After doing my own $50 food challenge and seeing first hand just how hard it is to eat well on a budget, I was some what bemused to see Gwyneth Palttrow's attempts to feed her family on a budget. The #FoodBankNYCChallenge she undertook was to eat on $29 USD (equivalent to about $37 AUD). This was said to be the average amount an American receiving food stamps gets on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – though apparently the true amount is actually closer to $45 USD. I've found food considerably cheaper in the US, so I suspect your money would go a lot further there.
This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week. pic.twitter.com/OZMPA3nxij
— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 9, 2015
Gwyneth lasted four days on the challenge before she had to give up and eat some chicken and black licorice. As you do.
Gwyneth's choices are very different to mine. Here's what she bought:
- a dozen eggs,
- black beans,
- green peas,
- brown rice,
- soft tortillas,
- scallions (spring onions),
- cilantro (coriander),
- a sweet potato,
- a tomato,
- an ear of corn and
- seven limes
Yes, she bought seven limes. Whilst limes (and avocados) may be considerably cheaper in Southern California than they are here – there are far better ways to stretch a budget than by buying limes. The whole shopping basket is low calorie and low fat.
Vitamins v Calories
Whilst the food bought may be great from a nutritional perspective – there just aren't enough calories. The food she bought works out at about 1000 calories a day. And when you're on a budget, calories are important, especially if you're doing physical work or have a family to look after.
I would look at food from a cost-per-calorie perspective and try to bulk meals out with potatoes and rice (whilst not strictly paleo, I think white rice is a good compromise on a very tight budget). Meat is expensive – but bones can be cheap. A huge pot of bone broth is great alone, or as the base of many dishes and must be one of the cheapest things you can make.
I'd be really flexible with my fresh produce, and based it entirely off what is in season – and what is sold off at the end of the day, or is on special offer. Unless organic food was cheaper than conventional, I'd accept it as an unrealistic option. I'd happily buy packs of frozen veg, if they worked out cheaper than their fresh equivalent.
How would you manage a strict food budget of under $40 a week?