People go nuts over dollar stores because, duh, everything is a dollar and they love to feel like they are getting a bargain even if they are just buying garbage. I've always had a mild phobia of dollar stores. When I walk into one I start feeling hot and claustrophobic and the smell makes me nauseated. I think about how the environment is being destroyed to create creepy trinkets that are completely useless and the child laborers required to mass-produce statuettes of down-syndrome-looking golden retrievers and I wonder about the quality of their lives. Bummer, right?
I realize people eat food from the dollar store all the time, but for me this was a terrifying prospect. Eating food from the dollar store would be a slap in the face to my smug organic vegetarian ways. I usually eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, and generally avoid processed food. Then I figured, "What the H," and decided to eat that shit for a week to see what happened. I also decided to create documentation of my feat because I was 90% certain I would be dead of lead poisoning by the end of the week.
Maybe you’re thinking “Big whoop, welcome to the real world, go cry into your flax soy omega 3 spirulina gluten-free protein shake”. I realize I'm privileged to have the choice to eat the way I do but if you know how to put meals together, read food content labels and have a basic knowledge of nutrition there is really no reason to not eat well, even if you do not have a lot of money. Eating unhealthily is just a bad habit that can be broken like any other. There. Rant over. On to the shitty dollar store diet.
The ground rules: Everything I consume for one entire week much be purchased from the dollar store including coffee, juice etc. I allow myself the luxury of tap water. I will try to buy as few brand names as possible because that’s kind of dodging the point and besides, not every dollar store stocks the same brands. They do however all stock eerily similar generics.
Shopping: I went to a variety of dollar stores to stock up on different foods and brands. 50% of the food on the shelves at independently run dollar stores are expired. Dollar stores do not sell dairy, fresh produce or frozen food which means everything I ate for the week came out of a can or package. This suited me fine because I am lazy and a bad cook. My entire week’s worth of food cost me $36, and could probably have lasted me two weeks.
Breakfast: Every morning I would start my day off with a cup of coffee which I think was just soil in a bag. I was actually able to eat pretty well for breakfast. I found some nearly expired Omega 3-6-9 infused oatmeal and devised a concoction of oatmeal, honey, apple sauce, and social tea biscuit crumbs. I mashed them together into a paste that looked like baby vomit but it was pretty tasty--especially by dollar-store-gourmet standards.
Lunch: I didn’t really eat lunch. I mostly just ate bags of cookies from the dollar store at my desk. Other lunch options included canned fruit, packets of crackers or a single can of tuna, possible the most depressing thing to eat in the entire world.
Dinner: I over-spiced everything in an effort to make it taste like food. Essentially all the food I ate was preserved using excess amounts of sugar or sodium. One night I made instant ramen vegetable noodles with a scoop of peanut butter which tasted like pseudo Pad Thai. I was particularly proud of my noodles-tuna-red sauce casserole with crumbled up cracker topping. However, the sight of my Dora the Explorer noodle soup with turd-like chunks of baby corn floating in it sent me over the edge one night and I started dry-heaving uncontrollably.
Taste: On the second day of the diet I developed a really really really bad taste in my mouth. It tasted like a combination of paint thinner and the worst morning breath ever. Two possible explanations: my insides are rotting or it is a result of replacing 2 meals a day with cigarettes. By the end of the week using a can opener to consume every meal no longer seemed strange. I could not even recall what food without preservatives tasted like.
Feelings: Eating this food made me really cranky. I consumed barely any protein so I had very low energy. The smallest task seemed like climbing Mount Everest, most of the time I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I even let my dog shit in the house so I wouldn’t have to walk him. I broke up with my boyfriend on the third day because I decided I “no longer had the energy to make another person feel good.” This diet sent me spiraling into a depression. Every tiny decision became an existential nightmare. I didn’t even want to eat food anymore. I just wanted to smoke cigarettes and lay in my bed and listen to sad music like some mopey teen. I realized I am a weak person. I was bummed out 24/7, I’m still kind of bummed out! I realized how much my life revolved around food before and how eating what I want to eat is directly correlated to my happiness. This made me feel fat. I never would have expected eating this way would have had such a swift and profound effect on my mental functioning. It was pretty scary. It made me wonder if other people experience these feelings as a result of their diet and whether or not they are even aware it may be because of their diet.
Hygiene/Body: My skin became more sallow than usual and really dry. My lips started cracking and bleeding. I was thirsty all the time, no amount of water could make me not thirsty. The top layer of my nails started to peel and flake off, they splintered and became jagged. Due to my lack of energy and depressive state I lost the will to look like a presentable human being and stopped showering for the latter half of the week. I did not wash my hair for 5 days, no wonder people on diets are miserable, this shit is the worst! Despite thinking I was going to bloat up like a balloon from water retention from the sodium, I somehow lost 5 pounds.
Bathroom: The grossest transformation my body underwent was in the BM department. My shit was fucked up from day one. I had diarrhea the day I started the diet and it lasted the entire week. My urine made the bathroom smell like a homeless person had been squatting in it. Yuck.
A lot of food from the dollar store is just really cheap food imported from other countries. There are a lot of products like canned vegetables, pasta, juice etc that are virtually the same as anything you would find in a supermarket except they all cost $1-$2. If you know how to read food labels properly you can avoid buying anything too harmful. However a lot of food sold there contains way too much sugar or sodium which is a bit of a problem if you don’t want to die of heart disease at 55. Also, I learned that it's a bad idea to eat cookies with no expiration date just because they have a funny name, as in a few hours you will be pooping liquid. Eating food from the dollar store completely changed the way my body functioned and while it did not kill me physically, it really, really messed with my mind.