I was partially wrong about conservatives and cheap food.

After more seriously perusing the data, families and especially the kind that are conservative-tending (more than two kids, SAHM, Christian) really are up against it food wise and food isn’t quite as cheap in America as it sometimes seems.  When you have three or five or seven kids slamming into puberty within a year or two of each other, you can suddenly be looking at hundreds a month even if you do skip the meat and try to live on ramen alone.  My mistake was forgetting how little the vast majority of this country earns and I apologize for being so callous. Twenty percent of 40k/yr is nearly 700/month out of gross income.  That is a huge amount to spend when gas costs can be 50/week or more.

So there’s a context for the obsession with cost-reduction in the old food budget and it’s that because I’m surrounded by people with 2-5 kids who make above median income as their norm, I tend to forget in my day to day that this is not the norm for so many others.

Also, low protein diets (which is what much of the frugal/cheap stuff you see online comes out to) make people lethargic and listless, even if there is enough protein to avoid the very bad nutritional deficiency ailment kwashiorkior.  Another unstated assumption in the expectation that a SAHM can wrangle the kids while cooking and cleaning and homeschooling (heh!) all day.  I guess so, if they’re only getting the minimum to avoid the very worst of nutrient deficiencies.  Although how they’d learn all that well is another question entirely and one that is as ever ignored because it wouldn’t fit the narrative that all homeschooled children are above average.

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4 thoughts on “I was partially wrong about conservatives and cheap food.

  1. My SIL has 3 sons aged 21, 17, and 15; She’s a single parent (widow) and her grocery bill nearly scrambled my brain. (Also, and completely unrelated, I’m rather disgusted that I felt the need to clarify her marital status. OL, I’m heading back under my rock).

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  2. Have almost 15yo son, 6’4″ husband… yeah, we spend some cash on groceries around here. And it will get worse. I dated him through his late teen years. Have you ever seen someone make a pb&j that’s an inch thick?

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  3. I remember reading that post, and thinking about asset tests. http://scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/latest/measure/asset-limits-in-public-benefit-programs

    Granted, I’m not looking at the data but I’d guess that low-income “conservative” families probably aren’t eschewing food stamps out of misplaced political zealotry. (I’m sure there are a handful that truly are, but it’s probably not a mass phenomenon– it’s my observation that people will generally take advantage of whatever opportunities they can regardless of political orientation.) They may just tend to live in states that maintain stricter SNAP asset tests. In some states, having 1500 bucks in a retirement account disqualifies you. A couple may have retirement or college savings from better financial times pre-baby and the penalties for drawing down on those accounts is steep– to say nothing of the psychological aversion to “giving up” on the kind of middle-class dreams those accounts represent– so you just keep struggling along on discount pasta. I’m sure most of them are not doing that to stick it to the liberals 😉 Lot of states have loosened up those asset tests in recent years, but not all!

    I live in a state with pretty strict guidelines, (which you would NOT gather from listening to the general conversation about food stamps) and I always think it’s curious that the people who seem to caterwaul the most about food stamp queens are pretty poor themselves. Makes sense, though, if what stands between them and eligibility is a $2000 529 account somewhere.

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    • Well, we’re talking about households with kids under 18, and there is a big difference in food consumption pattern between the ones who are eligible and don’t sign up (which is a large number of people, even accounting for asset tests, Americans as a society don’t make that much) and the ones who do. Also, Americans don’t have much in the way of assets at the lower three quintiles, even among conservative-identifying people. Asset ineligibility is a factor, but it’s not a dominant one because many people simply don’t have the assets, even if they identify as conservative.

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