I wanted to let you know about a little challenge I’ll be doing in January. The USDA has determined food budgets for every American, using income level, gender, and age to determine what we should be spending on food.
This might make you chuckle until I tell you that these levels have real-world ramifications. Things like child support during divorce proceedings and budgets for military mess halls are determined by these charts.
My family of three will be living on the lowest level, the “thrifty” budget, for 30 days. We only get $491.10 to spend on food over the course of the month. To break that amount down, it comes out to $16.37 per day. To break it down even further, it averages out to $1.82 per person per meal if you count breakfast, lunch, and dinner with no snacks.
But I’ve added a catch. I’m ONLY shopping at Whole Foods. I know they’re often called “Whole Paycheck,” but I’ve actually found this not to be the case if you shop smart and use a little strategy. (Here’s the link to the USDA site so you can see what the food budget would cost in your home.)
I’ve proffered a bet with the company: if I’m successful, they have to reimburse me for my groceries, and if I fail, they get all the happy exposure from this blog and don’t have to pay me a dime! Hey, I like a little challenge, and this friendly wager makes it more fun. That said, Whole Foods hasn’t responded with their answer yet.
Some Problems with the USDA Budget
I dug around the site extensively looking for information and I have a few problems with the government agency’s proposed budgets.
- They include processed foods because it’s a “reality” that this is what people eat and, because of this decision, they were unable to bring the diet below USRDA sodium guidelines
- In order to meet the calorie requirements of the USRDA (for instance, 2,200 calories per day for most women), they recommend drinking three cans of sugary soda per week (not for nutritonal value, just to hit the calorie count).
- The guidelines have not yet been updated to work with the government’s new Food Plate.
During the month, I’ll be checking in with dieticians and other pros to see how I’m doing, and I’m researching and testing recipes like crazy right now to practice when I actually have to do it. I went to a blogging event last Friday night at the Whole Foods in Cambridge, MA and spoke with some frugal foodies and they all think it’s quite possible.
And I’ve added one more catch as well. On the 30th day, I plan to host a dinner party for eight, so I’ll need to be sure and save enough throughout January to prepare and serve a delicious meal for friends.
So I’m looking forward to the challenge. What do you think? Am I crazy? Will I be hungry all month? Can I get enough nutrition for myself and my family?
Read ALL the 30-Day Whole Foods Thrifty Challenge posts.