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.]