What is the point of this? So glad you asked.
I read a Buzzfeed article a little while back where someone did a hunger challenge. The challenge was to live off of $4.50 a day (the average amount awarded in food stamps) plus the standard items that might be given out at a local food bank. I know that if a person is living off of food stamps he or she might not have time to shop around, put time into food preparation, et cetera. Also, as Eminem said so eloquently, “These g** d*** food stamps don’t buy diapers.” (I have no idea if food stamps buy diapers or not.) I could go on about how someone who’s in a tough situation also has to worry about obtaining non-food items, but also how food stamps are (probably) meant to be a supplement to someone’s (low) income, and other things that I have never needed to understand, but that is not quite the subject at hand.
I appreciate the work he put into the hunger challenge; however, I think I can do a better job.
$4.50 per day for 30 days is $135. Location does matter, and I know that $135 for food in Chicago is different from $135 for food in Champaign. I’ve kept a monthly budget for some time, and the average amount that I spend on groceries per month (according to the months of April through November of 2015) is $92.50. This number includes any alcohol purchases and includes some (but not all) of my eating out. (The reason for this is because I put eating out where ever I have money left in the budget, so it could end up in either grocery or miscellaneous. Exciting, I know.) My lowest amount spent on groceries has been $50 per month, but that didn’t include food that was already in my apartment (i.e. flour, pasta, rice, frozen items, canned items, you get it).
To the point: I am doing this because I want to try and think I can spend only $50 for an entire month’s worth of food. It’s a challenge that tests my creativity and also reminds me that I’m quite fortunate to live in a situation where I don’t have to worry about food.
I’ve had some suggestions about how to diversify my menu a bit. One of the biggest problems that I face is that I can’t count anything as a partial cost. If I buy a bottle of salad dressing, it counts as $2, not as $0.25 even if I only used a little bit of it. This just means that everything has to have multiple uses, and I should plan on using all of everything that I purchase.
I had $7.51 left for this week. My meal plans were lacking dairy, protein except for the eggs, and pizzazz. How important is pizzazz, though?
This is what I came up with. The milk and cereal will last me at least partially into next week, and the milk will provide dairy and also some more protein. I couldn’t decide if I should get the pasta sauce or not, but figured it would be good to add in a different taste. Same with the cheese. I bought the bananas at Walmart for $0.33 and the rest of the items at ALDI for $6.52. Out of my starting $20, I have $0.64 left for this week. At least I know I could go buy three more bananas.
Last night I ate pasta where the sauce was just a little bit of canola oil, salt, and pepper. I actually like pasta that way; but I decided to work harder today to make it more of a meal. You could say that I used this recipe for carbonara sauce, except that I only used milk, an egg, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. It was delicious.
Side note: Michelle and I were discussing the implications of free food. As mentioned in the first post, I won’t count days where I am being fed rather than feeding myself. If smaller things come up, they would not count against me. For example, today I was given a coconut cookie that someone brought back from India and there was zucchini bread up for grabs in the department office, so I had a piece of the bread and ate the cookie without needing to discount any meals.