Slepa Ulica: your shoestring is longer than my shoestring





i hate those websites that purport to teach you how to feed yourself on a shoestring budget and they’re all “meals for $10!” and they have people eating lots of stuff from entire categories of food that are closed off to me for economic reasons. if i want to eat a meal for $10, i’ll wait till…

Those websites are definitely for people who are middle class or higher and think they’re poor. $10 isn’t even close to shoestring level here unless you’re talking about a meal that’s supposed to feed a family of four or five people, and really not even then. My average meal costs about $2-3, and that’s taking into consideration that I eat a lot of convenience foods because I don’t really have the executive function to cook most of the time. Something for $10 that wasn’t from a restaurant would be a splurge, and a fairly major one at that. And I’m not desperately poor, either – maybe not even poor at all, depending on how you define it.

Yeah. Out of curiosity (because I am very bad at estimating, really), I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations on the cost of the food I’m putting up for the winter this year, and it comes to about $170 per month or $5.70 per day. And that’s for a menu that includes kielbasa, hot dogs, cheese, milk, ice cream, potato chips, and even a couple expensive heat-and-eat things that I particularly like. (The relative lack of veggies is mostly because they’re expensive here, though, more than because the point of the exercise is to avoid having to go to the store. A $0.50 meal here wouldn’t be veggies, it’d be plain rice or pasta or instant mashed potatoes.)

Dunno what you’re reading, but it sounds ridiculous because it actually is.

cool and thank you. i get popsicles sometimes, they’re about 50 cents, and i tell myself i can spend my daily food money however i want to, so when i have a little extra, i’ll get a popsicle. or i’ll make a half litre of pudding sometimes (~20 cents for pudding powder, 70 cents for a half litre of milk) because it’s really filling and yummy and warms me up in the winter. (i eat it hot). i also make potato chips. my friend gave me one of those slicer things that slices the vegetables really thin, so i slice the potato and lay it out so it doesn’t overlap and i sprinkle it with salt and spices and put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes and then i have potato chips for 2 cents instead of potato chips for $1.

it seems (from the internet) like in america there are a lot of cheap convenience foods, which is why the poor there rely on them as staples. here, healthy foods tend to be cheap and convenience foods are seen as luxuries and can cost as much as an average priced restaurant meal.

and it seems like neither way is the good way. for disability related reasons i would love to have something i could just put in the microwave  or take it out of its package and put it in the oven for 10 minutes (frozen pizza). but due to the price (and also due to figuring out that gluten was why my stomach hurt everytime i ate, which means there aren’t any frozen pizzas i could even theoretically eat) i have to make most things from scratch. and if i have a migraine and can’t really cook that day, there’s not much i can do about it. or if my brain isn’t working well and it’s too hard to hold onto all the steps involved in boiling water without sticking my hand in it…well that sucks. so it would be really nice to have access to cheap, tv dinner type things that don’t cost $5 each.

but poor people in america, they should be able to have fresh vegetables and fruit and milk. they shouldn’t have to buy a big tub of cheap ice cream because it’s the cheapest way to get their daily calorie needs satisfied. neither way is good.

i went and looked in my browser history.

here’s an example of “cheap food for $10/meal”:

this one was the England one I mentioned that seemed relevant to actual poor people:


but the title of my post was inspired by which doesn’t say “cheap meals for $10”, she doesn’t tally up the prices for each entry, but i guess it’s supposed to be cheaper than something. what i’m not sure. i follow the blog because maybe someday some of it will be useful for me, but most of it is way out of my financial league. for me, gluten free on a shoestring is corn flour ($1/kg) and otherwise just eating naturally gluten free stuff like potatoes and rice. i really do like that blog, with the pretty pictures of all the nice foods, but almost every post on there makes me jealous!

$10 for four servings (which those meals are) isn’t terribly expensive for dinner if (and only if) you’re including meat, but it’s far from shoestring. On the other hand, it’s only about as hard to wrap my brain around the idea of $2.50/meal being “shoestring” as it is the idea of ground beef costing $15/kilo. (I went and checked and the ground beef we just bought was $8.15/kilo.)

(We’re still clinging to middle class thus far, so I don’t have the prices of every food I eat regularly memorised, but from what I know the six or seven non-dinner foods* I eat a day are usually in the range of ~40 – 80c each. (Or, for some context, ~2.3 – 4.7 minutes of minimum wage work.))

*I’m much better with many smaller meals than few larger ones. They’re more like snacks.


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