Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Challenge - 60% Done & More Morning Musings

Perhaps it was the hunger I felt yesterday, perhaps it's talking it out with Henry each night over dinner... I don't know but here it is another morning and yep you guessed it - another thought or two have popped into my dense cranium. Mornings are usually just take care of the usual ablutions and get my rear out the door for a train ride to work on which I can nap some more or in other words pretty robotic. I don't know what's making these things go on in my head but I might, sorta kinda like it? NAW!!!! Whatever, you fair readers are in for more rambling thoughts on what's going on this week...

  • Questions that have popped up from others (you know who you are)...

Knowing what we know now, do I think we could have done this last November?
I have long said I could feed the 2 of us on $200 per month or $50 per week and feed us in a healthy manner with plenty of food. I was challenged by others to do just that and we have been living on roughly $7 per day ($49 per week) since January 2009 and since that time I have been writing about "the project". We have certainly learned a number of things and it has grown tiresome at times (consciousness is definitely hard work!) being mindful of what we are spending and how we are spending it. Here are the high points; my health has improved slightly, we are not consuming processed foods, Henry feels like he is more a part of the process and chooses only natural foods (even soda has to be cane sugar only for him anymore and now he limits himself on how many he can have each week), everything gets used and even the waste goes into our worm bin to later feed our summer garden. Sorry for the long answer to a relatively short question but yes, I know back in November of last year we could do it. It was just a matter of putting what we already know into practice.

Is $7 per day for an individual enough?
Frankly, I think it is more than enough. Some caveats to that though...
Not everyone has the skills to make basic food taste good.
Not everyone has the $s to initially stock a pantry so they can just buy 1 or 2 expensive things at a time when they run out.
Not everyone has the ability to travel to PCC where there is an amazing bulk section (one thread across many of the blogs I've been reading this week - cooking oil. The choice to buy only 1 type, the expense of having to buy a full bottle, etc. I bought 5 fluid oz of canola oil for less than $1.50 as I knew that would be all I needed, not my first choice but because I can buy small amounts at a local store I did it.
Not everyone has a nearby Trader Joe's where it is easy to purchase good choices for not a lot of money and always find interesting things to try even if they need to be doctored a bit for the final product. However all of these stores in my area are on direct bus lines for us, I'm just saying.
Not everyone has the time - If I'm in financial straights, I'm looking for a job
Not everyone has the desire - If I'm bummed out, I'm lying on the couch feeling bummed out

Why did we choose to feed 2 of us ($12 per day allowed) on the budget for 1 ($7 per day)?
As I wrote above, we have been doing this for some time so I wanted to push this a bit. If we had an empty pantry and fridge and had to buy everything we needed for 5 days, what would we have to spend? Could we do it on $35 and have fresh fruit and veg? Could we have meat of any kind? What if I lost my job and had no savings and this was the week or two that we are waiting on getting our first assistance? Anyway, $12 is more than we spend on a regular basis and I felt like that wouldn't be challenging enough. If I am by myself, I would probably bake baguette and eat nothing but eggs over easy with Tabasco and a wee bit of Point Reyes blue cheese and apples for dessert and could probably live that way on $7 a day. It's just a matter of priority.

  • Other Random thoughts...

Booze - Understanding that Basic Food cannot be used for the purchase of alcoholic beverages (correct me if I'm incorrect here but that seems to be the way) I could have continued on my quest for decent plonk for minimal prices in the wine department at Trader Joe's as it wouldn't be part of the budget. But here it was about the empathy again, would I have even $5 to spend on a bottle of wine or a 6 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys if I couldn't feed my son? Again it's back to priorities and I decided to live the life; empathy baby!

Basic v Gourmet - With a 10 year old in the house that is just coming into his own in matters of eating things green (or any other color than pasta or mashed potatoes)... OK I say that but Henry is a relatively adventurous eater, his first solid food was broccoli although he distanced himself from that abut 7 years ago until just recently rediscovering it, just one example... :) Anyway, I learned long ago that if I didn't want to cook twice for every meal I would have to work on things we would both eat or figure out another way. Henry lives with me 1/2 the time; 5 days one week and 2 the next all year long. I get plenty of time to eat ahi, blue cheese, arugula, etc when he is at his Mum's house so that's what I do. I'm just saying we're pretty used to grilled chicken or chicken parmesan and since we swore off feedlot beef, the cost of grass fed keeps steak and even burgers to a treat once or twice a month as part of our $200 budget. We eat this way a lot but I'm always getting more and more variety into our foods as Henry branches out and discovers new things he likes.

Health - I'm fat. No other way to say it really. I'm a type 2 diabetic with elevated blood pressure and I'm a good candidate for heart disease. Since we've quit eating processed foods my blood sugars have stabilized (still with meds, but stabilized nonetheless) and both my cholesterol and blood pressure levels have dropped to much more manageable numbers. My weight has stabilized and although I'm still fat (hey! if I lose half my weight I'll only be half as good looking right?), I seem to have lost a few pounds since mid last week. I can't say it's the challenge but I think it probably is as for the first time in years I'm watching portion size in order to make certain we don't run out of food before the 5 days is up. the challenge is a great exercise and all but as a parent I have a responsibility to feed my son and if he was hungry and we had no food, I'm headed back to the grocery.

OK, that's about it for Day 4 random musings. Time to get the lad up and moving so until later tonight...



  1. I'd definitely struggle on that budget, never mind the one you've set/maintained. It's good reading though, and I'm definitely more mindful of the outgoing $$$ now thanks to your blog.

  2. Also, re:

    "the challenge is a great exercise and all but as a parent I have a responsibility to feed my son and if he was hungry and we had no food, I'm headed back to the grocery."

    What do you do when heading back to the grocery is not an option? Since I only have the girls every-other-weekend I've never been in a position that finances were a question when it comes to meal time for them. Usually I've skimped on my own during off-weeks, which is not ideal at all because a missed meal can be worse for me now.

  3. You're right, alcohol is not paid for in food stamps. Neither are deli items.

  4. Well Jansen,

    "What do you do when heading back to the grocery is not an option?"

    If I had to feed myself or my kid, I would have to choose the kid. I know for many this is the choice they must make. Does that make it any easier? No, and I wish everyone had enough to eat but when we chose to become parents we also took on the responsibility of keeping our kids healthy.

    Great question though! I just wish I had a better answer

  5. I just love your writing Jim and this post. I will be blogging later today about a discussion I had with my husband about when his mom wouldn't eat so him and his brothers could. I guess it comes with the territory of being a parent. No brainer IMO.