How I Could Eat Better Than A Restaurant CEO…

Hi everyone!  The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently published an article about the Panera’s CEO trying to eat on $4.50 per day as part of a SNAP Challenge.  I think this is a great challenge and that everyone should take time to examine their diet and how much they spend on food.  But I wanted to see if it is reasonable to use $4.50 as an amount for government assistance (note that, in reality, SNAP is not meant to cover all food expenses).  I looked up some prices from Aldi and did an analysis.  Here is what you could get for about $31.50 for a week of food:

food list

Now, I agree that this is a pretty boring diet; however, the idea that a SNAP budget practically forces its users to a carb-heavy diet, as the article implies, is just not true.  And in reality, my own food budget requires about $7 per day, and I’m following the “pricey” Atkins diet.  So, here’s how am I able to eat better than Panera’s CEO:

  1. Cook and prep work.  His diet required very little actual cooking (pretty much just needed to boil water), and what you get for convenience you often give up in nutrition.  Generally between price, convenience, and nutrition….you can pick two.  I think it is reasonable to expect that almost every American has a couple hours a week to get this done (in my house, almost all cooking/prep work is done on Sunday).
  2. Pick the right protein.  Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are fine; however, they aren’t the foundation of the typical American diet, which makes adjusting unnecessarily harder.  I’m not a nutritionist, but I don’t think that his diet had near enough protein, which is likely why he was moody (any insights here would be appreciated…please leave in the comments!).  Now, he probably didn’t have the option to buy beef/chicken because…
  3. Pick where you shop carefully.  Judging by the picture, he is not at Aldi.  Or even Shop N Save.   Prices vary widely, so it only makes sense to shop at the lowest-cost option when on a strict budget.  And when the government (aka: myself and fellow taxpayers) are footing the bill, I think the least we can ask is that you don’t do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods.

Based on this, I think that $4.50 per day is a perfectly acceptable amount for SNAP.  What do you think?  Should the SNAP amount be increased?  Decreased?

Flickr Image Source: “Grocery Aisle” by The Consumerist.

Posted in Money Management
2 comments on “How I Could Eat Better Than A Restaurant CEO…
  1. Mandy says:

    Yep. This.

    My husband and I have a monthly grocery budget of just $30 over the SNAP budget, and I buy a lot of organic stuff and cook completely from scratch, no preservatives. I’m not really seeing how you can’t get mostly proper nutrition from the allotted budget if you’re willing to do the work. I would think a CEO would have a better chance at that than a single mom who has to work 2 jobs or something, so I’m surprised he didn’t. I guess the point of the “experiment” was to prove that you can’t do it. Go into it like that and I guess you can’t.

    Also, vegetable seeds are cheap. Grow your own like this guy: http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html

    • Niki says:

      Very true! I don’t think the article would have been posted if he had the perspective that $4.50 is enough to get by. And I would love to grow my own vegetables. Maybe when I finally by a house, I can take advantage of that savings as well.

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