Eating on $21 a week

This began it…
Congressman Tim Ryan is taking the challenge…
Today I began the Food Stamp Challenge. I took the subway to Safeway, where I picked out the $21.00 of food that I’ll be living on for the next week. $20.66 bought me:
One bag of corn meal- $1.43
Two jars of strawberry preserves- $4.00
One jar of chunky peanut butter- $2.48
Two boxes of angel hair pasta- $1.54
One can of coffee- $2.50
Three jars of tomato sauce- $4.50
Two cartons of cottage cheese- $3.00
One loaf of wheat bread- $.89
One clove of garlic- $.32
Obviously, $21.00 doesn’t go too far, especially when it comes to variety. I’m starting to understand that living on such a tight budget doesn’t allow a person to get the balanced diet they need, I wasn’t able to get much protein and produce was almost completely out of the question.

Where do I start???
The challenge is $21 because that is the average amount each person on food stamps receives each week in the U.S. The congressmen taking the challenge live in D.C., one of the most expensive parts of the country- no doubt they’d be among those who receive higher than the average amount to compensate for the higher cost of groceries there.
Though Congressman Ryan did not do an entirely bad job spending his money, he did not make the best use of it either. A bag of cornmeal??? He said “he’ll try to fashion into grits for breakfast and polenta for dinner” (quoted from here). Without any butter or oil? I think this was a poor choice- chosen only for the value of being able to write about being left with only cornmeal mush when his other food runs out.
And he purchased cans of tomato sauce… plain tomato sauce? For $4.50- over 21% of his allowance??? I know I can buy cans of spaghetti sauce ounce for ounce for less money than plain tomato sauce. The fresh garlic was a complete waste of money- spices are not counted in this challenge and he could just as easily have used garlic powder. That extra 32 cents plus the 34 cents he didn’t spend would have bought him at least 2 pieces of fruit- especially this time of the year. I do believe spaghetti was a smart meal choice, just poorly executed.
He wasted $2.50 on coffee? No person honestly eating on $21 a week would have wasted nearly 12% of their food budget on coffee. Maybe if he were doing this for longer than a week it would make more sense because he certainly won’t use the entire can up this week. He made his choice to go without a few meals instead.
Two jars of strawberry preserves? 2? Why 2 of the exact same thing?? Surely, that extra $2 could have been better spent on eggs or vegetables or meat of some kind. He was stuck on the thought of “I am going to be living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” no doubt.
Two containers of cottage cheese? Not a bad choice, but again, 2? This makes me once again think that he is buying a lot of just a few items so he can show off his short receipt. And he did.
Aiieee. I can see I am going to have to go out and spend $21.00 myself. I fully understand that no one wants to live on $21- but no one has to eat gallons of spaghetti and cornmeal either. I also imagine that most recipients aren’t single people- $42 for two people is far easier to work with than $21 for one.

3 thoughts on “Eating on $21 a week

  1. jen
    Definitely a poor list what is he eating for breakfast just coffee,I don’t think so…mmm interesting. I could have gotten more variety than that…sheesh

  2. Oh my gosh… I can get 36 eggs for under $3. Surely that would be way more useful than his $4 of jam! What odd choices he made.

  3. I sent you an email about High Cholesterol. Answer when you can…I thought you had a high cholesterol level before you conceived Andy. Let me know. Email in your box!

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