I have been thinking about food a lot lately. Corey and I finally got to watch Food, Inc. this weekend and I am fixated on the one couple who feeds their family entirely from dollar menus at fast food restaurants. They say in the film they have only $1 to spend and they can get a meal at McDonald's for this but not at the supermarket. In the film, the family spends $8 to feed the four of them dinner.
Later, they go to a grocery store and hold up a head of broccoli sadly, lamenting that it costs more than one dollar, that it costs more than a burger...and broccoli alone does not dinner make. I thought and thought about their situation. If they are spending $8 per meal per day, that gives them $168 per week to spend on food. When you think of it that way, they are spending $38 MORE on food than Corey and I spend each week. And we buy expensive food!
There were long stretches in college where I existed on dried beans, rice, and other cheaply made soups. I made huge batches of them on Sundays while my body recovered from rugby and ate them again and again all week long. Yeah, it might cost more than a dollar for a bag of beans or for a handful of carrots, but those food items last more than one meal! I am certain I was eating for $30 a week for just me.
But that brings me to the other troubling leg of that family's problem: they have no time to plan out a week of meals, drive through the sprawl to the closest grocery store (in their area of Texas, there are only fast food restaurants and no close stores that sell fresh produce), and later prepare the meals. The family works, I recall, several jobs to make ends meet and I can say from experience that making healthful meals on a budget is a time consuming endeavor. While it might be possible to stretch dollars more efficiently, there is not a way to add more hours to a day.
Surely there is a solution for this family. Have they seen the dried legumes in the bulk food aisle? Perhaps the elder daughter can chop carrots after school for soup or they can use their time in the car to plan out meals instead of waiting in line at the drive thru? Can someone buy them a crock pot?
I can only imagine that it's hard to concentrate on such things when you are scrambling to live check to check, exhausted from working multiple jobs at a low wage, and stressed that people keep telling you your "choices" are making your kids sick.
As I begin my refined sugar fast, relying instead on expensive, protein-rich snack food I don't technically "need" to eat, I try to be mindful of how very fortunate I am. I am lucky to have both the means and the time to give up sugar and concentrate on the food that fuels my family. With that in mind, it's easier to walk past the candy aisle when I trek to Rite Aid.