The mainstream and niche media usually would be interested in personal food budgets where a person can eat healthy and get enough nourishment on $100 a month or less, including resources such as local urban gardens, seeds, and sprouters. Every two years, two retired, (no pension) over age 71 and 74 low-income seniors, J. and A. in Sacramento each try out what’s its like to live on a $100 month food budget for one month.
The food focuses on 50% raw, vegan meals from backyard gleaning starting the month of most abundant vegetable harvesting — late October. Some families feed a family of seven on $83 weekly. But would the media be interested in senior citizens living on a $100 monthly food budget per person: $25 weekly for raw vegan foods, beans, legumes, and sometimes other sources of vitamin B 12, such as sardines (to get off the vegan only food regimen)? Could someone on a $100 monthly food budget even afford vitamin capsules of B12 and other supplements if eating only vegan foods? And what would the food budget do to insulin levels?
Meals for senior citizens A. and J. on a $100 food budget for a month each year consisted of simple vegetable soups, home-made yeast-free, no-salt-added breads made with garbanzo and lentil bean flours, salads, cabbage and collard rolls or cored-out hard squash stuffed with whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbal teas, green vegetable juices, water, sweet potatoes or purple potatoes, and fresh fruit.
No white flour or added table sugar was eaten in home-made foods. And no processed packaged foods were purchased. The bags of beans and legumes were the grocery items that went into storage, and the vegetables and fruits were eaten during the month, but they could have been canned or pickled at home for the winter.
Juices were made by making purees combining fruit and vegetables with the pulp and fiber in the couple’s blender, not by juicing them and removing the fiber, and lots of black beans, pinto beans, lentils, mung beans, and red beans with brown rice, amaranth to thicken stews, or quinoa. Here’s how to organize your own low-cost monthly food budget.
Can you live in Sacramento, CA on $100 a month budget for all meals?
Growing food locally in a community urban agriculture garden, in your own yard, or indoors using hydroponics (growing food in nutrients without soil) can save the health of low-income families. Lower-income seniors as well as entire families cope with lack of access to fresh vegetables and fruit. After paying your rent, are you left with only $100 monthly for food?
One solution in Sacramento is growing and sharing foods. If you’re a senior or a student living in one room or an efficiency apartment how can you grow your own food? It’s done by sharing, crop-swapping, and gleaning. Those with so much backyard fruit and vegetables share food with those who have no place other than window-sill containers to grow their own plant food. Those with backyards can share their excess harvests with those who have no backyards.
Community gardens at autumn harvest time
Have you seen the Fremont Community Garden in Sacramento at 14th and Q streets? Just the idea of an urban community garden where families could grow their own vegetable foods motivated me to try an experiment in getting more healthy nutrition by spending less on food.
Creation of the Fremont Community Garden garden is a collaborative effort of the City of Sacramento Parks and Recreation Department, Rembold Properties (the developer of the Fremont Mews), neighborhood representatives and CADA.
The plots are reserved by future gardeners. The Fremont Community Garden represents a model for urban gardening and design with ADA plots, as well as plots for children. One path you could take to live on $100 monthly food budget is to look to community vegetable and fruit gardening. Another or additional possibility is to buy in bulk dried legumes and beans, for example, in 25 lb bags.
That’s the route A. and J. took because red bell peppers and tomatoes already were ending their cycle growing in the backyard, ready to pick at the end of the season. Some people don’t have yards and have to wait for urban garden space to become available.
If you don’t have access to urban gardens, another route can be to let it be known you want to share another person’s excess harvest of vegetables and fruits. Sometimes neighbors exchanges oranges and lemons if they have excess on their backyard trees. But not everyone living in apartments or rooms have yards. That’s where urban gardens can kick in.
Determined to stay on a largely raw food diet, that costs $25 a week or less, the question remained: how long could A. and J. stick to a balanced, healthier diet with a food budget for one of $100 a month? It can be done without feeling deprived nutritionally–living on a food budget of $25 per week per person. Here’s what you might want to look into to prepare yourself for this experimental nutritional plan.
Raw health expos
In 2009, numerous people found the Santa Rosa, CA Raw Health Expo. Check out the site, Raw Health Expo. For further information, see Raw Info or the Living & Raw Foods site, that reports “the largest collection of living and raw food recipes online.” With access to fruits and vegetables, there’s a way to make raw foods exciting, tasty, and filling.
If you’re living alone on a food budget of $100 a month, it’s going to be a task unless you have a house with a backyard where you can grow your own vegetables. Otherwise, you can grow your own vegetable patch in an urban garden if you’re in an apartment or live out of your van. It’s called a food stamp budget by some. You might start by teaming up or volunteering with organizations such as Slow Food Sacramento.
Slow Food Sacramento
Slow Food Sacramento is a grass-roots movement whose goal is to encourage city backyard and urban garden vegetable or fruit growing and sharing with the community. It’s part of the community-based food movement.
By bringing people together through organizations such as Slow Food Sacramento, those with backyards (or even in containers in smaller spaces) can grow their own fruit and vegetables and share them, if they have extra fresh vegetables or fruits, with the community.
Many backyards are unsuitable for growing food due to Sacramento’s tree canopy, so the option of front yard gardening is critical. On April 3, 2007, the City Council adopted the new front yard landscape code language that allows for sustainable diverse landscapes, without restricting fruits & vegetables.
The new Front Yard Landscape Code language states that Sacramento gardeners can grow a diverse landscape of their choice: “The landscape may include grass, annuals, perennials, ground cover, shrubs, trees, and any design elements such as planters, rocks, mulch, or similar elements when integrated as part of the landscape.”
Agro-ecology in the media
To grow your vegetables on another person’s land in a community urban garden/vegetable farm, see the article The Good Food Movement. There’s a movement towards a sustainable food production that’s growing in Sacramento. And residents are seizing on the City’s soils and politics to make Sacramento a living laboratory for a new wave of urban agriculture. Also see the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program. For more information, see the Eat Sacramento site.
Check out the sites for the Sacramento Hunger Coalition and Sacramento Area Community Garden Coalition. For further information, see the Slowfood Sacramento site. Where else can you turn for help in Sacramento?
Sustainable Urban Gardens in the news
If you had a back yard or want to grow vegetables in containers on your apartment balcony, you’d go to the Sustainable Urban Gardens site to find out what places are available in the city to show you how to grow your own vegetable garden in a community urban vegetable garden.
Here’s how A. and J. started the experiments to see how healthy a diet one could live on without feeling deprived on any special type of food on a $100 per month food budget for one. Can you voluntarily live on $100 monthly food expenses for what seemed like most of your golden years? Would you tap mainstream or niche media news sources to earn enough income to buy fresh and frozen fruit for those special smoothies? One way is to write about sustainable urban gardens in your area.
Check out the book, Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage America by Barbara Ehrenreich. The experience can teach almost anyone about getting back to the land for a largely raw foods vegan diet for as long as you can tap the media to put the food and the resources about raw foods to work.
What living for a long time on $100 a month for food expenses did for me had been good and healthy. Now, by choice, A. and J. still eat raw buckwheat groats soaked in cherry juice for breakfast with seeds and nuts, when nuts are on sale. But can you do it for a family or a couple–or only for one person? And for how long can you live on a food budget of $100 a month? Try it for a month and see how it feels and what it does for your health.
The strategy is to buy in bulk food that can be stored such as beans and legumes
The strategy is to buy legumes, beans, including garbanzos in bulk at a discount, on discount days and get used to a raw, vegan diet. How long can you stay on this budget? It depends upon what foods you choose for your $25 a week food allowance. Eat as much as you want, but don’t eat starchy fillers like bread unless the bread is flourless and comes from sprouted grains like lentils.
Try mixing the same type of legumes eaten in Biblical days–lentils and garbanzos. Whole grains consisted of barley, and whole oat groats, raw, soaked buckwheat, and millet. Buy in bulk. If the grains haven’t been heated to get rid of any bug eggs in them, heat them for a minute in dry heat in your oven, no oils or coatings, and store in glass jars in a dark, dry area.
Want a protein-rich grain?
Try quinoa salads. Keep the foods 50 percent raw and as vegan as possible. Quinoa and amaranth are native to Peru and Bolivia but found in Sacramento and other cities in most health food stores and whole food groceries. Supermarkets carry quinoa and amaranth generally packaged. You’ll get a better bargain buying in bulk and storing the grain in tightly closed glass jars or empty, dry juice bottles.
Buy grains when they’re on sale from stores that sell in bulk, such as the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. That way you can get the discounts, including the senior discount or the discounts given on the first Friday of each month. You can dine healthier and only spend $100 a month for all our food. For variety I mixed brown rice with whole oat groats or quinoa with amaranth and steamed the grain.
The barley varied with raw whole buckwheat groats or raw whole oat groats that can be soaked for two days in jars of water or vegetable stock became soft and chewy. The nutrition in it stood up well when compared to soggy cold cereals full of sugar and heated to the point where the life of the sprouting grain lost its power. For breakfast daily I ate the grains raw with soaked and slightly sprouted sunflower seeds.
Almonds on sale in Sacramento is advertised in the newspapers
When almonds were advertised in the daily newspaper that they were on sale for $2.99 per lb, way below the usual $6 or $7 (or more) per pound supermarket price, I bought in bulk and soaked a 1/3 of a cup a day of the almonds. The goal is to eat “like a bird” (no, not twice my weight in seeds and grain like birds do). More it’s eating like a horse–raw whole oat or buckwheat groats, but soaked in water until soft enough to chew, usually overnight or up to two days in a covered jar in the refrigerator.
This type of raw, vegan breakfast daily really is healthier and greener for the environment
Living on $100 a month food budget can be balanced and healthier if you know how to mix grains and legumes or beans with sides of raw greens and green juices. There’s room in the budget to add enough canned wild-caught salmon or eggs twice a month to give you enough vitamin B-12.
How does it taste? Great to many, especially when breakfast includes sprinkling dried fruit on the whole soaked raw grains, seeds, and nuts breakfast. Instead of cooking the garbanzo beans (chick peas) I soaked them overnight in a jar of water and pureed them in my blender with a quarter cup of red onion, a clove of garlic, oil, turmeric, pepper, and lemon juice.
The most expensive items were the spices–turmeric, black finely ground pepper, celery seed, and curry.
You can buy spices once a year in bulk, and they didn’t run out quickly. You don’t have to use salt if you’re highly sensitive to it. If so, get some of your salt naturally from whole foods such as canned sardines packed in water without added salt. No-salt added sardines in water have about 200 mg of salt, and canned salmon without added salt contains about 50 mg of salt per quarter cup.
You can get enough salt just from eating natural foods, including four stalks of celery juiced with tomatoes to balance the ratio of salt to potassium enough to keep you going and your electrolytes in good shape. Juice various raw vegetables each day, including flat parsley, celery and spinach to add flavor to cold tomato soups and juices. Add a tiny bit of onion and garlic for even more flavor.
The cans of sardines were frequently on sale, or discounted when four cans at a time are purchased. That 50 percent raw food vegan diet included enough sardines or salmon twice a month or an egg now and then to get my vitamin B-12 and carnitine. But other than that, vegan eating remained the lowest-cost healthy eating.
Daily meals of A. and J. consisted of pureed raw (soaked overnight in water) garbanzo beans blended with a handful of sesame seeds, oil, garlic, onion, and parsley served on a bed of sliced tomatoes and a side of raw soaked whole buckwheat groats some days and spicy brown rice, with curry powder served other days.
Basically this vegan diet consisted of raw hummus, that is soaked, raw garbanzos or lentils pureed with sesame seeds and flavored with spices, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and a little oil.You can also cook beans and make a similar dip from cooked beans. Don’t eat raw beans. Lentils and garbanzos can be soaked and eaten raw or pureed, but not beans, unless you’re talking about the vegetable called green beans/string beans.
Diet was 50% raw vegan foods
The diet was 50 percent raw and consisted mainly of greens, tomatoes, whole grains, raw, pureed vegetables as dips, and Indian-style legumes or black beans and cooked pinto beans with greens and whole grains. You can grow your own fruits in a community urban garden.
The 25 lb brown paper bags of beans and garbanzos came from Sacramento Natural Food Co-op, where I received a discount for buying bulk items. Cooked items included brown rice and curried lentils served with a side of cold vegetable soup, such as gazpacho–cold tomatoes pureed with vegetable juices, garlic, onion, and spices.
Bulk dried beans and legumes
Keeping to the $25 a week food budget can be done by buying bulk dried beans and legumes. For example, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op offers a discount to members 15%. The general public get a 10% discount. But by buying dried beans and legumes in bulk, first Friday of each month that is anti-depression day, the get another 10% off on anything.
When A. and J. shop there the third Wednesday of the month, there’s also the senior discount at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. For others, look for the general discount to the public on the first Friday of each month. Read their newspaper and look for the coupons in their publications. You don’t have to be a member to get any of the discounts offered to the public. A. and J. also shopped the farmers’ markets close to the end of their working day as to get the bargain vegetables and fruits that didn’t sell out.
It’s okay sometimes to ask if they can sell you the end of the day’s sale at a bargain price, especially on the fruits such as strawberries and blueberries.
Put the blueberries over the soaked grains for breakfast. Blueberries are healthy and may prevent bone loss, according to studies (reiterated in my previous article on eating an alkaline diet including blueberries).
Can you live a month for $100 total food budget on a 25 lb paper sack of pinto, black, or garbanzo beans? For example, the price would be $1.69 per pound, totaling $42.25. Members would get a discount totaling $36.00 for the same item, with 10 percent more off totaling $31.77 if they pre-ordered the 25 lbs sack of garbanzo beans, for example.
If a person comes in and shows he or she is low income, then the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op offers to low income shoppers the Community Discount, whereby you get another 10 percent off on top of other discounts. You can buy two 25 lb bags of different types of beans–black beans and garbanzos. Soak a jar of the beans each night in water along with a jar of whole grains–buckwheat groats soaked and eaten raw with dried fruit, barley another week, brown rice another. Yes, it can be done, but is the diet balanced?
Since some people have a backyard, those who have access to the yard or urban gardens or even greenhouses can grow tomatoes and green vegetables and balance the diet that way. But people need a source of vitamin B-12 for at least 12 days out of the month, either from the $3.00 worth of eggs one week or the $6 dollars worth of canned wild-caught Alaskan salmon another week toward the end of the month to stray from vegan to a diet including once in a while some eggs or fish and vegetables.
That brought the food budget to $50- $52. Lucky for A. and J. with a fig tree in the back yard, there was dried fruit available in June, but in winter, a substitute can be a bought package of preservative-free raisins when on sale at Trader Joe’s or other food markets.
Since A. don’t drive a car, the biggest hassle was pushing a personal shopping cart in a bus, then in the light rail, and up onto a bus to go back home. Luckily, clerks were able to put two 25 lb bags of dried beans in the personal shopping cart. Once home, the cart can be tipped, and the dried beans can go onto a metal dolly to wheel into storage bins, keeping the paper bags from moisture, heat, and light.
Growing food in community gardens depends on the season
Let’s say you have no yard and you want to grow your own vegetables so you can live on $100 a month food budget and want a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits. How do you take the first step to growing your own food in community urban gardens shared with people in a neighborhood or don’t have areas to grow food where they live–apartments or rented rooms, or they live out of their vans?
Contact the Sacramento Area Community Garden Coalition. It’s a grassroots group made up of Sacramento and surrounding area Community Gardeners, Community Volunteers, School Garden participants, and Master Gardeners united by a common cause: to bring more Community and School Gardens to the Sacramento Area.
They serve as a network for groups and individuals dedicated to promoting, creating and preserving community gardens/urban agriculture in the Sacramento Area by providing resources, information, education and advocacy that fosters health, nutrition, and community. The coalition promotes community gardens. The group works with the local city and county agencies, schools, parks and recreation departments and developers to find ways to create more community gardens.
They also work to preserve community gardens through partnership with area groups and concerned individuals to protect and expand urban green spaces. If you already have a backyard and want to grow your own food, the group also is a resource for area community gardeners.
The Sacramento Area Community Garden Coalition can answer questions on how to start a Community Garden and be a resource of related information. The group works to increase awareness of Urban Agriculture through a variety of educational events and projects.
Volunteer for organic gardening projects and reap some food
Maybe you’d like to volunteer to promote more environmentally friendly gardening and support of organic farmers markets or inform others about sustainable agriculture and food security issues. Would you like to encourage more gardens in schools and public places?
If you live in an apartment, you might grow green vegetables in an urban garden on land owned by others. So let’s assume you have no back yard, and you want to grow your own greens in an urban garden or in containers on an apartment window sill or sheltered balcony. You might want to make changes in the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat because when you grow your own, you won’t have to pay several dollars per pound for your fresh tomatoes or basic green salad vegetables. As for the media, you can publicize in the news those organic gardening projects you choose for volunteer work.
Changes in diet can be news for the niche food media
Changes in your food might be instead of morning coffee, drink hot water with a lemon squeezed into it. A. has done this each morning since 1959. You could add honey, but it’s more cost-efficient to have hot water with fruit juice, herbs, spices, or decaf green tea. Or start the day with plain hot water.
To stick to your $100 a month per person food budget, use lentils and brown rice, garbanzos, pinto beans, back beans, and navy beans as your main staples. Forget the less nutritious pasta noodles, and go for high-quality whole grains that are not costly such as raw whole buckwheat groats soaked in water and sprinkled with dried fruit such as raisins or buy quinoa in bulk.
You don’t need to live on noodles made of flour and water when you can eat a quinoa salad with chopped vegetables or a salad of raw red beets with chopped green beet tops. Use grains such as whole oat groats, barley, or quinoa for salads instead of foods made from flour or sugar.
Barley is cheap if you tolerate grains with gluten
Barley is cheap and so is whole oat groats that you soak overnight in a jar of water in your refrigerator and cook in the morning or soak two days and eat raw. Make dried beans, rice and your staples. Forget the cheap pasta if you want the health benefits of whole raw soaked grains and cooked grains. If you want animal protein add eggs twice a month and cans of wild-caught salmon when they’re on sale every two weeks.
To keep your food budget under $100 a month, don’t use processed or prepackaged foods other than dried legumes and beans. Cut out sodas, alcohol, candy and snacks. Don’t eat any empty calories such as white or brown granulated or powdered sugar. Sweeten with fresh fruits or dried fruits.
Sacramento Senior Gleaners and the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
Grow your own vegetables in an urban garden. Or volunteer for Sacramento Senior Gleaners or the variety of food banks such as Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services that may be seeking volunteers in your area. Also buy from farmers’ markets toward the end of the day to bargain for unsold goods.
If you’re cooking for several people or for days in advance for yourself, triple each recipe. Freeze the food for the next three days. Heat up the frozen meals when you come home so you won’t think of eating out while you’re on the $100 a month food budget. It has been tried and done.
If you do decide to live on $100 a month food allowance, make sure anything you buy or eat is healthy and not filling starches. Fill up on vegetables and whole grains, not processed grains. Drink water instead of sweet drinks, and eat fresh or dried fruit instead of candy and chips.
Instead of eating bread to get your share of ‘grains,’ try eating more whole grains, usually soaked and eaten raw or cooked brown rice with curry spices that go with lentils and garbanzos. Indian, Asian, and Mediterranean foods are tastiest on this type of food budget. Use whole grains instead of breads or foods made with refined flour and sugar. Sprout your whole grains.
Try eating a small amount of sunflower seeds that you can sprout or other seeds and nuts when you can find them on sale. Some supermarkets mark down almonds on certain days of the month. Watch for the sale days on nuts and seeds, usually just before a new shipment comes in.
You don’t need to ask for food stamps if you can live on $100 a month food budget and still eat healthy, balanced, mainly vegetarian meals that are 50 percent raw vegetables and fruits. Before you start, download a variety of raw foods recipes at the Living and Raw Foods site.
Lowering the Costs of Foods and Groceries to Live on $100 a Month Food Budget
What do you think it costs per month for nutritious, healthy food to feed one person, and what do you think it costs per month for food for a family of four? To find out look at Dr. Matt’s Guide to Nutritious Survival Foods site. Interestingly, the site advises, “Get a high quality sprouter, Sonic Bloom, and a decent cache of seeds. That will be your best bet for long-term survival if everything goes to the toilet.”
What’s also helpful on the site is the table noting the cost of buying nutritious and healthy foods for a family or for an individual. What’s helpful about the site is that it states, “There are two costs listed for every food item. The first is cost per ounce, which will usually be listed in the upper left-hand corner of the tag on the grocery shelf.”
Note that the detail of the Web site is very important to making a budget or plan. A short excerpt reads, “The first is cost per ounce, which will usually be listed in the upper left-hand corner of the tag on the grocery shelf.”
Small cans or larger?
According to Dr. Matt’s Guide to Nutritious Survival Foods site, “Buying larger cans is not always cheaper.” The site lists the most relevant cost that you won’t find easily elsewhere. It’s the cost per hundred calories. In your budget and plan, list the calories you want to eat per meal. Then look up the most important information, which is the cost per hundred calories.
This information is what you need to develop your budget. So look at the tables on the site and decide whether the site’s “Sample 30-day ‘Bare-Bones’ Grocery List for a Single Person” is what you need. With a little more than 20 dollars each week, the 30-day grand total grocery list for one person sums up to only $82.64. Then look at the site’s “Sample 90-Day Grocery List for a Family of Four.” The site’s sample 90-day grocery list for a family of four’s grand total adds up to $1421.19.
How do these figures fit in your budget and plan for food expenses?
Bookmark the Web site and study those totals. Compare them to your actual expenses and read Dr. Matt’s excellent advice. How do your food expenses compare? Note that food costs change with each passing year.
Print out Dr. Matt’s Guide to Nutritious Survival Foods for your personal use and put it in a place where you’ll see it daily, like on the side of your refrigerator and in the file where you keep your monthly food expenses budget. Dr. Matt’s Guide to Nutritious Survival Foods contains recent food prices. The copyright year is 2004. Compare the prices you pay for your food with the cost of the foods listed in the guide.
Make a List of Questions to Answer Before You Plan Your Monthly Food Budget
If you want to try eating on a $100 per month food budget, make a list of the following questions and see whether you can answer them with a budget plan noting the prices of foods. Add up the food prices plus taxes or other expenses. Is the budget possible for your individual health needs? Here are some questions to put on your food budget list besides prices.
1. Are you eating healthy, nutritious foods?
2. How do survival foods compare with comfort foods? Are the same? Should they be?
3. Do you grow your own vegetables? What’s your soil like? Is it free from toxic wastes such as decades-old dumped rocket fuel or other poisons?
4. Think about how much you will spend on food costs. What type of budget and food list, guide, or table can give you more choices? Where can you buy food on discount? What are the sales days for selected foods?
5. Now make a budget listing other expenses of living. What’s the most important and powerful lesson you’ve learned?
Click on a Community Garden site for more information
Davis Community Gardens
Kennedy Estates – Kennedy Gardens
Stonesoup Community Garden Project
Sutter Park Community Garden
Resource Articles: Living on $100 a Month
Could You Live on $100 For A Month – Personal Finance Forums
How Much Money Do You Need Each Month to Live?
How to Save Money Every Month
Cutting Expenses and Getting More for Less: 41+ Ways to Earn an Income from Opportune Living (2005),
How Nutrigenomics Fights Childhood Type 2 Diabetes & Weight Issues (2009)
How to Safely Tailor Your Foods, Medicines, & Cosmetics to Your Genes (2003)
How to Open DNA-driven Genealogy Reporting & Interpreting Businesses. (2007).
Check out the free audio lecture on Internet Archive, How nutrigenomics fights childhood type 2 diabetes.