On that $3.57 a day, I have been able, through
careful planning, to feed myself well — with enough left over to
prepare lunch four days a week for the five people on the staff of my
my entire diet since April has been grains and beans grown
certified-organic and a mix of organic and cheaper non-organic
So imagine my surprise to read that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), in attempting to live for one week on
a food budget of $21 as part of the "Food Stamp Challenge," decided
that they could not afford organic foods and fresh vegetables. Or that
McGovern, who lamented that he was forced to choose hamburger that was
high in fat, concluded that "it’s almost impossible to make healthy
choices on a food stamp diet."
For more than six weeks, my
diet each day has consisted of three meals made up of whole grains such
as rice, wheat, oats, barley or rye, with prices hovering at $1 a
pound; white beans at $1.39 a pound; or lentils at $1 a pound. I have
supplemented those staples with all kinds of vegetables, such as onions
at 99 cents a pound, Yukon Gold potatoes at 99 cents a pound, carrots
at $1.29 a pound, parsnips at $2.59 a pound and turnips at $1.99 a
pound. I have also added a small amount of walnuts daily for protein,
at $7.89 a pound.
Keep in mind, the above prices are for completely organic produce;
the cost seems to drop 30 to 50 percent if one moves to supermarket
prices and nonorganic vegetables.
Believe me, I know this is a very simple diet compared with what we
are used to in our affluence. What I am learning from this experience
is that one can enjoy eating, as well as work upwards of a 40-hour
week, just fine on this meager amount of money.
I must share one caveat and one more piece of information. The
caveat is that this budget does not account for the spices and fresh
herbs I consume (which, to be honest, are what has made the monotony
endurable). But guideline No. 3 of the Food Stamp Challenge
registration form states that the cost of spices and herbs is not to be
counted. The piece of information is that, like Ryan (6-foot-3 and 215
pounds), I’m a big guy (6-6, 240).
Let it be said that I completely agree with McGovern that "it’s
immoral that in the U.S., the richest country in the world, people are
hungry." However, with all due respect to these elected officials, I
would vigorously challenge the nutritional wisdom and fiscal prudence
of their shopping lists.
Tom Wolfe, College Park, Maryland, Tom@Smileherb.com