I love food. This, I'm sure, comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I love planning food, preparing food, and, of course, eating food.
Despite my love for food, or perhaps because of it, we stick to a relatively tight food budget. Each month, we budget $200 for groceries. We also have $100 for eating out, which we rarely hit unless we're traveling, but I look at that more as "entertainment" than "sustenance." We could easily eek the extra meals out of our current grocery budget if needed. And we live in DC (=expensive). This includes the slightly-higher cost of our weekly CSA box (local and organic produce), as well as some nice-to-haves such as our beloved Trader Joe's vanilla ice cream and nuts. I certainly don't feel that we're depriving ourselves by any means, and we definitely don't go hungry (hungry Preethi = highly unpleasant Preethi).
I read an article recently (oh how I love Mark Bittman) that discussed how junk food is not really as cheap and real food is not really as expensive as the media and others sometimes make it seem. I was pretty surprised to see that the program-formerly-known-as-food-stamps provides $5/person/day for food. No, that's not extravagant, but it's certainly more than manageable, and is more than we currently allot.
I am all for government assistance where needed. I fully support paying taxes into a system that helps those that need it and allows them to get back on their feet. But I have pretty much negative desire to give my money to allow someone else to spend more on nicer food or by spend less time preparing it, if that is, in fact how things work.
I think Bittman makes a great point in laying out a few basic, easy and cheap meals. I am extremely grateful to my very frugal parents from whom I learned that it's normal and expected to cook meals at home, buy the cheaper-than-canned dried beans, and sometimes settle for bananas and apples instead of raspberries if there's no more room in the budget.
What do you think? Am I way off base here? Am I misunderstanding how much money is allotted/how food stamps work?