Living And Eating Cheaply
( Originally Published 1936 )
That old falsity about two living as cheaply as one has a little grain of truth in it. Two in one family can live cheaper than two single people apart.
In four food plans, all having an adequate diet, but increasing in efficiency as the price increases, it will be noticed that the estimated cost for a family of four is never quite four times the estimate for a single person.
And the more efficient the diet, the greater is the saving when more than one is considered.
Thus the cheapest plan estimates 16 8/10 cents a day for the one per-son, and 67 cents for the family of four.
While the most efficient diet estimates 50 cents a day for the one person, and $1.83 a day for the family of four.
Most of the housewives with whom I have talked about these plans want to know exactly what articles are bought. In planning them it is not so much exactly the articles, as the classes of articles.
An adequate diet can be planned with this distribution of the food dollar:
1. Milk and cheese, 25 to 30 cents.
2. Fruit and vegetables, 20 to 25 cents.
3. Lean meat, fish and eggs, 10 cents.
4. Bread, flour, cereals, 20 cents.
5. Fats, sugars, accessories, 20 cents.
These five classes of food stuffs must be represented for health's sake. But if cereals—bread, spaghetti, rice—are increased over meat and fresh vegetables—which is feasible and still healthful—the cost is greatly lessened.
Another way of reducing costs is to face monotony. And monotony in foods may not be pleasant, but at least it is not unhealthful.
Thrift in watching the fluctuations of food prices is naturally a great factor. Cabbage prices shift as much as 75 per cent during the year, and potatoes 60 per cent. Eggs have an enormous seasonal variation, but eggs are not necessary; in fact, it might be a good thing to do without them for a while.
Prices are up in a period of inflation, down in a period of prosperity. "The consumer is likely to get the small end of the horn either way," says a prophet of the New Deal, Gove Hambridge. "In prosperous times prices may be so high that his purchasing power does not keep pace with his income. In a depression prices are low, but he has no money to spend. And there is nothing he can do about it—unless he tries to bring a social system in which the interests of the mass of consumers is put before all other interests."