Thursday, February 5, 2009

The $1.39 Meal Challenge

Even before the economy began to get bad, there has been a significant poverty problem in America. Last year, 10% of Americans were considered below the poverty line (defined by the Census Bureau as making under $9,393 for an individual or $14,680 for a family of three). What would your life be like if you lived on less than $10,000 per year?

The USDA has put out their cost of food report for 2008. The foodstamp allotment for a family of four (the Thrifty Plan) is $500. This is what they say a family of four could expect to pay for food and actually live to tell about it. That's about $1.39 per meal for each person.

Have you every tried eating for $1.39? With the belt-tightening we've been doing around our house, we decided to try this as an experiment with some interesting results.

But I'd like to see what YOU manage to come up with. So, here is my challenge... try for a week or two to put your food budget at the amount allowable according to the USDA Cost of Food Chart on the Thrifty Plan. It goes by age and gender. Try it for your household and see what kind of experiences you have. It's a really fascinating change in perspective and gives you an entirely new way of looking at the world around you -- for better or for worse.

The only rules are that whatever menu plans you come up with MUST be nutritionally balanced and you have to do at least three meals per day.

Here is an added challenge if you can work this into your budget... whatever the difference is that you save while you're doing this challenge -- donate it to a local food bank. You'll feel great about the good you've done with your donation and the perspective you've gained from this experience will be priceless!

And don't forget to let me know how it goes!

[photo credit: TowerGirl]


tantra flower said...

My grocery bill is very low because I plan my meals around the sales papers of the three grocery stores near my house. I then combine the sales with coupons (two of the stores actually double coupons up to $1!) When the local farmer's market is open, I buy all of my produce from them and that also saves a bundle. Another way to save money on food is to freeze any leftovers that I know we won't be able to eat in three days. Then when my son is hungry, he can just pull a ready-made meal out of the freezer to eat. I've completely stopped buying pre-packaged foods. As a full-time student, I've had to learn to be thrifty in many ways.

Once every few months I go to Aldi and buy a bunch of canned goods to donate to the local domestic violence shelter here, along with any items I have on hand that I don't want to keep. Other than time, to me, food is the most enjoyable thing to donate. I always feel so great after I do this. The high lasts for days!!!

Wendy, I love your blog. You are a very special person to inspire others to give like you do. I am very happy to have made your acquaintance.

Wendy said...

Aw, you're sweet. Thanks for your kind words. Same back at you!

I just recently read a news story about Aldi stores. I wish we had one! The nearest one to us is about three hours away.

We do have one grocery store that does great with sales and we make use of those. In the past we were really terrible at making good use of our leftovers and we had a lot of waste in the house, but we've been practicing and we're getting really good at using nearly everything.

I've also not been great at using coupons. Mostly I've found that we don't use the types of items that we get coupons for typically with the exception of toothpaste. That's about the only thing I've had success with. That and diapers.

We have a lot of fun with food drives with the school. When it's food drive time, we go through the cabinet and pull out cans that we have in surplus and load our poor kindergartener up with two bags full! We try to make up for other kids who might not be able to bring their own stuff for the food drive. This is my favorite way to get food to the food banks because our son gets so excited about being generous. It's good positive training for him to share and think about other people.

The other day, all by himself, he bagged up some small extra toys when we were sorting through his stuff and organizing his room. He said he wanted to take them to his teacher for her to put in the classroom treasure box. (Each child gets one treasure box visit on Friday if they get no demerits for the week.)