Inspired by Elon Musk’s commitment to eating hot dogs for a month (link to article), I thought i’d test my limits on spending an average of less than $10 a day on food for a year. Note that this included eating out, beer, snacks, buying friends/family meals and anything in between that involved eating. Although eating hot dogs everyday sounds like heaven, I also had to consider my nutritional needs of being a professional athlete running 100+ mile weeks.

But Why?

I know you all are probably thinking to yourselves, but why? Just pay the extra two bucks and get that cheeseburger made for you. If you can’t already tell, I’m addicted to numbers and excel. So naturally I try to compute and apply numbers to everything. In the case of saving money, let’s assume you put the money into your retirement fund and achieve the average stock market return of 7% a year and take your savings out after 40 years. If your penny pinching saved you $10 a day on food, your total savings for the year would be $365*10=$3,650.00. After 40 years of compounding interest, this amount would equal $54,656.77. That’s enough to fund your new spending diet for $54,656.77/$3,650=14.97 years after retirement. #Math

Where did I begin?

I started with what I needed from a nutritional standpoint veggies, carbs, fruits, et cetera and determined what the minimum cost could potentially be for each. For all of you project managers, I took the minimum viable product (MVP) on what I needed to operate from a sustenance perspective and the rest was nice to have money to spend on myself. Without a doubt, my budget was quickly gobbled up by fruits and vegetables as there were no cost cutting strategies around this (Gardening for me consists of growing weeds and killing plants). With whatever remaining budget I had, I began meal planning for the most bang for my buck. Here is what a typical day looked like for me:

 

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Tuna Casserole was a go-to for me as it met my 4 to 1 carbs to protein ratio for recovery and it was cheap and surprisingly palatable (don’t deny it till you try it!).

How did my year turn out?

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Tips and Tricks

  • Going out to eat adds up quick (Duh), where meals could range from $8.00-$18.00 depending on where you eat. That’s almost 2 days of budget for one meal… Doh! By simply making every meal each week, I ran under the $10 average easily even while eating like a horse. To avoid being a recluse, I typically trended much lower through the week so I could enjoy going out on the weekends. It all starts with planning!
  • Never do all your grocery shopping at one store! I found grocery stores had their niche markets for weekly sales and I could penny pinch more by buying accordingly. Aldi provided the cheapest/highest quality produce, Hyvee had weekly promos with killer sales, and Walmart provided consistently low prices.
  • Off brand products, in most cases, taste every bit as good as name brand products at a fraction of the cost. I’ll save you all the heartbreak of eating off brand cereal- don’t do it!
  • It’s not the end of the world if you’re off one day, week, or month, as long as you’re consistent over the long run and plan accordingly it’s very achievable.

​Sum it up already!

Saving money doesn’t have to equate to eating unhealthy or being a recluse, it involves proactive planning and being deliberate in not eating out when you don’t have to. Over the course of a year, I met my financial goal while meeting my athletic goal of qualifying for the Olympic marathon trials. How do you like them apples?