Monday, July 28, 2008

This doesn't tug my heartstrings

The Common Room and A Quiet, Simple Life both just posted, without much comment, about this article on MSN Money: Can a family of four eat on $100 a week?

Okay, my answer straight off is no. Mostly no. I'm basing that on some recent frugal articles about Miss Maggie's $70 emergency menu; several people priced out her groceries in various parts of the U.S. and said they couldn't match those prices. I won't say it's impossible, especially if you're somebody like Amy Dacyczyn and have a whole system going of gardening, freezing, swapping, sale prices and so on--that, to me, is a different story from the MSN Money scenario of having to spend X dollars at a national grocery chain, without all the rest of the supports in place.

However, this author says her family was able to come pretty close, even without those long-term-frugal tricks. She describes their meals for the week:

"Breakfasts were fairly easy, with most of my family eating the eggs, cereal, plain yogurt, oatmeal or homemade French toast I had planned. However, my son missed his waffles sorely.

"Lunches were a bit harder to scrape together. They consisted of dinner leftovers, bean and cheese burritos, or sandwiches of luncheon meat or peanut butter and jelly.

"Dinners were tasty but required a lot more preparation than I was used to. I prepared salmon patties, rice, corn and zucchini one night; barbecue chicken, green beans and rice another; as well as family favorites like spaghetti and meatballs; sloppy Joes; and a slow-cooker pork and cabbage meal (which my 4-year-old took just two bites of).

"With such a tiny budget, if I wanted dessert I had to make it myself, so I used the butter and flour I had at home with the milk, eggs, canned pineapple and bread I bought to make a quick pineapple bread pudding and poured juice into molds to make popsicles."


Why I'm not overly excited by all this...and maybe it's why the DHM is laughing...is that this resembles just an average week for us "poverty-stricken folks." Only up here it's costing us close to $200 for those kinds of groceries, never mind the "snack packs" or whatever she's talking about there. And the hardship of having to make a pineapple dessert...oh my. Excuse me while I go wipe that nasty cynical taste out of my mouth.

I'm thinking about the DHM's poverty days when she and her husband were living mostly on baked potatoes. I'm thinking about scraping up enough change during my own single days for a box of macaroni and cheese from the corner store on the way home from a job that didn't pay enough. I'm thinking about barbecued chicken, pork with cabbage, and spaghetti and meatballs, and thinking that sounds pretty good; but I confess I don't know how Melinda Fulmer did that on $100 for the week, unless those two little kids really didn't eat much.

I posted way back awhile ago about my Food Hamper Gourmet menu--a challenge from a number of years ago to come up with menus from the items in a charity food box. That, to me, is what we'd be eating on $100 a week. Canned soup mixed with potatoes and wieners, and other yummy creations like that. Or, go the other way, we'd be eating an awful lot of lentils. Either way, I don't see how barbecued-chicken economizing fits into that kind of tightwadding. It reminds me a bit of the link Meredith posted back in January about the horror of having to cut back on Botox.

Excuse me while I go clean up the dinner leftovers: meatloaf, couscous, fresh green beans, fresh bread, and a dessert concocted of graham crackers, a bit of homemade jam, homemade yogurt, and a couple of bananas about to go bad. Just wish we could do it on $100 a week, though.

[Canadian/American update: Yes, I know there are money differences, but there shouldn't be enough difference to make our $200 equal $100 American.]

7 comments:

Meredith said...

See, I got the impression that DHM was laughing because it was ludicrous to think it cannot be done! (Not so Sallie, whom I suspect has higher standards for food prices than I do.)

My normal standard was about $50/week without coupons, but mine has inched pretty close to $100 a week of late.

I know you--I know your shopping smarts--and if you're having trouble doing it for $100 in Canada, I'd say price increases here will follow, too.

I agree that her menu is pretty typical what we eat for a week.

Queen of Carrots said...

I'd say we do about $100 a week for a family of six-ish (however you want to count me nursing twins and occasional adult helpers), but I think food prices are relatively cheap in Ohio and we have an Aldi's and buy grains and beans in bulk. I am kind of surprised the author could do that in LA, where I would imagine things are pricier--although not fresh fruits and veggies, maybe. I did laugh at the posture of hardship for--gasp--cooking your own desserts!

Birdie said...

I laughed too. For me, though, I think it is because the article just happened to coincide with our own "Pioneer Diet Experiment" in which we spent just $70 to feed our family of 7 for this week. What are the odds?

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I expect teh price differences are substantial. I know that when we traveled the Al-Can highway, our travel budget pretty much doubled when we crossed the border over to your side- and we were sleeping in a tent. Groceries were shockingly more expensive 16 years ago in your neck of the woods.

Maybe we should do a pair of posts where we compare prices? That'd be cool.

I was laughing partly because I know it can be done in LA- groceries are really cheap there, all of them. Housing is incredibly high, but everything else is pretty reasonable.
And I was laughing at her misery over making her own dessert and the time consuming dinners of spaghetti and sloppy joes.

Mama Squirrel said...

Well, DHM, that does make me feel a little better.

Sure, I'd do a comparing-prices post with you.

songbirdy said...

I feed the family of 4 on about $300 a month. That is including things like our presents, and various odd spending. I'd add about $100 per month spent in stores like Zellers. My son grows an entire clothing size each season and I refuse to buy second hand undies and socks! Zellers includes things like T.P. tooth paste, etc.

I'm spendy when it comes to household cleansers. I can make my own soaps for fairly cheap but find that I don't and then I end up not doing anything! Because of our daughter's sensitive health and long time spent on daily medication I am very particular about the chemicals brought into our home. I don't want to compromise our health either by not cleaning enough nor by using harsh un-needed chemicals. As per laughing... there was a time when I thought I could never eat lentils. I know I couldn't imagine spending less than $300 to feed two people, let alone 4! I find that now I look back and it gives me an increased humbleness as to how unaware I was! Yes, I get a giggle, but its more of sadness and I imagine that's what you meant!

Sara said...

Oh, the horror of having to make a dessert from scratch. I'll just say that for those of us with special dietary needs, this amount of work is nothing new.

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