How much do you spend on food a week? Not coffee or lunch takeout, but real food. It’s astronomical, right? A trip to the grocery store is expensive, and realistically, it’s often cheaper to eat like crap than to buy fresh. 

This is why I’ve long thought that what we eat and how we position what we eat – through Instagram photos and the cookbooks that line our kitchen and Pinterest boards and restaurant bragging – is about so much more than food. It’s social status. Cooking well not only requires free time but the right ingredients. Can you spend $12 on a pinch of saffron for risotto? When you are hosting a dinner party, are you going to buy a more expensive cut of meat just for show, even though a cheaper cut of meat is tastier? We have become obsessed with what our meals say about us, from lunch in mason jars to minimalist food styling. It’s another way to show off our good taste. Luxury is 6-burner stove and sub-zero fridge and trips to the farmers market to pick up ingredients. And the rise in the celebrity cooks like Jessica Seinfeld and Gwyneth Paltrow has certainly contributed to the “foodie” (ugh sorry, I hate that word) culture.

Today, Gwyneth posted a photo of $29 worth of food, the amount in SNAPS (formerly known as food stamps) allotted in a week in New York. (Per the website, it’s $29 per person.)



It’s a challenge to fight food stamp cuts, and Mario Batali is leading the charge (obviously, he’s a very good friend of Gwyneth). I’ve eaten at a few of Mario’s restaurants, and $29 wouldn’t get you very far, but eating there is my choice. And from everything I’ve seen about him, he is very conscious of kitchen waste.

When it comes to promoting a cause, he has gone to the right person. Gwyneth has posted her grocery choices for the week (black beans, tortillas, rice, cilantro, limes, eggs), and ultimately I would guess recipes to go with them, will shed some light on how out of touch most of us – not just the elite – are with the daily grind of poverty.

Plus, it will bring press. A lot of it.

The inevitable comments like, “Her recipes call for expensive ingredients” can’t negate the fact that she will try, and maybe fail, at feeding her family for the week on this food. Which is OK, too. Because the point is, it’s probably pretty impossible. She earned the “out of touch” label a long time ago, but I don’t think Gwyneth is going into this with her nose held high. There is absolutely no room to be an asshole here, not even a little bit.  Because Gwyneth’s “challenge” is how some people survive. And really, those of us on the “have” side need to curb the knee-jerk criticism and think about the context: on any given day,  our meals are probably closer to Gwyneth Paltrow’s than to someone on food stamps.

$29 for the week. Could you do it? I’m not even going to pretend that I could.

Attached – Gwyneth wishing her son Moses Happy Birthday on Instagram.