I’m curious how you eat on $30/week. Even if it’s just rice and beans, for that amount of money, just the energy required to pick up and cook the food as well as dispose of the waste would be a significant fraction of the costs. Can you explain how you’re able to survive on $30/week?
The kind of diet I imagine you have eating on $4/day is probably largely simple carb based and nutrient poor. (Cereal, Ramen, Rice, Beans, etc.) I think that Soylent is relatively cheap, meaning that it would be hard to have a nutrient complete, balanced diet for less.
We don’t know what you’re eating, where you’re from or anything like that, so it’s hard to judge, but $4/day would leave me with a very poor diet here.
I could do 1 “meal” of soylent per day ($3.01 for 730 kcal) followed up with $1 of the cheapest white rice available here (363g of raw rice = 1345kcal) and that would get me over 2000 calories and 1/3 of the DRI for each nutrient.
That’s much closer to a good diet than spending all $4.00 on cheap food would give me. But again, I’m in Japan and it’s kind of expensive here; that may not be as good an option for you. If it’s still too expensive, then you might want to wait a year or two for the price to drop.
If you buy 1 month at a time, it’s $2.83/meal. You say you’re on a $30/week budget, which means you actually have a $4.30/day budget. I’m actually on a 1800kcal/day diet, so I could do 950kcal of soylent (43% of a soylent “day”, or 1.3 “meals”) for $3.67 and eat 840kcal of rice for $0.63. That’s actually only 1790kcal, but you get the point.
In that scenario I’d be getting nearly half of all the micronutrients; it would take a ton of work to put together a grocery list that gives you the same thing for $4.30… in Japan.
I would look into some of the DIY stuff. My recipe is roughly $4.50 a day and I’ve seen one’s as low as $2.20 a day. Part of the initial cost here is that this is a startup company looking for funding and this is being done on a much larger scale than any at home thing so costs tend to go up a bit.
If you like the idea. Surf around on the DIY site and see if you can’t find something that you can afford on your budget for now and then keep an eye on the price of Soylent. It’s been mostly speculation, but it’s expected that the price drops after the initial batch and more orders roll in.
It’s actually relatively easy for a single person to eat on $30 and still be healthy where I am in Maryland, especially because most foods are sold for families and not in singular packages, so one unit will last about a week (especially true for fruits and veggies). I buy certain foods in bulk, like frozen tilapia and chicken, which is a large up front cost but evens out to my weekly goal over time, eat kidney beans to supplement the rest of my protein needs (I only eat meat once a day), buy whole grain pasta and oatmeal in bulk for carbs, and use the rest of my money on assorted vegetables and fruits. My diet is limited, but it’s good for me because I have a sensitive stomach. That’s the shortened version of it, I do have SOME variety, but those are my staples. lol.
$30 a week may not be optimal, but it is what I would consider a “cheap” meal plan to be for a single person. $65 a week isn’t entirely unreasonable, but I don’t think it’s cheap, though I do understand the limitations of a young business so I guess I shouldn’t have expected it to cost less. Thanks for the DIY tip though! Looking into it now (:
I think that any discussion of cost also needs to factor in time and convenience of all the associated activities: Grocery shopping, travel, meal preparation, cleaning, storage, disposal, wastage. And that’s not even talking about opportunity cost.
The difference between my physical money and the time I put into all of the other things you listed is that I can take from my free time and instead use my time to create meals (I don’t pay for travel to the grocery store because I walk there, and the cost of cleaning materials is negligible because they last most of the year), however I literally cannot take money from any other aspect of my life in order to pay for more/different food. I have no savings, my money goes directly to my other needs such as rent, utilities, medical expenses, travel expenses to and from work, and an emergency account (which I end up draining fairly often).
I just want to iterate, what may seem like a relatively cheap option to some of you is not for someone like me who is relatively poor. Food stamps for an individual person are $30/week, which is what I would consider to be the starting point for a cheap food alternative: something a poor person can buy. If a poor person can’t afford it, then it’s not really cheap, is it?
It occurs to me that if you have surplus time and insufficient money, one solution is to convert time into money, possibly through part time employment, freelancing, mturk, etc.
Every person’s situation is different, but I suspect that even at minimum wage in inner city baltimore, the opportunity cost of the time spent shopping/cooking/etc is larger than the additional expense of soylent for equivalent nutrition.
A reasonable response is that you might enjoy all of these activities for their own sake, which is fair, but that would obviate the need for soylent in the first place.
So in order to afford a cheap food substitute, I have to get a second job? You can’t seriously be suggesting this. It occurs to me that you don’t understand the realities of the minimum wage, part time work, or low income households, nor do you understand that “free time” is not equivalent to surplus time. Also, how does getting a second job solve the problem of not spending time on food and food preparation? Essentially I’m trading off time spent making food with time spent earning enough money to not have to make my food, either way I’m sacrificing my free time, which makes your argument of this saving me time completely moot.
Sure, I don’t know you, I don’t know your situation, but I’m just making suggestions, and it’s probably more likely to be of immediate help than you waiting for a soylent 50% price reduction, but if you’d rather wait, that’s up to you.
If the issue with your “free time” is that it has varied duration and/or varied timing, flexible working arrangements are possible to accommodate your situation. This varies from job to job, from something inflexible like shift work to something basically whenever you feel like doing like mturk.
If there the tradeoff was 100% then sure there are no efficiency gains, but it’s typically not. YMMV, but suppose it’s a XX% tradeoff. Is gaining 100-XX% more free time and/or money worth making the change for?
Finally, what you spend your time on is surely as important as how much time you spend. If you think gainful employment is less enjoyable or meaningful or useful than assorted food preparation activities, fine.
This is about to turn into a discussion of the extreme costs and inefficiencies of poverty. Calling soylent cost prohibitive because the start up cost is 300-400 (blenders, storage, buying in bulk etc.) is the same reason a lot of the poor in america find it cheaper to buy one meal at a time at mcdonalds than to shop in bulk for better quality cheaper food at walmart/safeway.
Their long term goal is to get it down to the $1/day range. But, they’re about 1 order of magnitude off, and it’s pretty clear that right now it’s too expensive for people with budgets like @slavigna’s.
When considered in terms of $/calorie, it’s definitely not cheap, in fact it’s downright expensive. But I think even at its disappointing initial price it’s cheap in terms of $/nutrient. The point isn’t that you get all 2000 calories with a simple drink, it’s the other stuff that really matters.
I suggest you try to spend some time looking up the nutritional information of each ingredient you use for an “average day” of food. (Maybe use DIY soylent to make it easy, if you are unfamiliar with spreadsheets) Count it all up and see how your current diet stacks up to $30 of soylent with you micronutrients.
That will give us a better sense of your situation. It will also give you a better sense of the value that we’re talking about.
My personal recipe (http://diy.soylent.me/recipes/abc-andys-bachelor-chow) is currently about $4.50/day. I know that’s a little above where you’d like to be, but there are a couple areas where costs could be trimmed. For instance, I’m currently using organic whole milk, as that’s what my kids drink, but you could use conventional instead, which would cut the cost of that ingredient. I also have a couple of name-brand ingredients that could easily be changed to generic (and likely will be the next time I go shopping!) You might also experiment with soy protein instead of whey, as that’s the single most expensive ingredient in many of the recipes. When my current jar of whey runs out, I’m going to switch to soy to see how it goes.
My food budget is not as tight as yours, but cost is defintiely still a major factor for me. I’d like to shave about $1/day off my recipe, and I feel confident you could push it down to about $3/day.
That would be awesome for families! I know I can feed my entire family of three for less than the current price of Soylent for an individual for one month with real, whole foods (very minimal processed junk - I do have a teenager) and that includes household goods (toilet tissue, cleaning supplies, etc.)
I just tallied up that I spend $1400 a month on food. Thats food only mind you. I have a very healthy red wine habit. This thing is gonna save me so much money (that will go into wine).
Jumping in on this necro thread.
Reading through it, I can’t help noticing that the debate here is a common one, and it centers on a distinction we don’t often make, and rarely do we make it properly: cost vs. value.
Everyone who defends the price/cost of Soylent is defending it from a value standpoint. Those who have issue with the price/cost of soylent are taking issue from an economic standpoint. These are fundamentally different things.
My personal opinion is that the value is very high, even though the cost is actually going to be slightly burdensome at first. My monthly budget for 2 people to eat is $600 in Seattle, which doesn’t go nearly as far as it should being such a high amount. But almost 200 of that comes from food stamps, so for a while, we’re going to have some gaps to fill in order to feed 2 people Soylent, and nothing but Soylent, almost every day of the month.
The price is a bit high to be referred to as “cheap” for someone who has so little money to spend on food that they can make basically one choice, and it must be based upon economics. It’s difficult to compel someone with $30 a WEEK for food (That’s 3 days of food per person in my household) that they are doing themselves a favor by forcing them to spend money they really, truly damn don’t have on things like health insurance, or nutrient-rich foods.
Those who refer to it as cheap tend to be considering the value of things that are somewhat difficult to quantify, and definitely different from person to person. Typically by people who can afford to give a damn about the long term. Frankly, that’s not everyone in the USA, nor worldwide. Lots of people are in a situation similiar to @slavigna and this is SO not the place to discuss my opinions about how we should go about solving the problem of low wages and wealth inequality.
I guess my thoughts ramble me to here: those of us who can afford - even if barely so - to get Soylent now should at least appreciate that our perspective on the value of Soylent is one born out of a certain degree of relative affluence, and that Soylent is not - yet anyway - truly affordable in price/cost for everyone yet, in spite of the real value Soylent may offer any of us who look forward to consuming it.
This map was uncovered in a related thread, but seems most relevant here.
It shows the average amount people spend on food in different countries, both in terms of % of income, and absolute value (normalized to USD) if you click on the map and mouse over each country.
In the US, people spend about $2200 per person per year on food. That is the lowest in terms of % of income in the world, but quite high in absolute terms, relative to China, India, South America and Africa. Most of Europe seems to spend more, though - up to $4000/person/year in Norway. In Japan we spend $3200 on average, which is exactly how much Soylent would cost.
Jeez – I’m really pretty disappointed to hear comments like this. A couple years back I fed two people and four cats on $80 / month in a rather expensive city.
Here’s a quick primer on how to eat like the rest of the world in a 1st-world country:
- Purchase a 20-lb. bag of rice. Cost $13 - $15. Cooks up to 70 - 80 lbs of food.
- Purchase lentils, peas, black beans, or various other legumes. You’re going to want to spend $1.00 / lb. or less and each lb. of dry weight cooks up to 3 - 3.5 lbs. of food.
- Each day, use rice and legumes as the basis for your meals. This will deliver between 1/3 and 2/3 of your calories daily. When not consuming soylent, a person typically needs about 3 - 5 lbs. of food per day to live. This means your theoretical minimum is going to be around $1.25 / day. But more often, you’ll be spending closer to $2.00 / day.
- On top of your base of rice and legumes, you’re going to want to add some fresh veggies and meats. The cheapest veggies tend to be the things that grow in the earth: onions, potatoes, carrots. You can typically find these for around $0.30 - $0.80 / lb. I try and add a leafy green each day as well. What’s cheapest usually depends on your locale, but cabbage is usually a good, cheap bet.
- Meats are expensive. Try to purchase lots of meat when it’s on sale. If you’re familiar with all the local markets, you should be able to find ground beef, sale chicken, or sausage ends for around $1.00 / lb. Add a small amount to each dish for flavor and protein. Failing that, find a good deal on eggs and have one or two with breakfast.
- Look for veggies or meats that are reduced for clearance. Lots of markets will mark the prices down on fresh veggies or baked goods from the night before that will go bad soon. Sometimes shopping at the end of the day means the market will reduce the price of meats that will expire tomorrow so they don’t have to throw them out. Purchasing these and cooking them immediately so they last longer is a great way to save money.
- Learn to bake bread. It’s easy and cheap and filling and rewarding and it makes everything smell like heaven.
- Grow your own food. I managed to grow onions, basil and quinoa indoors in old soup cans in an apartment with no balcony or windowbox so you don’t have an excuse. The onions were the little white bits from green onions that I had prepared for an omelette and was about to discard. You can regrow lots of veggies after you cook with them, so it’s silly not to. Some examples are bok choy, lettuce, celery, basil, sweet potatoes or garlic. Anything that didn’t regrow (peels, tops, stems) got tossed into a bag of soil and would become compost within two weeks to make the next batch of veggies grow faster.
Soylent saves you money vs. eating out. It doesn’t save you money vs. cooking for yourself.
And slavigna, nobody owes you soylent. If you can’t afford it then you can’t afford it. Offer an alternative or go elsewhere.
It might, if you count the cost of time and compare nutrition benefits.
I’ve cobbled together an almost complete (sans choline, sulfur) recipe for soylent that is $1.30 per day.
I have no doubt this is doable, but the investment of time and effort is significant. You’re talking a couple hours a day, minimum, not counting the time it takes to eat. You’re planning, cooking, storing, driving to and from the store, watering, messing with compost.
Working 2 hours of overtime at minimum wage puts around $20 a day in your pocket. Over a 4 week work schedule, that’s around $400 after taxes. That’s premium cat food and fresh food from the market every day, a bottle of wine with one meal a week, and a nice bonus in the bank account at the end of the month. Plus, you’re busting your ass at your job and that’s always appreciated.
Or, instead of fresh food, diy soylent - I’m shooting for under USD $45/month for complete nutrition, without a whole lot of fuss and muss, and safe and sufficient levels of all the micros. I have most of the ingredients and I’ve hit $1.30 a day. The calories are a bit low, but between a man and woman, you could average out at less than $80 a month for soylent.