Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Two

Rotel seasoned tomatoes marked down to 14 cents a can at Target.

Day Two:

Yesterday I was feeling pretty smug about my cost-effective shopping. I’d spent only about half of the $31.50 grocery budget I’d agreed not to exceed as part of the SNAP* Challenge.

Then something happened to shake my confidence in my plan to make the supplies last an entire week. I realized I needed to factor in the cost of items I’d previously purchased or had on hand if I wanted to use them.

At Target, I’d paid fifty cents for a single lime. Seventy-five cents for a tomato and it was already going bad. A half-gallon of milk: $2.29. A package of provolone: $2.49. Soft tortilla shells were on sale for $2. Best find of all? Rotel seasoned tomatoes marked down to 14 cents a can.

Sure, the parsley at Super G Mart was a steal at 99 cents yesterday but to make the tabouli for last night’s dinner I had to add 1/2 cup of bulgur, which I’d bought in bulk at the Healthy Home Market. There went another 96 cents.

It added up to $9.13.

With the $14 I’d spent yesterday and the $3.15 for my sale-priced drugstore coffee the day before, my total now stood at $26.28.

No eggs, no meat, not even a can of tuna. I have just over five dollars left.

And it’s only Tuesday.

*SNAP is the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. And for many low-income individuals and families, it’s not a supplement; it’s their only means of buying food.

Amy is documenting her experiences with the SNAP Challenge all this week. Check back daily for updates.

Eating on a Food Stamp Budget (Day One)

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Two

  1. I have to say, I find the low protein thing very disturbing.

  2. This is fascinating! Can’t wait to read more and see how it goes…

    And I agree with the person that commented yesterday – why don’t politicians have to live on $30 a week since they pass these laws?

  3. Ian McHale

    I suspect one thing we probably over look is the expense of travel. If you’re trying to eat on $31.50 you’re very likely not going to be able to shop around very much unless it’s with in walking distance of your home. Eating a well balanced healthy diet given these parameters is if not impossible probably very difficult.

  4. M Cogdill

    A few months ago, Mario Batali did this with his family. Here’s the article that describes how it went. His also ate the school provided lunches for low-income families but this week they did (and PB&J which is sounds like they don’t normally eat). I’m not sure we could take the challend bc my oldest son has so many food allergies alternative protiens like beans and tofu are potentially fatal for him so we cannot eat those reguarly anyway. I guess we could subsist some days without protien and eat plain rice which he is not allergic to but that would be hard to have no protien at all.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/15/mario-batali-food-stamp-challenge_n_1517572.html

  5. Mike Joslyn

    Cheating it may be, but it seems like a trip to the local food bank may be almost unavoidable, particularly for a family. In the position of the SNAP recipient, you’d probably have to take advantage of every available resource and that may become an even more attractive option toward the end of the week.

  6. Get more Rotel tomatoes and pasta! Dried beans are cheaper overall than cans, and honestly, we often eat more protein than we need. We adults are not growing (we’re actually shrinking). What we need is more calcium and protein leaches calcium from our bones. And there is protein in veggies. Hang in there sis, you are taking the challenge, which in and of itself is more than most of us are doing.

  7. Tanya

    And . . . kitty food?!?! Of course, that isn’t part of any food stamp budget yet we love our pets and I’m sure this would prove true across all economic groups!

  8. Dried beans. Rice. Maybe some barley. Or potatoes. Make soup. Yes, you do need protein. These will stretch.

  9. Vee

    Eggs would be my choice for inexpensive protein, other than legumes and whole grains.

  10. jackie smith

    SNAP should be vouchers that your only able to buy 50 lb bags of dry beans , dry rice and all the powered milk you want. If you want steak, frozen pizzas, soda, ice cream, bags of chips or fresh fruit and veggies from the local farm market, GET A JOB LIKE ME. It really makes me mad when I see people buying better food than me and I work a full time job. Paying $17.00 for a large basket of strawberries at the farmers market…I WISH I could afford that. I also witness at the first of the month people, especially mexicans getting off the bus at walmart and they CLEAN out the meat department. Steak, ribs, chicken, hamburger, salmon, chicken wings and whole hams. It is NOT right! They eat MUCH better than I do.

    • Jackie, did you know that vast numbers of people receiving assistance are in fact working full-time jobs, but they can’t earn enough to feed their families? Or that as many as one in four Americans facing hunger are children? Many others are elderly or disabled. I’m not saying there aren’t some folks who take advantage of this and other aid programs. I do believe strongly that we as a society can do better, and that solutions are possible. The SNAP Challenge is a way to “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes, and to get people talking – which we are doing here! Thanks for your comments.

    • Pebbles

      Your comment is disgusting. Strawberries at a farmers market are in season, and less expensive than the grocery. They can also be canned or put in the freezer. Have you followed the “Mexicans” around the Walmart to be sure they’re checking out with SNAP cards? I doubt it. A lot of people get paychecks twice a month, 1st and 15th, please take your anger somewhere else. This is a serious issue. BTW, strawberry season is over.

    • I’ve worked retail (convenience stores and grocery stores) for most of my adult life. I’ve seen both sides of this. I’ve seen teenagers buy $70 worth of candy and chips and soda; I’ve seen single men buy $80 worth of Monster energy drinks; I’ve seen women come in and buy $100 worth of prime rib. Abuse and misuse exists, and something should be done about it.

      But the vast majority of families who are eligible for benefits truly are in need for reasons outside of their control (lay offs, mill closings, death of spouse, minimum wage jobs) and struggle to make their little bit of food stretch out for the month. Most of them subsist on pasta, peanutbutter, and canned & frozen vegetables. Amy’s experience highlights what adults go through; imagine having to feed your kids.

      Amy, I have a lot of respect for you for doing this.

  11. I understand every viewpoint expressed here. Keep reading throughout this week, and keep posting your comments! Many thanks, all.

  12. Pingback: Food Stamp Budget: Day Three // WFAEats

  13. jackie

    I am for helping anyone that really needs it or has fallen down on hard times, but “living” on everyone else’s tax dollar…NOPE! Buying steak, potatoes, salad mix and steak sauce with the foodstamp card, then pulling out the cash for two bottles of wine makes me very angry. I did not witness this personally, but know someone that did, that works at the local food store. If my comments disgust you Pebbles, well, sometimes the truth makes you mad and that is what I am commenting on here. The vouchers would allow food that would be fine for anyone going hungry. When the incident happened at walmart, I asked a worker there what in the world was going on because it didnt even enter my mind they got their foodstamp card on the 1st. And yes, that day, I did witness families doing just what I stated earlier. I hope you tell in this experiment, how illegals use their childrens SS# and get up to $1200.00 a month in assistance for a family of four or more because the children cannot claim income, yet the illegal parents work jobs getting paid under the table. Thank you for welcoming my comments Amy, I am only speaking about MY experiences..and it angers me, when I, somehow found a way to raise two children, on my own with a high school education, working three jobs sometimes, and never asked for any assistance. Thank you!

    • Pebbles

      According to the USDA breakdown of SNAP participants:

      36% White
      22% African American
      19% Unknown race/ethnicity
      10% Hispanic
      4% Native American
      2% Asian

  14. Pingback: Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Four // WFAEats

  15. Erin

    The comment above is so ignorant and filled with hate. The first thing I would ask is who in the world you think you are to refer to a child’s parents as “illegal”? But I’ll stick to the subject at hand…
    Jackie, you are grossly misinformed if you think anyone is awarded $1200 for one child. I receive food stamps for my family of 6 who has no other income but my unemployment and whatever odd jobs we can find. We get a whopping $100.
    Congratulations for never asking for any assistance. Guess what – My husband and I never asked to be laid off our jobs. I guess we should let our children starve during the time it takes to find employment – which by the way, isn’t happening very swiftly despite our best efforts – just so that we too can brag about never asking for a handout. How triumphant you must feel because you were never subjected to the same crappy circumstances! I think you should in turn get angry & look down on us! You’re a great person!
    To Amy – The hardest thing about being limited to a food stamp budget is trying to feed my children healthy foods. It is very apparent why the obesity epidemic is so prevalent in poor communities. I am well educated on the dangers of GMOs, factory farmed animal products, pesticide-laden produce and processed foods and it is agonizing to not be able to provide anything but these at times. As a follow-up to this story, perhaps you could post links/info to farmer’s markets that accept EBT and other resources that would help families like mine.
    Thank you for writing this series.

    • For folks who just arrived on this page, food stamp (now called SNAP) recipients receive their benefits on electronic benefit transfer debit cards called EBT. EBT is widely accepted in stores and now there’s an effort underway to implement EBT at farmers’ markets and by other food sellers.

  16. Pingback: Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Five // WFAEats

  17. jackie

    I look down on people abusing this system. Not those that really need it…I stated that earlier in my comments. Also I stated a family of 5-6 got the $1200.00. Also I stated it should be changed and vouchers given in the place of giving free range to get what you want. That people eat better than people working. I never got assistance because I walked into two resturants…(one of the three jobs I had)…and stated to the manager that I would scrape the gum off from under the tables if that was all he had because I needed a job. All of these government programs are abused at every level at some point. Its the same if someone gets a disability check, yet climbs on top of his roof to clean out the gutters. Or magically finding a job right before the unemployement checks stop. Not even looking for a job in the meantime. I have said it a couple of times on here, and I will say it again. If it is a temp thing…fine. But like everything else in the world…it should run out at some point and not be a way of life. Also, I know for a fact the illegal issue is a huge problem. At least it is here in my county. I do not live in an upper class neighborhood. I live in a lower class neighborhood/area, therefore I am speaking about MY experiences! I wasnt bragging about not having to ever use assistance, I was lucky…I was just stating on here I had not used this program mentioned. Lord have mercy…people!

  18. Mark

    So a few few people cheat. This is a suppose to be Christian Nation so I consider what I pay in taxes to be part of what God asks of me to help the poor. He has blessed me with a good paying job. I figure a lot of very rich people get more in deductions then I make.

    Thanks Amy for the series. I will keep reading.

    • Brianne

      I’m late to this discussion, as I just found this post on Google because I googled whether or not Super-G takes foodstamps and found these blog posts …

      But Mark, why can’t more “Christians” be like you? You seriously just made my day and I could give you a big hug right now.

  19. Pingback: Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Day Six // WFAEats

  20. Pingback: Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: Wrap Up // WFAEats

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