SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge — Day Five

by Katy on September 21, 2012 · 38 comments

Today is Day Five of the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge and I have reached that inevitable point where the challenge is kind of a hassle and I long for a day of getting to write about something, anything other than food! (At least this year’s challenge is just for seven days, instead of 2010 and 2011 when the challenges lasted for entire months.)

But that’s okay. Why? Because having to stretch food dollars is not a lot of fun, and the reality of an actual food stamp budget is a huge bummer. Not that I would normally be filling my shopping cart with filet mignon and swordfish, but the mentality of “Oh no, how much do I have left for the week?!” is not a restful place to be. (By the way, that dollar amount is $40.12 to last us through Sunday.)

I worked all day yesterday, which means I was gone from 6:30 A.M. – 8:30 P.M. I ended up leaving work on the late side, as my patient delivered her baby at 7:11 P.M., right at change of shift. I was happy that I was able to be there for her birth, but those change of shift deliveries make it impossible to leave work on time. By the time I did get home, my husband was already asleep, (he starts work at 3:00 A.M.!) and the remains of dinner were sitting on the dining room table. Teriyaki chicken, rice and a soggy green salad. I inhaled it cold and at rocket speed, and then found a New Season’s Market receipt in the kitchen.

Here’s what my husband bought:
  • Rice vinegar — $2.79
  • 2 Luna Bars — $1.98
  • Lettuce — $1.99
  • Organic bananas @ 89¢/lb — $2.68
  • Gallon of milk from grass-fed/hormone-free cows — $2.69
  • 4-pack of kaiser rolls — $3.79

Total = $15.87

Would I have bought the same items? No. We have mature lettuce in the garden, vinegar is much cheaper from an Asian grocery store, I hate the expense of Luna bars and the kaiser rolls were simply too pricey. However, I was happy to have food in the house, and happy that my husband was A) buying ingredients for homemade salad dressing, B) didn’t make any impulse purchases and C) made dinner!

The Luna bars made their way into the kids’ school lunches today, as did the kaiser roll; so with the exception of the lettuce, everything was a necessary purchase.

Here’s how much we’ve spent so far:
  1. Day One — $0
  2. Day Two — $15.66
  3. Day Three — $6.77
  4. Day Four — $41.48
  5. Day Five — $15.87

Total for week – $79.88

Dinner tonight will be the red lentil soup that’s been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, a green salad and maybe some kind of homemade rolls. I am dead-dog tired today and needing an extra cup or two of caffeinated beverage. (Where did my physical stamina go?!) I do have a fully-punched coffee card from Grand Central Bakery, and if they have a Tweets for Treats deal for today, I will most definitely be bringing my laptop in for a writing session. (I am only a blogger for The Huffington Post, if I actually write something for them now and then!)

How goes your week, have any great insights to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Click HERE to read Day One.

Click HERE to read Day Two.

Click HERE to read Day Three.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen September 21, 2012 at 10:09 am

At least you cut the poor guy some slack. I only go to the store every other week and my husband does the fill-in on the other weeks. Just can’t pack in all my activities into the same few hours available.

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dusty September 21, 2012 at 10:16 am

I asked a question the other day regarding milk but I see that your hubby purchased a gallon, is this for the whole week? My hubby and I spend about $10 per week on milk (1% for him, almond milk for me and 1/2 and 1/2 for coffee). What do you do with kids in the house? I imagine that 2 teenage boys could put a hurtin on a gallon of milk. Also, what about coffee? I buy 1 pkg of half caff and 1 pkg of decaf about every 2 weeks or so, this is approximately $9. Last question, what about juice? We spend about $5 per week on this as well. Years ago my mom used to buy the instant milk and mix it, not sure if anyone does that anymore. Also, she used to buy the canned juice, but of course, that was all there was. Just curious what families do.

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KrisND September 21, 2012 at 10:36 am

If I recall from one of her other posts, I don’t think they drink anything but water. Perhaps I misread that, however.

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

The kids and I drink tea, and my husband drinks coffee. The only juice we drink is orange juice from concentrate, and then that’s pretty much only when we have overnight guests.

Otherwise it’s only tap water or milk. And we keep a large glass pitcher of water in the fridge at all times. Very refreshing, without that plastic-y taste.

Katy

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KrisND September 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I have a Britta pitcher. Would glass taste differently than the Britta?

I don’t notice anything at all weird about the taste of our water but then I haven’t tried keeping it in a glass pitcher ;)

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm

There’s just something crisp about water from glass.

Katy

KrisND September 21, 2012 at 10:32 am

You are doing really well. I think the biggest stress is standing in a store with a small amount of cash(or amount on a snap card) in one hand and this bounty of food that you know you just can’t get right in front of you.

I noticed on your last post that you were wondering about taking fruit and veg vs buying it(did I read that correctly?). I don’t know how it is in other places but in my state people participate in the “Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project” The bounty from those gardens goes to food pantries and I imagine that most people on food stamps have been to a food pantry to supplement their budget , so it is very believable that many people in my state would get free produce throughout the summer.

I am not participating this year because I wasn’t sure how it would work. I do keep a stocked pantry so I didn’t know if I would count sugar, flour, etc. Just because you are on food stamps doesn’t mean you don’t have staples but I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to price out a bag of flour, etc for that week.

I had to learn to be a frugal shopper overnight. I was diagnosed with a medical condition many years ago and had to quit working. We went from a two income family to a one income family in a two week time frame. One of the places we really had to cut to the bone was our grocery budget.(goodbye Capri Suns and all the other convenience stuff we had always been buying)

We were fortunate that we had family we could have gone to(and would have had it gotten worse), but it was that pride thing I guess. If my mother knew how slim things were back then and that we never came to her…whooo momma. I would get a smack to the back of my head even after all these years ;)

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 11:12 am

Here in Oregon they have a “Plant a row” program to get fresh produce donated to The Oregon Food Bank:

http://www.oregonfoodbank.org/Give-Food/Plant-a-Row-Program

Katy

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KrisND September 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

I really like these kinds of programs

a)it is easy and inexpensive to do if you are growing your own garden anyway.
b)it is good to teach us to get back to the land. I have always believed that children are much more apt to make healthy choices if they grow or help grow those veggies themselves. I know my kids were always more apt to eat something they watched grow everyday, when they would have balked otherwise.
c)it makes a much bigger impact than any kind of program on its own. In theory, the amount of produce that could be grown and donated to food pantries is mind boggling if most people were willing and able to participate. I also wonder how much employee stress would be reduced if companies that were able to had a garden space and having that harvest go to the local food bank…shrug. Pulling weeds always lets me vent frustrations ;)

I am the only person in North Dakota who cannot grow zucchini ;). In fact, I have never been very successful when it comes to growing more than herbs and tomatoes in garden pots. My food pantry accepts frozen foods as well as canned/boxed/fresh. When I grocery shop I just grab two bags of whatever fresh frozen veggie or fruit I am buying and donate that extra to the food pantry.

I always say “maybe next year” I will be more successful. I doubt it however, so I assume the frozen veggie/fruit section and I will continue to be very well acquainted ;)

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michelle d September 21, 2012 at 10:37 am

I have re-read the price of your milk several times. I couldn’t get a gallon of regural whole milk for that price. I pay $3.99 for a half gallon of milk from grass fed cows.

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

It’s not organic milk though, and yes, we are lucky to have a New Season’s Market a few blocks from the house.

Katy

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Linda in Indiana September 21, 2012 at 10:38 am

Since your husband went to the store and bought what you might not have bought, it makes it all too real for the rest of us. Whose husband hasn’t done that different times! And besides, he didn’t buy take out…he cooked. Mighty fine in my book and keeping the whole thing “real”. Think you are doing terrific. I have been mentally adding up what I think things would cost when taken out of the pantry and not adding in what we grew. We are doing well…but if it weren’t for the homegrown things…it would be a different story. It is a good reality check for all of us. Thanks for your inspiration. ( And I do have a husband that stops in the grocery from time to time and he does cook on occasion and I am ever soooo grateful for that!)

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 11:10 am

Luckily, (or unluckily) our used-to-be favorite takeout restaurant (Thai food) sent us home with some hair filled food earlier this year, so the takeout temptation has been 100% erased!

:-(

Katy

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Linda in Indiana September 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

Ugh! That would do away with any take-out love for sure!!Maybe I should envision my beloved ice cream with hair in it….then I could do away with that craving for sure:)

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Jennifer September 21, 2012 at 10:42 am

I am a first time reader of this blog and, I must say, have found it quite interesting. Here is what I noticed: Calling this “challenge” the “SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge” has brought a lot of conversation about food stamp recipients and, instead of shedding light on the plight of the poor (not all poor take advantage of SNAP), it seems to have brought out the judgmental worst in some of the comments. Maybe something along the lines of “$100/mo/person challenge” would kept the politics out of it! Otherwise, I have really enjoyed the posts and will definitely come back again. Thanks so much!

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

But food stamps are real, and ignoring that issue would be false. 22% of Oregonians are currently receiving some amount of SNAP benefits.

It’s just important to me that the comments not spiral downwards into a discussion about how poor people eat nothing but junk food, which serves no purpose other than making a person feel superior.

Katy

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EcoCatLady September 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

BTW – not to get too political, but I heard on the news today that the Republicans in congress are holding up the passage of the farm bill because they want to cut the budget for SNAP. It just makes me shake my head. I mean SNAP is a minuscule portion of the farm bill – the vast majority of it goes to give billions and billions of dollars of subsidies to giant agro-corporations. I just don’t get it, somehow they don’t have a problem forking over huge sums of money to mega-corporations, but when it comes to helping poor people put food on the table they’re digging their heels in. It just makes me want to cry.

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K September 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I am a 100 percent backer of the SNAP program but your numbers/amounts are off on the farm bill..

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EcoCatLady September 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm

My bad… got some bad info. I still can’t see the rationale behind giving the lion share of the farm subsidies to a few giant corporations while most family farms get nothing.

Judy September 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

I love the challenge of preparing frugal meals, trying new recipes, and working through the pantry and freezer. I am also totally grateful
to have never been in the position of needing food stamps or being unable to, or worried about how, to feed my children or grandchildren.
Although it is mostly my husband and I, we feed my grandchildren and adult children on a regular or unexpected basis, so figuring $ spent can be tricky. I shop sales and have a freezer and pantry pretty full of ingredients.

My goal this week was to prepare really inexpensive, healthy meals
and I actually started on Sunday, and feel it was a success. Even came up with some new favorites and one casserole we could barely eat and after two times had to throw the rest. I agree, by yesterday I was tired of thinking about food and what to fix and dinner ended up being Nathan’s hot dogs!

Meals this week included spinach, mushroom pasta; split pea soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwich; grilled hamburger with green chile, sweet potato fries, jicama; broccoli, cheese, rice casserole; homemade egg foo yung, rice, watermelon;grilled portobello, eggplant, garlic bread red pepper slices; hot dogs with green chile and onions on bread; spanokopita quiche. Overall it was a little heavier on eggs and cheese than I normally like. We still have some leftovers, more recipes to try, and organic apples gifted from a neighbor’s tree!

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 11:08 am

Sounds delicious! I have a few eggplants that I need to prepare in order to not have them get wasted.

And thanks for the grilled cheese sandwich idea! We have a bit too much bread at the moment, so this would pair well with tonight’s red lentil soup.

Katy

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KrisND September 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Is there a way to cook eggplant so it doesn’t taste bitter? Perhaps it is just my taste-buds, but eggplant always has a bitter aftertaste to me and I think it may be how I try and prepare it. I have been sticking to zucchini in place of eggplant but I would like to find a way to actually use eggplant in those eggplant recipes I have vs switching to zucchini(which is getting kind of boring taste buds wise)

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namastemama September 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Peel the eggplant. I make an eggplant parmesan by peeling and slicing and then coat with bread crumbs and bake. layer with cheese and sauce in a pan and bake until warm and the cheese is melted. Super yum

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greenstrivings September 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Do you salt it? I cross-hatch the eggplant slices, toss them with salt, and let them sit in a colander for 15-30 minutes, then rinse well. That, as well as peeling as namastemama says, really helps with the bitterness.

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Susan September 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

I compensated for my fairly well-stocked pantry and freezer by cutting the allotted budget in half, to $56 for 4 for the week. I’ve managed to get to Friday with $5 left (woohoo!). But I realized that it would be almost impossible to stock up on good sales with this budget. There’s just no wiggle room. I was hyper-aware of the price of everything. It definitely forced me to be creative, and to make banana muffins with those last two sad ‘nanas instead of letting them rot on the countertop.

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Judy September 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Kris ND, YES, regarding eggplant. I have never been a huge eggplant fan until this year and discovering grilled eggplant. The only way my husband used to like it was breaded and deep-fried which was too oily for me. We’ve compromised. Peel, and slice eggplant. You can soak it in salty water or not. Brush the slices on both sides with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder if desired and grill. My husband, the convert, claimed yesterday, “this is the only way to eat eggplant.” I think the real key though is peeling the eggplant.

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KrisND September 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Thank you so much! Tomorrow is grocery day anyway, so I will buy an eggplant and try again..lol

Peeling and grilling should take the bitterness away? Perhaps I could make eggplant lasagna palatable(to us) if I grill the eggplant slices first.

Thanks again!

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Amanda September 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I love reading your challenges. We live in the boonies on our own hobby farm, I milk the goats for our dairy products and try to make everything from scratch. That said, I noticed that your hubby bought organic bananas. That is one of the biggest wastes of your organic dollars, since the pesticide resides in the peel, you can save some $ in buying non-organic bananas and get “real” milk instead! Just my $.02 which in today’s economy isn’t even worth that! Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy it, since it reinforces my frugality in departments other than food!

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Katy September 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I’m there with ya’ on the organic bananas, but I think that’s the only kind of bananas sold at New Season’s.

Katy

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Lilypad September 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I buy organic bananas because it’s so much better for the workers who harvest and process the fruit. Our local co-op chain, PCC, sells bananas from the GROW corporation: http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/producers/produce/grow.html
which addresses both environmental and social justice issues. Yes, it costs more, but it’s something I gladly cut costs elsewhere in order to do (like sitting here typing in my very old and stained shirt and saving just a few nice shirts for going out into the real world).

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A. Marie September 22, 2012 at 7:27 am

Good point about the workers, Lilypad. Another reason for buying organic bananas: I include banana peels in our garden compost, and my husband and I would rather not be ingesting pesticides via that route either.

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Vicki September 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I’m really jealous of the price of your milk. We get regular gallons for $4 and grass fed/free range/happy-cow-life milk for $5 for half a gallon! Which means, we rarely get it. We used to drink raw milk, but with a not-talking-yet toddler, I didn’t want to risk bowel sickness when he can’t tell me yet. We’ll hopefully go back to raw milk (which we get straight from a farm for $5) in a few years when his digestive track is more mature, as is his speech! I miss it though. Raw milk is definitely a perk of living in Pennsylvania!

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Shelly September 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm

This week I have been really surprised at the cost of our meals. The ones I really though would be more frugal turn out to be the more costly ones. I also discovered after making a dessert from scratch last night that homemade in this case turned out to be half the cost of store bought. Which I always knew homemade is usually cheaper but I did not realize it could be that much. We had our most expensive day of the challenge today.
Here is what we had today for our meals,
http://www.frugalfamilyhome.com/food/food-stamp-challenge-day-5

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Poor to Rich a Day at a Time September 22, 2012 at 8:43 am

We made yummy black bean tortillas last night :) wih homemade tortlla shells I did my post for Day 5 an Day 6 together today as I did not have time to post it yesterday. http://poortorichadayatatime.blogspot.com/2012/09/food-stamp-challenge-day-5-and-6.html

If I would have had the whole alloted amount of $140 this week rather than the $46.50, I know I would of shopped a little differently and offered more fruits and whole grained flours but it still worked out to every one having full tummies :)

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Penny September 22, 2012 at 9:05 am

I would LOVE to have $448 to spend on food every month. For our family of four we spend $150. Thank you for bringing awareness to the hunger issue in the country.

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Poor to Rich a Day at a Time September 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I hear ya Penny, but here we joke about how for us ( a family who LOVES FOOD) not having a whole lot a month to spend is our portion control! If we shopped like the national average, we would be very obese for sure :)

Even though we do not have a lot a month though, I really have no complaints as we eat deicous meals for the most part but it can be very stressful on weeks there simply is not enough for food and you have to get super duper creative on what to feed!

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Lucy September 24, 2012 at 4:36 am

We have an enormous 9 month stockpile on hand, so I approached this a bit differently. The actual prices of what we consumed during the week was $55.15, replacing that at current prices would have been $70.82. I made purchases of $11.04 last week for bread, bananas, lettuce, and a new salad dressing that was recommended to me. My husband and I are over 50 and both work physically demanding jobs. We both have dietary restrictions and I have food allergies to complicate things. My husband has nuts, bananas and coffee for breakfast and lunch. I usually have toast with peanut butter and coffee for breakfast and leftovers, a salad, or crackers and cheese for lunch with tea or juice. Our dinners were tuna hot dish (low fat version), oven roasted chicken breast cutlets, cheeseburgers (extra lean grass-fed ground beef), soup and crackers (hubby had fish at a work lunch, yea!), pork chops. On the weekend we had leftovers from the lunch bought for the work crew (this was paid for from the farm’s budget but came to $16.05 for the two days, wasn’t sure if that should be included in the totals or not).

Overall it was about what I expected, but I can see some room for improvement! Our one biggest item is coffee, but part of that goes to visitors to the farm and clients and should probably be partly a farm expense, but for now I figure it is fair trade for the leftovers on the weekend. Mostly this was an accounting exercise for me….all good, though!

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