I came across a food article a couple of days ago on a website called Wallet Pop that dealt with how to feed a college kid for only $35 a week . That comes to about $5 a day. Among his tips on how to do it, he posted a sample week's menu which he clearly announced was a no-frills, survival menu only. He also placed a disclaimer right above the menu that said prices will vary depending upon where you live and shop.
But the whole thing really got the commenters into an uproar.
His menu was plain, and extremely repetitive, which it very much could be if you were a college boy with little money and didn't know how to cook. Plus it was greatly lacking in fruits and veggies. However, he did explain that those types of items could be easily replaced for some of the choices he had made in his fake shopping trip. But most of the things he said went totally over the readers' heads.
After reading through 16 pages of comments, I was left with a disheartened kind of feeling, because most of the comments were pretty much the same as when a low carber over at Low Carb Friends attempted to revamp the dad's menu into something that would work for a low carb diet. Most criticisms on the blog, as well as the Low Carb Friends' thread, were about the menus themselves, rather than the principles put forth in the article meant to help the reader to design their own no-frills menu.
In fact, there wasn't a single comment on any of those principles. Just comments showing that the reader wanted to be told exactly what to do. They wanted to know exactly what to eat. They didn't want to be taught how to fish, so to speak. "I can't do it here, for what you can do it there." "Tell me where you shop so I can go there too."
The vast majority of comments feverishly centered around the nutrition of the sample menu. How to do it better, or what was missing. But the advice was conflicting, depending on the nutritional dogma that each commenter was bringing to the table. Some wanted a menu with fewer processed, refined carbs. Some wanted a menu without meat. Some wanted to know where the fruits and veggies were. Others fought among each other as to whether or not fresh fruits and veggies were better nutritionally than frozen.
And most of them kept asking where you could buy a gallon of milk for $1.89 even though several previous commenters who supported the dad's prices, specifically told them where they live, and where they shop.
The commenters at Low Carb Friends weren't any better, criticizing the posters prices, and telling her she was crazy because "they" couldn't buy the foods she chose, for the prices the poster was able to buy them for.
I can't help but wonder what is WRONG with people? Why have we turned ourselves into such a dumbed-down species? Why couldn't even the low-carb group see and understand that the reason why the poster went to all of the trouble revamping the article into a low carb menu was to show low carb folks that healthier choices doesn't really cost more than cheap, highly refined carb living.
So I'm not going to come up with any kind of a false menu plan. Instead, I'm going to give you the 10 principles this particular dad laid out in the original article
1. Discipline. Sometimes if you really don't have the money to spend, discipline might not be a problem. For example, right now, we have very little money coming in, so everything we do get goes straight to bills. We are pretty much living on whatever I have in the house. If your situation is a bit less extreme, it's going to take the right frame of mind, and the desire to save money to do this. That's because stores are designed to get us to spend our money. Their motive isn't to help us save anything.
2. Shop Cheap. The suggestion given was to do most of your shopping in a discount supermarket. The one in my own area is a Super Walmart, but prices aren't necessarily cheaper than the other 2 stores in my area. The other suggestion was to let go of name brands and buy generic and store brands. I do that when I can, but my gluten intolerance won't always allow me to do that, as I have to buy what's gluten free. Which is why these principles are meant to be guidelines only. Take what you can use, and toss the rest.
3. Shop for staples every couple of weeks. The less time you spend in the grocery store, and the fewer trips you make each month or week, the less chance there is for the store to rob you of your funds through impulse purchases.
4. A survival diet is a bare-bones, basic diet. While it should be as nutritious as one can make it, there are times when you aren't going to be able to eat what you know to be good nutrition. Not even good low carb nutrition. In my own current circumstances, for example, we are eating very few veggies and fruit and lots of starchy carbs right now because that's what I have in the house.
5. Cruise the aisles. Spend some time checking out all the stores in your own area. For me, that's a Super Walmart and a couple of independent grocery stores. Spend some time checking out what types of low carb foods are available, and what their prices for those foods are. See if you can come up with new and different alternatives to what you've been currently buying.
In our area whole chicken are high, $6 or $7 each which would give us 2 meals. A 10-lb bag of chicken leg quarters is the same price, but would feed us twice as many meals, plus soup.
Ground beef is pretty expensive here too. $2.50 to $3.00 a pound for the medium fat kind. But one of the independent grocery stores has a marked down meat section where I can get regular and medium fat ground beef for $1.29 when they have it. So I generally wait for them to mark it down, then buy everything they have at that reduced price.
If I can't get marked down ground beef, I substitute ground turkey which runs $1.89 here at full price, and around $1.49 when Walmart marks it down.
6. Go for weekly variety rather than daily. Let's face it. We're pretty spoiled. Most of us are used to eating whatever we want to eat, whenever we want to eat it. And that means daily variety. But when you're following a tight budget, that isn't always possible. If you buy a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters, for example, you might have to eat chicken 3 or 4 times that week. Next week you might buy a large package of pork steaks and eat those instead of the chicken. If you can shop less often, like bi-weekly or even monthly, variety will be easier to come by.
7. Cook with leftovers in mind. In the sample menu offered, there was 3 main dishes planned that were alternated throughout the week. I tend to cook the same way. With only 2 of us to cook for most of the time, I still use a lot of main dishes meant to serve 4 or 6. Then we eat the leftovers scattered throughout the week.
8. Save what you have leftover each week to add to next weeks purchases so you can spend a bit more on something that is more special. You don't have to spend your full budgeted amount each week. If your budget is $35 and you only spend $32, then save the $3 to add to next week's purchases.
We really, really like salmon, which is sold in large 2lb packages here for about $7. That comes to $3.50 per meal which is higher than I normally spend on meat. Especially when I can pick up cheap rib steaks for $1.99 a pound. So it isn't something that we are able to buy every week. However, if I saved the little bit I didn't spend this week to go with next week's menu, I could put that $3 towards the purchase of salmon.
9. Make a list of everything you like to eat, and arrange it in order of cost. I did this when I was working at the Boys' Home. It was the only way to feed the 24 people I was feeding for $335 a week. I had to generally know what each main dish cost, so I could base most of my week's menu on the lower cost main dishes, plus juggle the go-withs to stay within a certain dollar amount per meal.
10. Think volume, rather than what you would like to eat. When money is tight, and you are cut to a bare-bones menu what fills your tummy and keeps you satisfied is going to count the most. Whipped cream topped sugar-free jello is nice, but doesn't go very far when you're hungry and need a real snack. Deviled eggs, tuna with mayo, celery with peanut butter is far more filling.
Well, that's the 10 principles I was able to find in the above referenced article. Did you find any others that I missed?