In her challenge "Wrap-Up," Crunchy Chicken (as well as many of the challenge participants) admitted to not quite making it. Crunchy herself, attributes the overspending to restaurant and coffee shop dining.
So the question is... Is eating ethically really possible on a budget as small as the one our government offers it's food stamp participants?
Unofficially, I tracked my personal food spending during the month of April. Per government guidelines, I had $176 to spend. How did I do? I ended up spending $125 on food for the entire month. That includes:
- $17 for a high quality olive oil from our farmers' market
- $48 eating out twice a week (lunch dates with my hubby)
- $30 for local strawberries
- $7 in splurge items like (onion glaze and dried cranberries at the farmers' market - didn't need them and, well, just splurged at the last minute)
The rest of my $125 was spent on lots of fresh veggies at the farmers' market, local rice that I buy in bulk from Houston, and local wheat berries which I can buy in bulk from Rosebud (TX). I could easily have cut back on olive oil, eating out, and those little splurge items from the market. So, I could easily have eaten on much less that my $125 which is still way below my allotment.
Although I ate fresh fruit, I kept my fruit intake low (about 1 to 1-1/2 servings per day) and my veggie intake high (about 7-10 servings per day) - mostly because eating local fruit can be much more expensive than eating local veggies. Also missing is meat and dairy, which when bought sustainably-raised can be on the pricy side, and processed foods which can also be expensive to buy organic. I just don't eat them.
So I was able to pull it off, but does that mean it's possible for others? I readily admit, I didn't include my hubby's food bills because I knew it would push us over the two-person limit of $323 - he eats out every day at lunch adding up to about $200/month, and that's before we add in his breakfasts and dinners at home. Having said that, however, Dave and I have discussed what would happen if money got tight and that eating out would be one of the first things to go. I honestly believe that if we HAD to, we could eat well on our $323 joint food budget.
So, is eating ethically/sustainably/locally more expensive? I am asked this question time and again when I speak to people in the community. Honestly, it's a tricky question to answer, solely because it depends on what we as individuals eat (fresh or packaged, whole or processed, meat and dairy or not). Eating ethically on a budget requires cooking from scratch, rejecting processed foods, and concentrating on quality vegetables, and inexpensive staples like whole grains and dried beans - much like the generations before us prepared food. Today, we have traded these traditional meals for quick-and-easy ones that keep us moving throughout our busy lives. Have we sacrificed something in the process? Does the single parent, working for minimum wage, attending every school function, with so little time to play with the children before falling exhausted into bed each night... Does that single parent even have a choice?
What do you think? Is it realistic? Can we all eat ethically/sustainably/locally on a limited budget or is it truly for those with financial wiggle-room?