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How cheaply can one eat?

   How cheaply can one eat?  This is a question of interest to 
   someone interested in self-sufficient living.  As it turns out, 
   a frugal person with a mind to do it can eat on an 
   astonishingly small amount of money a year.  And eat well.  
   How?  First you need to appreciate the amazing differences 
   there are in the costs of different foods.  For example, the 
   cost of a one cup serving of cooked rice is 2.1 cents (assuming 
   you buy it for 20 cents a pound, something you can do if you 
   buy it in 50 pound bags).  On the other hand the cost of steak 
   is $2.50 and up for an 8 ounce serving.  That is a huge 
   difference and illustrates the kind of differences that exist 
   in the costs of foods.  The table below lists the cost per 
   serving of various foods based on prices that I have paid in 
   the past for the foods (I always watch for sales and good 
   prices and rarely pay the regular price): 





   Food                         Serving Size      Cost per Serving 
                                                      (cents)
 ___________________________________________________________________________

   Rice (white)                  1 cup cooked            2.1
   Oatmeal                       1 cup cooked            4.3
   Beans (Pinto)                 1 cup cooked            6.2
   Flour                         .25 cups                1.1
   Sourdough bread (homemade)    2 oz                    1.2
   Potatoes (white)              8 oz                    6.5
   Macaroni (elbow)              8 oz cooked             7.7
   Spaghetti                     8 oz cooked             7.7
   Milk                          1 cup                  13.7
   Eggs                          1 egg                  10.0
   Cheese                        1 oz                   20.0
   Peanut Butter                 2 tbsp                  6.6
   Strawberry Jam                1 tbsp                  5.1
   Grape Jelly                   1 tbsp                  2.2
   Raspberry Preserves           1 tbsp                  4.5
   Bananas                       8 oz (1 banana)        12.5
   Carrots                       2 oz                    4.9
   Tuna (canned, chunk light)    2 oz                   11.0
   Turkey                        8 oz                   38.0
   Chicken leg quarters          8 oz                   39.0
   Ham                           8 oz                   99.0
   Pork Chops                    8 oz                   75.0
   Ground beef                   8 oz                   75.0
   Beef roast                    8 oz                  188.0     
                                                    
   Sirloin steak                 8 oz                  249.0     





   So what are the inexpensive foods?  Rice, oatmeal, beans, potatoes, 
   pasta and homemade bread (flour is cheap).  What are the really 
   expensive foods?  The red meats.  What are the most healthy 
   foods?  The cheap foods.  What are the least healthy foods?  
   The most expensive foods.  

   Suppose one had a one cup serving of oatmeal for breakfast, a 
   peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich for lunch and a one cup 
   serving of rice, a one cup serving of beans and a one ounce 
   slice of sourdough bread for dinner every day for a year.  What 
   would his food for the year cost him?  Answer: 24 cents per day 
   or $87.60 per year.  And if he thought this was still too much 
   and wanted to do better, how about the following?  Three slices 
   of toast (i.e. three one-ounce slices of sourdough bread, 
   toasted) for breakfast, a one cup serving of oatmeal for lunch 
   and a one cup serving of rice, a one cup serving of beans, and 
   a large two ounce piece of sourdough bread for the evening meal 
   every day for a year.  This would cost him 16 cents per day or 
   $58.40 per year.  If you used whole wheat bread and brown rice 
   the diet might not be a bad one.  It is probably as good as 
   many people in the third world live on.  And in practice, of 
   course, you could do a little hunting and fishing, have a small 
   garden, and supplement it a little. 

   So how does one minimize the cost of eating?  You maximize the 
   amount of inexpensive foods that you eat and minimize or 
   eliminate the amount of expensive foods that you eat.  You 
   modify your eating habits, adapt to the cheap foods.  You find 
   recipes that sound appealing that utilize the inexpensive 
   foods.  You have to pay attention to the price of foods, watch 
   for sales, and buy in quantity at good prices.  Most of the 
   food that my wife and I buy is purchased at a very good sale 
   price and in quantity.  We often combine manufacturer's coupons 
   with half price sales to get food at a third of the regular 
   price and less.  Most people pay little attention to the cost 
   of food and buy whatever they like.  They walk down the grocery 
   aisle and pick up whatever looks good to them, give everything 
   a try, and don't worry about the price.  The truth is most 
   packaged and canned foods are relatively expensive.  Most junk 
   food is expensive --- if you want to minimize your cost of 
   eating stay away from it.   Of course you must minimize or 
   eliminate your consumption of meat, especially red meat.  And 
   it goes without saying that you must eat at home --- eating out 
   is out of the question. 

   Now if all this causes one to reflect on the possibility of a 
   vegetarian diet as a strategy for inexpensive, self-sufficient 
   living he might be interested in knowing that vegetarians tend 
   to live eight or ten years longer than meat eaters, have fewer 
   diseases and health problems, and are in general healthier.  
   Look into studies of the longevities of vegetarian Seventh Day 
   Adventists of Loma Linda, California for more information (do 
   an internet search). 


  
NOTE. The per serving costs in the table above are based on the 
   following data:

   Rice (white).  Cost per pound, dry: $.20   One cup of dry rice 
     weighs 6.9 oz.  One cup of dry rice (plus two cups of water) 
     yields 4 cups of cooked rice.  Serving size: One quarter cup 
     of dry rice or 1 cup of cooked rice.  Number of servings per 
     pound: 9.3   Cost per serving: $.021      

   Oatmeal (Quick Oats).  Cost per 42 oz box: $1.29 (ALDI)   Cost 
     per pound, dry: $.49.  One cup of dry oatmeal weighs 2.8 oz.  
     One half cup of dry oatmeal (plus 1 cup of water) yields 1 
     cup of cooked oatmeal.  Serving size: One half cup of dry 
     oatmeal or 1 cup of cooked oatmeal.  Number of servings per 
     box: 30   Cost per serving: $.043

   Beans (Pinto).  Cost per 2 pound bag: $.79 (ALDI)   Cost per 
     pound, dry: $.40    One cup of dry beans weighs 6.0 oz.  One 
     cup of dry beans yields 2.4 cups of cooked beans.  Serving 
     size:  .42 cups of dry beans or 1 cup of cooked beans.  
     Number of servings per bag: 12.7    Cost per serving: $.064

   Flour.  Cost per 5 pound bag: $.79 (ALDI).  Cost per pound: 
     $.158   One 5 lb bag contains 17.25 cups.  Weight of 1 cup: 
     4.64 oz   Cost per cup: $.0456   Serving size: .25 cups    
     Cost per serving: $.011 

   Sourdough Bread (homemade).  7.5 cups of flour plus 2.5 cups of 
     water yield approximately 57.8 ounces of bread.  Cost per 
     pound: $.095.  Serving size: 2 oz   Cost per serving: $.012 

   Potatoes (white).  Cost per pound: $.129 (ALDI).  Serving size: 
     8 oz   Cost per serving: $.065 

   Macaroni (elbow).  Cost per pound, dry (ALDI):  $.45   One cup 
     of dry macaroni weighs about 4 oz.  Four ounces ( 1 cup) of 
     dry macaroni yields 11.6 ounces (or about 2.5 cups) of cooked 
     macaroni.   Serving size: 2.76 oz of dry macaroni or 8 oz of 
     cooked macaroni.  Number of servings per pound: 5.8   Cost 
     per serving: $.077 

   Spaghetti.  Cost per pound: $.45 (ALDI).  Four ounces of dry 
     spaghetti yields 11.6 ounces of cooked spaghetti.   Serving 
     size: 2.75 oz of dry spaghetti or 8 oz of cooked spaghetti.  
     Number of servings per pound: 5.8   Cost per serving: $.077 

   Milk.  Cost per gallon (ALDI): $2.19   Serving size: 1 cup   
     Cost per serving: $.137  

   Peanut Butter.  Cost per 18 oz jar: $.99   Serving size: 2 tbsp   
     Number of servings in jar: 15   Cost per serving: $.066 

   Strawberry Jam.  Cost per 32 oz jar: $2.29   Serving size: 1 
     tbsp   Number of servings in jar: 45   Cost per serving: 
     $.051 

   Grape Jelly.  Cost per 32 oz jar: $.99   Serving size: 1 tbsp   
     Number of servings in jar: 45   Cost per serving: $.022 

   Raspberry Preserves.  Cost per 16 oz jar: $.99 (ALDI)   Serving 
     size: 1 tbsp   Number of servings in jar: 22   Cost per 
     serving: $.045 

   Bananas.  Cost per pound: $.25 (ALDI).  Serving size: 8 oz   
     Cost per serving: $.125 

   Carrots.  Cost per 2 lb bag (ALDI): $.79   Cost per pound: 
     $.395 Serving size: 2 oz   Cost per serving: $.049 

   Tuna (canned, chunk light).  Cost per 6 oz can: $.33   Cost per 
     pound: $.88   Serving size: 2 oz   Cost per serving: $.11 

   Turkey.  Cost per pound (with bone in): $.38   Cost per pound 
     (no bone): $.76   Serving size: 8 oz   Cost per serving: $.38

   Chicken leg quarters.  Cost per pound (with bone in): $.39   
     Cost per pound (no bone): $.78   Serving size: 8 oz   Cost 
     per serving: $.39

   Ham.  Cost per pound (with bone in): $.99   Cost per pound (no 
     bone): $1.98   Serving size: 8 oz   Cost per serving: $.99

   Pork Chops.  Cost per pound: $1.49   Serving size: 8 oz   Cost 
     per serving: $.75

   Ground beef.  Cost per pound: $1.49   Serving size: 8 oz   Cost 
     per serving: $.75

   Beef roast.  Cost per pound: $3.76   Serving size: 8 oz   Cost 
     per serving: $1.88

   Sirloin steak.  Cost per pound: $4.98   Serving size: 8 oz   
     Cost per serving: $2.49 



   Apr 2001


   NOTE.  The prices used above correspond to the period around March 
   2001.





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