SNAP (Food Stamp) Challenge Begins!

Yesterday, JJ and I went grocery shopping to kick off our week living on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.  We began this morning, but more on our daily eating regime later. What I’d like to review in this post is the following:

1. Why we have decided to take on the challenge.

The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. By accepting the SNAP Challenge, you’ll commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant – approximately $1.50 per meal.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) provides monthly benefits to supplement the food budgets of families in need, but in many cases these households still struggle to put food on the table. While it is impossible to fully comprehend the difficult decisions low-income families face, sharing your experience with the SNAP Challenge will help raise awareness about the issue of hunger in America.

JJ and I will be donating the money we typically spend on  groceries and meals out  to Wise Temple’s “Beans and Rice Week” (9)

2. The “rules” for the week, so to speak.

  • Choose the duration of your SNAP Challenge. 10/28-11/3
  • Our food budget for the week of the Challenge is based on the average SNAP benefit in Ohio, $33.60/week– for ALL of our food and beverages. We could  use coupons while taking the Challenge, but could not shop at Membership clubs (unfortunately we are not coupon clippers, so we didn’t have any to use).
  • Using our Challenge budget, decide on groceries to purchase and how much to put aside for food incidentals. Be aware of ALL food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week/day.
  • During the Challenge, we cannot eat food that we purchased prior to starting the challenge.
  • Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or while at work.
  • Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of our experiences throughout the week, in particular the choices you made between the variety and quality of food you ate.
  • Basic condiments and spices do not have to be counted.

3. What our shopping cart looked like yesterday, compared to a normal week. The choices we had to make and how our week has already been affected.

First, a few unmentionables (those tidbits of information about the Challenge that I hate to admit, but must, for the sake of the project)..

  • JJ and I went grocery shopping at Walmart (something we have never done before). For fear of starvation, we had to go with the lowest cost grocery retailer. Typically, I frequent such stores as Kroger, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, usually whichever is most convenient at the time.
  • JJ and I did meal planning for the entire week. Albeit stressful, I actually wish we did this more often. This would make food related decisions much less time consuming during the week. However, due to our lack of funds, the meal planning resulted in quite a few arguments. We both had a different plan of attack, which led to a lot of frustration.
  • We planned to take the Challenge this week because we have very little going on. That in it of itself is very telling, Typically, we have plans throughout the week and over the weekend that would prohibit us from turning down a meal out with friends or a business meeting over lunch. Next Sunday we are attending an all-day conference through the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and *gasp* must pack our own lunch. I am embarrassed to admit how many frozen yogurt and sushi outings the girls and I take each week, well not this time ladies.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much food we were able to get with our allowance. I do not fear not having enough, but I know that this week’s meals will lack an adequate amount of protein and provide very little flexibility and variety based on our mood. We also won’t have extra money on hand for little sweet treats after a hard day of work, or a bowl of popcorn with our Wednesday television regiment. JJ and I were very strategic in that we left about 6$ on-hand for anything we may have forgotten throughout the week. I should also mention that we purchased generic brands whenever possible, which is also atypical of our shopping habits.

Here is a list of the groceries we were able to purchase this week ($60.62 spent, $6.58 of emergency money remains).

  • Tomato sauce: $1.50
  • 2 boxes of pasta: $2.00
  • Whole carrots: $.78 (I usually buy bagged baby carrots)
  • 2 heads of fresh broccoli: $1.96
  • 6 cans of tuna: $4.68 (for Josh, I don’t eat anything with gills)
  • 12 bananas: $2.70
  • 6 packages of Chicken Ramen: $1.20
  • Oatmeal: $1.68
  • 2 sweet potatoes: $1.43
  • 6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts: $8.30
  • 2 loaves honey wheat bread: $2.96
  • 2 dozen eggs: $3.56
  • 1 can pears: $.98
  • 1 can mushrooms: $1.25
  • 1 jar peanut butter/jam swirl: $2.96
  • 2 cans black beans: $1.36
  • 2 cans chili beans: $1.36
  • 1 package margarine: $.92
  • 1 package monterrey jack cheese: $2.24
  • 7 apples: $2.13
  • 1 container applesauce: $1.98
  • 5 lb. rice: $2.98
  • 1 can peaches: $.98
  • 1 can pineapple: $.98
  • I can sweet peas: $.68
  • American cheese singles: $1.25
  • 1 package frozen peas: $.98
  • 1 package frozen green beans $.98
  • 1 package frozen spinach: $1.38
  • 1 large carton of plain yogurt: $2.48

All in all, I’m overly optimistic about the amount of food we were able to buy with our allowance. Using other challenge takers’ blogs as a benchmark, I feel as though we best utilized our resources to get a wide variety of food in all major food groups. Although I wish we could have gotten more meat, we will use eggs, peanut butter and beans as a protein substitute.

Raising awareness for food insecurity one step at a time (and one package of Ramen noodles at a time)…




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