Eating Well on Eight Dollars a Week

Eating Well on Eight Dollars

Every Thursday, I walk the half-mile between my house and my village’s weekly souk for groceries and other household items. A souk is an open-air bazaar similar to a farmers market, and it’s essentially a one stop shop for most needs. Whether you want a chicken for lunch—which WILL have its throat slit in front of you—or a new couch (called a ponj) for your living room (called a salon), the souk is your best bet for a good deal—as long as you’re willing to haggle.

Eating Well on Eight Dollars a Week
My village’s souk

Even if you don’t talk a merchant down to the price you want, chances are you’re probably getting a great deal anyway—especially if you’re using U.S. dollars. The Moroccan Dirham (MAD) is about one-tenth of a U.S. Dollar (USD), so if you think you’re spending a lot on a 200 dirham rug, just divide by 10 and notice that you’re only spending about 20 USDs. Granted, I’m living on a volunteer stipend, so if I can talk that 200 dirham rug down to 150 dirhams, I absolutely will.

A volunteer from a previous cohort once shared a piece of advice with me that really stuck: “Treat your dirhams like dollars,” he said. Meaning, if I spend 5 dirhams on a coffee, I have to think of myself as having spent 5 USDs, not 0.50 USDs. For those of you who regularly spend 10 USDs at Starbucks (That’s 100 dirhams, you maniacs!), I now perceive it as you spending 100 USDs. Normally, I spend between 80 and 100 MADs (about 8 and 10 USDs, respectively) at my souk, and I generally won’t buy much more throughout the week.

This week, I spent 80 MADs on groceries, or about 8 USDs:Eating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a WeekEating Well on Eight Dollars a Week

I made a comparison table to show the price differences between the cost of my groceries in Morocco, and the cost of the same groceries in the U.S.; I selected from a list of average prices in Spokane, Washington, as it’s the closest city to my hometown. I also converted the prices of everything from my souk to USDs in order to make the table comparisons easier to understand.

Price in the U.S. (USD) Price in Morocco (USD)
Apples (1 kg) 4.47 1.00
Bananas (1.5 kg) 2.31 1.50
Bell Peppers (1 kg) 5.00 0.60
Black Pepper (1 oz) 4.00 0.50
Carrots (1 kg) 3.00 0.30
Eggplant (0.5 kg) 3.00 0.20
Eggs (12) 2.69 1.00
Olive Oil (0.5 L) 8.00 1.50
Oranges (1 kg) 3.85 0.40
Peaches (1 kg) 7.00 1.00
Total: 43.32 Total: 8.00

The total cost of these groceries in MADs at U.S. prices would be 430 MADs, which blows my mind; people spend that kind of money on furniture and electronics here! Moving back to the U.S. when I finish my service will probably be a rude awakening for my wallet.

As always, feel free to comment with questions!


14 thoughts on “Eating Well on Eight Dollars

  1. Wow, such a beautiful picture of your purchases! You’ll need to share with me how you prepare the eggplant, so lovely. You are getting some great bargains on your food. Keep developing your shopping “smarts”, it will serve you well always. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1) I work at a coffee shop and it AMAZES me how much people spend on their coffee drinks daily.

    2) Is that fresh ground pepper? Oh my goodness, looks amazing. I lived in Thailand for six months last year and I miss the open air markets there! I love visiting a good farms market here in the States, but it doesn’t compare to the hustle, bustle, exitement and real sense of community that is present at the Southeast Asian markets I frequented.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is shocking how much people will spend. I don’t even want to know how much money I spent on coffee in college… 😅

      Yes, it is fresh ground! My whole kitchen smelled like it for a day. Where in Thailand did you live? My cousin worked at the international school in Chiangmai for years. Thai food is probably the best food in the world, and Thai culture is endlessly fascinating.


      1. Haha, yes, my coffee spending in college was insane, too! Ah, I love Chiangmai! It’s one of my favorite places in Thailand. I lived there for one month while I completed my TESOL certification to teach ESL. I taught kindergarten in Nakhon Pathom Province, which is directly west of Bangkok. I lived in a small town 45 minutes from the center of Bangkok. Thai culture is fascinating. I miss it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Good question, dad! Souk food is locally grown, but the food at the big French stores like Marjane and Carrefour is often imported. I love my local food! The watermelon is out of this world. Can’t wait for you to try it!


  3. Hi Abbie, On the subject of foodLol-I wanted to share an idea with you and see if you had any interest. In real time, I’m a No-Diet, Weight-Loss Coach at I healed myself of compulsive eating over 20 years ago and developed an easy to use eat and stop yourself no-diet, weight-loss program that lets you eat any food that you want and know that you will be able to stop yourself. I promise! Having said that, I’ve worked with hundreds of unhappy dieters and my book Eat What You Want! Stop When You Want! A No-Diet, Weight-Loss Program will be published on July 19th. I was wondering if you’d be interested in reading an online copy and then when the book goes live to post your review. on Amazon. You’re also welcome to ask me any questions that you might have while reading the book (it’s in a workbook format and easy to get through in a short period of time).
    So let me know what you think.
    Best, Sora


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s