Food for Thought in 2017
There's a skit I remember seeing in my childhood years. I want to say it was performed by a well known comedian whose face/name escape me at the moment. It involved a sad sack going into a restaurant and ordering two cups of hot water. Into one, he dumped a dollop or two of ketchup from the bottle on the table, then added some salt and pepper and stirred it. Then from his coat pocket came a used tea bag which was dunked in the other cup. The hot water was free...and so was the 'soup and tea' that made up the meal...which he enjoyed very well until the restaurant staff caught on to his ruse.
There have been slim days in the food budget in the long ago past. There have been sticky weeks here and there since then, but for the most part we've been blessed with food and enough money to purchase more when it was needed. I say humbly that God often inspires me to stretch foods beyond what I dream they will go. I've been very blessed in this area.
I've been thinking the past few days. How should I manage if I had very little to base my food budget upon? My mind has drifted many times to the contest ALL YOU magazine used to conduct several years ago, where one was allowed $25 per week per person. I often used to do this challenge but I used my pantry and freezer stock to carry me and just limited my spending to $50 a week for John and I, and still managed to replace some of the stock I was using.
In the past two months I have attempted to follow a self imposed mandate to buy only what was needed at the moment and to rely on my pantry to provide the rest. This worked well to lower my spending. We moved from averaging $130 at Aldi to $85. I still did some restocking of the pantry on items which were extremely well priced. I didn't lower my grocery amounts overall as much as I'd have liked (I also spent money at Kroger, Publix and at the discount grocery), but I lowered it.
But I kept asking myself a question: What if I had no pantry or freezer to back me up? What if all I had to manage with was just $50 a week? How would my dietary needs hold up with hard monetary restrictions? How would I manage then? What would I need to purchase and how would I manage three meals and two snacks a day on that? Could it be done? I am in a unique position in that while we live in the country on a 9 acre property, we grow none of our own foods, not even a cherry tomato. The only foraging I could do this time of year is of squishy over ripe wild persimmons. So even that foraging option is out for helping to stretch a taut budget.
Why even when Katie left home to marry the first time, I was able to purchase or give from my own stores a substantial beginning stock of foodstuffs for a pantry for her. One stroll through the supermarket wen she was settled and she was on the phone calling home. "I had no idea how much money you saved us..."
What if I had just $50 to spend for a first week of 'no pantry/no freezer' usage? Especially sobering when a quick pick up trip for bread and fruit turned into a $50 shopping trip not too long ago and I bought nothing long lasting during that little stroll, nor any impulse or indulgent items. What if I had no pantry? Nothing in the freezer? What if I were starting out fresh? I am pretty sure that even my long experience in provision for a home wouldn't allow for the whole of the daily recommended allowance of foods. It's a sobering thought.
Here's a downloadable guide which was published in 2016 of current dietary guidelines:
What would it cost to follow U.S. Government Dietary Guidelines? Per the Governmental Charts these are spending guidelines they suggest for a household of our size. Monthly costs are laid out as follows for two in our age range:
thrifty low-cost moderate liberal
$363.40 $468.60 $583.70 $704.20
We typically have fallen between the thrifty and low-cost plans but my new budget plan will actually put us BELOW the thrifty plan.
Would I do be able to stick to the new budget if I were strictly adhering to their guidelines? How would that affect my diet? My budget?
I asked myself these questions late one night as I lay awake. You see, I have no real idea of how long a bag of flour might last or how many servings there are in a tub of oatmeal. That would make a difference, that knowledge. I don't know what life would be like without a pantry or a freezer filled with at least enough meat to last 2 weeks or longer. I don't know how well I'd manage under duress. I'd like to think I'd do well... but would I?
In one of my vintage magazines there is a bare bones menu for one week. I sat down with current prices ten years ago and the cost of those foods were $77...what would it be like at today's costs? If I have a budget of $50/week for the two of us, what would I have to leave off that menu?
I researched the government's guidelines available online. It is a 37 page document with 12 pages of appendix notes. I do suggest that you at least scan through it. It contains a good bit of information. You can find a multiple page document on the thrifty food plan here:
The low-cost, moderate food and liberal plans are in this document:
I'd love to experiment with this in 2017, but I'm not just sure how I'll go about it. All this thinking has certainly made me pull some of my old (oh so old!) money saving recipes back out to use once again! For right now, I'm just contemplating how I might manage under duress, and thinking that practicing here and there might not be a bad idea. No, I have no indication that things might be about to go bad, but I do think that practice does provide a degree of preparation if the unforeseen should happen and so I shall be practicing over the next few months. I do think it would be an interesting thing to share.