Friday, August 7, 2009

Three Bucks A Day Gourmet: Introduction

This is the first post on a multi-week series on how I feed seven people on about 3 bucks per person per day.

What? WHAT? Yes. Three bucks per person per day. Totally doable, and totally yummy.

I feed my family of seven, 2 adults and five kids, on three bucks per person per day. We are all very well fed (in fact, one of us a little too much so . . ahem). We eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day. We eat meat. We have snacks. Much of what we eat is organic, and hormone and antibiotic free. And we don't believe in sacrificing quality for quantity.

Why three bucks per person per day? That number may seem arbitrary, but it is actually roughly the amount the federal government provides to people who recieve food stamp benefits. The USDA has calculated the average cost of feeding a person in America and posts that information here, and those are the numbers, adjusted for certain personal factors which I will explain later, that I used to set this guideline.

Why do this at all? I had a couple of reasons. The first was that I wanted to be conscious of how much I was spending on feeding my family to control our grocery budget. As a family, we have financial goals we would like to meet, and one of the non-fixed line items in our budget is food. The second was that I wanted to be a better steward of the resources God has given me; not just money, but a good mind, a healthy body, time, and the desire to cook. And third, because of the recession there have been lots of stories in the mainstream media about how "impossible" it is for a family to survive on food stamps. Just on general principle, I bristle at the thought that something like feeding a family on a fixed amount of money is "impossible." I believe in choices! And I wanted to prove, if only to myself, that we could eat a healthy, abundant, tasty diet on what the government believes is the bare minimum to keep body and soul together and what the mainstream media believes is "impossible."

How? I will show you how, over the course of the next few weeks. I'll include recipes and prices. But first, a couple of preliminary matters.

I do happen to have the benefit of an economy of scale. I feed seven people on a regular basis. Three bucks per person per day in my household is $21.00 per day, or an average monthly total of $638.75. It is actually less than the thrifty plan the USDA would say I am entitled to. If I calculated the "thrifty" plan based on the amount of time I have my children (half time for my three stepsons, 75 percent of the time for my two children), plus the full allotment for me and Baboo, I would be "entitled" to spend $695.41 per month. So I do three bucks per person per day to keep me sane; it's a nice round number, and $21.00 per day is a number I can work with. I feed 2 adults full time, 2 nine year olds and a six year old half the month, and a six and seven year old seventy five percent of the time.

My actual budget is a "household" budget, and it is $700.00. The difference between my $21 per day and that $700.00 must absorb all other consumable household goods (paper products, laundry and cleaning products, health and beauty aids, school supplies, light bulbs, etc.) For purposes of this series, I'll be including info about how I do that too.

Are there people who do better than me? Absolutely. One nice lady, Gayle, feeds her family of six for sixty bucks per week here. I love her blog and I love her ideas. Another lovely lady feeds her family of five (newborn included) for forty dollars a week here. Mary Ostyn just wrote a book on feeding a gaggle of family members for $75 per week. I have much to learn; but I'd say that I am doing fairly well, and with your help I'll be challenging myself to go even lower. Maybe next year it will be Two Bucks a Day Gourmet. *smile.

Look for posts on how I do breakfast, lunches, dinners, hospitality, beverages, snacks, and other household needs on three bucks per person per day in the coming weeks. And have a great weekend!

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