Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating on $100 a Week?

Here is an interesting article chronicling a family of four's attempt to eat for a week, spending only $100. With increasing energy and food costs, this may be harder than ever. I know our family has been attempting to lower our overall costs, and food is one area that is up for examination. One must balance thrift with health, however, and eating only mac and cheese and mayo sandwiches is not advised.

Some interesting facts and ideas from the article:

- A food stamp allowance for a family of four is $117
- A $100 budget gave us $1.19 a meal per person (wow)
- "Americans are obsessed with protein, but it's the one nutrient we actually get too much of"
- Planning is key: if you do not buy enough, you'll have to go back and end up spending more (impulse items)
- "The most inexpensive snacks are also some of the healthiest"

It should be noted that as Americans, we recently have spent less of food as a percentage of household income than ever in history (less than 10%). Even with recent increases due to higher energy prices; we still spend relatively little on food. Compared to the rest of the world, this number is high on absolute terms, though. A main reason for this is the large amounts of processed and convenience foods that we eat. Pound for pound, prepared and processed foods cost much more than 'real' food.

If one factors the time involved in preparation, some packaged foods may come out ahead economically, depending on your salary. This says nothing about the nutritional value, however, and the increase in quick food has a strong correlation to our expanding waistlines.

As the article notes, some fresh vegetables did not fit in the super-econo budget. (Organics are even pricier) But as it also noted, this was a budget that was under a poverty level. By substituting many name-brand, convenience, and packaged foods with whole, healthy ones, American's could cut our food budgets by large amounts and our middle sections as well.

Another idea: adding a prolific back yard garden could help your wallet and waistline, also.

A good site for further reading: food related economic data.

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