Four weeks later, I'm a changed man
Strangely, with the exception of the week that I shopped at the co-op, I didn't really go hungry as I feared. Whether I spent $78.86 at my local grocery store or $42.60, I felt the same. How? When I compared my grocery bill from a normal week with one from my experiment, I saw many more impulse buys: vegan ice cream, kale chips, exotic fruits. Nothing that I needed to survive… probably nothing I needed at all. About half the "extra" food went to waste. When I recently cleaned out my pantry, I found old bags of stale coconut chips, melted yogurt-covered raisins, and molding beef jerky. I threw it all away.
If I could save $30 per week and still feel full, why wouldn't I? That's saving $160 per month, or $1,920 per year. For a family, it's a vacation or the down payment on a new car. For someone my age and gender on the USDA Thrifty Plan, that's food for almost an entire year.
Not to mention that switching to the Thrifty Plan saved $30 worth of unnecessary food waste per week, a number that can't be overstated when statistics show that we waste 40% of our food globally. In addition to the items I threw away from my pantry, I'll admit to tossing a meal or two during my $80+ shopping weeks, either because I let it get old or it wasn't anything I felt like eating. The Thrifty Plan kept me stuck on necessities and helped me eliminate my food waste entirely.
During this month, what I really wanted was proof for the myriad Americans stretched thin on their food budgets that it was possible to get by on the USDA's Thrifty Plan. And I wanted to do it in a sustainable, measured way, unlike out-of-touch celebrities who try to live on food stamps, spend all their money on garnishes, and abandon the plan after four days. This information isn't going to help Jeff or families whose need to work multiple jobs reduces their ability to cook, but it might for those looking at their options and trying to make every dollar count.
Perhaps more important, I wanted to address others like me who may not give much thought to their grocery bills. When we spend blindly, we perpetuate broken systems. With the options available, there's no reason for the average person to break him or herself on grocery bills, or waste an extra $30 on food each week. With a little planning it's easy to rein in the budget, save money, and help eliminate food waste.
At first, I was skeptical that I'd feel full. Now? Call me a Thrifty Millennial Male.
Chicken and shells at my place?
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