On Food and Money
A Billfolder tipped me off to Beth Moncel’s Budget Bytes, and Moncel’s thoughts on how hunger and spending are connected.
I wasn’t familiar with Beth Moncel’s food blog Budget Bytes until I got a tip from a Billfolder asking me to check out Moncel’s recent interview on the Spiffblog.
As Moncel explains, she started her blog as a way to stay creative and save money:
I created Budget Bytes in the summer of 2009 purely as a project for myself. I needed something to keep my brain busy and a creative outlet, but I did not have any money for conventional hobbies (everything costs money these days!). I always enjoy a good challenge, so I challenged myself to spend $6 or less per day on food.
(I had to run the inflation calculator on this, just to confirm: $6 in 2009 is the equivalent of $6.73 today.)
Moncel continued blogging, Budget Bytes became popular, and she realized that a lot of people were trying to eat well on very little money. So she began writing not just for herself, but for a larger audience. Here’s a recent recipe from Budget Bytes, which Moncel notes costs $7.14 to make but comes out at $1.79 per serving.
Moncel doesn’t cut corners in her cooking, either; her Spanish Chickpeas and Rice recipe, for example, does not start out with a box of Zatarain’s Spanish Rice. It starts with long grain white rice, and you measure out your own spices.
But here’s the reason the Billfolder wanted me to read this interview: Moncel’s thoughts on food and money.
I’m kind of obsessed with numbers, so I’ve always tracked my finances meticulously. I love looking at how and where I spend my money, setting goals for savings, and watching all the numbers change as I progress. I guess I’m really geeky that way! One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about my financial journey over the past several years is how my compulsion to spend has changed. When I was really broke it felt good to buy things and it was really hard to tell myself no. I suppose I needed that “high” of spending to feel better about my dire financial situation. Now that I’m more stable, I don’t ever feel the need to shop or buy things just to buy things. It reminds me very much of hunger. When you’re food insecure, you want to eat anything just because it’s there, whether you’re hungry at that moment or not. If food is always available to you and you know it’s always going to be available, you tend to only eat when you’re actually hungry. That’s exactly how my relationship with money has been.
That’s kind of the opposite of my relationship both with food and with money; when I didn’t have a lot of food, I would make it last and eat every last bite, even the soggy lettuce that had started to go bad. If I didn’t have enough food for a meal, I’d eat whatever scraps were left and then have a handful of crackers. This was also because I didn’t have a lot of money—which meant I had to tell myself “no” every single day.
So that’s the question I’d like to discuss this afternoon: are our relationships with food and money linked in the way Moncel suggests? Do you eat/spend more when you don’t feel secure about your food or your finances? Or are you more of a “make it last” person?
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