Zionsville Times Sentinel

Commentary

July 24, 2013

The thrifty food plan

I have been thinking about budgets in general, and food budgets in particular, a lot lately. The biggest reason for my obsession is that what I had anticipated as two college students away at college is, in reality, two college students living at home and commuting to college. I love having them home with me, but they do tend to eat on a regular basis.

I don’t think I spend too much on food, but I went looking for cold hard facts just the same. What I found was the USDA list of Official USDA Food Plans. This chart includes four levels, from the Thrifty Plan to the Liberal Plan. The middle two plans are Low-Cost and Moderate-Cost. I used my family’s information and came up with a food budget range for the five of us from $184.30 to $360.40 per week.

I am pleased to report that I currently only exceed the Thrifty Plan by $16 per week. The Moderate-Cost plan would give me $236.50 each week. Incidentally, the Thrifty Plan is the one used to determine the amount of SNAP (food stamps) a person will receive if they are eligible for that program. I have seen websites where bloggers take a food stamp challenge and write about how difficult it is to live on the amount allotted each week. I have always wondered if I could do the same and, if so, how much my family would object. Turns out, they probably wouldn’t even notice, which is good. Of course, we live in the Midwest, where costs are more moderate. I bet it would be a struggle to feed the family on that same amount on either of the coasts.

Even with the help of our friendly geographical location, my mother would be proud of my money-saving food skills. She fed our family of six on a budget of $140 per week back in 1974. Of course, her expenses included gas to haul her four children to and from activities, as well as the occasional trip to Bernice’s on Main Street for fabric to make us clothes. She also had to buy school lunches and fund our extracurricular activities with those dollars, which probably left her with substantially less than $140 each week. Thankfully, she could stretch a food dollar.

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