Monday, May 21, 2007

Eating on $21/week? No problem.

The latest fad amongst politicians, sparked by Oregon's Governor, is to see what it is like to eat on $21/week (the average subsidy from the food stamp program). I don't see what the big deal is. The governor lamented that he had to go to bed hungry, while an NYU Nutritionist on NPR contended that it was "impossible" to eat healthily on $21/week. Impossible? She later clarified that the only way to do it is if you cooked, and since it is unreasonable to expect Americans to know how to cook, it was impossible!!!

Of course, most of the world lives on far less food than that, and the nutritionist readily conceded that the typical diet in China is healthy and could easily be accommodated in $21/week. But for Americans, it is impossible. Bah!

So I normally spend far more than that for food (mostly due to luxuries like rare tuna steaks and fresh herbs, and eating out for lunch, and dinners), but honestly, I could do quite well on $42 a week (for two people), and still cook and eat the same things.

Shopping list: (from local safeway)

One dozen large eggs. $1.79
One gallon milk. $2.75
Safeway Large 32 Oz yogurt. $2.50
12 bananas. $3.00
18 oz Kellogg Corn Flakes (18 servings) $2.00

4 lbs. Green Cabbage. $2.
1 lb. Celery. $1.99
2.5 lbs onions. $1.99
2 lbs carrots. $1.89
1 lbs broccoli $1.50

5 lbs potatoes. $3.29

14 oz skippy peanut butter (12 servings) $1.50
1 loaf 24 oz safeway 12 grain bread $1.69

2 lbs botan calrose rice (20 servings) $2.00
1 lbs barilla pasta (8 servings) $1.00

1 lbs dehydrated black beans (12 servings) $1.19
1.5 lbs perdue boneless/skinless chicken thigh (8 servings) $2.99
1 lb lean ground beef (5 servings). $2.99
8 oz Safeway Cheddar (8 servings) $1.50

2 bulbs garlic. $0.44

Total: $41.10
(plus room for $18 worth of a 20 week supply of corn/sesame oil, vinegar and salt and pepper, and soy sauce and assorted spices/condiments)

It wasn't even hard. My first attempt came in well under. These are all meals that I would normally eat, and with plenty of left overs. Probably would gain weight if I ate everything there. And if I were to adjust probably could cut some carbs in favor of vegetables and more meat. But enough to have (stir-fried) chicken 2 nights. Mexican with refried beans and cheese and sauteed onions and rice and yogurt (yogurt makes a healthy replacement for sour cream). Cheese burgers (1/4 pounders) one night with baked fries and sauteed onions. Beef/Potato Hash another night. Bean/pasta salad for one nights. Baked potatoes with beans and cheese and yogurt on another night. Breakfast is at least maybe 2 eggs each and hash browns, for 3 mornings. With enough cereal, yogurt, bananas, milk on other mornings, to be stuffed. Enough for at least 12 peanut butter and banana sandwiches (could mix it up with grilled cheese) plenty of carrot sticks and celery (with peanut butter). Probably could do a bit more veggies, but I think what I have is not far off from the fairly vegetable heavy diet I normally east. With ~10 lbs of vegetables, that's roughly 60 servings. Could make cabbage cole slaws (using yogurt and vinegar and sesame oil). Diced celery with sesame oil and vinegar is quite good. If I had to rebalance, maybe fewer carbs, more veggies. I count roughly 90 servings of carbs. That's 2 people over 7 days, still about 6 per day.


James said...

Rachel Ray has this show on the Food Network called "$40 a Day", where apparently she challenges herself to eat three meals with *just* $40. That's a freaking lot of money. I don't understand that show.

HoBs said...

Well on the flip side, I have spent around $500 for a single meal for two, several times in my life and probably spend over $100 for at least one meal on most weekends (wine tends to add up), and generally think they are all well worth it.

And randomly dinner tonight for two (a relatively typical one) included omlettes with fresh basil ($2), smoked salmon ($8), garlic, yogurt and a bottle of 2-buck chuck (now $3.49), celery salad, and organic cherry tomatoes ($4), cost about $18, or nearly half the weekly budget for just one meal.

So I can definitely understand spending more, just at the same time, could just as easily spend less.