For obvious reasons these extreme budget food haul videos are very popular, where people who live in
BFE rural America where a gallon of milk is $1 manage to eke out a sustenance diet on almost no money. I’ve lived on these extreme budget diets myself for many years, where “beans and torts” was a staple and I could almost never afford a $5 block of cheese but when I could, mmmm, cheese. What a treat!
These days of course, as a Crohn’s patient, there are more limitations on my diet than a lack of funds although as I am disabled and mostly unable to work, that limitation still applies too. While I have managed to remain medically stable with no hospital visits or emergencies for almost 5 years due to “lifestyle changes” and importantly, daily marijuana use, I am still severely limited in what I can eat. For example, through painful trial and error, and as corroborated by the medical literature as well as anecdotal evidence/reports from other patients, I have learned that I, like most Crohn’s patients, am severely lactose intolerant. For me and many Crohn’s patients, it would be less (well, equally) painful to eat industrial solvent than most dairy products including milk, soft cheese and ice cream.
And since Lactaid and other lactose-nullifying agents don’t work for me to make dairy products tolerable, I also think it’s the proteins in dairy and not just the lactose/sugar I’m reacting to, which makes sense: it seems to be proteins in food that my immune system is attacking which makes eating most foods impossible. To be even more specific, it seems to be genetically modified proteins — in other words, GMOs — that give me the most trouble. But genetically modified or not, I cannot tolerate most dairy at all.
The woman in the above vid was able to get a gallon of milk for a dollar, which in most parts of the country is unheard of — it’s usually closer to $4 if not $5. But as a Crohn’s patient who cannot tolerate most dairy, even if I could get 10 gallons of milk for a nickel I couldn’t drink it, blend it with other things or cook with it. And of course, a lot of premade and processed foods contain dairy and so are also inedible. Hard cheese is still on the table and I still look forward to that budget-busting block of cheese when I can afford it. Of course, now it’s more like $12 and it has to be organic.
Which brings me to my next limitation, and the next reason this $10 Walmart food haul would literally make me sicker than not eating at all: GMOs, commercial pesticides and whatnot that make most (that’s almost all) commercially available food inedible. Before I started eating 100% organic (or non-GMO at a minimum) I had become extremely ill and couldn’t eat any food at all. I have written about how it took me a full year of smoking pot while I ate (a bite of food, a bong hit, repeat for as long as I could) to even be able to tolerate food at all, where eating anything had made me so sick for so long I had become food-adverse; I had no appetite and severe nausea, but I also dreaded eating due to the inevitable disabling pain and symptoms it caused no matter what I ate.
At the very end of my rope, I had even tried Vivonex, an unpalatable enteral feed that’s usually administered via feeding tube but you can also drink it if you are able to swallow and can stand it. Vivonex only contains amino acids — the building blocks of proteins, not even whole proteins, which is supposed to be more bioavailable and more easily digestible than real food with intact proteins — and Vivonex contains no fiber. But because it still had to go through my stomach and diseased small intestine, even the fiberless broken-down proteins made me extremely ill. Of course, from what I understand, Vivonex is mostly made from GMO corn. And while it tasted like wet newspaper (as an enteral/tube feed it’s not meant to touch the tongue afterall) I’m pretty sure it was mostly sugar — I could feel it spiking my blood sugar sky-high if not actively giving me diabetes. It’s also a sweet, sweet recipe for razorblade diarrhea which is the very last thing most Crohn’s patients need.
It wasn’t until I quit the GMOs and non-organic food and started on an organic diet that I could get through an entire meal without having to grease my digestive wheels (and stimulate my appetite) with medical pot. Since making that change, I have been able to eat normally and I usually only have to medicate once a day, usually at night just before bed. Of course, “eating normally” means something very different to me than it does to most people. I can eat solid food and no longer have to shit while laying down in the shower, but I still have to avoid almost everything that normal people eat and are able to tolerate every meal of every day.
So while a budget-conscious shopper can attempt to survive on GMO raisin bran, dry beans and 99 cents for a dozen eggs, I can’t eat legumes or eggs at all, and have to severely restrict starches, sugars and grains. If it was organic, I could maybe eat the raisin bran once or twice a week, but I would have to cover it in organic almond milk and avoid starches, sugars, and grains (carbs) in every other meal to make up for the carby, raisiny indiscretion. And even as I avoid, tweak and modify, I still require daily medication in order to quell the raging inflammation in my gut which makes it impossible to sleep, work or function no matter what I eat. As I have written before, I now believe that Crohn’s disease is an essentially terminal illness where patients have to medicate constantly in order to eat.
Back to the video and the $10 weekly food budget that exemplifies both thrift and relatively healthy eating for otherwise healthy people, the only foods on this woman’s shopping list I would be able to tolerate would be…well none of them, considering that they are all GMO. If they were organic, or at least non-GMO I could eat the scallions without restriction, the green pepper (an inflammatory nightshade) and banana (latex cross-allergen) once a week, and the spaghetti and sauce maybe twice. If the corn tortillas were wrapped around some meat, I could probably eat and enjoy that indefinitely without making my Crohn’s worse, which is the goal now, pretty much my only goal actually, because if you don’t have your (relative) health you don’t have anything, but this woman’s $10 budget afforded her no meat at all, let alone organic meat. The bulk of her dietary protein came from milk, eggs and beans all of which would only make me and a lot of Crohn’s patients even sicker than we were before. Not eating at all would be preferable and healthier in every way to eating that.
So what do I eat as a severely dietary-restricted Crohn’s patient with virtually no money to buy food? As often as I can, I eat salad with various non-offending vegetables and beef or chicken; tacos or burritos; and various soups or stews, all organic and all without my “trigger” foods including dairy, legumes, anything in the gourd family/Cucurbitaceae/cucurbits, eggs or shellfish. Even though they are nightshades, I can eat potatoes and tomatoes a few times a week. Same with corn and wheat products like noodles and tortillas — a couple times a week max or I will pay a high price with persistent heartburn, the dreaded “bubble guts,” systemic inflammation and joint pain. I can make smoothies with almond milk and most fruit. And I seem to be able to eat as much raw cabbage as I want, yay! (Seriously I like raw cabbage, but it’s hardly a treat.) Most processed food is right out, although I do like to keep a few cans of soup on hand for when I’m too sick to cook — at least a few times a month I eat directly out of the can.
If I had $10 to spend on food for the week, what would I buy? I would probably buy a half gallon of almond milk and a box of tea and wait it out. I’ve gone for much longer than that without eating since I’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s. If I only had $10 a week to spend on food every week, and therefore could not afford quality organic produce, meat and hard cheese — in other words, food with proteins that I can actually successfully digest and which allows me to maintain my medically stable condition and doesn’t make me worse — well I would be seriously, seriously screwed.