I learned a lot from just a few weeks of eating on $4 per day. I am more in touch with how much food costs. Even now spending $30 at the grocery store feels decadent. I feel more compassion with those who are forced to live on meager amounts.
I have been on auto-pilot the past few years when it comes to food shopping. I certainly was making inexpensive choices, but not all the time and often eating whatever I felt like. If I had been more disciplined I could have saved money. For example buying pre-made frozen organic turkey burgers instead of learning how to make my own. I am glad to get back to brass tax and make foundation meals that fuel me. It feels right to have a better handle on what it costs to eat everyday.
During the challenge I was eating less quantity than normal. When I got enough sleep and didn’t drink alcohol it was fine to be eating on $4 per day. But some of the time I did feel a little out of it. I missed my coffee and Alvarado street bagels. I never added up my calories but that would have been useful information.
I wish I could have done it longer and be able to say: oh yes it’s doable or hell no, it’s impossible. Neither are true. Many get by on $4-$5 ( food stamps in California is $4.72) per day in the U.S. It is far from ideal, everyone needs to have choice and means. I usually buy organic as much as possible. I was able to buy a tiny bit organic but mostly I was not able to on this kind of budget. I wasn’t even concerned with local. I just had to get by.
But the point is, at least in my neck of the woods, in the Mission of San Francisco, there are choices that would allow someone who is poor to eat decently. Shopping in Foods Co., it was not uncommon to see people choosing otherwise.
Faced with $5 in your pocket will you buy cake, soda and meat or are you going to buy some brown rice, pinto beans and some vegetables? The former will be titillating but it won’t be for your energy levels or your internal organs. What if you live in a residential motel with no kitchen?
I am not a purist but consider that someone living in poverty (or not) might be eating that way everyday. I don’t blame them, if I was faced with adversity, I’d probably reach for the cake too.
It’s not the end. I am going to continue writing about how to eat well economically. I hope I can build a treasure of recipes to benefit and inspire. I love discussing why certain food choices are better than others. Standing in the grocery line I would look at what people were buying and dreamed of giving a nutritional lesson. When I have more recipes together, perhaps I will volunteer at the Food Bank and give a nutrition class.