Author Topic: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan  (Read 1115 times)

YoungGranny

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USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« on: May 01, 2018, 06:35:17 AM »
Using the calculator over at https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/plan/what-you-spend/ my DH and I are allotted $489.50 for "a nutritious diet that meets current Dietary Guidelines for Americans". Using 2017 averages we spend $395 a month which is funny because I feel like we're super spendy! I have celiac which automatically adds a premium any time we buy flour (and I do love homemade pasta!). Plus we mostly shop farmers markets so we mainly fill up on eggs, vegetables, meat, etc. Plus I gladly pay a premium to eat hyper-local produce. I will admit I live in a fairly LCOL area but even when I lived in Chicago as a single person my groceries were rarely over $200. We also go out to eat maybe 1-2 times per month so I'm not skewing the data by sneaking in loads of filler lol.

I just thought that was an interesting calculator so I thought I'd share.

Dabnasty

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2018, 10:10:57 AM »
I got the exact same, $489.50. Did you select 0 meals away from home?

I like the suggested possibilities for why we are below the estimate:
1) you aren't eating healthy enough
2) you receive government assistance or raise your own food
3) maybe you put in the wrong numbers?

nope, nope, and nope. We were just over half their estimate for 2017 but could definitely do better.

They have some good recipes with a cost/serving and nutrition facts set up in a way that is easy to navigate. I'll look at it some more when I have more time, but I'm not sure how they come up with such a high monthly cost even though they make recommendations like buying whole carrots and peeling them to get the cost down to $0.68/lb. That's mustachian level right there. (I get carrots at $0.49/lb but close enough)

TexasRunner

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2018, 10:16:44 AM »
Keep in mind that this is the same organization that (for the benefit of farmers IMO) plastered carbohydrates as the foundation of a healthy diet for decades....



Quote
“It’s true that the focus on reducing fat in the DGAs implicitly led to higher carbs,” said Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “And that became problematic, because the vast majority of carbs in the U.S. are refined and bad for you.”

Studies have linked refined carbohydrates to obesity and diabetes, and since the first dietary guidelines were introduced, rates of those illnesses have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, heart disease — the original impetus for the guidelines — has remained the number one killer in the U.S.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/31/usda-dietary-guidelines-diabetes_n_5635554.html



TexasRunner

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2018, 10:23:03 AM »
I received a much higher number...

Quote
RESULTS
Based on the latest prices, USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan indicates your family can achieve a nutritious diet that meets current Dietary Guidelines for Americans by spending an estimated:
$173.89 per week
$753.47 per month

If your spending at the grocery store is less than what the food calculator estimates, here are some possibilities:

1. You are doing a great job making your food dollar stretch. Just make sure that you are eating the recommended amounts from each of the food groups for good health. ChooseMyPlate.gov has a tracker and a meal planner that can help you plan for good nutrition.
2. You receive some food or vouchers from WIC, SNAP (Supplemental Food Assistance Program), food pantries, friends/relatives, raise animals to butcher for food, have a garden, and/or go fishing/hunting. The value of this food is not included in your estimate of what you spend for food.
3. You are purchasing food at the grocery or quick shop that hasn’t been counted. Or possibly you are eating out more frequently than you recall.

Its funny to me, in our nation of obesity, that the fix for potential malnutrition isn't eating more of the necessary components of a healthy diet but (in my translation of the words of the USDA) "Eat a shit-ton of food to make sure you get enough of the vital elements of survival in your system.  Cutting back on food intake puts you at risk of malnutrition!  Ignore all those skinny dumb-shites telling you to reduce caloric intake, Eat BABY Eat!!!!".  lol.

YoungGranny

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2018, 10:39:31 AM »
I have a household of 2 and put in 0 meals away from home per month. Realistically it's 1-2 but I wanted to see what their total food allowance suggested. Even factoring in 1-2 meals away from home We probably spend $450 total for a super fancy budget not bare bones. Mine even includes wine and the occasional cupcake - splurges that are definitely not part of a bare bones budget!

When I look at the why below estimate it says "You are purchasing food at the grocery or quick shop that hasn’t been counted." So perhaps they are only counting Whole Foods receipts?

Ha! I agree TexasRunner - not even a nice, safe "Consult with your Doctor but otherwise Congrats" instead Eat more from these artificial categories. Bring on the Carbs! I had not seen the food pyramid in years and I really did forget how awful it is lol

mm1970

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2018, 12:53:49 PM »
Based on the latest prices, USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan indicates your family can achieve a nutritious diet that meets current Dietary Guidelines for Americans by spending an estimated:
$168.07 per week
$728.25 per month
(That was for 0 meals out for the adults and 5 meals out for the kids, who eat lunch at school.  And snacks.  Do I count snacks?  I don't count snacks.)

$163.18 per week
$707.06 per month
(If I change it to 1 meal out per week for the adults.  It's really more like 2 meals out a month.)

Either way, we are Below, at about $150-152 a week

If your spending at the grocery store is less than what the food calculator estimates, here are some possibilities:

1. You are doing a great job making your food dollar stretch. Just make sure that you are eating the recommended amounts from each of the food groups for good health. ChooseMyPlate.gov has a tracker and a meal planner that can help you plan for good nutrition.
Yes

2.  You receive some food or vouchers from WIC, SNAP (Supplemental Food Assistance Program), food pantries, friends/relatives, raise animals to butcher for food, have a garden, and/or go fishing/hunting. The value of this food is not included in your estimate of what you spend for food.  NO

3.  You are purchasing food at the grocery or quick shop that hasn’t been counted. Or possibly you are eating out more frequently than you recall.  NO


Pllbbt

zoltani

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2018, 01:01:55 PM »
I have a household of 2 and put in 0 meals away from home per month. Realistically it's 1-2 but I wanted to see what their total food allowance suggested. Even factoring in 1-2 meals away from home We probably spend $450 total for a super fancy budget not bare bones. Mine even includes wine and the occasional cupcake - splurges that are definitely not part of a bare bones budget!

When I look at the why below estimate it says "You are purchasing food at the grocery or quick shop that hasn’t been counted." So perhaps they are only counting Whole Foods receipts?

Ha! I agree TexasRunner - not even a nice, safe "Consult with your Doctor but otherwise Congrats" instead Eat more from these artificial categories. Bring on the Carbs! I had not seen the food pyramid in years and I really did forget how awful it is lol

The food pyramid is no longer in use. They now use a "myplate" system, which is still not perfect by any means. Do you really need dairy?

Our family typically spends about 100-150 a week on groceries.

seattlecyclone

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2018, 10:06:13 PM »
We've averaged $350/month over the past year, for a family of three. The calculator suggested we should be spending a bit over $500. I often let sales determine what I buy. The day-old baked goods shelf is my favorite part of the supermarket. We just polished off a $2 coconut meringue pie that we had been working on for a few days. We also eat vegetarian at home. All that adds up to a pretty low amount of grocery spending, even in a "high cost of living" city.

Cassie

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2018, 10:36:13 PM »
We spend 300/month for 2 people plus guests.

Zikoris

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2018, 11:47:46 PM »
Lol! $489.50 for "low cost" for two people! That is seriously nuts. We're less than half that in Canada, where food is more expensive.

diapasoun

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2018, 02:28:50 PM »
Wow. We got ~396 for the two of us (we eat out more than the typical Mustachian -- good food is certainly my favorite vice), which is like two dollars off from where we were last month. I don't think of our April food expenditure as eating low-cost at all. We buy tons of mushrooms and plenty of fruit; we always have some seafood in the freezer; I buy pre-shredded carrot/cabbage for salads because it makes me more likely to eat salads; we'll do a frozen TJ's meal once a week or so. We even buy LaCroix and fancy tea! And that's without advanced shopping tactics -- we shop at TJ's and at the small health foods/organics grocery a block away, because they're walkable and they're pleasant places to be in.

What we didn't do last month: much meat (we've been eating more vegetarian meals); much cheese (just some shredded stuff for salads); store-bought desserts/sweets/snacks; alcohol (that is a separate budget for Boyfriend).

I find this super interesting. Diet is such a complex and variable thing, and it's amazing that we can eat what feels like a very luxurious diet with good ingredients and yet it comes out as "low cost." I know I've spent at the medium or "luxury" levels of groceries before, and honestly, I don't think I eat better meals -- I think I just ate more convenience foods and more snack foods.



Dabnasty

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2018, 03:04:38 PM »
Looks like they're getting a base number for their calculator from the USDA guide which has a "low cost" category but also has "thrifty" category below it.

The calculator takes that number and adjusts for household size and number of meals eaten out (method is described below the calculator). Looking at the rest of this website it seems like they actually have good information but they're pulling their baseline from USDA which is way off. Where USDA gets their number? That I don't know.

YoungGranny

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2018, 06:20:38 AM »
They seemed to imply they gathered the data from grocery stores somehow because one of the potential reasons they gave for a different result was that you may be purchasing goods from a store not yet counted. Considering the USDA is based out of D.C. if they were collecting data from local grocers I'm assuming that could easily scale the number up. When I lived in a bigger city I would intentionally walk an extra 0.25 miles to go to a store with more reasonable prices - literally almost half of the grocery store nearest to my apartment. 

Dabnasty

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2018, 07:13:34 AM »
They seemed to imply they gathered the data from grocery stores somehow because one of the potential reasons they gave for a different result was that you may be purchasing goods from a store not yet counted. Considering the USDA is based out of D.C. if they were collecting data from local grocers I'm assuming that could easily scale the number up. When I lived in a bigger city I would intentionally walk an extra 0.25 miles to go to a store with more reasonable prices - literally almost half of the grocery store nearest to my apartment.

If you're referring to #3, I think they meant you are buying food and not counting it in your monthly spend. As in, you're below the target because your number is wrong.

https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood says that the meal plans were developed by Penn State but I'm not sure if this refers to the cost guide or just specific meal plans and recipes in another section. Either way I would hope they used price data from more than one area and grocery store, perhaps high cost of living areas pulled the average up?

If that is the case it should be clearly acknowledged as it completely skews the numbers. And I still think its too high.

YoungGranny

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Re: USDA Low-Cost Food Plan
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2018, 01:26:43 PM »
Ah you are correct I misread that Dabnasty.

Groceries do seem to be a hotly debated topic - I brought this up to some friends today and multiple households of 2 mentioned they couldn't spend less than $600 per month to eat well at a grocery store + they buy most lunches. Perhaps my perk of living in a LCOL area is not as extreme as I thought and it really is just a shift in purchases.