Website owner: James Miller
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. More from SolitaryRoad.com:
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