latter that I wanted to do today, because most of my thoughts lately have been about the subject of this blog, about the challenge, about what it must be like to live this way every day of your life. A chance to escape from that was welcomed, and taken.

Wiley marks his territory.

One of the features of the three mile loop around Providence Canyon includes some rusted, abandoned cars. The signs around the area indicate that the cars were left there at an old homestead before the park became a park. (The canyon, for the record, was formed by soil erosion as a result of poor farming techniques.) The cars cannot be removed because removing them at this point would do a considerable amount of damage to the surrounding areas.

It hammered home that our actions have consequences that last far beyond our time. The decision to abandon four or five cars at a homestead has changed the landscape of that area for at least several more decades, and will in fact continue to shape it until the metal eventually deteriorates. Several woodland creatures have made homes instead the metal hulks, which undoubtedly gives them better protection against the elements than the canopy of trees overhead.

I took my time getting around the loop, making sure not to further exacerbate the blisters on my feet. While they'd healed somewhat overnight, I didn't want to make things any worse than they needed to be. A home remedy/prevention measure of putting a little Vaseline on the hot spots turned out to work quite well, so my blisters are, in theory, still healing. I'll likely be bicycling to work tomorrow to avoid further stress on my feet so that the blisters can fully heal.

I returned to the grocery store today to buy peanut butter and another loaf of bread. A staple of any budget-conscious diet, the peanut butter will provide protein that my diet is currently lacking, and requires a minimum of prep time. The additional loaf of bread was just a precautionary measure, as I still have four slices of bread from my original loaf.

The red beans I purchased on Thursday are currently in the crockpot, along with the remainder of my Vidalia onion. The Vidalia onion will provide a slightly sweeter taste to the dish than is normal, but I don't think Tony Chachere or Al Copeland will be showing up at my doorstep to protest my bastardization of Louisiana cuisine any time soon.

And as I leave the computer to go check on the beans, I have this for you: the view that was given to me after an hour and a half of hiking. Enjoy.

The view

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Blisters and Leftovers

I'm a potato and I'm so hip
-Devo, "I'm a Potato"

Walking six miles when you're completely unused to it can be taxing. Your back will get stiff, you will most likely sweat (and if you're doing it in Georgia, like I am, it could be in December and you will still sweat), and if you're wearing shoes that don't fit well, socks with the wrong kind of seam, or any number of other factors, you're going to have blisters on your feet.

The day started out better than yesterday did - I woke up in enough time to cut a slice off my trusty Vidalia onion and chop up a potato to make home fries, which was one half of my breakfast (along with two pieces of toast and a glass of water). I was slightly amused by the fact that I was going to be eating a potato with every meal today - home fries for breakfast, a baked potato as a side dish for lunch, and leftover roast for supper. We are a meat and potatoes nation.

But, unfortunately, after breakfast it was time to walk to work, and you've probably guessed the results from the first paragraph, I developed small blisters on the skin just beneath my big toe on both feet. From my best guess, they were formed because of the type of sock I wore today - an unlucky choice with an unwelcome result.

It's remarkable what a difference a little heat will make to a meal. My cold sandwich was much like the cold sandwiches yesterday - palatable, but not particularly appealing. The difference for today was the potato. Microwaving a potato is probably the least appetizing means of baking it, but having a hot meal has a palpable effect on the spirit. It makes you forget your sore feet and aching back. It's just good, in some fundamental way.

Overcast skies and competing events kept most people away from the shop today, so I had a lot of time to plan future meals (and do all of my usual workday activities - play Super Smash Brothers and other incredibly taxing activities). I've got some exciting ideas about next week's grocery purchases, and I hope everything turns out the way I've got it in my head.

The leftover roast was good, and it drove home something I need to keep in mind - we are a wasteful nation. Many people (at times, myself included) will simply refuse to eat leftovers. They're unwilling to subject themselves to what they view as "second class" food (or, as my sister used to call it, "recycled" food). Like the twenty-five million Americans on food stamps, a good portion of this month will be made up of leftovers for me, simply because it's easier to make a large meal and divide it into several days worth of servings than to make a new meal three times a day.

If my blisters have healed themselves by tomorrow morning, I'll be hiking in the morning. The three mile loop that I have planned should be a nice change from six miles of urban terrain.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Walking is Still Honest

This is a song about the loss of innocence.
- Wolfmother, "Vagabonds"

Two musical references before I've even started the post proper, I must be on a roll today. I went to bed hungry last night, which seemed notable because I can imagine a lot of people end up doing that every night in this country. Specifically, I went to bed hungry and with the feeling of acid reflux creeping up my throat, which if you haven't been fortunate enough to feel that, imagine being strangled from the inside by a midget whose hands are made of carbolic acid. It's fun.

This morning was one of the most stressful meal preparations of my entire life. As I started to prepare my crockpot roast, I realized that if I managed to screw this up, I'd be out of three meals. I'd called my father last night and gotten his recipe for the roast I grew up eating, and was shocked at how stupidly easy it was to make: chop up onions, carrots and potatoes, place in crockpot with beef, cook on low all day long. Online recipes suggested browning the meat beforehand or adding almost ridiculously specific amounts of spices, water, etc. I chose to do it my father's way, and when I left my house this morning, I had to trust that everything would turn out all right.

I imagine that those who are dependent on foodstamps spend a lot of time doing exactly that: trusting that everything will turn out all right.

Walking to work was as much an experience as I expected it would be. The last time I walked that far to specifically get somewhere (as opposed to walking for exercise) was the last time I visited Malden, Massachusetts, and before that it was when I was fifteen years old and walking everywhere. I'll say this: pedestrians freak the motorists of my city right the hell out. They see someone walking along the side of the road (which in my city involves walking in grass, as sidewalks appear to be some sort of myth, perpetuated by dwellers of larger and more congested cities) and they've got no idea what to do. Am I a hitchhiker, come from some arcane and pagan area of Europe? Am I, perhaps, homeless? Almost every car that encountered me today gave me a berth usually reserved for nuclear weapons. (Those that dared venture closer, of course, threatened my very life and limb.)

My sandwiches for lunch were palatable but otherwise forgettable, most likely setting the tone for the month. I was hungry upon reaching work, having only had toast for breakfast (my own fault, as I have the ingredients for home fries available to me), but I rationed my lunch throughout the day, waiting a few hours to eat the first sandwich, then another few hours for the second.

Was I hungry throughout the day? Yes. Was that my biggest problem, health-wise? Not in the slightest. Like fifty-four percent of adult Americans, I'm addicted to caffeine. By three in the afternoon, I was suffering the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal: a pounding headache, irritability, and nausea. Getting some coffee is going to be high on the list of priorities, whether it's my usual nice stuff or Folgers. (Either that, or I am going to be miserable for the next week to two weeks.)

So that's the portrait of me at work today: miserable, nauseous, headache-y, and worrying that when I got home, my roast was going to be some ruinous mess of au jus and soggy vegetables. Well, once I got home, I found that my worries were for nothing - my house was resplendent with the fragrance of onions and beef. Every bite was succulent, the potatoes being especially filling. A nice end to a worry-and-cheap-food-filled day...

and I only have to do it for twenty-nine more days. Roughly twenty-five million Americans do it every day, forever.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The First Grocery Run

Some say that the poor are incapable of planning for the future, and that the reason for their poverty is to be planned on their lack of foresight and poor judgment. I would argue that these people aren't looking at the problem of budgeting the same way that a welfare or food stamp recipient has to look at it.

I went shopping today for the first week of my personal food stamp challenge. Everything in me told me that the common sense, logical thing to do was to buy some stock foods in bulk, to prepare for the whole month instead of just preparing for the upcoming week. That's the sort of grocery pre-planning that I'd normally engage in, as anyone who's been to my house can attest.

It quickly became clear that buying for the future is distinctly more difficult on a three dollar a day budget than it would normally be. While buying in bulk might be cheaper in the long run, it's awfully hard to justify spending eleven dollars on one item when that's over half your available funding.

With buying in bulk in mind, I made my first mistake of the food stamp challenge. My first stop wasn't the grocery store near my house, but the warehouse grocer across town. The lure of two whole chickens for only seven dollars was a strong one, but once I took a hard look at the money available, it became evident that I should try buying more diverse groceries rather than more abundant ones. If I'd made that mistake after the walking/biking/skating restriction began tomorrow, it would have been a serious misstep as opposed to a minor inconvenience.

the recipt for the first week's shopping

Here's my receipt for the first week's shopping. After leaving Sam's empty-handed, I walked into Publix hungry, which is the worst time to go shopping. As a result, I bought things that my stomach wanted at the moment instead of thinking about the entire week ahead.

First week's groceries

Two different types of lunch meat along with the bread and mustard will make up the majority of my lunches. I had money left over at the end of my shopping trip, so I could have afforded to buy some sliced cheese, but I decided to hang onto my change in the hopes of adding that to next week's budget and buying some slightly higher-priced ingredients next week.

The potatoes and carrots will last into next week, but will largely be used up in my crockpot (seen in the background of that photograph) tomorrow along with the "beef for stew". I'll be making a sort of beef stew tomorrow, which will figure heavily in my supper plans for the week. The rice and beans are a sort of standby - I (luckily) have a great love for cajun cuisine, and red beans and rice is an absolute staple of that diet. The Louisiana-born Crystal hot sauce that you see in the foreground of that photograph will add to that (and will probably be used liberally on some of the sandwiches as well, as I am an absolute fiend for hot sauce).

All in all, I spent $14.32 on this trip to the grocery store, leaving me with a remainder of $6.68 for the rest of this week. I'm trying to approach the budgeting on a week by week basis, but it's nice to know that I have a bit of a cushion going into next week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Three Dollar Challenge

Three dollars. Pocket change for most people, enough to buy a gallon of gas if you're lucky. For the people who are likely to be reading this blog, three dollars equates to three iTunes downloads, a pack of cheap cigarettes, a bottle of Mountain Dew, something along those lines. In short, three dollars, for most of us, is a diversion, a habit, an addiction at best.

For almost one tenth of Americans, three dollars is a full day's food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks in between have to be purchased on three dollars - the amount most of us would tip on a decent dinner. As seen elsewhere on the web, four Congressmen and one Governor recently underwent the Congressional Food Stamp challenge, living for one week on this thinnest of budgets. For one Congressman, the week ended poorly when his remaining food was taken by a TSA agent as he traveled. That one instance shocked me - with one person's actions, another person's entire food supply was wiped out for the remainder of the week.

It was that action that spurred me into starting this blog and challenging myself. For the month of June, I will eat and drink only things that I can afford with my three dollars a day. In addition, I will either bike, skate, or walk to my place of business every day (or if money permits, I'll take the bus, but that's less likely). Eighty eight percent of welfare recipients have an annual income that falls below the poverty line in America, and for one month, I will live as one of them. No credit cards, no white middle-class safety net that I'd be able to construct will be used - it'll just be me, my three bucks a day, and all of you guys reading along.

Tomorrow I will go grocery shopping for the first week of the challenge. I'll let you know what I buy, what I plan to make with it, and we'll evaluate how much money I have left for the month and how I plan to use it. The day after that, I start walking to work and the challenge really begins.