Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal the other day about ‘diet squads’. Apparently, the diet squads were “A publicity stunt by Chicago’s health department to prove that nutritious and satisfying meals could also be cheap. Since the beginning of World War I, food prices had shot up; between 1914 and 1920, the cost of food for an average American family more than doubled. Malnourishment was becoming a public health problem, especially in cities. And people were starting to complain about the ‘food pirates who had America by the throat’…”
The article goes on to say how squads of volunteers would submit to a diet that was not to exceed a particular budget. Each group tried to outdo the other by thriving on a smaller budget than the other squads. A group of NYPD rookies subsisted on 25 cents per day (adjusted, that would be $3.93 per day in todays currency.) Eleven of the 12 NYPD rookies, by the way, put on weight in this experiment. Go figure.
The article continues that at the time it was believed the average family of two adults and three kids could be fed for $7.31 a week ( $138.51 in todays world.)
I have a sort of odd curiousity about how little money it can take to contentedly feed someone. Note Im saying how little money it takes, not how little food. Big difference.
When I was in college I recall that during summer session, when students had to fend for themselves without food service, I fed myself on less than five dollars a day. Didn’t get hungry either. The notion that you cannot feed yourself on X dollars is absurd. Minimum wage, at this moment, is a bit above $6 an hour. Anyone who says they cannot feed themselves for one day on $6 is either completely incapable of working a calculator, a stove, a cookbook or all three.
The trick is, of course, shopping wisely. While a dozen eggs may cost $1.50, or 25% of a daily $6 budget, those eggs last six days at two-per-day. Same thing with rice…at twentyfive cents per pound you can spend two days worth of your six dollar budget but wind up with months worth of rice.
What did I make for five bucks a day? I bought ground beef ($1.50 worth as I recall), rice, onion, peppers, tomato sauce, spices and that sort of thing and made a huge bowl of rice and beef. Some for lunch, the rest for dinner and a pair of Cokes from a vending machine. (I had no refrigerator so to get cold pop with dinner I had to go to the more expensive vending machine).
My point is that when a person doesn’t have a lot of money you can still, without much difficulty, manage to feed yourself if you can find one hour of employment per day at the lowest legal wage possible. No one wants to live like a Third World-er but despite their staggering amount of poverty they manage to swell humanities ranks with more warm bodies every year. A tough feat when you’re starving to death. But they’re proof that you can subsist on ‘pennies a day’ (if Sally Struthers is to be believed.)
Wanna eat cheap?
Buy in bulk. Know how to cook and prepare food. Be willing to do some math.
You’re poor and live in a ‘food desert’? Grab a back pack, get on the bus and go where the food is. Too poor for the bus? Walk or ride a bicycle. I can and do regularly stuff several days worth of groceries into a backpack and bring them home on my bicycle. ‘Food desert’ is a convenient way of saying ‘I don’t want to have to walk further than my neighborhood corner store for groceries’.
Food is powerful stuff. Like oxygen, you don’t really think about it until its gone. Hunger makes people do amazing things. Chilean soccer teams in the Andes eat their dead, tribes kill other tribes for cattle, people attack each other in food lines after disasters….when people are truly, genuinely hungry the gloves come off and they revert to the very dangerous primitive human stage. And while on hungry, desperate person is pretty damn dangerous imagine the danger of them in groups.
Moral of the story: it is proven that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to feed yourself. So, take the twenty bucks you were going to spend on porn, beer or Blockbuster this evening and buy some food so that when you do lose your job, or you do lose your house, or your local government collapses you have something to eat.
Seriously dude, if you cant live off whats in your cupboards for at least one solid week you’re doing something wrong.