$4 a day food challenge: can you do it?

The Social Work department at the local university has offered a challenge: learn to live how the other half lives. Poverty is skyrocketing, affecting more than 46 million people. And almost just as many do not even have discount health insurance. And programs that help those who are poverty stricken are often paid through our taxes.  So the social work department is hoping people will have a chance to see how those with poverty must live and the choices they make.

The challenge: eat for $4 a day for a week. Why four dollars? That is how much someone receiving food stamps lives off every day.

Well, I love a challenge. Intent to buckle down and start saving, I did the math. $4 times two people (my household) times 30 days equals 240. That is $90 more than my current monthly food budget. So I could actually increase my monthly food budget than normally. (Think of all the things we could eat…)

Perhaps it is my deep disgust for spending money on food or my shopping prowess that saves money on food, but it is not that hard to keep your food budget under control. Here are some tips on how: (note: I do not have kids. However, these tips can be extended to a family with children.

  • Eat at home. The biggest money sucker is eating out. Even fast food restaurants are not giving you bang for your buck. And you are not getting all of the nutritional value that you need either. So if you want to cut down on your bill, eat at home. Think about it: a good hamburger is going to cost around $5. But if you make it from home, you can cut the price in half.
  • Avoid processed foods. It always frustrates me when families who complain about food prices fill their carts with name brand snack foods. As a general rule in our house we do not have snack foods. If I want a snack, I’ll cut up an apple. Chips and snack cakes are too expensive and have no nutritional value.
  • Invest in produce. One of our biggest chunks of our grocery bill goes to produce. Having fresh produce on hand has a lot of benefits. I hate throwing food away so I will be sure to eat up the produce before anything else to make sure that it gets eaten. If you compare produce to processed foods, you will actually save a lot more money if you ditch the processed foods. And your waist band will be happier, too. I participate in a weekly co-op that provides great discounts on produce that I can use all week long.
  • Cook from scratch. Having fresh produce also forces you to cook from scratch. This is what I consider to be the biggest money saving tip. Every packaged meal or restaurant dish can be made for a fraction of the cost if you make it from scratch. The best part: you can tailor the recipe to fit your family’s tastes.