We have so much food in the house, we’re just having leftovers tonight.
This blog is a record of a shopping and eating experiment that my family is undertaking. My dad, upset by a series of articles on food stamps and obesity that the Washington Post ran in the fall of 2013, asked me to try to cook nutritious, vegan meals (as we already do), but on a very limited budget. We wanted to see if the poorest in our country could, even with all resources and information available to them, could ever eat healthily, or, if, as we suspect, our country has created a system that only gives those that need the most “too much of too little”, the name of the Post series, after which I titled this blog.
Food stamps provide the poor with an ability to purchase subsidized food items, but they’re often very limited. In Brooklyn, NY, a woman I interviewed told me that her WIC and SNAP benefits only allow her about $10 / week to purchase vegetables and forbid the purchasing of organic vegetables, even if they’re more affordable than conventional vegetables.
My parents, in Alexandria, Virginia, and my girlfriend and I, in Brooklyn, NY, have both kept mostly vegan diets for the last three years. During that time, my dad and I have swapped extraordinary recipes, challenging ourselves to make delicious, rich vegan meals. Now we’re challenging ourselves to do the same on an extremely limited budget.
SNAP benefits primarily assist families in buying dairy and meat products. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, in Virginia, about $128 are given monthly per person. In New York, $148. Since we can’t eat dairy or meat, we’re going to constrain our grocery budget dramatically, to artificially imitate SNAP benefits pretending as if you could use them to buy vegetables.
My girlfriend Devin and I are going to stick to a budget of $74 / week. My mom and dad are going to use a budget of $64 / week.
Aside from being able to choose our own food preferences, something people on SNAP do not have, we also have a bunch of other advantages. To name a few:
- No kids to feed. Growing kids need a lot of nutrition and neither of our households have them.
- Access to unlimited information. Among us, we’ve probably read 100+ vegan cookbooks and have cooked and eaten vegan and vegetarian foods from around the world.
- Access to atypically great groceries. In Virginia, my parents live near a Whole Foods, MOM’s Organic Market, and several other conventional grocers. In Brooklyn, we technically live in a food desert but have a year-round farmer’s market every Saturday a mile from our home (and one 4 days a week just a subway ride away), a membership to the Park Slope Food Coop and access to NYC’s frozen CSA share at Winter Sun Farms.
Nevertheless, we still think this will be challenging. Here we’re going to share our grocery bills, the recipes we cook, the nutritional value per meal, servings per meal, and the time it took to prepare.