The Woman Who Ate on 13 Cents a Day

Weird Universe points us to an undated story from Austin where a man gets his food budget down to $5 a day. That seems altogether extravagant as he had meat in two of his three meals. Having fed a family on much less per person, I could share the diet common in my area, where families eat beans and cornbread, with occasional poke sallet or collards and fried potatoes for years on end. But that's not altogether nutritious.

During the Great Depression, food was cheap, but people didn't have enough money anyway. Sociologist Gladys Sellew conducted an experiment with herself as the subject to see how cheaply one person could eat and get adequate nutrition. To the point, Sellew wanted to see if people could actually eat on 15 cents a day. The diet she worked out over the course of five years came to 13 cents a day! Sellew spelled her diet out for the newspapers, but don't expect to use her tips today. You no longer get a discount on day-old bread, turnips are not sold in most supermarkets, and bacon ends go to the butcher's dog instead of the sales bin. That said, eating that cheaply isn't the most pleasurable experience, but as you can see at Weird Universe, Sellew wasn't about to give up her cocoa. -via Strange Company       

(Image credit: Austin American Statesman, June 3, 1942)

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oh your bread outlet closing is terribly sad. a lot of stores that really served lower income populations closed during the pandemic, leaving a lot of people in need. the bakery outlet here cut their hours way down but remain open at least part of the week. i am also disappointed on your behalf that there aren't more ugly/affordable produce options and you don't have more discount grocery locations to choose from. even if they were eclectic and skeevy (makes me want to see their inventory!) there might be a local farm co-op that sells ugly produce near you if you are looking for that. sounds like you aren't in a great area for those kind of resources though. until recently there was a small family farm near me, scraping by with direct sales at their farmstand in the suburbs of the city i live just outside of. but between the pandemic and a road expansion taking the whole front of their 19 acres, they recently shut down for good. i'm very upset by it because it's not only a small local business, but it was closer than the grocery store for a whole lot of lower income families. i hear you about the meat, my budget is always tight (i prioritize my insulin $$) so meat is a condiment, usually only a couple of times a week. cheap offcuts of ugly country ham packs a lot of flavor in soups or beans and rice, you know?
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The premium grocery here sells ugly vegetables and overripe fruit at a discount, but it's gone in 15 minutes. The cheaper stores never have enough to sell at regular prices. Bakery goods sit on the shelf for 5-7 days before being discounted by half, and they are still overpriced. I once bought all my bread at a surplus outlet (and froze it), but they closed during the pandemic and never reopened. I rarely eat meat anymore.

We used to have a discount grocery I called "Scratch and Dent Foods" which was barely worse than their real name, Salvage Grocery. Their inventory was both eclectic and skeevy, but I bought there. Apparently no one else did, because they didn't last long. The nearest Asian market is a 90-minute drive, but when I'm in the city, I stock up.
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um, you are either shopping in the wrong stores or not looking for the deals. i am glad for you that you don't need to save that badly. i love turnips and have never not been able to find them in various stores, at least in season. granted sometimes they only have a dozen on the shelf, but they are almost always there. unfortunately they are also not that inexpensive these days. there's a bakery outlet near me that sells older and imperfect products at a steep discount, and i see that they have several locations in the east/midatlantic (nature's own) plus i've been to a pepperidge farm outlet store in orlando when i lived there years ago. i am sure there are plenty of bakery outlets across the country. also you can absolutely buy bacon ends and pieces if you know which stores to check. a discount grocery store near me sells bacon ends in blocks and i know multiple stores that sell ham offcuts and ugly pieces at far less per pound than the pretty slices. according to the online ad, carli c's is currently selling bacon ends at about 20c per oz, compared to their other cheapest bacon slices at 33c per oz. "Cp Bacon Ends & Pieces $4.79|1.5 lb". granted, for fresh meat, a lot of places sell their pork and beef offcuts as "stew meat" and charge prices comparable all the other cuts. the large asian grocer near me sells several ugly parts of non processed meats quite affordably. i was there on friday and saw their currect price for chicken bones, with a ton of meat left on (perfect for soup) is $1.58lb. their prettily sliced pork spare ribs are $5.99lb but their rib ends and pieces are $3.99lb. just as delicious, only less attractive to plate up. (not that ribs are a cheap meat, but it's an example of the savings you can get on ugly food). ugly vegetables are also available a lot of places for less than the "perfect" ones.
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A us based inflation calculator tells me 13c in say June 1939 is 2.86 now.. that's not unachievable but where I am in Australia about double that at $5.72ish USD (abt $9 aud) is probably more reasonable (at least for a healthy diet without too many heavily processed foods: they are not as unhealthy as some claim but are not great either). Then add another dollar for cat food (aud, inc wet, dry and treats). I spend about $10 a day (aud) on food. (I am a -sustainably sourced- pescatarian diabetic and eat well and fairly healthily)
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