As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I recently conducted an experiment to see how well I could feed myself for a day without expending any money whatsoever. To accomplish this, I ordered about $45 worth of food on Amazon. Rather than purchase it using money, I used earnings from Amazon Mechanical Turk. The food arrived last week, and I chose yesterday to perform the experiment.
Even though I had more dollars to work with this time ($45, vs. $26.01), this experiment was more challenging than my experiences during the SNAP Challenge, when I had to feed myself for an entire week with a budget of $31.50. This is because at local stores, I was able to find lower prices and, more importantly, smaller quantities of items I needed. Fresh food was also available.
Despite these hindrances, I ate quite well yesterday. Here’s what I had:
Since a box of pancake mix was part of my purchase, it’s only logical that I had pancakes for breakfast. I actually made them the night before, froze them, and heated them up in the toaster. I made plenty, and unlike during the SNAP Challenge, I had plenty to share. Therefore, my kids also had pancakes for breakfast. They had theirs with normal syrup and butter. In my case, I had neither. The least expensive sweetener I could find was the Agave Nectar, which was excellent, and much better than normal syrup. I had ordered this to use as a sweetener for other recipes, but for my one-day experiment, the only thing I used it for was the pancake syrup.
I had fried the pancakes in the Butter Flavor Crisco, which turned out to be the biggest surprise of this experiment. I had assumed that I could use this shortening for cooking, but it never occurred to me that it could actually be used as a butter substitute. As you can see, I decided to use a small amount in place of butter. Obviously, it wasn’t as good as real butter, but it actually passed as margarine. This is a good thing to keep in mind for emergency food storage. The Crisco has an essentially infinite shelf life, and could be used as a substitute for butter in an emergency. As you can see, I (and the kids) also had some of the summer sausage for breakfast.
Yes, it’s kind of weird to have lemonade for breakfast, but that was the only drink I had available. When I purchased it, it was the least expensive beverage to be found on Amazon. When I checked again today, it was still available on Amazon, but at an insanely high price for such a small package. The Cafe La Llave Espresso coffee was excellent, and only slightly more expensive than regular coffee.
For lunch, I could have gotten by simply be eating crackers and sausage from my sausage sampler. But I decided to try my hand at actually cooking something with my limited supply of ingredients, and made some biscuits. Despite their odd shape, they were actually very good. I simply mixed a cup of the pancake mix with about a half cup of Crisco (melted in the microwave for about 45 seconds) and a small amount of water, I baked them at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes.
That sounds like a cookie recipe, and they wound up looking like cookies. But they tasted great and were very filling. They turned out extremely crumbly, and I think I would have done better to use a little less shortening and a bit more water. As you can see, I turned them into a sandwich with the sausage.
All of this, of course, I washed down with lemonade and coffee.
I ate lunch rather late, and the biscuit sandwiches were extremely filling. For supper, I only had half of one of the Hormel Compleat dinners. (My son eagerly ate the other half.)
During the day, I also had some snacks of pancakes, sausage, and crackers from the sausage sampler.
From what’s left over, I could repeat an identical diet for about two more days. Some of the items (such as the Crisco) would be left over.
Was this a practical way to feed myself? No. I didn’t spend any actual money, but I could have used that $45 for other things. I could have had an almost identical diet for a day for about $5 and still have leftovers. So this is definitely not the most practical way of doing things. But what I wanted to demonstrate was that even without any actual money changing hands, it is possible to subsist by using whatever resources are available. In this case, the resource at hand was Amazon.
From a more practical point of view, the better course of action would have been to supplement normal groceries with staples from Amazon. The pancake mix I bought was very expensive for a single box, but by buying larger quantities, such as this 4 pack, the price becomes much more reasonable. I’ll be making use of the remaining five Hormel Compleat dinners, which were reasonably priced and are very convenient for a microwave lunch away from home. By shopping around Amazon, it would be quite possible to stretch a grocery budget by buying items with “free” money such as I was using. It’s also possible to purchase luxury items such as the Agave Nectar and the premium coffee at no cost.