1. Please advise us on our Lenten plans

The good news: I'm old enough now that not even the Catholic church requires me to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (scroll to Canon 1252).

But I want to do something meaningful for Lent, and I'd like it to be more significant than just giving up something (sugar? wine? whining?) or adding something (daily Mass? optimistic blog posts?).

So here's my idea. I think I'd like to try limiting our food budget to the amount we'd get if we got the maximum amount of food stamps in Illinois. For a family of two, that would be $323 a month, or about $74 a week.

Mr Neff suggests that we be more generous and allow ourselves the amount the USDA thinks is sufficient for a couple aged 51 - 70. The most recent figures (November 2008) suggest $79.80. So say we split the difference and make it $77 a week, or $11 a day.

This would cover home-cooked food only--no other grocery store purchases like detergent, no restaurant meals, no alcoholic beverages. Which is not to say we couldn't buy those things, though it would seem like cheating to say we were getting by on $75 - $80 a week if we were actually eating half of our meals downtown.

So, how hard could this be? Well, that means maybe $1.25 for breakfast, $1.25 for lunch, and $3.00 for dinner for each of us. Lots of dried beans, onions, potatoes. Not a whole lot of goat cheese and arugula.

Do we want to do this? If we do, will our diet be balanced and our meals tasty? Can we invite friends over? Would you consider doing it with us? (Then we could get together for amazing potlucks...)


Heidi said...

You can always buy your alcohol with your social security check :)

Molly said...

I love you Heidi!!!!

Seriously, doesn't sound so bad to me. I just checked our average spending for 2008 and got $846/mo for a family that was usually 5 but sometimes 6 people (and that included detergeant and alcohol). Food stamps would allow us $698 to $838 for 5 or 6 family members. So, we might have to cut back some but this doesn't sound drastic to me. I say you go for it and see how the real world lives!!!

(BTW, it's all about buying what's on sale that week. You've played inventive cook when you did the farmer's co-op thing, now all you have to do is buy the meat, veggie and wine that's on sale and come up with something fun to do with it.)

LaVonne Neff said...

The tricky part is buying in bulk for two people, especially (since like most other poor people) we don't have a freezer or very much shelf space. And it usually costs quite a bit more to buy in small quantities. But yes, I'll certainly watch for sales. And it's fun being inventive. Though time consuming.

Mary said...

According to the table, I would get about $34 a week or less than $5 a day. I suppose that would mean a bowl of cereal in the morning, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and pasta or soup for dinner. That's a lot of carbs and not much protein or veggies.

LaVonne Neff said...

Mary, at least in Illinois you'd get $40.61 a week if you were on maximum food stamps--an extra dollar might buy you an apple, an orange, and a banana at Trader Joe's! But seriously--can people on food stamps or on tiny incomes afford to eat healthfully? I'd like to give it a try, and if you try it too--even for a week--let me know how it goes.

Denise Spring said...

I am a single parent of a 17 year old son that has been unemployed since 8-08- I only get $50 a month, since my monthlyincome of $1100 unemployment and $400 child support is too luxurious. My rent is $825. I buy a month's worth of food from www. angelfoodministries.com for $150 and use my foodstamps for milk and fresh stuff. It has been a struggle to keep our untilites on and keep ourselves clothed.

Carl Barks said...

There are four people in my family (two of them being younger children) and we receive about $350/month in food stamps. We buy all organic produce, noodles, dairy, etc., and we have never--not once--come close to exceeding our monthly allotment. The tricks are simple: make your own food. Packaged foods are ridiculously expensive--compare Annie's canned soup to a homemade version. Don't eat out. And, buy in bulk: most stores offer discounts if you buy, say, 50 lbs of flour, and rice, beans, etc. are cheaper in the bulk section of the store.

David said...

Great plan!
That was a good idea. It is good to apply something in your life and by living it show to others, that such life is possible.
In your case it is living with small amount of money, and still breathing, and more - being healthy(er).
I took a similar project - to become a vegan and to take blood examines over a period of one year, to see & show if such a life stile is possible. But I added a twist - in the meantime to run 2 half-marathons, 2 marathons and an olimpic triathlon.
I could only say - go on! And even after your lent is finished, by living with a modified amount of money that you spend on your food, you could shine for people around you with good example!
God bless!