Amazingly enough in the daily 20+ deluge of slashfood.com blog postings, one caught my eye this morning — mainly because it was the last one posted, not because fate pushed my nose into it. The blog post posed the question “Could you survive on $62 a week in groceries?” [ link ], and my answer to that is simply, yes. It notes that there is a woman doing an “experiment” to see what it would be like to live at the poverty level. The task is to only spend $62 a week for two people, all the other icky stuff associated with poverty are unsurprisingly overlooked.
I have been accused of being painfuly frugal, but that was the way I was reared. My parents grew up in an agricultural community in a developing nation. I have been taught that food is a basic necessity and shouldn’t be a luxury. Much to my chagrin I have grown to savor expensive foods and preparations but I’ve been marred to feel guilty about it, so I have taken to not be so decadent in my daily life.
Not to sound patronizing or insensitive to the hungry in America, it is completely possible to live on such a budget. However, the tastes of the main-stream American and the marketing of food here doesn’t make it easy for one to stick to the budget.
** Please note, the following is treading upon the lines of modern jackass (definition) **
Grocery stores are partially to blame for this, since product turn-around and brand competition causes prices to go up. I shy away from processed foods and only buy convenince foods when I’m lazy. So, the processed foods that I do buy, I have to do further processing at home. I must admit, I do shop bargain meats because my ethnic training has taught me to work with cheaper cuts of meat and embarassingly enough… old… maybe putrifying meats. To that point, I have to say that my tastes run the gammut from peasantry to haute cuisine and being reared the way I was, I’m ok with meat being a condiment rather than the main course.
So, what would comprise the rest of the food shopping? Answer: Rice and produce.
Produce, it’s a sore subject in certain parts of America. Urban sprawl and giant corporations made way for mega-stores to sprout up causing people to buy foods that have been shipped from far and wide. Now, there are some benefits to shipping foods; bananas year-round from Ecuador, peaches in winter time, and hot-house tomatoes; but we pay the price for these things. I’m not saying to go back to the frontier lifestyle where we eat only root vegetables in the winter time, but given the good local growing season of parts in America, one doesn’t have to rely on big box grocery stores. I am lucky that Detroit has one of the oldest farmers markets in the country ( easternmarket.org ), and I take advantage of that from time to time. Those who don’t live in cities with a farmer’s market, or sadly where the farmer’s market has turned trendy and given rise to expensive organically-inflated pest-free art-foods; there are green grocers whose only business is produce. Since turn-around is so frequent the products are fresh and the prices are low. My weekly spending at a green grocer is about $7, unless if I splurge and rack up a $11 to $13 bill.
I haven’t posted my rant about bread, because it is rather lengthy but suffice it to say that since it is a processed food and the fact that wholesome hand-crafted bread is sold at a premium, I do not like to buy it. Rice would be my preferred choice of starch, if I wasn’t so in love with Snuffy. Long-suffering as it can be, he and I do not share the same palate, so… bread and potatoes add to the food budget. He is the reason for my prediliction for blaming the connundrum we are in on American tastes. He likes processed food, he likes good old foods that scream Americana, and we do enjoy eating in nice restaurants. Agreed, he did not grow up eating scraps of meat scattered amongst a melange of edible leaves, shoots, berries, and vegetable matter; so I can’t fault him for liking the things he does eat (heeey). I threaten him with reverting back to a simple fish broth and rice with salt when he gets over-indulgent.
So, bottom line… I’m depressed at this woman’s venture into hunger. She’s bringing in baggage from a world of abundance to dabble in the world of poverty. I hate to say that she’s a dilettante, but hell… she’s received some minor fame for it by the editor of Epicurious magazine, which only seems to bring attention to what could be a very insubstantial trial.