This weekend I was moved by a very sad article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how many people struggle with hunger in Philadelphia. You can read it here. I was most distressed by the children in these impoverished situations who are suffering from "Failure to Thrive." This means they aren't getting enough nutrition and calories for brain and body growth. One woman in the article with a young daughter 20 pounds underweight doesn't qualify for food stamps, but budgets $100 a month for groceries.
As a family, we usually spend about $50 per week for our groceries, and as a private chef I sometimes spend upwards of $200 per week for my clients. Having had a little training in nutrition, though, I am challenging myself to create one weeks worth of meals for my family for only $25, while ensuring that they are filling and nutrient-dense. I am trying to better understand the choices the people in the article are forced to make, and make good choices myself with the budgeted money. By sharing this experience, maybe I can put some meal ideas out there and fewer children will be diagnosed with "Failure to Thrive."
However, I know this experiment is flawed from the start for the following obvious reasons:
1) There aren't exactly four weeks in a month, so $25 for a week is slightly too much to spend.
2) Here in the suburbs, I have access to a big grocery store with great sales and lots of options, while many urban families need to shop somewhere close to them. These little corner grocery stores are, by nature and necessity, more expensive with less options than their larger chain counterparts.
3) I am not going to discount existing basics in my house (such as salt, flour, and spices) but will only use them to enhance flavor or texture. Flavor is not the goal here -- nutrition is, so this isn't cheating too much.
4) I dont believe that it is morally acceptable to subject my 2 year old son to this experiment (my 5 month old is still nursing so she wont be affected), especially because the article says it is detrimental for kids under 3 years old to experience a dearth of calories and nutrients even for a week. I am going to let him eat the cheese and salami we have left over from last week, and snack on leftovers at work like always. I will make sure to buy things that kids will eat (like PB & J, bread, Cheerios and pasta) so that I am sure to factor in the children in this experiment. Some kids get meals at school too, so that may even things out??
So here's the goal: spend $25 for one weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a family of three, making sure each meal provides nutrition and sustenance, and hopefully giving new ideas to those in need of a cheap meal.
Off to the grocery store!