Friday, March 13, 2009

Eating on $69 A Week

The LA Times has an unintentionally hilarious article up about a couple that decided to take the "Food Stamp Challenge" -- to spend no more than $72 a week on food, which is what food stamp recipients receive. Normally, Jason Song and his girl spend about $700 a month on food, so they had to cut back to the bare bones during their shopping trip to (gasp!) Costco:

Our Costco grocery bill came to $67, so we decided to adopt that as our limit. We planned a menu for the first week and vowed to stick to it: oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, ham pita sandwiches and salad for lunch, ginger-lime chicken thighs for dinner.

These people live in a different world than I do.

HT: Neatorama

11 comments:

The Thief said...

$700? a month?!?! Wow. That would cover us for, erm, at least about 7 months! And there are 4 of us in the family!

Talk about a different world...

Anonymous said...

Ugh. That article was a cesspool of pretentious twaddle.

gavin richardson said...

bean burrito
bean burrito
.. soft taco..
diet coke


my diet

TN Rambler said...

quick, someone pass gavin the beano...

Marcel said...

Not sure you can really feed yourself for $15 a week, but there are some good tips. Number one is "Never allow leftovers to go bad." Another is "Don’t buy beverages."

jockeystreet said...

$700 a month doesn't shock me. It's roughly what my family (of three, one of us being not quite two years old) spends in a month.

In the past, I've lived on much, much, much less-- 50 or 60 bucks a month, maybe a little more. Big bags of rice, dry beans, etc. My current financial situation is a little (okay, a lot) better than my situation in the past.

For us, it's not about self-indulgence. I can buy a pound of cheap coffee for a dollar or two. Or I can buy a bad of Fair Trade coffee for nine dollars. The Fair Trade coffee, for me, is more an expression of my values... if I can afford it, I don't think it's right NOT to buy fairly traded coffee (and if I can't afford it, then maybe I shouldn't be drinking coffee at all). Same thing going down the list. Since I can afford it, I prefer to buy locally brewed beer from an independently owned company than beer made by a huge company and shipped halfway around the world. I prefer to eat fruit and veggies grown without pesticides and shipped 50 miles than the same stuff grown with pesticides and shipped 1500 miles.

Eating like that (and, okay, sometimes splurging-- I didn't "need" to buy vegan sushi on my last trip to the co-op) sometimes costs more. But I think those who can afford it SHOULD spend more money on food-- and less money on things that don't matter. We don't have cable, I buy my clothes at a thrift store whenever I can, we don't take many big vacations, neither of us has ever owned a new car, most of our furniture is almost as old as I am, and so I don't feel terribly guilty about the expensive grocery bill.

But on the flip side, I remember very well being poor, and $69 a week could let you feast if you knew how to spend it right.

John said...

Buying for ethical reasons is something that I can understand. Although I don't understand the argument for buying locally. I mean, why shouldn't I buy from the poor Argentine vegetable farmer if he's cheaper and needs the money more than the farmer in the next county?

jockeystreet said...

One, buying locally means less oil used in shipping the food halfway around the world. For obvious environmental reasons, and for reasons of national security, etc, using less oil per calorie is a good thing.

Two, I am a firm believer in regional self-sufficiency. I'm not against trade, but I think that it's vital that New York State be able to meet New York State's needs, and Kansas be able to meet Kansas' needs, and Argentina be able to meet Argentina's needs, and so on. When there's no regional self-sufficiency, it seems you're asking for trouble. If New York State doesn't produce enough food to feed its own people, relies on shipping from all over the world, what happens when oil prices go through the roof? Or when some sort of catastrophe interrupts the flow of trade? Or etc etc etc?

Three, I think we have a problem with "communities" in this country. Driving through neighborhoods instead of living in them. People in crowded cities feeling lonely and isolated. Crime. Treating each other with little or no respect. And so on. Tied to that, I think there's also a lack of cultural "uniqueness" from place to place, we've lost some regional heritage, regional identify, etc. While buying locally certainly doesn't necessarily always address these things, it can. I mean, I've met the people who make my soap. I would recognize anywhere the guy who makes my pumpernickel bread. I've hung out (and sometimes worked with) the farmers who grow a good portion of my food.

One and two are stronger cases, three is touchy-feely hippie stuff. But I'm a touchy-feely hippie, so what can you do?

DannyG said...

Pretentious doesn't even begin to describe it. In the early '70's my dad was un-employeed for about 2-2 1/2 yrs. Out of pride we would not accept food stamps or other assistance. His small military disability check kept the roof over our heads while odd jobs and some antique sales kept the cash flow trickling. Among the things we did to streach food budgets included: Gathering wild berries (I could fill a freezer w blackberries and blueberries over the course of the summer),Picking our own apples at local orchards, fishing and hunting added meat which would otherwise be too expensive to buy. Finally, my dad started going out at night to go thru the dumpsters at supermarkets in our area...something he and his brothers had learned how to do during the Great Depression. It is incredible what is thrown away on a daily basis. Another place to shop is salvage grocries and bread stores...prices down to 1/3 of retail. "free" school lunch was another issue...my dad refused that as well. Most days, lunch was a PB on wheat bread, an apple, and a granola bar or a brownie (whatever the salvage grocery or bread store had on sale that week).

John said...

Self-sufficiency (individual, familial, regional, and national) is definitely a principle that I can get behind.

the reverend mommy said...

I had it down to about $10 a day for a family of 4 for ALL consumables -- that included toiletries, hygiene products, cleaning products and prescription meds as well as some clothing items (oh yeah, and diapers.)

I had calculated that it cost me about $.21 for a loaf of bread -- and that I had to use exactly three swipes of the chapstick to make it last as long as I needed it to. I also did things like dilute shampoos and conditioners; you really will use less that way.

I would splurge and buy in bulk when I could and when the price was right; cases of tuna in particular. I've maintained a lot of those habits, even though there is less need now a days in our personal family.

Ten dollars a day for ALL expenses can be done, if you are clever. I also have been known to clip lots of coupons -- and cut my grocery bill in half. There is a principle called "stacking" where you can do a store coupon on top of a manufacturer's coupon on top of a two for one sale. I "bought" mustard the other day and they paid me $.11 to take it out of the store... of course, I didn't need 4 of them. The other three went to the food bank....