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This article pissed me off today.

To sum up, the Associated Press asked three people who have never been poor to plan a food budget for poor people. Their limits were based on $68.88 per week, the average allocation of food stamps for a family of four. One of the three shoppers in the AP model went $20 over, one went less than a dollar over, one went less than a dollar under.

All three failed, IMHO.

In each model, there is no room for birthday cake and ice cream.
In each model, there is no room for the kids friends to come over and have a snack.
In each model, there is no room for one of the kids to raid the fridge in the middle of the night.
In each model, there is no room for spilling macaroni on the kitchen floor.
In each model, there is no room for "we're having a potluck, you should bring..."

Here's a tip from the article: "Cook as a family to reduce stress of cooking meals from scratch."

Y'know what? Fuck you Associated Press. Maybe our family of four is one parent and three children. Or maybe there are two parents but they aren't both lucky enough to work first shift. If they were lucky enough to both have non-retail jobs, they'd probably have more money and they wouldn't need the goddamn food stamps.

As a cheapskate, I have something to offer here. Here's a more realistic fake family of four.

First off, the $68.80 per week is not the maximum benefit, it's what a family would get if there was some other income in the household, but not much. Therefore, we should assume that all the adults work shit jobs. If there are two parents, sometimes they work at the same time, sometimes they don't. If there are two children, at least one of the children might not be old enough to help in the kitchen, so the plan for everyone to cook together might not be feasible. One kid might be a teenager who eats like a horse, because that's what teenagers do.

We shall assume that other bills get all the non-food stamp money. The $68.80 per week is all they have for food.

For our fake family, there should be vegetables and meat at every meal. And the AP food experts all included a big chunk of the budget for meat. Meat? Really? Okay, fine, whatever. Avoiding meat is one of the easiest ways to cut money from a food budget, but I get that these people might not want to drastically change their eating habits. If we're not cutting out meat, then we're not drastically changing our eating habits to exclude some easy to make foods. For this price, healthier meals will mean less meat.

Okay then. Let's assume that this family of four sets aside nine dollars per week for occasional overages like ice cream and spilled macaroni. That leaves $59.88, about $2.13 per person, per day. Assuming that at least one person in the family eats like a teenager, cereal and milk will average about forty-five cents a person, oatmeal is about fifteen cents - let's say thirty-five cents for breakfast. That leaves about $1.78 for lunch and dinner.

So here are some cheap lunch and dinner meals for four people that include vegetables and occasional meat. These are all less than $3.56 total ($.89 per person.) My own added rule is that the meals cannot be labor intensive.

All prices are from CUB or Amazon, both of those are pretty competitive. I am assuming that our fake family starts out with an assortment of the spices and condiments that they like. One sale price is included, which I think is okay; something is always on sale.

$1.18 - 2 boxes generic macaroni and cheese dinner
$0.10 - 1/2 cup milk
$0.15 - 1/2 stick margarine
$1.00 - 1/4 lb ham, cubed or; 1 can of tunafish

$1.10 - 1 lb frozen mixed vegetables

$3.53 total

This could be about a dollar cheaper, and still tasty without the ham or tunafish.

1.84 - Four chicken thighs, boiled (a pack of eight was available today for between $3.60 and $4.50, our fake family would need to pick the ones on the lighter side)

$0.34 (They're on sale this week.) 8 potatoes cut in to wedge fries and baked
$0.10 canola oil to get seasoning to stick to potatoes

$1.28 - 1 lb frozen peas and carrots

$3.56 total

The leftover chicken broth should be saved for cooking rice later.

$0.60 - 3 packages ramen noodles, cooked, then drained of almost all liquid. Save the broth packets for something else. Maybe egg drop soup.

$1.88 - one pound of frozen stir fry vegetables (three varieties available)

$1.00 - Fake family's favorite stir fry seasoning or sauce, up to about a dollar's worth.

In a big skillet, fry vegetables first, then noodles. Add stir fry seasoning last.

$3.48 total

I know that this last one doesn't have meat. It's pretty generous on the stir fry sauce budget though. With cheaper sauce, and about fifty cents, it could get four scrambled eggs tossed in, or one of the chicken thighs cut up into bits.

That's enough I think and maybe I'll add more to this later. To sum up, poverty is complicated.


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January 2017



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