Some of you may be thinking "That's not hard. Heck, I've been feeding myself on $4 per day since I left home!" And frankly, you'd be right. That's $210 dollars per month, which is pretty rich for one person's food budget, except maybe in an area with a remarkably high cost of living (NYC, for one).
Unfortunately, a lot of the comments, in the true fashion of internet trolls, have resorted to name calling and attacking the writer for this. When Ms. Schneider wrote about using a leftover Rotisserie Chicken Carcass to make homemade chicken soup, the attacks began right off the top. The first guy, "greg", thinks he can write a book on what's wrong with Schneider's posts and believes himself to be an expert on what poor people can't afford (ding! Stuff White People like, #62!).
Then there's "marissa" who sounds like daddy didn't hug her enough when she was little. The Irony Police will be probably be knocking on her door soon for calling Schneider a "pretentious asshole" after calling her a "fucktard" and still attempts to take the high road.
This isn't the first time the Internets were outraged at what well-to-do journalists called a tight budget. This article from two years ago on CBS told users how they could put together a spaghetti dinner with a tossed salad and dessert on a shoestring "recession budget" of... $35.00. Or another article on 20-something hipsters who's post-graduate degrees in poetry (seriously) aren't giving them good job prospects, and they're using their taxpayer funded food stamp money to buy Free-Range-Grass-Fed-Organically-Grown-Cruelty-Free-Vegan top dollar groceries from Whole Foods. (hat tip to my sister for the link)
I can understand the indignation. When people read these articles, it brings up images about some Trust Fund Baby who's woefully relaying the tale of how she had to sell the vacation home Vail, CO in order to keep the one Santa Monica. The recession is soooooooo cruel! Meanwhile the guy mowing her lawn is using his $50/day wage to provided food for his three kids.
The commenters raise some good points (rotisserie chicken wouldn't be available to be purchased via Food Stamps, for one thing), but generally need to chill the hell out, a point not lost on other contributors to the al-dente blog.
Here's my only real conclusions on the matter:
- Eating well on $7/day is not terribly difficult.
- The spirit of United Way's Challenge, I think, is to replicate the challenge of living on Food Stamps, so I think the restrictions of not buying things you couldn't via Food Stamps is a good idea.
- This is not a "living in grinding poverty" challenge, and I have several friends who were or are currently on Gov't nutritional assistance and they have a working vehicle, even if it is a little beat up. If Ms. Schneider uses a car to go grocery shopping, let that one slide.
- Tracy Schneider may very well be what is described as a Bohemian Bourgeois. For the rest of us, it is OK to roll our eyes or even snicker at those that have to totally rethink their grocery shopping and eating habbits to fit them within a budget that a lot of us might consider to be lavish.
- Name calling and making personal attacks are NOT ok, and it does nothing except make yourself feel like a bigshot, while everyone else feels embarrased for you. Maybe you should slide over to the message boards at Fark or 4Chan. You'll fit right in. Or maybe get eaten alive by some professional grade trolls.
- Yeah, give me a jar of Prego, some Barilla pasta, a bag o' salad greens, and some Yoplait, and I could recreate that $35 recession budget meal (*snicker*) for about eight bucks. Some of you tightwad superstars can certainly do it for less.
- Just because you're on Food Stamps, it doesn't mean your diet should move to ramen, Bar-S hot dogs, Hormel Chili, and Wonderbread. If you can still eat Whole Foods groceries on Food Stamps, then that's great! I'm glad to see you're doing OK, but the next time you try to get sympathy from me by complaining about how poor you are, I am totally permitted to give you a swift kick in the ass for bitching about it.
As for me, I just used my budget from last year to calculate how much per month I spent on groceries last year. It averaged to about $154 per month, or $5.10/day, which isn't bad. Some explanation on this this number:
- It includes non-food household products, such as toothpaste, deoderant, soap, etc.
- I also filled up a pantry with canned goods, and my freezer has filled up nicely on this $5/day.
- I do my grocery shopping locally (there's a grocery store in town about a mile away, the nearest Wal-Mart is about 40 miles away).
- The United Way's challenge stipulated you had to pay for breakfast lunch and dinner. A lot of times, I skip breakfast, so for me, it's probably closer to something like 2.2 meals per day, not three.
- I try hard to avoid most instant and microwaveable over-processed foods, opting for fresh produce, dairy, and meat; but a can of chili or a Totino's Pizza still slips in now and then.
- If I started with a totally empty pantry and fridge and ended them the same, I could feed myself on... I guess...$4/day.
As for buying fancy stuff, I just try and keep it fresh. I still have a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli in the pantry that has a use-by date of November 2008. As long as I possess this unopened can of bland pseudo-food, I know that I'm winning the nutritional war in the Kitchen.
Eat well, and keep it civil, folks!