I just spent 43% of my monthly food money on day one – am I worried?

2 Feb

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YES! There it is, the fruits (and veg) of my profligacy. I have $194 total for the month and I spent $83.72 in the first hour of my challenge. Do I have a spending addiction or is there a method behind my madness?

I’m hoping there’s method. I would say that 60% of what I spent were on items that will help me eke out the month, like my precious oatmeal and other staple items. I went to Trader Joe’s, because I know I can get a better price and quality on some key staple items. This is not a completely unrealistic scenario for our food stamp (aka CalFresh) recipient, because they will get a lump of money at one time on their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This situation is also similar for many food insecure people who have money to spend on food earlier in the month, before medical, rent and transportation clean them out and they struggle to get enough healthy food to eat toward the end of the month. Will I face the same problem.

Now looking at the picture you would probably start criticizing some of my choices. Smoked salmon? On food stamps? Cue quotes about Marie Antoinette and letting them eat cake. It’s tough when you’re on food stamps because people criticize you for buying junkie food or soda, then they criticize you if you slap down a ‘high class’ product.

I’m too old and tetchy to worry about the criticism, I want the highest amount of protein and nutrients and smoked salmon can be a good deal. I have it in with eggs, with salads and on bagels. I can provide the protein for 6 meals with my $8.49 salmon. That’s a good deal.

Let’s hope I don’t have to switch to hot dogs by the end of the month!

Here’s the full breakdown of what I spent.

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One Response to “I just spent 43% of my monthly food money on day one – am I worried?”

  1. Justin January 29, 2019 at 4:20 pm #

    Hi Erik,

    First wanted to say that this is a wonderful endeavor to raise awareness of how these benefits can run painfully short for food-insecure families and individuals.

    One thing I did notice –and perhaps others have as well –is that your purchases often include items that are pre-prepared at a premium cost.. Take for instance chicken. I’m not sure the poundage that you bought, but at $7.49, you could have likely gotten a whole chicken. Ideally, you could break this down yourself into thighs, drum sticks, wings, breasts, tenders and then the carcass. The carcass itself is absolutely wonderful to use for stock(thus saving you at least another $4), and its an easy thing to prepare with the scraps from your onions(see: the ends). There are also distinct health benefits from marrow from the bones.

    With a whole chicken, you also end up with organ meat, which when chopped, makes a great flavorful –and nutritious –additive to ‘dirty’ rice. But even if you’re not interested or able to break down a chicken, you can even roast it whole, pick the carcass and then use the bones for stock. A 5-pound bird will usually render you at least three pounds of meat, which is protein that can last you a week or longer depending on what you do with it.

    Likewise, I see ground turkey. Even assuming you got a pound, this is quite the expense when living on a budget(i.e. $4 per pound). I would personally purchase something like a pork butt or shoulder, which usually costs .99 cents to $2 per pound. And that can be broken down into pieces for carnitas(lime, onion, chilli powder to cook, flour and water for homemade tortillas and whatever condiments you choose to put on them). Or roast the whole thing for pulled pork and then use the bone and/or skin for stock that can be used for split pea soup(carrots, peas and an an onion).

    Anyway, it’s just food for thought –no pun intended. I know some of these options take a bit of culinary know-how and time. But in general, they’re easy steps to take to stretch your food dollar AND eat healthy AND eat good. And some of them can be done in while you sleep(see: stock; roasting pork) with nothing more than a pot and a range. Something that constantly amazes me about how the general public shops is an almost complete disregard for how much they are paying for a pound of food. Many times, they’re purchasing items that look good on their face(chicken tenderloins), but are really costing them a premium. Essentially, they’re paying for the butchering and the packaging and they’re not even getting some of the best parts.

    Thank you again for this important work and good luck with your challenge!

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