The Usda Recommended Thrifty Diet--$38 On Groceries Per Week? You Weigh In! - Livin' la vida Pobre Blog at - 170739

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The USDA recommended Thrifty Diet--$38 on groceries per week? You weigh in! 
Apr. 20, 2010 9:05 am 
Updated: Aug. 10, 2010 1:20 pm
I got this blog post on my Facebook wall, and I have to say that I was shocked by what the USDA considers to be a healthy diet.  What do you think?

What does it cost to eat cheaply?

How much do you spend on groceries?  The USDA tracks the cost of food on a monthly basis, in part, as a way to determine the level of supplemental food assistance (food stamps) it offers to lower income families. In February 2010, for example, the USDA estimated that an adult male, eating all his meals at home, could meet his nutritional needs for about $38 a week if he followed the Thrifty Food Plan developed by the USDA.  

Here's the suggested weekly shopping list for an adult male on the Thrifty plan:
  • 4 1/2 pounds of grains (rice, bread, pasta, cereal)
  • 2 1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 5 pounds other vegetables
  • 2 pounds canned or dry beans
  • 6 1/2 pounds fresh fruit
  • 1 3/4 pounds fruit juice concentrate
  • 11 pounds of dairy products
  • 2 1/2 pounds chicken
  • 1/2 pound beef or pork
  • 1/4 pound nuts
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 pounds of oil, salad dressings, spices, condiments, and other miscellaneous stuff

--Personally, if I ate that much starch I'd blow up like a balloon, and I don't think my two year old drinks 11 pounds of milk per week.  I'm very concerned that this information, if followed by the masses,  would make the obesity problem in our country even worse.  The quantities of fresh vegetables also seems quite low.  I've heard over and over again the advise "eat food, not too much, mostly green" and this diet seems white, white, white!!
Apr. 20, 2010 9:17 am
I am sure that this is strictly based on the food pyramid
Apr. 20, 2010 9:22 am
But hasn't the food pyramid been recently updated? This is ridiculous!
Apr. 20, 2010 9:23 am
Considering this is a weekly list and for only one person it's not too bad. 11 pounds of dairy is cheese, yogurt, milk, sour cream, butter,ect...11 1/2 pounds of fresh fruit / vegetables is great. But how are they coming up with $38? I want to shop where they do.
Apr. 20, 2010 9:42 am
I believe that you are right Becky, I think it was revised to include more fruits and veggies, but Mom, I agree with you ...where are these people shopping? I think that the focus on this article is on $$$$ more than on a balanced diet. but I suppose if you ate that much grains and potatoes, you would feel so full you wouldnt need those darn fruits and veggies!
Apr. 20, 2010 9:44 am
If everyone needs 11 pounds of dairy in my family, I will need 55 pounds per week....thats it...Im buying a milking cow. I will be forced to make my own cheese, milk, yogurt this rate!
Apr. 20, 2010 12:21 pm
one gallon of milk weight about 8 lbs so an additional 3 isn't too bad. A few tomatoes can weight a pound themselve. It seems like a lot until you get to the store and weight the veggies lol.
Apr. 20, 2010 12:42 pm
This is GROSS!!! It sounds like something from the 1940s! 3 pounds of meat and 11 pounds of dairy in a WEEK? I know this is for a guy but eating about 1/2 pound of meat and 1 1/2 pounds of dairy a day still sounds kind of nuts...
Apr. 20, 2010 1:52 pm
400-Seems like a lot, doesn't it? I thought about it too, and remembered that "they" recommend 3 8 oz. glasses of milk per day, which works out to 1.5 pounds daily, or 10.5 lbs/week. also, 1/2 pound of potatoes, almost a pound of rice/bread/cereal per day, and not nearly enough fruits/veggies. Why more fruit than veggies? Isn't that backwards? BTW, the recommendations for women aren't much less... Let's not even get started on the cost of this diet. Even with my rough estimate (and I rounded low) I have this calculated at $57.13, almost 50% higher than the USDA quotes, and I'm using Walmart pricing!
Apr. 20, 2010 2:03 pm
Sandy--buy that cow. When the time comes that you can't milk it anymore, you can use it to supply your rations of beef, too. I'm pretty sure it's out of the $38/per week budget though!
Apr. 20, 2010 4:23 pm
Brought to you by the same folks that proclaimed ketchup a vegetable during the Reagan administration. But I would love to know where they get those prices - maybe that was from the Reagan administration too!
Apr. 21, 2010 5:36 am
Ha! I wish I could get all that food for $38! Would like to see lots more vegetables too!
Apr. 21, 2010 8:48 am
Becky, I have to tell you (totally off the topic of this page) that since we had talked about whole, unprocessed foods a couple of weeks ago, I have been paying much more attention to labels. I have decided that I have become a victim of convenience! I spend my evenings deciding whether or not we will have mac and cheese from a box or rice a roni from a box. All this time I was buying this stuff not only for the value, but for the convenience, when in all reality, not only is this probably a contributing factor to my weight problem, it really isnt all that convenient! I told you about my homeade granola bars, cheap, easy to make, and delicious! And as an added bonus, I knew exactly what was in them. So this morning, Mandy says that she wants a homeade breakfast (they usually eat at school...its free!) She wants something with blueberries in it, I get on allrecipes an look up homeade blueberry pancakes while I try to decide whether or not I want to invest the time in this, or just grab the mix out of the cupboard. The blueberry pancake recipe sounded really simple so I went for it. I modified it by using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, and they were wonderful! I had been using the mix with the little dehydrated blueberries for so long, I think I forgot what a blueberry tasted like! So then I decide to look on the pancake batter box and see what is in it...I would tell you, but first I need to go back to college to learn what this stuff is! YIKES! What have I been feeding my family? So I looked at a homeade mac and cheese recipe on AR, again, this doesnt sound like it would take alot more time than kraft. Boy oh Boy all this time and all of these crazy ingredients! My opinion has been changed. I do have time to make more homeade food. It will require a little more planning ahead, since there are more ingredients in these homeade items, (not just adding milk and butter) but at least I can pronounce them! Thought you would be happy to know that I have finally converted!
Apr. 21, 2010 9:23 am
Well good for you Sandy...if you need any help with ideas, you know where I live......Love Mom
Apr. 21, 2010 9:38 am
Thanks Mom, this site has really great, homeade recipes and most of them dont take any more time than "Convenience foods". But I will call if I need help. I have a feeling that I will be trying alot of new things during this upcoming gardening season. maybe we wont have so much going to waste!
Apr. 21, 2010 11:18 am
ugh! You all make me feel like a slug! I hardly ever make anything homemade anymore, since Cody and I just don't spend too much time at home and frankly for 2 of us, it's a hassle. Poor exuse huh, I have however noticed that it's a bit hard on your checkbook to eat out 20 of the 30 days of the month and I think the big butt fairy is knocking at the door. Guess I might have to rethink things :( Thanks girls!
Apr. 21, 2010 12:56 pm
Well whatever motivated you over from the dark side, I welcome you! I have some great recipes for you with all fun things like whole wheat flour, brown rice, and quinoa....not to mention millet, barley and steel cut oats! I know your family is going to thank you, and I betcha the extra poundage is going start melting off. It's so much easier to manage when you know what you're eating. we've eaten out one time (at a salad bar) in the last three months, maybe longer. I used the tip in Miserly Moms and made a ton of bean burritos, wrapped them individually in wax paper and froze them, so that's our substitution for taco bell when we're super busy and hungry. Michelle, you need to get back in the kitchen, I thought that you really liked it. Don't let the big butt fairy in the door, she's impossible to get rid of....
Apr. 21, 2010 2:13 pm
My day off I got to do what I really enjoy.....staying home and doing some of that home made from scratch cooking.....I was thinking as I was pushing the bread pans onto the cooling just don't get the same satisfaction from the store bought as you get from the scratch products. The house smells wonderful.....rhubarb pie, and home made bread and rolls are now ready for dinner, and there will be baked potato soup made from the leftover baked potatoes and bratworst from last nights sure can't get that out of a box.....not to mention that all three of the above items cost almost nothing beyond some butter and flour. Home made doesn't require a great deal beyond basics....both in cooking expertise and's more about the mind set to do the best you can for your family as economically as possible.....I applaud you all for your fine efforts....keep it up!
Apr. 21, 2010 3:42 pm
Finally! The big Butt fairy went to someone elses house! She must have left her sister....huge hip queen here though! Maybe that will change if I am making more of our food from scratch!
Apr. 21, 2010 5:18 pm
Yummy Homeade mac and cheese and "best ever meatballs" and pineapple slices for dinner....1st time I have ever made homeade mac and cheese. It wasnt as creamy as I would have liked, but still better than the box mac and cheese....the kids even liked it! What will be for dinner tomorrow night? Something more preservative meals for us!
Apr. 21, 2010 5:22 pm
Next time add half of a package of cream cheese at the end. Instant super-creamy!
Apr. 22, 2010 5:44 am
ohhh good idea!
Apr. 23, 2010 7:06 am
The "2 pounds of oil, salad dressings, spices, condiments, and other miscellaneous stuff" is what scares me. Hopefully, they are talking about gummy bears and donuts, but I have my doubts!
Apr. 23, 2010 7:19 am
Who said the government agencies have a clue how we should be eating..... The FDA lets us down and the USDA so why are we even listening to them anymore? We need way more veggies and a lot less potatoes and fruit juices than what this says for sure. And for $38....What grocery store are they buying at??? It is too bad that food stamps are based on this. This is why non-profits should be the ones distributing food to the needy instead of the government!!!!!! This is also why they should stay out of my healthcare!!!!
Apr. 23, 2010 8:54 am
ON the 11 pounds of dairy.. Someone referred to fluid ounces. That is a volume measurement and not a weight measurement. 1 gallon of milk weighs about 8.5 pounds, depending on the density of the mill which will vary if it is skim, whole, etc. Whole milk weighs a bit more. And consider this... a lot of single men with little money who have been living on Ramen noodles will see this and realize that they can actually eat better on their budget. I think that's part of the point since it's the "thrifty food plan".
Apr. 23, 2010 9:41 am
I wouldn't trust the authenticity of anything posted on Facebook until you have actually verified it with the USDA. Its obvious either the amount of food or the price is off by a lot. I would take it off your Facebook page so that the misinformation doesn't proliferate.
Apr. 23, 2010 9:42 am
Wow..I really need to start cooking more things from scratch...Spending $200 per week on food is outrageous..(we do have 7 in the family)...I need to check out this Miserly Moms..
Apr. 23, 2010 9:43 am
$38 a week.....wonder where they shop!!
Apr. 23, 2010 10:41 am
I cook from scratch for two reasons: I'm old and that's how I was brought up, and I have to eat low sodium (since age 27) and it's hard to buy convenience foods with low sodium. We limit our eating out to one night a week at most, and I have to drink extra water for two days to counteract the extra salt I get by eating out. It DOES take more time if you take it as far as I do--make my own applesauce, make white sauce w/onion instead of "cream of" soups, etc. I'm not saying you won't find Rice-A-Roni in my house, but it will be the reduced sodium kind. It's way cheaper to add a couple things to regular rice and cook it in chicken broth. Oh, I make that myself too, in a pressure cooker from a roasted chicken carcass--not every time, but when I have enough time to do so. It was harder before I retired, but now I have time to do such things even more often. I also pick my own fruits and some vegetables, and even grow a few to freeze during the summers. A freezer is a good investment, even though we are only two people at home now. I cook a "real meal" almost every night, and have a few "quick and easy" things when we don't have time or energy to do the whole thing. Breakfast for dinner is a favorite of ours, and not too bad for us since we limit eggs to one day a week for breakfast and have cold cereal the other six days. $38 a week requires very careful budgeting, buying only on sale, using coupons, etc. I buy carefully, have company fairly often, and I can't get our budget for two plus guests much under $80 a week--although that does include cleaning and paper products and two cats' food and supplies. I also make most of our bread using an ABM which is a huge savings when bread is inching over $3 a loaf for the good stuff. I am constantly awed by the price the stores get for groceries, especially meat prices lately. I buy a lot of roasts and larger cuts that I can use in planned over meals. Since I live in the country I do have easy access to fresh fruits and veggies in season.
Apr. 23, 2010 12:17 pm
I'm just wondering if ya'll knew that an 8oz cup of milk supposedly has the same fat in it that a small fry does from McDonalds... Also, I don't know where the USDA gets their ideas that the average American male can possibly even EAT all his meals at home. Don't we all have to work to pay for the Obamanation's budgets and communistic new laws? My husband works in the Oil field and is lucky to get one meal a day let alone one meal from home. These people all need to be replaced by the real brains in the country. Mothers!
Apr. 23, 2010 12:39 pm
That actually sounds about right to me, if those figures are really supposed to be for a reasonably active adult male. Definitely not for a child or other people whose calorie needs are lower. And I am assuming they are recommending more pounds of fruit than vegetables because fruit tends to be denser than vegetables... You'd end up with more vegetables overall.
Apr. 23, 2010 12:44 pm
My grocery bill is about $40 for nearly 2 weeks worth of food. I cook for myself, husband and our 16 mo old child. I buy mostly produce, stay away from he premade dinners, sauces, cookies, snacks, etc. I also buy the least processed poultry and do the cutting it up myself. I typically spend no more than $8 on meat and poultry. It is possible to spend a small amount of money and still get nutritious gourmet like meals. I shop at meijer which is a chain store and I don't use coupons. Here was my menu from my last grocery trip: meatloaf w/steam veggies n yeast roll veggie burgers w/baked potato clam linguine w/salad mushroom spaghetti w/salad veg pizza w/salad chicken n jalepeno pizza w/salad burritos w/salsa and guacomole n rice roasted chicken w/carrots and rice chicken curry Some of these dishes I can make 2 or 3 times and except pizza and curry I always have left overs to have for lunches throughout the week.
Apr. 23, 2010 12:50 pm
breakfast is red wheat cereal (costs a dollar for a bag) n milk with homemade bread n jam or an orange or some strawberries. sometimes i make banana bread. and i must have coffee. i do splurge on my coffee and my daughter's organic fruity os, but my grocery bill is consistently 38-42 dollars.
Apr. 23, 2010 1:48 pm
Who needs that much money for food anyway? My husband and i spend about 60 bucks a week at the grocery store and that includes non food items too and we eat just fine. we don't buy groceries any other time during the week either.
Apr. 23, 2010 1:54 pm
I don't know, it doesn't sound so bad. The grains don't specify it has to be Wonder bread. That could be oats, whole grain bread, brown rice, quinoa etc. Three pounds of meat for a full grown man isn't much when you think about it and a gallon of milk must weigh nearly 10 pounds and I know my teenage boys would guzzle milk all day if you let them. The beans are very healthful and the veggies could be collards or kale or any number of super healthful veggies. Not seeing that this is such a bad guide line, better than what most guys eat in a regular week!
Apr. 23, 2010 2:02 pm
Hi Rebecca, I believe this is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. I provide one everyday for 60 people. The nutrition seems to be in balance. 3lbs. of meat a week is 2-3oz at each meal, about the size of a deck of cards. 5oz of starch per meal. These are all portions our state licence nutritionist suggests. It seems like a lot but its really not. As for obesity, 2000 calories is high for a teenager, or woman. 1200-1500 would be more reasonable.
Apr. 23, 2010 2:45 pm
Measuring in lbs. makes it sound like more than it is. The yogurt cups I buy are 8 oz. Thats 1/2 lb. of dairy and it wouldnt dent my appetite. A 1/4 lb. beef patty after cooking isnt very big. As for the white starches you can sub whole wheat bread, rice, pasta and sweet potatos but then up goes the price.
Apr. 23, 2010 3:07 pm
yes Rebecca, I love to cook and I do really need to get back into the kitchen, and actually cook dinners. I have formulated a tenative plan, maybe if I cook and save the money that I would spend on out to eat dinners, I will have enough to move back home when Cody graduates from high school.....yep...gonna do it!
Apr. 23, 2010 3:13 pm
While I have no idea what the breakdown of my weekly grocery bill would be when divided by my 5 family members, most of that seems pretty nuts. Many categories seem off, and there's no WAY I consume 11 lbs of dairy products per week. Yikes!
Apr. 23, 2010 5:32 pm
Great posts, everyone. SCJohnson, I have no idea how you shop for three people on $20.00 per week, but my hat is off to you! I shop for 5, and try to keep our weekly budget around $120 give or take, and it's not easy even with coupons and sale shopping. I thought I was doing pretty well, but you've blown me right out of the water. As far as the USDA plan goes, I actually did look it up on the USDA website, and the posting is correct. Perhaps this looks skewed to me because our diet is very heavy in vegetables with smaller quantities of grains, meat and fruit, and very little dairy. Our kids drink milk, true, but from the research I've done it doesn't seem necessary to consume so much dairy when there are better sources of calcium in green leafy vegetables, and there's plenty of Vitamin D to be made naturally here in AZ.
Apr. 23, 2010 5:35 pm
Also, if anyone is interested, you can click on the link above and it will take you to the original blog posting. From there is a link to the USDA plan, and you can peruse it for yourself. It's pretty dry reading, but informative! I still think it's wrong, though. IMHO, of course.
Apr. 23, 2010 5:40 pm
Where in the world could you get 11 lbs. of dairy for $38? And I'm pretty sure if someone ate that much cheese in a week they wouldn't poo for a month! It kind of has a lack of fresh fruits and veggies IMO.
Apr. 23, 2010 5:53 pm
THANK YOU PYREX! That's what I'm saying! I realize they're talking about all dairy, yogurt cheese etc as well as milk, but golly that's a lot of dairy! I think (Bracing for the backlash)that there's just entirely too much food being consumed here, with grossly large amounts of dairy and starch and not nearly enough fruit and veg. This is why we're an overweight country. I'm like everyone else, I love food, but when our government recommends that we eat 5 lbs of starch and 11 pounds of milk in a week I see it as a huge problem.
Apr. 23, 2010 7:30 pm
Everybody complaining about the dairy numbers needs to take a reading comprehension class.
Apr. 24, 2010 7:32 am
I don't think those ingredients could be bought for $38 in my area. Prices fluctuate wildly--I know a friend who lives in MN who spends less than two dollars a gallon on milk, and here in SE PA it's over $3 a gallon. No way I could go to Wal Mart here and buy those ingredients for less than $40. I don't think the list is all that unhealthy.
Apr. 24, 2010 7:34 am
I don't understand how anyone thinks 11 lbs of fruit and veg aren't enough for one person for a week. I don't think I've ever eaten THAT much fruit and veg in a week.
Apr. 24, 2010 8:34 am
Rececca - I am a newbie here so don't know where everything is located yet. Could you point me towards where the recipe for the bean burritos you talk about are located?
Apr. 24, 2010 9:53 am
I didn't analyze the whole thing, but as far as the dairy goes - milk all by itself weighs about 8.5 lbs/gallon. your son as a 2 year old really should be drinking more milk.
Apr. 24, 2010 10:45 am
Ok, there are SO many other things to consider. First - many people on food stamps also cannot afford a car. Can you carry that much weight? I can only carry one half-gallon milk ($3) and some fruits and vegetables. Second - many people are allergic to gluten or dairy. Gluten-free flours are expensive. Soy milk/yogurt/cream cheese, etc is more expensive than regular milk. Third - many people on food stamps work one or more inconvenient jobs with odd hours and do not have the time to cook from home as much as they'd like. Or are living in shelters or with friends and so do not have their own cooking/refrigerator space. I think the USDA putting such a strict list of what people are expected to have and to eat is extremely dangerous and hurtful to those who depend on food stamps to get by.
Silly Millie 
Apr. 24, 2010 11:09 am
They did not say whole grain but brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat breakfast food but the fiber in that will take care of the starch. Eat the skin of the potato and that helps cut the effect of the starch. The oil seems high until you get to the other which could be peanut butter. The price is too low it seems to me. And also in the oil, you would have to account for the butter on your potato and the mayo on a tomato sandwich.
Apr. 24, 2010 11:38 am
Nutritionally speaking, I think this is a reasonable list, but i'm sure the prices can vary widely depending on where you are in the country. As for the cost of Dairy/Gluten replacement foods, purchasing those things are a choice, one can survive perfectly well with rice and vegetables, much of the world does. As for not having time to prepare food, I suspect if you calculated the cost of pre-made convenience foods versus the cost of your time to prepare cook a pot of rice and some sautee some vegetables, you would find that it is in fact cheaper to prepare your own food by a considerable margin. Its probably also much healthier.
Apr. 24, 2010 1:19 pm
This list is from 2006. Alot of things - including prices - have changed since then!! For the lwatest numbers go here Also, the thrifty plan is for people in economic distress. It leans heavily on cheap sources of protien (ie dairy) in order to keep cost lower. It isnt a plan anyone would recommend using on a daily basis. If you wnt to lower the cost of food shop sales and use coupons - don't buy cheaper foods at full price!
Apr. 24, 2010 4:31 pm
After moving from the US to England and then to Australia - I had no choice but to start making things from scratch. The grocery stores did not carry the same packaged items that I had come to love over the years. So after preparing myself in my weekly shopping - I have come to make things using my own brain and ingredients and I know exactly what my family is eating. In the long run - I save money but more importantly - our bodies are not subjected to things that I cannot pronounce. There has to be a direct link to what we are eating to the health issues of today. There are pandemics of cancers and obesities that were not here 50 years ago. It was during that time that families began to have the choices of convient foods that are now readily avaliable today. We choose our health (forthe most part) by what we take into our mouths.
Apr. 24, 2010 5:35 pm
I am on the fence about this. While I do NOT think that the amount is accurate, but the diet is heavy on fruits and veggies and light on meat. That I could see if you went to a farmer's market/produce store and not a local grocer. However, with a family of 6 like mine, that would be about $228 per week. Clearly, these people aren't really accounting for breakfast. Dinner, yes, but not breakfast or lunch.
Apr. 24, 2010 5:47 pm
BTW- those prices are from '06. Yeah, I could see that in '06. Things have gone up since then. It would probably equate to about $80 on avg here in Tampa area..
Apr. 24, 2010 6:34 pm
I am low income, but DONT recive, and will NOT ask for food stamps. I wish I could go cheaper, but I like to cook, and since the fire, have ben rebuilding my pantry. I would love to find more fast, and simple dishes, since its just me and Lucky(shi tzu).
Apr. 24, 2010 6:35 pm
I spend any where from maby $135 a month to $215(went way over budgette this month)a month for food, and right now get everything on the third.
Apr. 24, 2010 7:07 pm
2 pounds of oil, and dressings per week. That is the most shocking part for me personally.
Apr. 24, 2010 8:31 pm
WOW! I spend 60 bucks everytime I set foot in the store! Produce alone kills me. Im a cook, we eat no processed, well except an occasional box of Cheeze its. But decent whole grain bread is 4 bucks a loaf! I shop the sales too, but if we are out of something Im going to purchase it instead of running to 3 stores just to save 2 bucks.
Apr. 24, 2010 11:01 pm
If a diabetic were to eat this way with any regularity, they'd be dead. There is WAY too much simple carbohydrate here. And if you weren't diabetic to begin with, you'd end up one.
Apr. 25, 2010 4:33 am
This sort of reminds me of something that happened in Toronto recently. 10 celebrities ate a diet consisting of what the food bank gave them plus 5 items from their own pantry. Needless to say, they really brought attention to how badly the poorest among us eat. The diet was high in starch and processed foods and very low on fresh fruit and veggies.
Apr. 25, 2010 7:09 am
I am always so surprised at how people STILL trust the USDA. Do your research...they are most corrupt organisation I have ever seen and really dont give two craps about anything bu their paycheck. Read up on will see. They tell you "you need to drink this much milk"...they're being payed by the dairy people..! Too much animal protein from milk actually pulls calcium from your bones. what they say osteoperosis isnt even true! "eat beef"...their being payed by the beef people...the majority of the american people eat double the amount of animal protein they need which causes a number of health problems...not to mention all the hormones and chemicals they put n the meat. Its criminal, really.
Apr. 25, 2010 7:15 am
I checked out the 2010 levels, assuming that there would be a huge cost of living adjustment by now...but's $38.80 for a male age 18-50, plus 20% extra for living alone. So, around $46. Still not a whole lot!
Apr. 25, 2010 11:33 am
$38 a week? That much chicken alone could easily be $75 here.
Apr. 25, 2010 12:07 pm
Wow! I need to rethink my shopping trips! You guys are putting me to shame! I spend at least 200.00 per week at the store cooking for 8 off and on. Also, don't trust anything the USDA puts out-take a look at what they think is a nutritious meal at our public schools! Chicken nuggets (really gross kind)french fries, and a roll. They really consider that a good solid meal. No wonder we have so many little chunky kiddos out there!
Apr. 25, 2010 12:09 pm
Actually I gave up on the USDA and the FDA a long time ago. I follow WHO's recommendations. WHO is World Health Organization for those who aren't aware of it. I don't have to worry about Big Money such as dairy and beef influencing the recommendations from them and they made sure it is healthy not SAD [Standard American Diet] which seems not to be too hot these days from the number of poor little kids I see waddling off the school bus. The fact they want to put 7 year olds on cholesterol medication in this country scares me and says a lot about the diet. I'll take WHO every time over USDA or FDA.
Apr. 25, 2010 12:56 pm
This report is very confusing. Thank you for posting it though. I started to just scroll through and found a much more agreeable chart to refer to on page 36 which states Adult Females should consume, on average, 2300 calories a day which includes the following: 7.35 oz grains (3.68 oz whole grains), 3.37 cups of vegetables (broken down into dark green, orange, starchy, other and legumes), 2.10 cups of fruit (1.98 of which should be whole fruit), 3.15 cups of milk products (milk, cheese, yogurt), 6.30 oz of meats and beans (mostly poultry, nuts and seeds) and 30.45 grams of oils. This also includes a daily 300 discretionary calorie allowance. That's a little easier to swallow. (Pun intended!)
Apr. 25, 2010 1:22 pm
I work as a registered dietitian in my local community. This amount of food does not seem particularly excessive or unhealthy. A gallon of milk weighs about 8.5 pounds so if an adult male consumes 2 cups of milk a day plus another dairy serving (yogurt/cheese) daily - 11 pounds is about right. This plan did not indicte that the grains had to be white - at least half of them should be whole grains in order to get enough fiber. Whole-grain rice, bread, and cereal should be part of a healthy diet. 15.75 pounds of fruits/vegetables for the week would provide 5-9 servings a day - the current recommendation by many groups. Fruit does typically weigh more than vegetables (think about the weight of a serving of romaine lettuce compared to a serving of apples). Potatoes may be white or sweet. If you eat all of the white potato (skin and all) and you bake or roast it, it is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and complex carbohydrates - all of which are needed for a healthy diet. No one said you had to make fries or chips with the potatoes or fry them up in a pan. The dry beans are very cheap and an excellent source of fiber as well as a source of protein. Canned beans tend to cost a little more but still have just as much fiber and protein. The chicken could be very lean and skinless and the beef and pork could also be lean cuts. A half of pound of red meat is only two (three ounce) servings for the week - a whole lot less than what most people eat each week. The chicken is ten (three ounce) servings a week so that still leaves 2 meatless meals (lunches/dinners) each week. Remember that all of these measurements are weight not volume. There is an epidemic of overweight/obesity these days. However, following this meal plan is not necessarily the cause. This meal plan is not advocating sugary soft drinks, high-fat chips and other junk food, high fat sweets, and other low-nutrient foods.Good nutrition can be boiled down to this simple truth - "Unfortunately, the best dietary advice is the most boring: Eat less; Exercise more; All things in moderation; Variety in all things, especially fruit and veggies." ~Sarah L. Ash Moderation and variety can be achieved with this list of foods.
Apr. 25, 2010 2:21 pm
AND they forgot BEER. :0) I gave up most processed and fast foods last fall and have lost 25 lbs. I didn't change anything else. I am a label reader and sadly my grocery bill is high but we rarely go out to eat and I love to cook.
Apr. 25, 2010 3:03 pm
white? yes indeed less than optimal? most likely btw....a gallon of milk weights 8 lbs. my 3 teenage boys will drink 7 gallons of milk each week between them. That's approx. 18 lbs of milk per week each. And "diary" doesn't just mean milk either
Apr. 25, 2010 6:23 pm
I think some people might also be thinking of the highest quality or a particular brand when going "oh, no way." on the suggested plan Thrifty does not equate to organic, high priced, top shelf goods. Store labels/brands are cheaper, only negligibly different nutritionally in my experience. If I'm on a budget and a gal of organic milk costs over $3.50 at the store but I can get a gal of store label milk for a dollar or more less- guess which one I'm buying. Same too for eggs. Recently, a dz lrg whites were $.99 for store label but $3 for free range. Thanks, I'll stick with the .99 ones. The difference in price is even more pronounced when you get to the produce section.
Apr. 26, 2010 7:17 am
4 1/2 pounds of grains per week?! That seems like a lot. I'm just saying. And exactly how does this cost 38 dollars? I'm confused about that. Also, even if you put all the oil, salad dressings, spices and condiments and "misc" stuff in my family of three's diet together for one week...I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be 2 pounds.
Apr. 26, 2010 7:23 am
@ Jenn: Where do you live that a gallon of store brand milk costs a dollar? It must be the land of cheap milk and honey. A gallon of storebrand milk in PA costs 3 dollars and change usually.
Apr. 26, 2010 7:45 am
4 1/2 pounds of grains (rice, bread, pasta, cereal) = $6 2 1/2 pounds potatoes = $1 5 pounds other vegetables = $5 2 pounds canned or dry beans = $2 6 1/2 pounds fresh fruit = $7 1 3/4 pounds fruit juice concentrate = $2 11 pounds of dairy products = $5 2 1/2 pounds chicken = $5 1/2 pound beef or pork = $2 1/4 pound nuts = $1.50 2-3 eggs = $.25 2 pounds of oil, salad dressings, spices, condiments, and other miscellaneous stuff = $5 Wow...just added it up...even allowing for extra lean ground beef...still came up with under $45. Eleven pounds of dairy = 1 1/2 gallons of milk. Even with some cheese it still isn't that much. 2 pounds of dried beans are about $2. You can have black beans, pinto beans, lentils, anything! 4 pounds of grains including a 1 pound box of cereal, whole wheat bread dough?, brown rice, pasta, etc isn't that much! Several bags of store brand frozen vegetables, with a head of iceberg lettuce, and a cucumber or some zucchini. In summer it's even cheaper! As far as the fruit goes, bananas and apples are always cheap!! Oranges too! As for the chicken, whole chickens are often less than $1 a pound, as are bone in chicken breasts. Yes they have the skin on, but that's easily removed! And 1/2 pound of beef could be lean ground beef. Even the extra lean stuff is only about $4 a pound. As far as the 2 pounds of extra stuff, a 1 pound jar of peanut butter would be a great supplement for lunch sandwiches as well as protein with cereal for breakfast. I agree that a whole pound of other is a lot, but between canola oil for cooking, a small amount of butter, and a small amount of salad dressing, it might not be too far off. Keep in mind that the USDA isn't recommending name brand foods. They also aren't recommending pre-prepped foods for the produce. They are recommending seasonal fruits and veggies (which are usually healthier and more eco-friendly), or frozen vegetables. They aren't recommending boneless skinless white meat chicken. And once again, this isn't intended to be a long term diet. It is intended to be short term, for those in extreme financial situations. Just as food stamps are not intended to be a long term solution. They are intended to be a short term solution to help individuals get their financial situation in order, or for individuals to find another job, or to retrain in a different field. Also, when considering food banks, commodities programs, and other sources of food, this diet could be supplemented. (Or at least the cost could be supplemented.)
Apr. 26, 2010 7:47 am
oh and by the way "Jenn" said "a dollar or more less" meaning...a gallon of organic is $3.50 in her area and a gallon of other is $2.50.
Apr. 26, 2010 9:29 am
It should be understood that the dietary guidelines being used are the ones from 2005. New dietary guidelines are being developed this year and the comment period for the guidelines ends on the 29th. Go to the USDA's website for details. Hopefully, this update will incorporate a more realistic, healthier approach to diet. Also, be aware that this information is used to estimate how much people on public assistance receive for food subsidy. If you view it in that context, it is easily understood why the prices are understated.
Apr. 26, 2010 10:05 am
The government is not going to give out enough money for people to be able to eat fresh lean meats, fruits and vegetables at every meal. The average American Family, I am sure, cannot afford to eat this way for every meal. This exemplifies how the poor are getting fatter...I believe there is a direct correlation. What can we do to change it?
Apr. 26, 2010 11:10 am
i wish people would do their research correctly or at least listen to someone who is qualified to tell them what a nutritionally sound meal is. And here's a tip for all the ppl who say produce is too expensive: GROW YOuR OWN. It's not difficult and doesn't require acres of land. I've got a container garden on my back deck...blueberries, herbs, salad veggies...and it isn't expensive either if you take time to do a little research and listen to experienced gardeners. So tired of people complaining when the solution is so easy. It's a matter of personal priority.
Apr. 26, 2010 11:13 am
Misshe, maybe in America but certain;y not throughout the world. But I think that the actual percentage of income most ppl spend on their food compared to other things is more interesting (poor ppl included).
Apr. 26, 2010 1:13 pm
This article has fallacies (obviously, from facebook) To clarify... It is NOT $38 a week!! They say "pounds" (meaning weight, not the currency). Meaning, a male, age 15-19, should eat 38 pounds of food. (Age 19-50 should eat 39 lbs). They actually NEVER mention how much it would cost (said "minimal cost budget") to buy the 38 lbs of food...Not only that, but price data that they used, was from 2001 & 2006! Food, along with everything else was so much cheaper then! Hope this cleared some things up. (I still don't agree with that much starch though.) Read the whole article here:
Apr. 26, 2010 1:38 pm
Its not about being healthy, its about keeping the poverty stricken alive long enough to work and pay. Plenty of calories, generally complete protein. Think "What can we produce a lot of, cheaply" for the masses who cannot afford better. I agree with the food comment, sadly fresh stuff is not subsidized by the US gov't! A lot of the stuff on that list is. Grains, Soybean (oil), etc. Its not about balance, its about getting enough calories and protein so low income folks dont just die. could be worse, like no social program, but still =/
Apr. 26, 2010 4:01 pm
There is no way you could buy even half of that for $38!!
Apr. 26, 2010 5:13 pm
I find this very interesting. I know people on food stamps and they do not eat like this! I work 55-60 hrs. a week and can't afford to feed my family the way that people on food stamps eat. If this is the suggested plan then why is the USDA handing out food stamps in amounts up to $1000.00 a month for a mother and her three young children (all under the age of 5)? It's outrageous and so maddening. I can't help but get livid when I'm standing in a grocery store line after a long day at work to buy hot dogs and I'm in line behind someone on food stamps buying steaks. Some days it's enough to make me cry because it seems so unfair.
Apr. 26, 2010 6:03 pm
As one who loves dairy and eats/drinks more than this equiv a week, please realize that the fluid milk and dairy advisory boards have had a huge influence on recommendations over the years. Can't put my finger on a citation, but there are many articles refuting many of our country's recommendations. While a doc-in-training and young mom, we ate a lot of "the rainbow" from our garden, grains, dairy, and cheap meat/fish. 30yr later I've finally fessed up to spaghetti sauce and chili containing much more veg and tofu than meat, lol. While now many of us can afford what we wish, a basic education program on how to eat healthy and inexpensively would be instructive for everyone across the board. Take a good look at your grocery cart and those around you. There can be a good balance of health, economy, and time. JMO
Apr. 26, 2010 9:01 pm
Hey! I've been testing out the Thrifty Food Plan for the last two months and according to the most recent numbers on the site, I'm spending $100 less per month on the same groceries. It's not the healthiest I've ever eaten, but it's certainly not the worst. We eat few processed foods and I feel full throughout the day. I hope I don't have to stick on this budget forever, because I'd love to see us eating a lot more fresh fruit especially, but for now it's not bad.
Apr. 26, 2010 10:02 pm
I don't know who you are in line behind, but most recipients of food stamps don't get $1000 a month. "Take as an example a family of three: if that family had no income, it would receive the maximum benefit of $526 per month; another family of three that had $600 in net monthly income would receive the maximum benefit ($526) minus 30 percent of its net income (30 percent of $600 is $180), or $346.&quot;&#10;&#10;;id=1269&#10;&#10;Try to eat on that amount. &#10;&#10;;&#10;Depending on your choices - this looks like a pretty healthy diet. Whole grains, fruits and veg make up most of the diet.
Apr. 26, 2010 10:06 pm
And, despite what the Atkins people say, potatoes are not bad for you. Low in fat, high in fiber, vitamin C, iron, and more!&#10;&#10;;&#10;No, I don't work for the potato growers. I just like potatoes.
Apr. 27, 2010 4:22 am
AbsolutGillian- may I suggest you read my post again SLOWLY and refresh yourself on simple math word problems. I said store label milk costs a dollar LESS than the high priced name brand, which would make it $2.50, not $3.50.
Apr. 27, 2010 4:37 am
neurogirl09- Take a good look at the list. The weights don't add up to 38 lbs (although it is close)to begin with and if you actually follow the links you can find the actual reference to $38 for a grown man 19-50. And keep in mind that this is probably a national average. A man living in NYC would probably spend more for something I might pick up at the local grocers for a dollar.
Apr. 27, 2010 4:55 am
i think its a completely reasonable food selection and cost effectiveness. If you shop sales and stock up, $38 would not be hard to do. Its about buying smart. I feed a family of 4 (two teenagers) on $300 per month, all meals at home.
Apr. 27, 2010 5:11 am
Nice that you included the link because I think this is taken out of context, somewhat loose in it's accuracy and very misleading.
Apr. 27, 2010 5:52 am
I think that this is very accurate for and ADULT MALE. Men eat more protein than women. My husband could totally eat more than half a pound of meat a day. He does eat more beef than chicken. The dairy is totally accurate. As a family of 4 we go through two gallons of milk a week (16 lbs) and tons of cheese and yogurt. The price is extremely reasonable also. I shop at Aldis and I spend less than $90 a week for our family. I think it is quite accurate.
Healthy Eater 
Apr. 27, 2010 9:22 am
What about fish? Aren't we supposed to eat fish every week?
Apr. 27, 2010 10:58 am
Like Heather, I shop at Aldi. You can do this "diet" there for probably around 40 bucks. Our household cannot eat like this because of my diabetic daughter. This diet would probably kill her. At Aldi, you can find healthier foods and fruits and vegetables. We are all on the "diabetic diet" and for the four of us- the grocery bill is about 100 dollars a week. Give or take a splurge here and there. One more thing, it really isn't up to the government to tell us how we should eat. Common sense tells you to eat healthy unprocessed foods- duh.... If you eat , it will catch up with you. It isn't a hard concept to figure out. As far as Obese kids- it isn't school lunch that is doing it. It's the instant babysitters such as tv, computers, and video games. Kids need to exercise, get outside- play, ride their bikes, whatever. Again it isn't rocket science or a hard concept to figure out.
Apr. 27, 2010 10:59 am
I meant to say- if you eat too much it will catch up with you.
Apr. 27, 2010 12:16 pm
I shop for my husband and myself for about $30-$40/week. We avoid processed foods, get fresh fruits, vegetables, cage-free vegetarian-fed eggs and some milk each trip. Once a month we'll buy meat and frozen fish which costs another $40 -$50 or so. We've only been getting whole wheat bread. We entertain about twice a month. I highly recommend watching "Food, Inc." before putting your trust in the USDA!
Apr. 27, 2010 12:59 pm
These numbers seem fairly off, but thinking hard about it it seems right. I know for the dairy portion (and the veggies) it seems like a high amount for one person, but the dairy I can live with. A latte at Starbucks (for example) without anything else but the milk and espresso is about 3/4 of a pound, and that's for the smallest! Their prices how I wish I could shop wherever they are!
Apr. 27, 2010 1:10 pm
After reading the information in the links (not relying on what is posted above) I think that the USDA's recommendations are fair for most people (definitely not everyone, obviously vegetarians and people with other food restrictions would have to modify the plan, which could affect pricing). There is an emphasis on dark green and orange vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat milk products. As for the quantities, for a 2000 calorie diet, the guide recommends 2 cups fruit, 2.5 cups vegetables, 6 oz grains, 5.5 oz meat/beans, 3 cups milk, and about 1 oz of oil. That means about 2tbsp of oil, 4 half-cup servings of fruit, five half-cup serving of veg (this would need to be modified for leafy greens like lettuce), <2 three-oz servings of meat (probably about the amount most people would count as one portion), and three one cup servings of milk. As for the grains, 6oz is about 5-6 servings, which is quite a bit, but not unhealthy (a sandwich at lunch and rice, quinoa or pasta with dinner would amount to about that much, given that what most people eat as a 'portion' of cooked grains is actually several 'servings'). The pricing seems fair to me as well. The guide approximates that on the thrifty plan two adults (such as my boyfriend and myself) would spend about $350/month on groceries. I don't think my boyfriend and I eat exactly according to this plan (slightly lower amounts of milk, meat and grains; more fruits, veg and legumes) but I'm sure we spend less than $350 a month on groceries and we eat a lot of salads with mesclun, bell peppers, etc. which are pricier veg options. We also live in Canada where I believe the prices are much higher (we are always bowled over by how cheap food is when we are in grocery stores south of the border, but obviously I haven't shopped for groceries in every American city).
Apr. 27, 2010 1:37 pm
As for the 11lbs of dairy products, keep in mind that a gallon of milk is 8# so if you use 1 gallon of milk, 2 containers of yogurt (16oz =1#) and add 2# of cheese or butter or ice cream - it really isn't that much dairy!
Apr. 27, 2010 2:25 pm
I am not sure if anyone has noticed this, but this is a FOOD STAMPS - based diet, from 2007! This is why these items total to only $38, in out of pocket expense. This list doesn't seem too bad, really. Pretty good, if you ask me.
Apr. 27, 2010 2:34 pm
Actually I think it says somewhere on there that they've already made a cost of living adjustment as of 2/2010, so the current amount $38 is the correct figure.
Apr. 27, 2010 2:48 pm
Two years ago when I was pregnant and on a VERY limited budget (in a major city, too) I only had $30 a week to spend on food. Still, with careful planning, I was able to eat VERY healthy. My diet was mostly whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables and fruits, and healthy oils, with some dairy and eggs thrown in. Certainly didn't hurt that I'm a vegetarian. If you can't live for a week on $38 it's for lack of planning. Some fruits a less expensive than others, so are some veggies. Many dry grains and beans are so cheap they are borderline free. It can be done.
Apr. 27, 2010 3:24 pm
If you'll click on the link it's very interesting, it describes all the work they went thru to come to these conclusions. The also did a study determining what the average person ate versus the recommendations. On vegetables and fruit it is hilarious, and sad.... The vegetable recommendation is 137% more than the reported consumed, fruit is 115% more than reported consumed. Total fats/sweets recommended is 83% LESS than reported consumed. Pretty sad but pretty much what I see every time I go to the grocery store. No wonder our disease levels are so high as we feed our bodies junk each and every day. Too bad foodstamps allow their users to buy junk food, it's depressing to see someone with cart piled high with cheetoes, cookies, gatorade, and prepackaged meals checking out with foodstamps, and to know my taxes are paying for them to destroy their bodies.
Apr. 27, 2010 3:26 pm
$38 is more than enough for a grown male. They just need to learn how to shop sales! These recommendations look all right to me. Eleven pounds of dairy isn't much if you think about the weight of milk.
Apr. 27, 2010 6:19 pm
Ahh, Marie, but our society gives people the freedom to decide what they want to buy. Should our government go into the business of saying that food stamp money can only go for "healthy" food? No more chips or chocolate bars? And the reality is, if a person's food stamp money is gone, then it is gone. I would imagine that it isn't just food stamp money that gets wasted. It is possible that how food money is spent is just one of the monetary problems that a food stamp recipient has. A long time ago, an older woman in a grocery store took a look at my cart and commented that "There is a little non-sense in there, but mostly, you are a good shopper and made good purchases." (yes, she was just that blunt...) Unfortunately, not all shoppers, let alone all food stamp users, can be similarly accused. In the state that I live in, a food stamp recipient gets $200 per month in food stamps. This does not cover non food items, like laundry detergent and toilet paper. I would have a hard time breaking down the USDA grocery list for one person to see if what is on there is reasonable. I kind of doubt that I eat as much as they say. I do prepare much of my own food (not too much prepared stuff in there) so that is a saving. But even the ability to prepare food is a learned skill. Not everyone grew up watching their mom fix food for their family.
Apr. 27, 2010 6:37 pm
This is a MONTHLY amount of food for an adult male--which would cost about $38.00 per week.
Apr. 27, 2010 7:29 pm
Sont-Read it again--this is a weekly guideline, not monthly. I know it seems like a lot for one week!
Apr. 27, 2010 7:36 pm
I think a good deal of what shoppers on food stamps buy is in direct relation to what they were raised on. Sadly, many people just aren't educated in nutrition, and cooking is slowly becoming a lost art. We do what we know, and IMO it's not fair to be so judgmental when it comes to others' shopping habits. Perhaps the government and USDA might think to provide some education to food stamp recipients, and increase grocery stipends to include lower fat/fresher/healthier food options. It may cost more to the taxpayers in the beginning, but on the back end it would likely decrease the 75 billion dollars we as taxpayers shelled out to deal with obesity related healthcare costs.
Apr. 27, 2010 8:04 pm
We buy organic for most things and if not organic, all natural. No way we could do $38/week and I'm a crazy bargain shopper. For instance - it cost ms $9 a pound for organic, free roaming chicken breast, not $1.99 a pound Tyson .
Apr. 27, 2010 9:31 pm
I only budget $40 a week for groceries. It is alot of beans and rice. And when they say veg...they mean onions (cheap) and squash (cheap, cheap). French onion soup (easy, cheap)...Lentil salad. I buy bulk alot. I purchase 25 lbs of sugar at a time to get the cost cut. It is not hard at all, seriously. And the meat, well...they are considering only the cheapest hamburger out there. I prefer to buy the cheap stew meat/shoulder blade roasts. I try not to purchase anything that costs over .50 an ounce...just not worth it. Unless it is Lox!
Apr. 28, 2010 3:20 am
Way too much starch, (promotes yeast and fungus in the body). Way too much dairy,(full of bad hormones). What about the millions upon millions allergic to dairy? Looks like the pryamid was recently changed to fit our economy not our health.
Apr. 28, 2010 8:04 am
For a 38 yr old male, this could work. If the grains were all whole grains, and the dairy a combo of lowfat milk, yogurt, cheese, etc., and the meats lean, this is not bad. He'd average almost a pound of fruit a day, and almost 3/4 of vegetables daily. Do you think most 38 yr old men get that much produce a day?? My 33 yr old man sure doesn't. I'd be thrilled if he ate this!
Apr. 28, 2010 1:13 pm
The dairy and cereal industries are huge and have an investment 1) in making the food pyramid reflect a niche for their products and 2) in convincing you the consumer, even through the USDA that you need so many (mostly processed) grains and milk. Yes these things are important, but one should not have the huge amount of dairy the pyramid reflects nor the unhealthy carbs deemed good for you by cereal producers.
Aug. 10, 2010 1:20 pm
Hmm, What came to mind when I read this list was, I bet they didnt check with the American Diabetes Association! I could never eat that way, well, I could until I dropped dead from Carb overload! They do have a point, this would be cheap, but I don't believe it would be healthy.
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