Setting the bar: $4 a day?


I found this interesting food for thought.

An Interview with Leanne Brown (MA ’14), Author of ‘Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day’

Imagine an elegant cookbook for those who aren’t sure how they’ll pay
for their next meal. It sounds impractical, but this was just the idea
that seized Leanne Brown as she began work on her final project for
Steinhardt’s master’s in food studies…

You can download her book as a free PDF here.


I was hoping this was an article having something to do with making your own bars… but I see nothing of the sort on the page. :frowning:


Sorry, I meant it in the sense of “setting the bar.” Will edit the subject.


Wow, fascinating, thanks for sharing!


Note: she’s not a dietitian. The recipes don’t specify nutrition targets, and it’s not even clear to me how many calories per day she’s hitting for $4, but it’s definitely interesting to me.


I think Rosa Labs’ goal should be $5 per day for a basic Soylent. They can start by using less expensive packaging.


I think Soylent is about $200 for 28 bags ($255 minus delivery, packaging, payment processing, subscription, and other non-food overhead).

In the article I see all the time:
“you can buy eggs” and do something with them. In case of Soylent somebody already bought for you, stored somewhere bulk ingredients, processed, checked quality, and thought how to make it better.

I think all labor that is done starting from coming to store, ending giving box to FedEx guy can easily cut from $200 another $30.

If we are comparing apples to apples:
Article guy is claiming $4 a day + all labor, delivery to door, and time used
Soylent is ~$6.07 ( or ($200-$30)/28 ) a day + same labor, time, delivery done by somebody else than you (you are outsourcing these actions, like you are outsourcing clothes production).

Inside this $6.07 a day there is definitely R&D part that is important for many.

Would you agree to pay 10% less for Soylent, but never see any development after version 1.1?
I think current Soylent’s price of $6.07 a day (before delivery and non-food overhead) is quite justifiable as pretty affordable. Cost of production is definitely less, but not much.

Of course if you are unemployed with plenty of free time and your own land, you can even live on $0.5 a day using your own apple trees, but in that case you are “valuing” 1 hour of your time and labor as zero dollars.

I personally value my time during working hours or my pleasure hours.


So, yeah. Their goal should be $5 per day.


Rosa Labs goal should be to sell the product at a competitive and market driven price. I still think it’s crazy that anyone thinks Soylent is over priced. Comparing ready to go Soylent to “raw goods” i.e. grocery basket is like saying it’s cheaper to ride a bike instead of driving a car. You are certainly correct in your statement but you are missing the point of the discussion. Comparing driving a hybrid to driving a regular gas car makes sense as would comparing Soylent to other “ready to eat” alternatives such as prepared meals in the Deli of a grocery store or restaurant.

I also say this EVERY TIME this comes up, if you want to do a “grocery basket” comparison, then DIY is where you should be price checking. In that category you can easily beat $4 a day in the DIY model.


It’s overpriced in relation to its own target / ideal.

Currently, I am paying $19.25 CAN per day for Soylent. IDK how long I’ll keep doing that. (that includes shipping & customs) Yes it’s international, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, as it’s their intention to offer it internationally.

So, yeah, they’ve got a long ways to go before they meet Rob’s own stated goals; no minimization/semantics dance can change that fact. That’s not to say they’re doing a good job thus far - I think everything (price-wise) is about where I’d expect it to be, this early in Soylent’s life cycle. I am not complaining here at all, to be clear.


I think its unrealistic to expect the price of Soylent to drop to $5 a day or less. I can see the ingredients costing RL that much but they have quite a bit of overhead to cover and still have to make a profit.


Actually, the grocery store prices factor in the markup from the store and the manufacturer, the shipping, the packaging, the payment processing, and other non-food overhead. They also have to deal a lot of regulations and stuff Soylent gets to completely ignore.

So it’s a bad comparison to just subtract out all the overhead. At best you can subtract out the cost of delivering from the local distribution center to the door (not the entire shipping process though).

Except for the fact that Soylent isn’t ready to eat. You have to take it out of the packaging, put it into a container (potentially measuring it out), mix it, and even then you probably want to let it soak overnight. Unless you consider a cereal box to be “ready to eat” then you shouldn’t consider Soylent to be so either.

Ultimately, I think it is feasible that they could make it less expensive.


Grocery store doesn’t deliver to my door. Maybe manufacturer is doing some overhead, but it’s not doing ALL needed overhead from click on my mouse to door bell. So there is no point to compare, unless you are ordering delivery to your door.

Of course nothing is “ready to eat” in this case :smile:
Even with Pringles you need to open the box, to put your hand inside, you even need to open and close your mouth with each piece. Maybe find some liquid around to help chewing process.

I’m looking for food that will be going directly into my stomach, because mouse opening is troublesome for me.

AFAIK almost nobody is accurately measuring Soylent before consumption. Just make the whole thing and take 1/3 or 1/2. It’s good overnight, but it’s almost the same just after cooling.
Total human labor time used exclusively to prepare daily meals (including all overhead of cleaning and package opening) is about 3 minutes for me.


I fully agree with that - but only in the short term. Economy of scale will help a lot, and they’ve really barely started their journey at this point. Things will change, for sure - just not overnight.

This is all stuff that Rob has already talked about in previous interviews.

Rob has also previously stated (Reddit AMA, off the top of my head) that fast food & groceries are the main competition. (that’s in reply to people saying it’s not fair to compare to groceries - Rob Rhinehart himself does so.)


I consider Soylent and cereal ready to eat. Anything with prep instructions of “just add liquid” is ready to eat for my purposes. And I don’t soak overnight, so that’s one last prep item. I think the soak thing is a preference issue, not a prep one.


Actually, no. I can’t put my hand inside a Pringles tube. Same designer as the Takeya?

[This was a joke. This was only a joke.]


I refure you to the fruit and vegetable isle at the grocery store.


Okay… so if we can stop being pedantic for just a second I hope we can all accept the general idea of meals ready to eat (cooked and served ready to consume AND meals with minimal prep i.e. microwave it for 5 minutes then eat) vs raw goods (flour, sugar, ground beed, etc.). Thats what the basis for my statement is… I’m not saying that cereal isn’t ready to eat or that there aren’t items that are in a gray area.

My point is (and remains) that the items Soylent is competing with cost significantly more. I am unaware of any other ready to eat nutritionally complete product that costs less. If we use the substitution process to derive value, I don’t know anyone who can eat as complete and conveniently without spending significantly more? It’s not “could soylent be cheaper” so much as “is soylent fairly priced compared to my alternatives in the market”.

I also any pricing pressure on the user. If Soylent is too expensive, roll up your sleeves and get to making soylent… If you have more TIME then MONEY soylent works best. If you have more MONEY then TIME then Soylent works best.