Earlier this week, we shared that we will be participating in the SNAP challenge where law makers and fellow citizens are encouraged to try to live off of the value of the current average food stamps of $4.20 per person, per day.
This article details the challenge and you can find the challenge Facebook page of the Utahns Against Hunger Facebook, where this challenge is hosted.
The $4.20 per person, per day is the average amount. My understanding is that some receive less and some receive more based on needs and income. We are simply doing the suggested challenge amount of $4.20 per person, per day since this is the average.
We do have one advantage in our favor, there are 8 of us. Shopping off of $235 for 8, which is $30 per person, per week, and is going to be much easier than $30 for one person for the week. We will share more thoughts on this later, but for a single person, this would likely be impossible. Read our follow-up later.
We wanted to participate and we promised to share our journey and experience. So we are sharing our shopping trip results, with the menu ideas for the week. Then at the end of the challenge, I will share our overall thoughts and experience.
It is important to read the previous post to discover the “rules” for the challenge, but basically we cannot use or eat anything in our house currently and we could only eat what we buy this week to see how it feels and how we can shop for this price.
We are a primarily natural and organic family that eats a lot of plant-based and whole foods. We do eat some meats, but not many because we just haven’t ever been big meat eaters. So I know this helps our budget, especially because the meats we buy are only a few times per year through this national meat co-op, but this week, I did buy some meats and some plant-based protein meat replacements (which are quite pricey) for our foods this week. We do buy these plant-based meat replacements occasionally, primarily when they are a steal of a deal and stock up.
But I really wanted to attempt to replicate as if we were receiving food stamps and how I would use it each week.
I also did not use many coupons. It was mostly a time issue as planning a coupon shopping trip with the current sales takes a lot of time. I simply did not have time to plan an extensive, super-frugal, shopping trip. However, I did use a few coupons from the store mailer that they send to me in the mail, with my Ibotta savings (if you want to use this app HERE, get a $10 bonus with code abqiri) which between the Ibotta App savings and a few store coupons was $10.30 in additional discounts.
We got to spend $235.20 for the week, but I am at $180 so far
If we were on food stamps, our family would qualify for $235.20 per week – which is $4.20 per person, per day based on the challenge presented. This is a lot more than I currently spend. Again, please read the previous article. But I wanted to follow this as best as I could. So I took out $235 cash.
This post is meant to be an encouragement and share ideas with each other. Out of sheer desperation, we have had to live on much less. And it is true, necessity is the mother of invention. So we have had to be very creative with food in the past and it is hard.
We shopped at two stores: one is our Kroger store and the other is a low-price and bulk foods store called Winco.
The biggest trip was at our local Kroger affiliate called Smiths. I spent $101.80 and had a full cart of healthier, organic, produce, and plant-based foods for the week.
Here’s a handful of the items I got:
- Whole Wheat Gnocchi
- Ancient Grains Spaghetti
- Blue corn taco shells
- Olive oil
- Sour Cream
- Organic mixed greens lettuce
- Dave’s Killer Bread Raisin Bagels and Raisin Bread
- Nature’s Path organic ancient grain waffles
- Simple Truth Organic Beans
- So Delicious Coconut Creamer (cannot live without my coffee and cream and my coconut cream is expensive! LOL)
- Almond Milk
- Corn Chex Cereal
- Quorn veggie chicken patties, veggie beef strips, veggie beef crumbles, veggie chicken chunks (this is the bulk of our protein for the week and these are about $3.99 per 12 oz. package, so equivalent to meat in price per lb. But they were on sale this week! YAY!
- Lots of produce like mangoes, organic celery, clementines, Gala apples, organic broccoli and cauliflower, red cabbage, red potatoes, baking potatoes, etc.
- Fresh stir-fry mixes with a mandarin orange sauce
- Sesame Asian family salad kit
- Great Grains Fiber Bread
- Tortilla Chips
- Instant Oatmeal
- Enchilada Sauce
- Animal Cookies
- Ragu Pasta Sauce
- Ken’s Simply Vinaigrette
- Fresh Greek salad mix-ins with feta cheese, olives and roasted peppers
- Frozen veggies
- Simple Truth Organic Uncured 100% beef hot dogs
- Red Robin French Fries and Onion Rings (our one bad indulgence this week! YUMMO!)
The total was $101.80 after tax.
We then went over to Winco to fill in the gaps with some bulk foods and other items that I knew were a little cheaper at Winco.
We spent $69.39 and here’s what some of what we got:
- About 2 lb Fresh ground peanut butter
- Fresh produce like whole watermelon, onions, green, red and orange bell peppers, organic carrots, bananas, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, tomatos on the vine
- Whole wheat hot dog and hamburger buns
- Smuckers natural strawberry spread
- Canned and jar foods like salsa, olives, mushroom soup (for a recipe), chicken broth, mandarins, pineapple chunks, etc.
- Packaged foods like whole wheat tortilla shells, potato chips, la choy chow mein noodles, etc.
- I then got bulk foods like a bit of flour just for the week (since I already have loads of flour at home, but wasn’t supposed to use it), bulk taco seasoning, bulk Italian seasoning, dried apple rings, organic brown rice, red lentils (which are more expensive than green lentils, but a little better for you), coconut flakes, dried cranberries, popcorn, etc.
And…the grand finale was that since we had so much money left over, we wanted to make one of our most favorite meals – mushroom marsala, (like chicken marsala, but with portobello mushrooms).
The portobello mushrooms were $1.78 each and so I spent $7.12 on mushrooms, but this would be equivalent to buying chicken breast for one recipe too. The cooking wine needed was Marsala and Sherry. The bottles were $2.98 each and although I will only use 1/2 cup each, I had to “buy them as new” this week, but we will have lots leftover for future. So this was $6 in cooking wine. So this meal is easily over $13 for the main entree before sides, but as a special dinner this week. We are so looking forward to this meal as we don’t make it often because of the price!!
Again, the total was $69.39 after tax.
I will also be buying an organic rotisserie chicken in a couple of days for the end of the week meals. I will stretch this chicken over a few meals. It will cost me $8.50 as it is organic. But I normally use my whole chickens from my co-op and cook in the Instant Pot, which saves money normally. But I have more than enough leftover, so I am making it easy on myself this week.
There you have it – $171.49 + $8.50 for the chicken later for a total of $180. We have $55 left over for the week, we may need something here and there, but I am thinking we will get to enjoy a nice dinner out at the end of the week!
What do I plan to make this week with these foods?
- Dave’s Killer Bread Raisin Bagels with peanut butter, fruit
- Dave’s Killer Bread Raisin Toast with butter and/or peanut butter, fruit
- Maple and brown sugar oatmeal (2 mornings)
- Ancient Grain Waffles with peanut butter (in case you can’t tell, I love to add PB for nutritious morning protein) (2 mornings)
- Chex Cereal and fruit
- Baked Potatoes, salad, fruit
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches (with the rotisserie chicken), chips
- Chicken (with the rotisserie chicken) and Rice Soup, Bread
- Hot Dogs, chips, steamed veggies
- Quorn Chicken Patty Sandwiches with Red Robin fries
- Chicken (with the rotisserie chicken) enchiladas, tortilla chips, mangoes
- Whole wheat Gnocchi with lentil bolognese, steamed veggies, salad
- Mandarin Orange Stir-fry with Quorn Beef Strips and brown rice
- Taco night with rice and Quorn Beef Crumbles with whole wheat soft shells and blue corn crispy shells, chips and salsa, steamed frozen corn
- Lentil and Rice Sloppy Joes with Red Robin Fries and onion rings, salad
- Ancient Grains wheat Spaghetti , steamed organic broccoli and cauliflower, Italian salad
- Hawaiian Haystacks using mushroom soup and Quorn chicken chunks
- Mushroom Marsala with organic brown rice, salad, steamed veggies
- Dinner out on the leftover $$!
- Animal crackers
- Baby carrots
I do feel like I will be short on snacks this week. The watermelon will serve as a snack for a couple of days, but I probably should have gotten graham crackers and even saltines or something. But I will see how the week goes. I also generally get my kids Sourdough English Muffins for snacks each week because they cheap and very filling…I don’t know why I didn’t grab any this week as that would have been a no-brainer snack.
So we have $55 left, but I might have to make another run for a few miscellaneous and of course, anything I overlooked.
I look forward to sharing our results, some pictures of our meals and our thoughts on the whole experience.