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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What the World Eats

Time Magazine has a series of 15 pictures showing the weekly food intake of some families around the world. Obviously this is not a representative sample of much since there are only 14 families shown and there are some 6 billion people in the world. A few observations:

* Some people spend A TON of money on food each week - Of the 14 families, only 5 spend under $100/week. The range of expenditures is $1.23 in Chad to $500.07 in Germany. Obviously it's not a straight comparison because some of these countries have a lower per capita income. In Chad, $1.23 might by 50% or 75% of their weekly income, while the German family spending $500/week might be spending only 25% of their income.

* Look at all the junk and convenience food - Even the foreign families have picked up the American trend of indulging in prepackaged, manufactured food. Read the lists of favorite foods: pizza, potato chips, chocolate fudge cake with cream, ice cream, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks. Also note the weekly expenditures of the families selecting such foods.

* Some families manage to eat very well on little money (relative to US standards) - The families that spend the least tend to have what looks to be the most nutritious food selections, even considering the difference in cost-of-living. Check out the Ahmeds of Cairo (Slide 9, $68.53 for 12 people), the Aymes of Ecuador (Slide 10, $31.55 for 9 people), the Batsuuris of Mongolia (Slide 12, $40.02 for 4 people) and the Namgays of Bhutan (Slide 14, $5.03 for 12 people). While it doesn't seem that the Namgays have much food for 12 people, they certainly have a nice selection of produce. Look at all of the produce that the Aymes and Ahmeds have for their families.

* A few families manage to eat very poorly on lots of money - I'm going to pick on the Revises of North Carolina (Slide 5) as they are close enough to my home state of Kentucky to be comparable in terms of cost-of-living. For a family of 4, they spend $341.98 per week. The food consumption for the week chosen includes two pizzas, multiple bags of chips (four?), plenty of fast food in the front right corner, and lots of sugary "juice" in the back right by the chips. If you look closely, you'll spot a few tomatoes and what appear to be grapes hidden amongst the junk.

The dollar amounts make me wonder if they are showing us monthly expenditures. I am rather frivolous with spending on food (and frugal in other areas to allow that) as I like fresh produce and meat and I eat like a horse. My wife and I still spend less than $80/week for organic produce (where available), chicken, eggs, grassfed meat, plenty of olive oil, and a couple of lunches out each week (mostly by her as I'm too particular about what I eat to not make my own food). In fact, if not for the lunches away from home, we'd probably come in at less than $60/week (I smell another post brewing). We don't eat out very often, nor do we eat chips, frozen foods (other than occasional frozen vegetables), or other convenience foods, keys to keeping expenditures low.

How about your weekly expenditures? Where does your food money go?