Archive for April 22nd, 2015

Living with $29 a week in groceries

Gwyneth Paltrow got a lot of heat lately, claiming that $29 a week (SNAP food stamps’ allowance) buys you enough food to eat. Her visual example of $29 in groceries was something of a disaster, showing… limes as a must-have food, and extremely low calorie density to the point of malnutrition.

So I put together a list of groceries that are both nutritious, and healthy. These items, calculated from prices found at the DollarStore, Walmart and other very cheap stores are on the bottom line of what’s possible for $29 a week, while staying somewhat Paleo (according to the Chris Kresser Paleo version that allows beans/rice/dairy). But in all reality, to really get proper nutrition, you’ll need about $50 a week. At $29, a lot of shortcuts had to be made.

So, in my list, you get 12,000 calories a week (1715 calories a day on average). According to this calorie calculator here, that’s (barely) enough food for a 6′ tall male, doing a job of medium activity (e.g. a cleaner). The average of “net” carbs are 157 per day, which is lower carb than the national average, but higher than a low-carb diet. Finally, olive oil was added to the calories consumed, even if olive oil was not calculated in the $29 per week limit. The reason for this is because neither Paltrow did calculate it (and it’s obvious that you can’t just plainly boil everything in her list and expect people to eat it as such). We should consider olive oil in this list, like we would also consider salt & pepper: “extras”, that are on everyone’s pantry by default.

So, here’s my $29 list:
$1.50, 1 lb lentils
$1.50, 1 lb garbanzo beans
$1, 1 lb white rice
$1.50 for 12 eggs
$1.50 for full fat milk

$3 for 4 frozen drumsticks
$2 for 2 cans of sardines
$1 for 1 can of tuna
$3 for 3 cans of shellfish (mussels, clams, or mix)

$3 for fruits (bananas, frozen fruits)
$8 for veggies (e.g. carrot, onion, greens, zucchini, potato)
$1 canned tomato sauce

Extra: Olive oil (20 tbpsoons a week)
Extra: salt & pepper

And here’s the actual nutrition breakdown (rice & beans are calculated as raw):

$29 a week

This is a very solid nutrition (MUCH better than the average Westerner’s nutrition), with only a couple of hiccups: more vitamin C is needed, and more vitamin E too (found only in nuts & seeds in ample quantities, which unfortunately are too expensive for this list). For these two vitamins, the person might have to supplement (if there’s no financial ability to buy nuts/seeds or more fruits). Also, supplementing in Magnesium and D3 are suggested for all people too, either poor or rich (most Westerners don’t get enough of it).

For maximum nutrition, here are some additional ideas:
– Boil the drumsticks for 3 hours on low, and keep the water (which is now bone broth). Using that broth, you can later add the tomato sauce, and some carrots, to eat with rice.
– Don’t drink the milk as-is: ferment it to kefir. Add the fruits and blend them with the kefir, as a smoothie for breakfast.
– Buy veggies in season for more variety and better prices. Get a bit of everything found in a plant: tubers, roots, bulbs, greens, fruits. Prefer greens though.
– Place the lentils and beans in water for 24 hours before cooking, to remove most of its lectins. Cook them in high heat for the same reason.
– While more expensive, always prefer olive oil to industrial seed oils. The money you would save buying seed oils, you’d pay later to doctors.

So, anyway, all this is kinda possible, but $50 a week per person is probably what’s needed for a more optimized nutrition.