I can eat well on $35 a week. That seems like a modern marvel we take for granted.
— Erik August Johnson (@8EJ3) July 4, 2014
I composed the tweet above while in the euphoria of a post-run peanut butter sandwich. The cost of my grocery run earlier in the week was right around $35. Enjoying my peanut butter on whole wheat bread while pondering that relatively small amount of money made me wonder.
@8EJ3 $35/week sounds amazing. You should do a blog on that.
— Tim Loyer (@7liter) July 8, 2014
That’s a great idea, and I am doing just that – writing a blog series about eating on $35 per week.
The $35/Week series is about eating on a $35/week budget. I hope through my efforts to show that eating well does not have to come with a high cost. I also hope to sharpen my self-discipline and learn a bunch of things – about food, recipes, creativity and about myself.
Another facet I am exploring through this blog is the food industry and American culture – as it relates to food.
Food is one of the few true necessities in life, yet affordable and healthy alternatives to junk food and eating out are often overlooked in mainstream thought – at least in my age and demographic. Being a single 30 year old urban professional male means a lot of conspicuous food consumption is being marketed to me every day. I also live in Boston, MA, a city with an immense restaurant, pizza place and bar culture.
My intention here is simply carve out some time and space to explore food from a practical standpoint – both nutritionally and financially.
To properly preface this series and how I will spend my $35/week, there are a few things that should be laid out.
1. I have no dietary restrictions. I am not allergic to gluten, dairy, shellfish, nuts, etc.
2. I have moved towards a more animal-free diet. This is for numerous reasons but one is simply cost consideration. Meat is expensive. That being said, I am neither vegan nor vegetarian.
3. I am a fairly serious runner – averaging 35 – 50 miles per week. This is a major difference between me and most people. If I was not so physically active I am positive I could get by on maybe $25 a week. That being said, even trying to keep very lean – I’m still consuming 1800 – 4500 calories per day.
4. Not included in my budget is $25/month for supplements. I am spending that mostly on multi-vitamins. Most other supplements are running-based: Tailwind, GU, gels. Whey Protein is occasionally part of the mix as well.
5. I am single – and the only one in my household. 85% of the time I am the only one consuming the food I buy. 15% is reserved for guests – so that is to be reflected in the cost and buying considerations as well.
6. I will likely eat out on average once per week. That will not be included in the cost. If I do eat out during the week – it will be noted.
7. I will prefer organic or all-natural to conventional (or unnatural – ha). My decision on which to choose will depend on cost considerations but I will likely spend up to 20% more to buy organic.
8. The goal is to eat with health in mind. If I wanted to eat ramen every meal I could spend much less than $35. That is not the point here.
9. I will accept and use free food. This does not mean I will take on a bunch of potential client lunches to eat for free nor does it mean you will find me dumpster diving. No, you will not find me hoarding samples at Trader Joe’s. But if there is leftover food in my office for the taking, for example, I may incorporate it. I would guess free food will account for about 2-3% of my intake weekly.
It is to be noted that I am starting with the big advantage of existing food. The following is a list of food items I currently have in my cupboard, refrigerator and freezer:
Cuban Style Black Beans – 1 can
Tomato Soup – 2 cans
Refried Beans – 1 can
Fat-Free Refried Beans – 2 cans
Tuna in Olive Oil – 3 cans
Organic Pinto Beans – 1 can
Organic Garbanzo Beans – 1 can
Vegan Mac and Cheese – 1 box
All Natural Whole Wheat Bread – 1/2 loaf
Converted Rice – 1/2 pound
Egg Noodles – 2 cups
Tomato Basil Marinara – 1 jar
Stove Top Stuffing – 1 box
Chicken Shu Mai – 1 box
Frozen Broccoli – 2 medium bags
Frozen Meatballs – ~2 cups
Frozen Peas – 2 medium bags
Frozen Hash Browns – ~8 ounces
Frozen Mixed Vegetables – 2 bags
Frozen Corn – 1 medium bag
Lettuce – 1 medium bag
Chopped Onion – 1 cup
Cream Cheese – ~1 cup
Margarine – ~1 cup
Olive Oil Mayo – 1 jar
Ranch Dressing Dip – ~1 cup
Italian Dressing – 1/2 bottle
Organic Chia Seeds – ~6 ounces
Condiments – Ketchup, Mustard
Various Salad Dressings
Maple Syrup – 1 jar
Olive Oil – 1/3rd bottle
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce – 1/2 bottle
Sriracha – 1 bottle
Keeping my existing inventory in mind, I will be shopping at Trader Joe’s today for my initial week’s grocery – and of course, spending $35 or less. I would love to get your initial reactions from hearing about my experiment. Please leave comments!