Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cost of foods, stupid government and EBT

I have been doing a lot of reading about Food Security and Food Resource Management and the USDA Food plans.

For the most part, everything I have found is pretty useless. For example, the "Thrifty Food Plan" from the 2007USDA Food Plans report tells us that a male between 50 and 71 years old needs 38.88 pounds of food per week.

Alrighty then!

When I was a poverty level single father with three kids I had to do food management.  The first step was to find a suitable number of recipes for about a two week period that; I could cook, could be ready about a half hour after getting home from work, that my kids liked and that I could make changes to so that things would not get too monotonous.

Meal planning was important, I focused on nutrition and prices.  How many calories, how much fat, protein and carbohydrates per meal.  How much did the meal cost?  Usually protein was low, fats and carbs high.  

Once I had two weeks of meal planning done, 14 breakfast, lunches and dinners, I made shopping lists.

Once I knew what I was going to purchase, I collected coupons and reviewed sales papers for grocery stores in my area.   I reviewed what foods I already had in stock. This allowed me to make up store specific shopping lists so I could minimize my costs.  This part took a few hours every week, but, was worth it because it paid me more than I made at an hourly wage.

Next, transportation to stores.  Usually I had a car, if not, I had to call friends to take me shopping or I had to walk with my kids.  I worked very hard at keeping a car running, insured and licensed.

I used to write a date on everything I purchased.  I used a black magic marker and wrote the month and year.  Generally, anything over a year old I threw out.  Not always though, it depended on what it was.  Cans I kept longer, up to several years.  Boxes less time.  I bought bulk beans and rice and then stored it in metal "popcorn" cans.  I made a lot of my own spaghetti sauce from either canned tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes, depending on what was cheaper and what I had a taste for.

I cooked a lot of stir fries, stir fried kielbasa with celery, carrots, and any other vegetables I had.   Stir fried chicken, stir fried pork, whatever was on sale.  I used a lot of different sauces, terriyaki, curry, salad dressings, marinades, anything I could buy on sale and some turned out better than others.

The problem I see with modern food resource management is that these things are not taught in a holistic, all encompassing, sense.

If the USDA would like to really help, create a bunch of real meal plans that fit within their "Thrifty Food Plans".

Build an entire month, thirty days, of meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, that working parents can use.  Cost out the shopping lists.  Figure out a criteria the way I did.

Meals have to be balanced (use Food Plate recommendations).  Meals have to be cooked within 30-45 minutes of a cold start or slow cooked with the same total prep time.  Total shopping list costs have to fit within the budget of local food stamp amounts.  No fresh food can be kept in house for more than a week, and less is better since a lot of "fresh food" does not last that long.  Shopping has to be done primarily on weekends.

Amounts purchased and used in recipes and meal planning have to coincide with amounts available.  People can't purchase 6 hot dog buns, so no shopping lists with "6 hot dog buns". 

Yeah, such a project is fricking overwhelming.  If the fricking government can't do this, why would anyone assume that anyone else can?

How are the recipes managed?  Essentially on a per calorie cost.  Suppose lettuce is a component in a meal for four people which should total about 2400 calories total, or about 600 calories per person.  The average amount of per person food stamps per month is $143 bucks.  People need about 60k calories per month, (2,000 per day).  That translates into around $0.0024 per calorie.  For a meal of 2400 calories, about $5.76 total can be spent on the meal.

Bet your mouth just dropped open.  Welcome to the reality of Federal Government food budgets and why such plans do not exist in reality.

Because our Federal Government is living in LaLa Land, and the suggestions for healthy food can't be met with the current budgets, people are going to eat cheaper calories like Little Debbie snack cakes, which run about $0.0013 per calorie and sugary drinks which can be even cheaper per calorie.

Until the government can provide realistic menu plans and shopping lists which can be used with their budget process there isn't any reality in any plans to restrict EBT food purchases