Lesson 656 – The UB SNAP Challenge

Loyal Lessons Learned readers,

Next week this blog will be devoted to another week-long family experiment that I’ll be running. I have agreed to participate in the University of Bridgeport’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) challenge. The challenge is to see if you can live off of SNAP assistance money only for one week.

Piece of cake, I said. I routinely spend $200 a week for my family of 8 (3 adults, 5 teens) which comes down to roughly $25 per person.  The way we do it? I cook, I watch portions, and I don’t let my kids eat junk food or drink soda.  Not only is junk food wasteful calorie-wise but I wouldn’t be doing my kids’ health any good by allowing that type of food to enter the house.

But I also buy in larger quantities, which is something you can’t do when you are buying for yourself.

So next week, I’ll be living on $35 worth of food. It’s a bit tricky because you are only allowed to use spices and condiments that you already have in your house (you can also use those free restaurant packets), everything else has to be purchased. It’s tough for one person because, as an example, I couldn’t find a place that would sell me one stick of butter so I had to buy an entire pound. But you do what you have to do and with that butter I will now have oil in which to cook.

Each day, I’ll post photos of the meals I eat and will keep track of whether or not I run out of items before the end of the week. I think the point of the UB challenge is to show how hard it is for someone to live well on $35/week for groceries.

Well, the University of Bridgeport hasn’t met this frugal mama hen yet.

My shopping list is made, my meals planned out, and I’m ready to get this thing started because after all, a lesson learned is a lesson learned.



Filed under In the News, Life Lessons, Mama Hen, SNAP

7 responses to “Lesson 656 – The UB SNAP Challenge

  1. Atta girl sis! One other challenge which you could do now or later is to buy all the food from a corner gas station. Hundreds and thousands of people live in what are called “food deserts” where there is not a grocery store within walking distance or on a bus route–or anywhere near them. So, a very large number of impoverished families use gas stations and small convenience stores to get groceries.

    • Wendy Thomas


      What you are talking about has been well documented by Barbara Ehrenreich’s in her excellent book: Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. And while that would certainly be difficult (and I’m not even suggesting that it wouldn’t be) it would be creating artificial constraints on the challenge for me and it wouldn’t reflect my living situation.

      Although I could have shopped at our local Dollar Store, I didn’t even do that. I chose not to mainly because the food is terrible there and with proper planning, there was nothing there that I needed to buy.

      I’m not out to prove that people who shop at gas station stores can survive on $35/week, I’m out to prove that people who have access to a grocery store can do it and still have a healthy and varied diet.


  2. Kristin Skarie

    Teach us! Just great Wendy! and I agree Peg…thanks!!! I will join you in this the week of December 17…I appreciate you!

  3. I look forward to seeing your results! ~Lynda

  4. I was thinking of ‘Nickle and Dimed’ as well, but I think that book is too pessimistic. It is possible to do. $6 can buy a big bag of potato chips a candy bar and a large soda, or it could buy you plenty of good vegetables. Broccoli and green beans cost about 1.29 a pound, a big butternut squash is 0.70 a pound, carrots are about the same. A pound of pasta costs $1.29, or less. You don’t need expensive sauce for that pasta either, just cut up a tomato. Tuna is no longer that cheap,but why just use it to make a sandwich with expensive mayonnaise, you can use some of it on that pasta, and make a sandwich with some tomato and greens with the rest. Pork is still fairly inexpensive, and you can get good sausages fairly cheaply too. It can be done.

  5. Marcia

    I’ll do it for a week starting tomorrow. A good chance to use stuff in my frig and in my cupboards! Thanks!

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