Low-Carb Diet, Food Stamp Budget

See links to updates below.


New Diet Protests Food Stamp Increases

A healthy diet is achievable on a food stamp budget, and Ari Armstrong plans to prove it, again. Armstrong, who previously spent a month eating for $2.57 per day — see http://tinyurl.com/c35e8q — will spend February 4-10 eating a highly nutritious, low-carb diet for less than food stamps provide.

Armstrong said, “Not only has Congress increased the food stamp budget since my $2.57 per day diet, but the so-called ‘stimulus’ package calls for additional food-stamp funds. Enough is enough. I oppose any increases to the food stamp budget, and call for the program to be replaced with voluntarily funded food banks, which offer more nutritious food at lower cost.”

Armstrong’s new diet, unlike his previous one, will be low-carb, roughly following the advice of such writers as Gary Taubes and similar to “paleo” or “cave-man” diets. The diet will consist of meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, olive oil, chocolate, and spices. It will not contain any grains, vegetable oils, hydrogenated fat, potatoes, or processed sugar.

Armstrong will limit his daily budget to $4.74 per day, less than food stamps provide to a single individual. The Department of Agriculture — see http://www.fns.usda.gov/FSP/faqs.htm — offers a family of four $588 per month, or $4.74 per person per day. (The food stamp allotment is reduced for those deemed able to fund some of their own food.) Armstrong will not accept any free food, and he will shop only at nearby regular grocery stores. He will track all his purchases and receipts at FreeColorado.com.

“With the previous diet, my goal was to minimize daily expenses. With the new diet my goal is to show that a very healthy diet is possible on a limited budget. The cost of my diet will actually be inflated, not only because I’ll be eating no free food, but because a week’s diet is not able to take advantage of bulk purchases of sales items,” Armstrong pointed out. “I’ve been known to purchase 40 pounds of bananas, a dozen squash, or twenty pounds of meat when they’re on sale; obviously that’s not possible for a single week.”

Part of the motivation to track the new diet was a recent CNN report — see http://tinyurl.com/d2lb5g — in which a woman on food stamps complains, “We get like the mac and cheese, which is dehydrated cheese — basically food that’s no good for you health wise… Everything is high in sodium and trans fats… and that’s all we basically can afford. There’s not enough assistance to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight.”

Armstrong replied, “That’s nonsense, and I’m prepared to prove it. I’m frankly irritated that some food stamp recipients waste our tax dollars on overpriced junk food, then complain about their grocery budget. I’ll make the following offer. For anybody on food stamps who complains that they can’t afford good food, I’ll be more than happy to evaluate your entire monthly budget, including your grocery budget, and recommend judicious cuts, limited to the first five people who reply.”

* * *

February 4: Low-Carb Food Stamp Diet: $4.61 Per Day

February 5: Disclaimer

February 6: $4.72 Per Day

February 11: Low-Carb Food Stamp Diet a Success

Westword Covers Low-Carb Food Stamp Diet

February 19: Boulder Weekly Op-Ed, “Eating Well on Food Stamps”

9News Covers ‘Low-Carb Food Stamp Diet’

9 thoughts on “Low-Carb Diet, Food Stamp Budget”

  1. Excellent idea.

    I hope that you post some videos to YouTube about what you are eating and the choices that you are making during the month.

  2. Wonderful, Ari — can’t wait to hear more.

    I’ve posted your media release on my blog here: http://www.fa-rm.org/blog/2009/02/what-can-you-buy-on-food-stamps.html

    I’ve blogged extensively on the issue of farm subsidies and price support (which have opposite effects for the prices of foods — subsidization lowers prices while price support and tariffs increase prices).






    Essentially, the price of sugar, raisins and milk are raised through price supports, government seizure of products, and/or import tariffs. Meanwhile grains, high fructose corn syrup, and possibly meat are artifically lower than they would be due to subsidies — even with the ethanol industry, I think.

    Honestly, I think that even absent an ethanol industry or subsidies, corn products would still be more highly priced than they are today based on pre-subsidy prevalence of these items. The current subsidies not only lower the price, they spur more production than there would be, which further lowers the price. Current land use practices are a complete anomaly in farming history, which have resulted in the USDA’s CRP program to pull marginal land out of production.

    Ethanol does raise the price of corn for foods, but I think it’s difficult to make the case that in a free market with no subsidies and no ethanol support that corn would even be this cheap — despite the ethanol prop-up. One only comes to the conclusion that ethanol makes food more expensive within the context of the subsidy programs of the past 40 years. Without those, I’m not even confident that corn would be around to the extent that it is.

    I’ll be writing an article on farm policy, with some treatment of results in food prices, for an article in The Objective Standard.

  3. Please do photograph every meal!

    Seeing all the shopping items will be one thing. An array of 21 tasty-looking nutritious meals will have many times more impact.

  4. I hope you succeed in your quest, though I think it would be more fair to do the experiment for a whole month.
    I am a mother who recieves food stamps, and I refuse to feed my children junk of any kind, so I never buy processed foods, I buy organic as much as possible, and lean more towards meat than grain. I know it is possible to make healthy choices on food stamps, however, I also have to supplement our food allotment for a family of four. They give us about $540.00, and we spend more like 700.00 a month on food. Perhaps I could get by on less if I didn’t buy organic, but I will not feed my children poison, so I’m just not going to stop buying organic.
    Good luck, I for one, and rooting for you.

  5. I’m waiting with bated breath to find out about these mythical voluntarily funded food banks that actually have healthy food to offer. I haven’t seen one yet. Why? Because they can’t store perishable food long-term, that’s why. But hey, if you think they exist, let’s hear about them. I’m so sorry you have issues with helping low-income people survive well. I hope you have as many issues with funding stupid wars that do nothing but secure an oil supply we shouldn’t even need by now, get a bunch of our young men and women killed and foment ill will toward us all over the globe.

    OK, Saddam’s gone, but seriously. We haven’t even gotten rid of the Taliban.

    On the other hand, thanks for proving that LC is possible on a food stamp budget. Too bad your average poor person believes the government when it tells them what a healthy diet is. Good luck convincing them otherwise when you’ve already made it clear you have no respect for them.

  6. I am married with 2 teens-19 and nearly 17. I really get upset when I hear people who are receiving benefits complain. My husband works 2 jobs to support us and he makes decent money- enough for us to never be considered for anykind of gov’t. support. I’ve successfully fed my family of 4 a decent healthy diet while maintaining a stockpile of food in the cupboards and in the fridge and freezer for approx. 300.00 a month for a few years now despite the continual rise in food costs. I work every week at scanning the sales and circulars and matching up coupons etc. just so we can eat well and eat the foods we like to eat and still maintain this budget. I could feed us like kings daily on 500 or other amounts monthly that are being referenced. I cant understand why our govts. (both state and local) do not require food stamp recipients to take some courses in budget management, nutrition, food shopping and cooking in order to receive benefits? I say hats off to Ari and his wife for making an effort and trying to show everyone that it IS possible to eat well on very little but it does take some effort on your part ;)

  7. I haven’t been on a food stamp diet but I’m pretty sure it’s feasible. My family for a time couldn’t afford decent food so we survived on canned goods and such just to save money. Food stamps make it easier to afford more nutritious foods instead.

  8. “Imee” comments are hopelessly confused. First, usually canned goods are not economical. Second, many canned foods are “decent.” I regularly buy two particular types of canned foods — spaghetti sauce and coconut milk — that are highly nutritious, economical, and yummy. (I’ve found the best prices for both those goods at Target.) Finally, as I proved, it’s not the case that food stamps make it “easier to afford more nutritious foods.” Usually they make it easier to afford processed junk food.

Comments are closed.