July Food Stamp Challenge– Day One

by Katy on July 1, 2011 · 14 comments

Today is day one of the July Food Stamp Challenge, a month when my family of four will only spend the amount that the average food stamp recipient would receive, which is $101 per person, per month. For last year’s challenge, my family spent $350, which was $100 less than normal, which resulted in a $100 donation to The Oregon Food Bank.

I am asking that participants donate to their food banks if possible.

I have deliberately not gone grocery shopping for awhile, so my refrigerator is somewhat bare. I don’t have a pantry, so I’m not a great amasser of staples, although we do have a chest freezer in the basement. This we use for bread from the Dave’s Killer Bread outlet store, as well as the individually frozen chicken breasts that my husband seems unable to cook without, (however, he did just watch Food, Inc. and has drastically changed his song) freezer jam and few other sundry items. I am stocked up on loss leader Tillamook cheese, which I bought when it was $3.99 per 2-lb loaf. If another crazy awesome loss-leader sale comes up on food that I buy, I will stock up on it even though we’re on a tight budget for the month.

My older sister just moved from Seattle to Manhattan this week, and she did bring down the contents of her pantry for me before she left. This hodge-podge of food stuffs ran the gamut from tea bags and condensed milk to bottles of rum, gin and nasty-sweet Mogen David wine. So I do have an extremely odd assortment of food to incorporate into our meals. (Would Mogen David wine make good adult-only popsicles?)

For this month, I plan on exploring different techniques for frugal grocery shopping, such as couponing, buying from ethnic food markets, farmers markets, U-pick, gardening, focusing on food waste and eating fewer meat based meals. I also want to get over to The Oregon Food Bank for a day of volunteering with my family.

Today, I’m going to take my $10-off-$50 Safeway coupon from the newspaper and buy enough food to get us through the first week. I will bring my coupons, as Safeway does double up to four coupons. We do buy our eggs and milk from New Season’s Market, and will continue to do so for the month.

I am going to make one change from last year, which is that I am going to allow eating in restaurants, even though actual food stamps would not pay for this. However, the amount has to come from our overall budget. It is just too difficult in the summer months to eat entirely homemade meals, when we spend so much time out and about. I expect this to be very minimal though, and will make a concerted effort to prepare food ahead of time if I know we’ll be away from the house for an extended time period.

Are you participating in the July Food Stamp Challenge? Please add your name to the comments section, and if you blog, add your link to the widget below.

Together, we can shine a light on the issues of food insecurity.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Megg July 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I am! Although I’m a little anxious about it because I haven’t even thought about or started collecting coupons! I guess I will have to peruse my local grocery store fliers very carefully 🙂


Erica/Northwest Edible Life July 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I’m not doing the food stamp challenge, but I’m hosting No Spend July over on my blog, so I think we’re in the same food-frugal boat this month. Look forward to your updates.


Sharon July 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Count me in too. Like Megg I haven’t prepared for this but I guess that’s more realistic than stocking up. People don’t always have time to prep for emergencies.


rivqa July 2, 2011 at 1:56 am

The wine will work as good as any in bolognese sauce or similar.


Shelley July 3, 2011 at 6:34 am

Whoops, I see what you have on hand counts. At least you have the excuse that some odd things were given to you; I somehow manage to buy them for myself and then wonder why. I will sometimes have a ‘use it up’ month where I pull one odd thing out a day and have to figure out how to make it useful.

If you don’t cook with the wine, you might try it as a spritzer with something like 7-up. If it’s really awfully sweet, perhaps tonic or soda water would help?

So, what did the Food Inc programme tell your husband about chicken breasts? I tend to bulk buy them because Bill is finicky about chewing chicken off bones and it seems wasteful to throw away a half eaten chicken carcass. Then again, we eat poultry maybe once or twice a month, so those breasts last us a long time.


Bree July 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Wow a move from Seattle to Manhattan! What a difference. I really want to live in both of these cities eventually. I’m dying to know why the drastic change and what does she like/hate about each city.


Paula in the UP July 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I had planned to, but already blew it with an impromptu grill out party at our house over the weekend!! I guess I can see how good I managage for the rest of the weekend with what I have left.


Paula in the UP July 5, 2011 at 9:26 am

I meant the rest of the month, not weekend!

We, last minute, had some friends over for a grill out on Sunday we provided chicken, I did have some on hand but had to buy more. I also made a salad(which I had the making for) and some bars(had to buy some sweetened cond milk) . Others brought side items and then their own drinks. All total including a few sale items that we needed, I spent $42.75. We have quite a bit of chicken left that we can eat as leftovers or make into other meals.

So I guess I’ll continue considering I didn’t do the damage I thought! 🙂


Meghan July 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm

This is an interesting challenge and I read the posts last year. My family of four in southwest WA has a budget of $200 a month for food and toiletries. I use coupons for just about everything and buy meat in the clearance section. Our $200/month budget is built on necessity and it is getting harder as food prices creep up and my husband, who is a state worker, will be getting his salary cut b y 3% for the next two years. I will definitely be reading this year’s challenge to see new recipes and how creative people will get.


Marri July 12, 2011 at 1:30 am

when my husband lost his job earlier this year we needed help so we went and got on food stamps. this scale they have for what they actually give you is WAY off. i have a 5 person family and we get $220.40 a month. i know how hard it is to make ends meet and i know how to be extremely creative with a meal so that its as healthy as it can be and also enough in that meal to make it stretch it in to leftovers. you are working with $404? there are days that i pray they will all of a sudden raise the amount of help we get, but yet still no end in sight. we are thinking positive and hoping he goes back to work soon because there is no way that we can do this for a long time. my kids are not going without but i do have to ration because when we run out we are out, there is no extra funds. its nice to know that people would like to get a taste of what it feels like but i dont think it really sinks in to people.


PracticallyFrugal July 12, 2011 at 6:48 am

Five years ago, we found ourselved both unemployed, 100K in debt, and *drumroll please* pregnant for the first time. We had NO money. But, we buckled down and 5 years later, on one moderate income ($43K/yr) we have paid off $97K in debt and have saved another $13K. We now have a family of four and spend no more than $150/mo on all of our food, toiletries, and household supplies per month. That includes formula and diapers for the baby. We are often under that amount often. I take the extra and stash it away for Christmas or a special treat.

It’s hard, and sometimes we are down to the wire on food, but I do NOT go shopping or “pick something up” if it’s not in the budget. We make it do,or do without, often. With careful planning and wise stockpiling, we will never be out of food – but there are weeks when milk rationing is serious business.


Sassy July 25, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I have to agree, $404 seems to be way too much. My family’s food stamp total is only $246 a month, and this is for a family of 4! Our only income right now is unemployment, so were really broke. Doing this in the summer honestly doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. Farmers Markets, farm stands, CSAs, ect. are everywhere. Doing this in January would be a challenge! I’d like to see this done during the winter months. I’d be very interested in how people could feed their family healthy food when fresh food is harder to come by.


Summer August 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Keep in mind that the majority of recipients are working poor or disabled, not stay at home moms. It’s much more difficult to stretch food dollars when you don’t have the time or ability to cook from scratch daily or shop at anything but the closest stores. I used to make everything I could from scratch; now it’s a rare good day when I can cook for 15+min.


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