“While it is true that many people simply can’t afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we’ve somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
Television often has adverts about feeding a child for a dollar a day. I feel sympathetic and compelled to help, but my personal investigations have revealed that only a pittance of this money reaches hungry mouths. The vast proportion goes to administration or is stolen in transit.
At the other end of the spectrum, the typical western family is going broke from gluttony. The concept of feeding your family on as little as $3 per person, per day sounds like hogwash to most families in the western world. Despite the fact that this is probably triple what many families in developing nations spend on a days food.
If you eat a diet that is principally meat, dairy, fish, and fowl or if all of your meals are fast food then you are right it is hogwash. However, it is perfectly achievable if you centre your plate around a starch (beans, potatoes, rice, corn…) with the rest of your calories coming from whole foods, fruits, vegetables and maybe a few nuts.
The three dollars pp/pd breaks out to be about $1.75 pp/pd for the starch and another $1.50 pp/pd for fruit and other vegetables, condiments, spices and herbs. See this link and the original work of the author for verification. Our experience is that these numbers are about right after correcting for a few factors in our currency/food economy and close enough to repeat as a rough order guide for people contemplating the benefits of simple living. Of course the $3pp/pd can be reduced dramatically if you can grow the bulk of your fruit and vegetables. However, figure in the cost of acquiring the land to grow vegetables and it might not be that good a deal!
Oftentimes you hear struggling families complain about the cost of healthy food as a justification for relying on the edible food like substances from McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell. But, based on a consumption of 2500 calories the relative cost of living on the junk food diet is over $14 pp/pd before medical costs. Good luck feeding a family of 5 on that expensive diet. You are talking US$490 per week vs $105 for healthy home cooked food.
Bottom line – if you want to bring your food costs into line you need to look at centering your diet around foods you can grow in the back yard…or in a local community garden or even in your front berm!
You’ll breakfast on oats with raisins and some seeds, lunch on whole wheat brown bread sandwich with carrots, lettuce, tomato and dressing and dine on a bean, potato and gravy burrito. In doing so you’ll quickly come to realise your body likes this way of eating. Starches are comfort foods and your body will give you plenty of signals that this is how you should have been eating all along. Meanwhile your simple living journey just trimmed another several hundred dollars off your living expenses…how low are they now? Low enough you don’t need to work everyday?
Eat well my friends.
I decided to use US currency in this article because the blog has an international audience and everyone can relate US currency to their local prices. If you have done the math in your local food economy please share by clicking the speech bubble under the title of the post.