For the next week I will be taking the UB SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge You might be hearing about this in the news because Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey challenged someone on Twitter and others to live on just $35 dollars a week. Here are the guidelines for the challenge.
As I routinely spend $200/week for 8 people (that comes down to $25/per) I thought that $35 was a gift. “I’ll do it,” I loudly volunteer.
Then I found out you couldn’t use anything that you already have except for spices and condiments. Although I’ve checked several sources, Olive oil is not considered a condiment. But, because I plan on cooking a lot of food myself, I’ll need an oil source.
The cheapest source that I could find was butter – however, I couldn’t find a place that would sell me only one stick of butter so for the week, I had to buy a whole pound.
Then I was contacted by a TV producer who will be following my progress. “Wait, a minute,” she said. “People in New Hampshire only get $30/week and not $35. Would you be willing to do this on the New Hampshire amount?”
“Sure,” I said. Apparently us Granite Staters rock in the frugality department.
But still, ouch.
The “rules” of this challenge say that while shopping I am allowed to use coupons. I can also take advantage of a local food bank (as long as I make a donation afterward to compensate the bank.)
So this is what I did. I sat down and created a week’s menu of healthy meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks. From that menu, I created a shopping list. I then took my 2 daughters with me and we priced everything I wanted to get at a local grocery store.
When we got home, I was shocked to find out that had I bought everything on my list, it would have come out to more than $40.
Back to the menu drawing board. I moved this item over there, figured out that if I bought slices of meat at the deli instead of buying it in bulk, and changed some my beloved Steel Cut oats to regular oats, I might be able to do this. Once I had solidified my menu, I took the list and went to Walmart.
If the item was cheaper at Walmart, I got it there. If it wasn’t I got it at Market Basket. Although I did get some “storage” produce at Walmart – apples, oranges, potatoes, onions. I got my fresher produce at the grocery store where it tends to be a bit fresher. Lastly, I found a box of pasta at yet a 3rd store for .88 cents.
What you see below are my groceries for the week.
A few notes:
I’m not going to reveal the final amount that I spent until the very end. I may run out of items and might need to buy something during the week. So even though I’m confident I can do this, after seven days I may just end up eating a healthy portion of humble pie – compliments of SNAP.
I have all of my receipts. I’m a writer and journalist – I’m hoping you trust me, but if you need to see the actual receipts, contact me and I’ll send you a scan.
I ended up not using coupons because as you see, I bought the type of food that coupons are not typically intended for.
I thought I was going to get ridiculed at the deli counter for buying things like “4 slices of Salami, 6 slices of bacon..” not so. When I asked the woman if she minded that I would be placing such small orders, she looked at me like I was a bit crazy. “Who cares?, she said. “You’re the one who is paying for it. You can get anything you want.” I like that lady.
A lemon that was on my list didn’t get into my cart so I had to go out later and buy it. The cost is included in my total for the week but you won’t see it in the photo.
Impulse buys? We all have them. When I went to the grocery store, right there in front of me was a loaf of white bread for .50 cents, such a deal. I hadn’t planned on white bread but that could fill me up in a pinch. Also, there were some green beans in the markdown section that were a bargain and even though I hadn’t included them in my weekly menu, I now would.
I do have 2 cheats.
- We raise chickens for eggs. I’m not going to buy store eggs when we have our own. I deducted the cost for the cheapest dozen eggs I could find from my total allowance and I’m using our hen’s eggs.
- Second, I am a Library Trustee for our town and on one of the nights of this challenge I have to attend a dinner. It’s a town elected position, I have to go. I know that you don’t have to include food that you don’t pay for (and I’m not paying for this dinner) but I still didn’t think it was fair. I’ve ordered the Eggplant Parmesian (the most vegetable-based entree.) It comes with pasta which I will not eat and instead take home for the kids. I won’t have anything to drink other than water. I’ll still make the meal that I would have made for that evening (so that my food amount truly reflects the total week) but instead of eating it, I’ll give it to my son (who, when he heard what it was going to be was thrilled.)
Also, I’m a coffee drinker and not a tea drinker. If I had had more time I would have tried to wean myself off of my 3 cup/morning habit. To avoid that dreaded caffeine headache, I’ll accept any and all free coffees I can find. (I mainline my coffee black with no sugar.) At home, I’ll drink black tea, but if I start getting that headache (and you coffee drinkers know what I’m talking about) I’ve arranged to “buy” a cup of coffee from my husband’s morning pot in exchange for one tea bag.
3 stores to go shopping in? Well aren’t I lucky? Settle down. I pass these 3 stores on my daily routes every single day. I did have a coupon for $3 off of produce from a store in the next town and I considered using that but felt that it would be defeating the purpose. People on food assistance typically can’t waste a few gallons of gas in order to save a few dollars. I stayed in my town and only went to the stores I normally go to.
Lastly, once again, my point for doing this challenge is not to prove that I am better than anyone and it is not to prove that food assistance should be removed or decreased. I have learned how to cook and budget like this after many, many years of experience. I wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to plan and budget like this first time out of the gate.
My point for doing this challenge is to show that with education, training, and with a different mindset you can eat a very healthy diet using SNAP benefits.
And if you eat good food, you feel better, and if you feel better you have more energy and when you have more energy,..
YOU GET THINGS DONE.
- 1 pound butter
- 1 package of 4 chicken thighs
- 6 slices deli bacon
- 3 slices deli ham
- 4 slices deli salami
- 2 slices deli cheddar cheese
- 1 dozen eggs
- 2 potatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 2lb bag of carrots
- 1 bunch escarole
- 1 package frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 lemon
- 2 bananas
- 2 apples
- 4 tangerines
- 1 tomato
- 1 package (6 boxes) of raisins
- 1 box pasta
- 1 canister oatmeal
- 1 bag tortilla chips
- 1 package tea bags
- 1 can spinach
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can white beans
- 1 small container red sauce
- 1 package corn muffin mix
- 1 loaf white bread
- 1 pack 6 English Muffins