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Old 02-03-2009, 10:45 PM   #81
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Last year we, family of 4, spent $350/mo on food eaten at home, $40/mo on food eaten out, mainly when we travel. We plan on moving within the next 2 years and having a large organic garden, possibly chickens for eggs. I'd like to buy local, natural meat then if possible. Fruits and veggies are our largest expense at $1200/yr, so we will save that with the garden and some of it will go to better meat.

I wish we were eating organic now, but we made the choice not to so we could live this ER life. That meant the years leading up to this point were frugal, and we are continuing that so we can get 20 yrs of not working until the pension kicks in at age 60 to help We're used to being the supercheap ones, so I love to see when others spend even less than we do.
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:01 PM   #82
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This is so true, but there are no easy answers. We give people food stamps and they sell them for booze,tobacco & crack. We provide shelters and they refuse to come. We try to set up institutions and are challenged in court and by politicians seeking votes. And when we succeed in a program the costs (after all special interests are satisfied) are $100,000 per year per person helped. So we give people $176/mo. Have a nice day.
Good comments.

In my post, I was only trying to say that it shouldn't be a surprise that the population of folks collecting food stamps might contain a high percentage of people poorly prepared or mentally challenged by the task of shopping and food preparation on a limited budget. I'd expect folks on this forum to be, on average, better equipped to deal with the scenario.

Your comments deal more broadly with the issues of dealing with the hoards of folks stuggling to compete for life's resources in our country. And I agree, "there are no easy answers."
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:46 PM   #83
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I blogged about that once, but the amount was equivalent to $3/day per person, which gave us $63/week. For 1 week, it worked out, but it was still difficult. I think we all lost several lbs. though! We're all educated in nutrition (somewhat and in general), so we may have more knowledge than those who may have started life on welfare and food stamps. I know I can cook good nutritious food on that budget, but if you don't know how, then you end up buying the junk food.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:05 AM   #84
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I have been poor and even gotten food stamps twice. Once I was living in the car in a campground in Alaska. We couldn't find a job and it was a small island we couldn't afford ferry fare to get off the island. Food was very expensive and we would heat hard boiled eggs cooked over the campfire and drink tang hot like tea. We couldn't afford fruits or veggies. Once we got a small piece of salt pork and good great northern beans. Finally he landed a job logging and we got enough money to leave.
Another time we got to were his grandparents lived and needed jobs and a place to live so applied for food stamps. We stayed with his grandparents while we got settled. We shared meals with them and they ate quality food. It was hard because we couldn't exactly make separate meals so had to use their brands. So we ended up buying things like a ham with the food stamps to share with them. It was only for a couple of weeks but you can't really know why people are buying what they buy with the food stamps.
I could live easily on 176 a person now. I live where food is pretty cheap and I get ads in the mail since I have an address. I went to Safeway on Superbowl Sunday and their prices are high compared to what I normally spend. I got two nice roast for buy one get one free about 12.85 each. Twenty five dollars of roast will make many meals. I spent over $50 because some good sales on things I wanted and if you spent over $50 you got $10 off. Tillamook cheese was 4.99 limit two. I got 15lbs of potatos for 1.49. I got some fruit and things too but nothing that wasn't on sale. Now I own a house with a full pantry, the frig already has onions for the roast and already has raw carrots and I own a nice crockpot so I will put on the roast and onion and add potatos and carrots so a half price roast at 6.50 and other things like potatoes will make dinner for several days.
I think the food stamp money is generally about the right amount. People can still get help from family or food banks, grow food or catch some fish. If we gave them much more they would be eating better than working people. If we gave them much less and those like diabetics with special needs might not eat well enough. Most should be short term so well balanced shouldn't be important to all of them.
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:08 AM   #85
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Great post!
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:13 AM   #86
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We used to have rentals and once had a section 8 tenant. They got food stamps (2 adults, 2 kids). There was a taco bell around the corner, that surprising to me, accepted food stamps. These folks really pissed me off, because they played the system, barely worked, and ate out (at taco bell) much of the time, and always had plenty of name-brand sodas and beer around the house. All this while I was simply drinking water out of the hose, or when I was feeling lavish, drinking a store brand 15 cents a can soda, and having PBJs for lunch when I went to fix something that they had broken (every other week).

Back on topic, I often check on my folks, who are retired to make sure they are making ends meet. They had us over for meals during our christmas holiday, and I asked them if they were able to eat right, and how much they were laying out for food. The avg $200/mo answer shocked me and I didn't believe it at first, but dad got out his monthly ledger and showed me. $197, $210, $185, $205, and on and on. Their food is nicely spiced, home cooked, some prepared in bulk and frozen for later use, etc, but with $176 for each of them, they would have about $150 a month left over and not know what to do with it. Separately, they eat out about once a mont at a chinese buffet, or something similar, about $20 for the two of them. They do not drink alcohol. They have some trees in the back yard that provide some but far from all of their fruit. No garden anymore, but their costs would be less if they did.

All of that said, there is no way on earth we could live on that amount where we live...we are easily over $1500 a month, but that is a location issue ($8-9 bucks a pound for ground beef, $2-3 for a pear, $2.50-3.00 for a liter of milk, $10 for a pound of plain jane cheddar...etc). Because our current costs are so high, we have a future FIRE food budget of $700/mo...but I don't think we'll even use that much...probably more like $350-450 for meals at home and another $100 or so a month for meals out.

I think that $176/mo is definitely doable (son at college is in this range...on dad stamps instead of food stamps...), but you have to know how to cook and be willing to do it.

R
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:43 AM   #87
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Out of curiosity, how many folks on here have a vegetable garden? Do you find it saves you money on your food bill or do you garden mostly for the enjoyment regardless of the cost?
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Old 02-04-2009, 09:57 AM   #88
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I have been poor and even gotten food stamps twice. Once I was living in the car in a campground in Alaska. We couldn't find a job and it was a small island we couldn't afford ferry fare to get off the island. Food was very expensive and we would heat hard boiled eggs cooked over the campfire and drink tang hot like tea. We couldn't afford fruits or veggies. Once we got a small piece of salt pork and good great northern beans. Finally he landed a job logging and we got enough money to leave.
I have the impression that food is very expensive in Alaska (and Hawaii?)--that would be really hard to stretch food stamps in the situation you describe, a small Alaskan island with limited resources.

I'm planning to read the blog in the OP to see how the blogger does for this month. I think it would be quite hard for a young single urban guy to count his food pennies while maintaining a social life, unlike some of us (okay, me ) who make a hobby out of it. "Look, honey, beef bourguignon for $1.78 a serving!"

(We don't drink much at our house or out--the bottle of wine we opened for Christmas is still in the fridge, being used for cooking after the glass and a half that was enjoyed from it--beef bourguignon for everyone!)
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Old 02-04-2009, 10:40 AM   #89
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As a child growing up, there were extended periods of time when we received food stamps. In retrospect, we ate fairly poorly (I remember being hungry much of the time), more out of ignorance than necessity. There were a lot of packaged foods, and the foods I now know to be economically efficient didn't show up very often on the dinner table. I don't think this is all that different from many food stamp recipients today - while immigrants are most often extraordinarily efficient in their grocery shopping, the native poor are often poorly educated in making efficient nutritional choices.

$176 per month per person is pretty easy knowing what I do now, and having access to a pretty broad variety of food outlets. I'm not going to argue that its unfair because I have a car, a freezer, and no mental illness. That's not the point. The point is that it is possible to eat and eat well for less than six dollars per day. But it requires some homework and concious effort.

Meat - chicken, ground beef, pork, etc. - is always on sale in one form or another. It is entirely possible to never pay more than $2 per pound of animal protein. While one wouldn't be eating as much animal protein as a wealthier person would, it would provide adequate nutrition when combined with starches to provide bulk calories.

Rice and beans are a latin staple that feeds millions of people for very little money. And for those dismissing buying in bulk as not feasable, a twenty pound bag of rice can be as inexpensive as $5. Combined with beans and some meat and veg, it makes a lot of meals.

While coupons seem like a good deal, they only apply to things which you shouldn't be buying in the first place. I've yet to see coupons offering a discount on a chicken or a head of garlic.

Spices do not have to be expensive. At the very least, salt, pepper, garlic and onions can meet 90% of flavoring needs. And buying the large, restaurant-sized spice jars is very economical. Buy the little grocery store jars is not.

Cooking from scratch is almost always the most cost efficient. Anytime you pay someone else to do some food prep you are incurring extra costs.

Leftovers are the most efficient lunch if feasable. While sandwiches seem cheap, cold cuts are generally more expensive than other foods. I would estimate a simple ham and cheese sandwich (sized adequately for a man working a manual labor job) costs about $2.00. Add in an apple or some other food and lunch alone could cost about $3.00, leaving that same amount for the other two meals of the day. Contrast that with leftover rice and beans or pasta, which could cost perhaps fifty cents, leaving plenty of room for complementary foods.

I would guess that most people receiving public assistance do not have reasonable access to gardens. They may be in housing projects or apartments which do not permit them to grow any of their own produce. And if they do have the ability to grow their own produce, there is a considerable startup cost. Not to mention that someone who may have spent ten or twelve hours working a landscaping job probably wouldn't have the energy to come home and tend to a garden.

Packaged foods should be avoided like the plague. No potato chips, no hamburger helper, no "kits". Most people tend to eat a limited variety of meals anyway, and once one has educated themselves about cooking efficient meals from scratch, it can become second nature.

Ethnic markets tend to have the cheapest prices. Americans in general are not terribly efficient shoppers. I've found asian markets to be the least expensive (for some reason, asian cultures tend to drive a hard bargain), and while latin markets can be inexpensive, at least in my area latino groups tend to spend more on food than average. I suppose the quality of food is very important to them.

I wouldn't worry too much about fat content. If we're eating modestly, our calorie level should be relatively low compared to our activity levels.
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Old 02-04-2009, 11:28 AM   #90
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$176 per month per person is pretty easy knowing what I do now, and having access to a pretty broad variety of food outlets. I'm not going to argue that its unfair because I have a car, a freezer, and no mental illness. That's not the point. The point is that it is possible to eat and eat well for less than six dollars per day. But it requires some homework and concious effort.

.

So..... It sounds like you're saying that if you know how to do something, have the ability and resources to pull it off, you should be able to do it. Can't argue with that.......

I think this thread has about wound its way to concluding that if you have the skills, resources and motivation to do it, it's possible, even easy. Sort of like achieving FIRE. If you do your homework and apply some concious effort, even in an ugly economy, you can do it, possibly easily!
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Old 02-04-2009, 11:36 AM   #91
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I don't know if it is still the case, but I know that in 1968-1969 food stamps could not be used in California to purchase imported foods. So, often a food stamp recipient at that time could not purchase the "best deal" (least expensive choice) with food stamps, if the best deal was something imported from another country.

Also, non-food items such as cleaning supplies or toothpaste, and ready-to-eat foods such as pre-prepared sandwiches could not be purchased with food stamps.
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Old 02-04-2009, 11:44 AM   #92
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We try to buy organic foods whenever possible. Not only is it better for your health, it is also better for the environment.
I don't agree. That is far too broad a brush. I don't think there is much, if any evidence to support organic being better for your health, and some organic processes are *worse* for the environment (tilling, flooding, and re-tilling a field to kill off weeds rather than using a fast-breakdown weed-killer; losing the productivity of that land while you wait for the weed seeds to sprout means even more land must be put into production to compensate, which takes more fuel for the tractors, more irrigation, more soil erosion, etc, etc, etc).

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We also try to buy local to support our few remaining farmers.
Again, too broad a brush. One of the reasons we get produce from other areas is that the net cost is less, even after accounting for shipping True, the cost of oil doesn't include all it's environmental impacts, so it isn't one-for-one. But I recall a study in England - the local stuff required a heated greenhouse, the "non-local" didn't. Turns out the heating fuel for the greenhouse had a larger "carbon footprint" than the fuel used for shipping the non-local produce.

It is far too complex to just say "it is better"...


If we want to discuss further, we should probably break it off to another thread, this one is already long enough.


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Old 02-04-2009, 12:11 PM   #93
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I I think it would be quite hard for a young single urban guy to count his food pennies while maintaining a social life,
You not supposed to have a social life if your on public assistance for food. Unless you count hanging with Sally in the alley.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:15 PM   #94
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You not supposed to have a social life if your on public assistance for food. Unless you count hanging with Sally in the alley.
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Old 02-04-2009, 12:51 PM   #95
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I have the impression that food is very expensive in Alaska (and Hawaii?)--that would be really hard to stretch food stamps in the situation you describe, a small Alaskan island with limited resources.
The food stamp allotment for people in Alaska and Hawaii is higher than the rest of the country.
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Old 02-04-2009, 01:13 PM   #96
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, but that is a location issue ($8-9 bucks a pound for ground beef, $2-3 for a pear, $2.50-3.00 for a liter of milk, $10 for a pound of plain jane cheddar...etc).
R
$2-3 for a pear? Where is this location?
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Old 02-04-2009, 01:23 PM   #97
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And for those dismissing buying in bulk as not feasable, a twenty pound bag of rice can be as inexpensive as $5.
randyman65,

Where (store name and location) can I buy a $5 twenty pound bad of rice?

I eat rice all my life, and right now in Houston, TX, a 25 pound bag of rice costs $15 to $25.

Thanks,
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Old 02-04-2009, 02:46 PM   #98
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"The moon belongs to everyone--the best things in life are free."

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Old 02-04-2009, 02:53 PM   #99
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Biker, thanks for posting that! My husband sang that to our kids when they were babies and it's stuck in my mind ever since. I thought it was Depression-era with its theme, but obviously it predates that.
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Old 02-04-2009, 04:03 PM   #100
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Biker, thanks for posting that! My husband sang that to our kids when they were babies and it's stuck in my mind ever since. I thought it was Depression-era with its theme, but obviously it predates that.
Actually, that version was very popular all during the "Great Depression".
How timely.
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