Eating on a Budget: Spend $4 a Week on Food Without Starving

In 1974, one bachelor tried eating on a budget of as little as $4 a week and succeeded.


| November/December 1974



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Home-baked bread and potatoes.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

If you're a homesteader with a winter's food supply already pickled and canned and root cellared, read no farther. Organic food freaks and scorners of the supermarket had better turn the page likewise. But if you're single, urban, and living mostly on greaseburgers, here is one way to maybe upgrade your diet just a little while eating on a budget. Needless to say, this article is especially dedicated to all the city-trapped elderly folks who are now trying to "get along" by eating dog food and raiding garbage cans.

For some time now I've been living on approximately $100 per month (including rent, food and everything else), not from necessity but by choice. I'm convinced that there are ways out of today's money-crunching inflation, and I'm trying to find them.

Since most of us are still at the mercy of the grocery store—and are not growing, canning, and freezing our own food, which is ideal—one of our biggest problems is the food budget. Therefore, months ago—as an experiment—I decided to limit my grocery bill to between $3.50 and $4.00 per week. I also undertook to use only the items which I bought week by week and to disregard any surplus goods that I might have accumulated on my pantry shelves.

Before I began my program, I found it necessary to study nutrition so as to buy the foods my body needed to stay healthy. That precaution paid off. In two years my only illness has been one cold, which required no medication. I have lost a few pounds, but I attribute this to the fact that I no longer own a car and now walk four or five miles a week. (Please note: It was not my intention to diet, but rather to maintain well-balanced meals economically. This is war on inflation, not a weight-watchers' plan.)

Bear in mind, before you attempt to duplicate my success, that I live alone and don't have the responsibility of feeding a growing family. In fact, I don't even recommend the following subsistence level of nourishment for youngsters. All the same, I have learned some ways in which families can—and should—pare back their grocery bills without cutting nutrition.

The starting point for my program was a recent low-cost food plan prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to that source, the consumer's food dollar should be divided as follows:





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