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View Diary: Mario Batali - Living on Food Stamps (310 comments)

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  •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Muskegon Critic, Yo Bubba

    I don't get it. I spend about $20/week per person and we eat well. Fruit and vegetables, good cheese and quality bakery products. I read labels- very little HFCS and always whole grain sandwich breads- about 10% of my groceries are organic, and 50% all natural. We have a bit of meat at 1-2 meals many days of the week. And yet we still get some frozen convenience foods and ice cream and chips- nobody feels like we can't afford a treat, I mean.

    What's missing from the equation? How is a professional celebrity chef unable to compete with the home economic power of a middle-aged suburban mom?

    Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

    by jennifree2bme on Wed May 16, 2012 at 11:39:40 PM PDT

    •  I don't know where you live (20+ / 0-)

      but I toted up a short list here; 1 gal milk, 1 loaf of bread (not quality but whole grain), 1 lb. cheddar cheese (not quality), 1 lb. ground beef (not sirloin), 1 gal ice cream (not fancy), 1 bag of chips (bargain brand), and 1 head of lettuce and I'm already at $20. I'm over $20.

      •  I think the bigger problem with food is access (6+ / 0-)

        for many impoverished communities.  Those parts of town where the Liquor store has a sign that says "We Accept EBT" or "We Take WIC" and they sell a $3 can of beef stew and have one  wrinkled wilted shrink wrapped bell pepper on the shelf for $2.....the communities where if you have  a functioning car everybody is asking you for a life here and there.

        If you can get to a decent grocery store, you can get a decent supply of food for a week for the $31 per person food assistance allotment.

        10 lb bag of potatoes for $3 ($2 if your wait for a good price and stock up) and a 5 pound bag of rice for $4 - that's gonna take care of the caloric needs for the week right there. Then you've got the rest of the $26 for more nutrient dense foods:

        •  Food deserts exist all over. (4+ / 0-)

          Urban and rural. My city has WalMart and two stores that are run by a local company and one Albertson's that is trying to go out of business. Alb tried to sell by was stopped because of lack of competition so they have raised their prices to drive down business, then they can close the doors.

          Our WalMart sells products at 10 to 20% higher prices than the WalMarts in SLC, just 30 miles away, even tho' their food distribution center is in our county. They do it because they can get away with it. We have the choice of two local, family centered Mormon owned stores or WalMart or a 60 mile round trip for better prices.

          "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

          by high uintas on Thu May 17, 2012 at 11:18:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The averages (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've read go to put it more close to $20 a day

    •  Yeah... (7+ / 0-)

      we spend less than $31 per person per week. I think we do closer to the $20 per person per week.

      Heck, we ate BETTER when we were on food assistance than we did before. It was awesome to be able to buy fresh fruit for the kids.

      The bigger problem with food is that areas with high concentrations of food assistance users tend to be food deserts without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and overpriced cans of soup and mac and cheese.

    •  20 a week (5+ / 0-)

      per person? I think you need better bookkeeping. I don't want to call you a liar or anything, but I just don't believe that normal adults can eat well on $20 a week.

      The average cost of milk in 2012 is $3.67 per gallon

      I'm not sure how many people live in your house and where do you live, and if you guys are in low calories diet but I just do not believe you only expend $20 per person in foo and dinning out and on top you have for treats

      •  Sure...I'd go with that $20 a week figure (3+ / 0-)

        Heck, I make my own bread and calculated it all out: it's 80 cents per loaf, 1/2 whole wheat.

        About 1400 calories per loaf. That's, like, MOST of my own caloric needs right there (2100, ideally) and I've only gone through $5.60. And yeah, we probably eat about a loaf of bread per day in our house.

        Gallon of milk (around here anyway) runs about $2.50 at the discount places like Aldi and that's another 2400 calories, more if you get Vitamin D milk and that pretty much covers caloric needs for the week: bread and milk and leaves you with $15 for veggies for the week, maybe a pound of ground beef -- I buy the $3.00 pound of turkey kielbasa and $1.50 per dozen eggs for protein. I go through 2 eggs per day (25 cents).

        I eat cabbage ($2 per head) and carrots ($3 per pound) and cauliflower (1.50 per head) to suppliment the nutrients.

        $20 per week is totally doable.

      •  You're right. This is NYC (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lonely Texan, 714day

        Shit is expensive.  I don't think my family (of 3) can get away for less than $10/day or $70/week.  I actually budget $100/wk for the unexpected expenditure.

      •  I haven't tried it but I think it's possible (8+ / 0-)

        I don't know about high quality cheese, fruits and vegetables as the original commenter said.

        But if you made potatoes and/or rice your mainstay and added in small amounts of chicken or inexpensive pork for protein, (at 20 percent of calories), I think you could get 2000 calories a day and reasonably complete nutrition for $20 a week.

        Baking your own bread would help.

        However, the above diet assumes you have a kitchen to cook in, you are current with your gas and/or electric bill to operate a stove, knowledge to cook from scratch, and access to a well-stocked supermarket. Many poor people have none of the above.

        Supermarkets don't locate in poor urban areas. The homeless don't have kitchens.

        Note: I saw boneless pork loin on sale for $1.99 a pound at the grocery yesterday. Potatoes are $2.99 for 10 lbs. Boneless chicken breast is $2.99 a pound.

        4 ounces is a reasonable portion for meat so that's 75-cents a meal for chicken breast, 50-cents a meal for pork loin. An 8-ounce potato (for baking) is 15-cents. Salt to make the chicken, pork and potato palatable would cost less than 1-cent per serving. Three meals a day for seven days is 21 meals. At 90 cents a meal (chicken and potato), that's $18.90.

        However, you can't buy any of the above in single serving quantities, so you probably couldn't do it unless you were serving several people per meal, i.e., it would be close to impossible for a single person.

        Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

        by elsaf on Thu May 17, 2012 at 06:42:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Where are the fruits and vegetables? (5+ / 0-)

          A diet of cheap starches with a side of fatty meat sets every nerve in me on fire.  In fact, a diet like that would set just about anyone up for something like obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease, etc., in a few years.  Ask any dietician.

          People need their fruits and vegetables every day.  Unfortunately, the recent cut in food stamps made it next to impossible to afford the necessary amount.  Any further cuts will be disasterous.

          Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

          by Ice Blue on Thu May 17, 2012 at 07:32:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, people saying it is totally doable (5+ / 0-)

            are a) either living in a very affordable place with plenty of time to focus only on making the food budget buy nutritious meals or b) creating meals that keep people alive while starving them.

            Bread and milk, calorific though they may be, does not a living diet make.

            I've lived in Dallas and Seattle, and in neither place, could I eat well (enough fruits and vegetable and protein) on 20 a week, even with grocery stores nearby and the fact that I cook very well. And treats and restaurants?  Nope. No way.  Not unless I skipped a meal to buy a Snickers.

            •  I took all my prices from... (3+ / 0-)

              ... this week's circular from Kroger. They represent sale prices, but they are typical for my area (suburban Detroit).

              I specified that there are very few supermarkets in poor, urban areas (almost none inside the city of Detroit. There's a Whole Foods going to open in Detroit later this year, but poor people are not going to shop there).

              The supermarket ad prices are typical for my area. I live in an "inner ring" suburb of Detroit. If pork loin isn't on sale this week, chicken breasts or lean hamburger will be. If you shop the sales you can generally pick up a pretty balanced grocery basket.

              But that assumes you have the time to plan your shopping and menu, you have the expertise to choose the most nutrition for the least money, and you have access to a store with a good produce department.

              The problem for food stamp recipients is less that you can't live on the amount, more that they don't have access to good-quality, fresh foods. There are few supermarkets, and the ones that there are concentrate on processed foods.

              In Detroit, recently a company started running a mobile produce market to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to people living in the city. It's a great idea, but it's going to take time to build it up to make sure everyone has access.

              Farmers markets are great (I visit one weekly), but most venders there aren't going to accept food stamps. Food-stamp recipients are more of less forced to deal with retailers who don't have the best selection for optimum nutrition.

              Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

              by elsaf on Thu May 17, 2012 at 08:15:16 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm not doubting you, indeed, I'm (0+ / 0-)

                very impressed.  The catch here (because I am an awesome shopper- sales and cheap healthy unprocessed staples only, a great cook and really informed about nutrition) must simply be that there is a wide variety of prices between regions.

          •  Potatoes are vegetables (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Alexandra Lynch

            Potatoes provide fiber, vitamin C, potassium and folate.

            Boneless chicken breast and boneless pork loin are NOT "fatty meat." Both are economical, high-quality proteins.

            The diet I proposed lacks green, leafy vegetables and fruit. But my $18.90 per person, per week, does leave a tiny bit of leeway for an apple or two a week or an occassional serving of carrots ($1 per lb.) or broccoli (99-cents a bunch), or [from this week's Kroger circular] pears for $1 per pound.

            My 21 meals of 4 ounces of chicken or pork and 8 ounces of potato (or 1 cup of cooked rice, 1/8 of a 1 lb. bag or about 25 cents) would be very monotonous, so I might modify it to:

            Seven meals oatmeal (Old Fashioned oats, water) for breakfast. Seven meals of rice and pork. Seven meals of chicken and potato.

            The savings from eliminating 7 chicken or pork servings would leave enough for a bit of fruit and vegetable.

            I'm not saying it would be a great diet. And I'm certainly not saying that poor people have access to the components of this diet. The prevalence of fast food in poor people's diet doesn't come from them desiring Big Macs, it's generally because McDonald's and Burger King are what's convenient.  

            I'm just saying that the person who said she could feed herself for $20 a week is not lying.

            Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

            by elsaf on Thu May 17, 2012 at 08:01:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

            Last time I looked, pork loin and chicken breast were not "a side of fatty meat."

            Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

            by jennifree2bme on Thu May 17, 2012 at 11:33:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  It seem to me that $20 per week (0+ / 0-)

          for food can be done if you only eat one meal per day.  You can eat dinner but what about breakfast and lunch?  Many people, especially kids, need more than one meal per day.

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        I considered the usual total on grocery day, then I verified it against the cost of the ingredients of seven middle priced meals on my current dinner menu plan, added in enough sandwich fixings & crudites, breakfast cereal & bananas to see us through a week. Call me a liar if you like.

        I just know what I know, which is that these celebrities are obviously going to have no clue how to bargain shop because if they ever had to, it's been a long time since.

        Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

        by jennifree2bme on Thu May 17, 2012 at 12:03:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'd love to shop at that store (6+ / 0-)

      Because it doesn't exist where I live.

    •  Do you live (0+ / 0-)

      in New York City?

    •  A lot depends on externalities. (3+ / 0-)

      I find that here in Indiana my grocery money goes further than that of my heartsister in Alabama. Alabama taxes food; Indiana does not.

      She has Kroger and Wal-mart. Period.

      I have Kroger, Wal-mart, Meijer, Aldi's, and Strong's, a little bitty grocery store with an old-fashioned meat department and meat cutter.  I buy my basics such as flour, sugar, etc. at Aldi's, my fresh vegetables either there or Kroger, various incidentals and soda at Kroger, and my meat at Strong's. Consequently, I can say, 'I won't buy green peppers here, they're outrageous. I'll get them over at Aldi's,"

      When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

      by Alexandra Lynch on Thu May 17, 2012 at 07:35:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Would you eat so well if... (4+ / 0-)

      You started from "empty"? No staples like flour and salt on hand. No extras like spices, salad dressing, ketchup. Nevermind the range of utensils, a working stove, crock pot or whatever. Assume you have all those, but there is nothing in the cabinet but a partial of bag of beans and some ramen, and nothing in the fridge but a half stick of oleo and a bottle of salsa. Now, take the Food Stamp budget, and go forward from there.

      from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

      by Catte Nappe on Thu May 17, 2012 at 08:22:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ok, we're on foodstamps, and this is how we eat. (5+ / 0-)

        First off, we don't have a car, but we either pay someone gas or we take a cab to BJ's when the food stamps come in, not everyone has that option. We spend most of our food stamps budget at BJ's, but those items last us 3-4 weeks.
        We get a big box of toaster breakfast things, be it waffles, french toast, ect for about $10. Those last us usually all month, or most of it.
        We get a big bag of frozen chicken breasts for $10, which again, lasts most of the month in various meals.
        3 lbs of hotdogs for $3.
        A box of dino nuggets for the kids for $10. (about 5 lbs, again, lasts most of the month for various meals and lunches)
        A big box of cheese (often lasts two months) $13
        Two big jars of peanut butter $10 (lasts the month).
        Spagetti sauce (three double jars) $6.
        6 boxes of pasta $6.
        6 boxes of instant mashed $6 (each box holds two pouches so that's 12 sides).
        A case of juice boxes that are one serving of fruit and one of vegetables for $12 (lasts two kids about 3 weeks at one/day).

        I could go on but you get the picture. BUT we have both access to BJ's and a big kitchen with a lot of dry storage. Not everyone has that. We also get a lot of things at sav-a-lot (especially turkey burger and lunch meat, canned goods), and we get buy one get one deals at Winn Dixie. We still supplement the food stamps, especially in the last two weeks of the month. We try to make it so we get all our TP, soaps, ect the week the food stamps come in, but that's also when the internet, electric, Caedy's monthly bus pass etc. are due.

        People who don't have access to grocery stores are spending a LOT more for food than we are.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Thu May 17, 2012 at 09:23:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  not to diminish Marios effort but... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, jennifree2bme

        I bet I could eat for a week on no money just eating out of Mario's existing pantry. Then again, I don't know if he allowed himself to utilize things he already owned like olive oil, spices, etc.

        I eat pretty well on a very tight budget (but I'm a light eater - small breakfast, light lunch/leftovers, and a decent dinner with cheaper cuts of meat/spuds/veggies) When I run into problems is when I need to restock the pantry with cooking essentials. Ran out of olive oil and butter a few weeks ago and hat to cook sans oleo or I dipped into to my jar of old bacon/beef/duck/chicken fat drippings for a while.

        20 bucks a week would be pretty rough starting from scratch, 31 for me, is very doable. Hell, I could even kick it up a notch compared to what I spend now.

        Impeach Gary Bettman

        by Edanger6 on Thu May 17, 2012 at 03:10:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I find this very hard to believe! (0+ / 0-)
    •  Shopping list and menu, with prices, please? (0+ / 0-)

      I live in the SF Bay Area, and I can't imagine how I could eat for $20 a week.  So I'd be interested to see your shopping list and your menu for the week. Maybe I can get some ideas on how to reduce my food costs.

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