No Food Judgement Here — SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge

by Katy on September 14, 2012 · 70 comments

I wrote yesterday about an upcoming weeklong Food Stamp Challenge, which garnered a large number of reader comments. And as always happens, a few readers wrote about how food stamp recipients aren’t cooking from scratch and are buying junk and convenience food.

I want to stop that train of conversation right here and now. None of us has the right to judge other people’s food choices, whether that person is receiving government assistance or not. Period. You don’t know what is going on in that person’s life, and whether they have a fruit tree in their backyard or if they’re buying for a kid’s birthday party or frankly, anything at all.

The Non-Consumer Advocate is not a forum for ranting against how low income people are taking advantage of government assistance. This blog is a space for sharing ideas, giving support and finding inspiration.

I apologize if this post seems a bit harsh, but I want to be clear about expectations ahead of time so this project can move forward  in  a positive manner.

The SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge will run from Monday, September 17 to Sunday, September 23.

Here are the details:

  • Allow $4 per person per day.
  • Because we all have ingredients in our kitchens, I am not asking that you pretend it’s not there. Instead I ask that you replace anything that you use up. This is not a perfect solution, but if we try to be exact, it would be impossible to participate. If you would normally stock up on loss leader butter that week, please go ahead and do so. My style of shopping is to stock up on pantry staples when it’s on sale so I can avoid high prices, and it saves me a lot of money.
  • However, please do not buy a large amount of groceries right before starting the challenge.
  • If you are already receiving SNAP benefits or spend less than the suggested $4 per person, I encourage you to participate. We need your ideas and feedback.
  • I am suggesting that participants donate any money saved from the week to their local food bank. This is not a requirement.

I will include a link-up widget on the blog for the week, and I invite all blogging participants to share their posts.

Click HERE to read posts from the 2010 Food Stamp Challenge.

Click HERE to read posts from the 2011 Food Stamp Challenge.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

MelissaInkDesigns September 14, 2012 at 8:28 am

$122 is about $25 less a week than what my state would offer in assistance. (Which, surprisingly, is just a little less than what I budget for groceries.). We’ll give it a try. I have a big stockpile of stuff, but I’ll try to keep track. I am also doing Weight Watchers, so there are a lot of Smart Ones meals on hand for convenience … curious if I could afford these on a SNAP budget.


Poor to Rich a Day at a Time September 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

Although I do not use Food Stamps, I am considered way below poverty and I would never judge anothers food choices or unknown problems and challenges others may face. I personally hate being judged and try hard not to do so for others. I did think after I left a comment though of not participating due to it really not being a challenge to me………that actually I probably should as it may be helpful to others……..however I think I may of already used my $100 I had this month for food! I will have to see if I can free up additional grocery money this month for this challenge!

Also I noticed many leaving comments on stocked pantries and that most people have stocked pantries…………….I will point out that many who are LOW income do NOT have stocked pantries and are running on empty ……..that last week of the month can be harsh! I did a post showing pictures of my cupboards in February….

It is NOT a pretty sight! LOL but I always figure out something to feed my family no matter how bleak my cupboards get.

So with your encouragement 🙂 I WILL participate to offer up my families way of feeding a large family on a very small budget, We are a family of 5 , one teenage boy and also feed our dog (6th person if you will) a homestyle cooked diet with NO commercial dog foods……I average at the moment $60 to $70 a week


Jen September 15, 2012 at 8:18 am

Thanks for sharing that-it made me realize how much I do have in my pantry and freezer. Think I need to do a pantry/freezer challenge for a couple of weeks and use some of it up!


E. Murphy September 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

I really take exception to your classifying yesterday’s comments as “ranting”. I don’t think anyone was out of line by pointing out that budget/food prep education could be extremely helpful in many cases that readers were familiar with.

You clearly have a political bias and don’t wish to hear from anyone who disagrees with you.


Katy September 14, 2012 at 8:39 am

Just addressing the issue before it becomes a problem. It has been an issue every time I’ve run these challenges.



Auntie Karen September 14, 2012 at 9:27 am

Katy, laying out the ground rules was Spot On! Criticism and negativity is rife in this current emotionally-charged political climate. This isn’t about politics, it’s about hunger and awareness. Tyne Daly is often attributed with the observation that a critic is someone who never actually goes to battle but who, afterwards, comes out shooting the wounded. We are going to follow the guidelines next week, and if I can’t make it work, then the following week I am committed to buying NOTHING, living out of the pantry and freezer, and donating $56 to our school district’s back pack food program. Thanks for continuing to inspire us!


Katy September 14, 2012 at 9:31 am

Aww thanks, Aunt Karen. You know, I still have that JCPenney gift card that you sent me. I am waiting to find something fantastic!



Katy September 14, 2012 at 8:39 am

And I NEVER bring up politics, so you can take that off the table right here and now.



Julia September 14, 2012 at 9:04 am

I’ve also run this challenge on my blog and had the same problem. I fully support Katy’s setting parameters on her own blog. If it offends you, go play somewhere else.


P. B. Bairns September 14, 2012 at 9:14 am

I didn’t see her speaking of this. Katy was addressing the arguments surrounding junk food purchases. She never mentioned teaching someone how to make their own food. Perhaps she should address dealing with wearing ones feelings on his/her sleeve. I didn’t think this post was harsh either, so apparently I missed the drama yesterday.


Megyn @MinimalistMommi September 14, 2012 at 8:37 am

I’m wondering too if people could calculate the cost of what they ate from their pantry and deduct from the cost of food they buy (assuming they can pre-plan it) rather than re-buying items. This would combat the issue of having pre-stocked items which were purchased on sale and having to replace them with higher cost, non-sale replacements.

And if anyone has a good tool to calculate it all, let me know because although I love math, calculating out the cost of a batch of cookies does seem a bit daunting 😉


tammy/psmflowerlady September 14, 2012 at 9:17 am

I hope that my admittedly long post on yesterday’s topic wasn’t offensive to anyone. I never intended such, but if anyone did take offense, please accept my sincerest apologies. I love using the tips that I have learned from past years of this challenge and have really incorporated them into my budget and look forward to learning more this year. Since, however, as I said, I am truly blessed with a well-stocked pantry/freezer (especially at this time of year), how about a challenge for those of us who have such abundance that we aren’t participating? To me, the hassle of calculating how much I should deduct for the frozen corn I froze last month and the cookies I bake for lunches, etc really doesn’t interest me. However – what about an altered – Pantry Challenge? Let me use myself as an example. Right now, it’s just my daughter and I – so that would be $56/week. My challenge is to see how LITTLE I can spend and what’s left from that $56, I donate to my foodbank. I know I need milk, flour, butter, oats and chocolate chips (cookies – including for the football players that my daughter is “secret cheerleader” for) and yogurt. My self-challenge is to eat from my pantry and freezer all week and not buy anything beyond what I’ve referenced here. My guess is that I can donate $40.


Katy September 14, 2012 at 9:20 am

That sounds like a great plan for your household.

And nothing got too dramatic yesterday at all, I just needed to set up some rules, in order to nip any negative stuff in the bud.



P. B. Bairns September 14, 2012 at 9:22 am

I usually enjoy reading these things because of all the creativity that flows. $4/person per day would triple my food budget, but being a SAHM I do have time afforded me that those who work do not. I look forward to seeing some creative ideas from those who’ve walked before me who are in my same economic situation. For years I have so wished to find a cookbook that stored all the wonderful cheap food ideas of the working poor from around the world. Frankly those who typically blog about cheap menus/recipes have no clue what the word “cheap” means. One income, large families unite! lol


Poor to Rich a Day at a Time September 14, 2012 at 10:02 am

P.B I truly know what you mean, I get tired of searching for cheap ideas ( my family LOVES variety!) and seeing their versions of frugal being $5 dinners or $3 a person ! As you said, they have NO clue! I actually have several dinners that cost $2 for the entire dinner! However a long time ago I worked 16 hour days as a single parent and still managed frugal meals by simply using my slow cooker……..the kids always had a hot nutritious meal waiting for them at dinner time. Now health issues may present a whole other set of challenges to have the energy to be frugal ……………

Many of the meals I blog about though are pretty frugal! It is hard to find others, so I so agree One Income, Large families Unite! LOL


d September 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm

P. B. You may enjoy The More With Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. It’s an oldie but a goodie. My library has it; maybe yours does too!


Kat C September 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I was going to suggest the same cookbook – it’s still in print – so could also be found at a used book store.


Juhli September 15, 2012 at 2:02 am

Another fan of that cookbook!


Linda in Indiana September 16, 2012 at 8:28 am

I have that wonderful cookbook…food stained and tattered as it is used Often!


Thrifty Household September 14, 2012 at 9:55 am

I think that it’s a great challenge & you have my full support! (I’ll be working out the UK currency equivalent & joining in)


Megan September 14, 2012 at 10:32 am

I think it’s obvious that we aren’t all perfect. If we were, well, that would be great. What one person does may not work for another. I think it’s great that Katy provides this forum for us to express ourselves and share ideas. I’ve already taken several things away from this conversation, and would love to see menu plans for those that participate in the challenge and especially those who make do on even less.

I’m going to participate, but I am going to use panty items, but price them out as if I was buying week to week just for arguments sake.
Follow along at my blog.

I’m off to menu plan, and I’m going to buy groceries for next week tonight.


Jen September 14, 2012 at 10:33 am

Amen and thank you! We make all our food from scratch including baby food to piza dough.. I buy dry beans, use my milk money to make my own yogurt, try to mostly buy meat on sale, etc etc. This year I purchased garden plants that produced a seasons worth of vegetables, and berry bushes which will produce next season! Not all recipients of government assistance are wasteful of the money provided. Some of us are hard working families hit hard by a rough economy. Thanks for standing up for those of us who are working hard to get to a place where we can make it again on our own!


Natalie September 16, 2012 at 8:19 am

Berry bushes are a wonderful investment! We planted a couple raspberry bushes several years ago and have been enjoying the berries ever since. We eat them fresh off the plant in season and frozen as an oatmeal topping in winter. They have paid for themselves many times over.


Sharon September 14, 2012 at 11:37 am

I enjoy reading your posts and think your newest focus on a challenge to try to exist on a SNAP food budget gives attention to the problem receipients face in trying to make the dollars meet the end of the month especially in our current environment of faster rising food prices, no matter how they spend the money. The amount they receive is clearly not enough.

However, I think the golden value of your blog right now is the rest of yesterday’s post where you described your dinners from the past couple of nights, and just what you write about in general. I am the HR Manager (in the state just above you) for a company not too big not to know the employees and about enough of their personal issues but large enough to see a good picture of what is going on in the Pac. NW with a large number of households. These people may be working but many middle to upper middle income financial situations are not what they were 4 years ago. Lots of one income households that were formerly 2 income (or just a lower total income) than before and all of the other problems this recession has caused. The food, clothing general household and entertainment spending that used to be comfortable is now something that has to be highly scrutinized for many people. I see executives who used to take off to restaurants every day for lunch sitting at their desk eating a meal brought from home. There are those of us who have had a more frugal mindset for a long time regardless of circumstances (made it easier to adjust to a new world when my own husband was laid off…) but there’s a large number of people that suddenly have to figure out what to do when they can’t just go out and buy shoes for their children for school without thinking, stop for takeout on their way home to serve for dinner, or load their grocery carts with whatever looks good. When “reality bites” and they try to learn what to do and seek out information, they really need you and all of your creative frugal decorating, Goodwill finds and baked submarine sandwiches with sale purchased Tillamook cheese. It’s regular life, just done a little cheaper. (If you ever decide to write a book…here’s your best seller.)


Kelly Sangree September 14, 2012 at 11:37 am

Thank you for laying down the ground rules! I have the privilege of being a SAHM now, but I put time in the trenches as a single working mother. Those frozen pizzas (store brand) or the frozen chicken nuggets and bagged fries were sometimes all I could manage at the end of a hectic day. Now we’re in a financial cycle – my husband works for a while, is laid off for a while (at which time we receive SNAP) and works again, thanks to the nature of construction work. We try to be careful about what we spend while he’s working, and HAVE to be careful when he’s laid off. Since I’m home, I have the ability to craft meals out of what we have available. When I was single (or when a couple are both working/in school), it was a challenge to get everyone dressed and out the door with lunches, let alone fill and set a crock pot! I’m tired just remembering that lifestyle.

So, yeah. Please don’t compare other people’s “behind the scenes” footage with your “best of” reel. We’ve all had tiring, busy days. We’ve all eaten stuff we know is less than healthy because it was easy. Some days are better than others.


Scribe September 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for stopping the trend of yesterday’s comments. I personally volunteered many years at the Oregon Food Bank and worked with Chef Ellen D to teach participants how to shop and cook. The classes she taught were chock full of information to stretch the food dollars to the very limit; but, some people just can’t take advantage of all the money saving tips and tricks that are offered. Sometimes my heart would just break at the dire circumstances people were in and even though I sometimes THOUGHT I would do things differently, I really don’t KNOW how I would react under the same circumstances.

I’ve canned massive amounts from my garden this summer and have no more empty jars so the rest of the produce will go to the food pantry in my area.

Love this blog.


Mel September 14, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I’m on SNAP and get the full amount which in my state is $200 a month. I normally have excess every month so I can purchase a few things that are normally more expensive such as kosher meat. Before I was on SNAP, I was living on $50 a month of that $25 was for food for my service animals.

My advice is as follows
1) Check clearance and manufacturer’s specials. Matzah ball soup which usually costs a fortune, I purchased for 50% off.
2) Sign up for loyalty programs (like Kroger plus) as they can give you discounts.
3) Don’t use manufacturer coupons unless you need to as they will charge you the tax which is not covered by food stamps because it is considered cash and not food stamps. Store coupons usually won’t charge tax so they are fine. In my state, anything food stamps pays for is not taxed. I’ve been known to time shopping based on coupons
4) Stock up when you can on things that will keep. Like I buy 5 dozen eggs at a time because it is a lot cheaper per egg to do it that way. Cream cheese I buy 10 for $10. I bought 4 very large containers of sour cream for $5 a few weeks ago and they are now in my freezer (yes it destroys the texture so that might not work for you but works when I cook with it). I normally get one small one for about $3. I will buy a gallon of milk and divide it into smaller containers and freeze most of it. I’m not a big milk drinker.
5) Consider purchasing generics or store brands, but don’t blindly assume it is going to be cheaper because sometimes it isn’t. Check the price per unit. Of course if the generics are really bad (some are), then don’t waste the money. I am fortunate that most of Kroger’s generics taste, look, and act about the same as a normal brand (their instant pudding though, not so much!)
6) Try to bake from scratch. I make my own bread by hand. Instead of paying $3-$4 per loaf for the specialty bread my religion requires, I am probably doing it for well under $1 per loaf. I only purchase bread if I can get it for less than 50 cents if it is like white bread or $1 if it is any form of specialty bread. I admit I use mixes for cakes, but the mixes usually cost me only about $1.50 or less.
7) Fruits and veggies… eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
8) Creative leftovers. Tonight’s menu is likely combining some of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s leftovers or last Saturday’s (was in the freezer), Monday, Tuesdays. Saturday might be last Wednesday and yesterday. I really have not decided 100% yet.
9) If people offer you food for any reason, take it. Even if it is not something you can eat (example, I cannot eat pork), try to barter it or give it to someone else who can eat it.
10) Reduce general meat intake.

Those are some tips to help. I am able to live quite well on SNAP so it is far from impossible. Plus I am able to purchase kosher meat (when I see it although I also get it on manager’s special and freeze it) which means I am able to remain observant. I can purchase occasional junk food and candy and I keep a few tv dinners and other prepared food for when I simply cannot cook. I also keep the pantry stocked with emergency food that is pre-cooked but shelf stable just in case of an emergency.


Sass September 15, 2012 at 8:46 am

I have a question…. on the manufacturers coupons, do they just charge you the tax on the amount of the coupon or is it on the whole item even though the rest of the item was paid for with SNAP? I’ve never been on SNAP, but I would think that using coupons would stretch that money further so I’m curious. Thanks!


Mel September 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

They charge you on the value which you have to pay in cash. For people who are legitimately on food stamps and have no other income (and are not just playing “Let’s pretend to be poor”), using manufacturer’s coupons are a financial liability. A few cents in cash is harder to come by than the dollar or whatever in SNAP benefits. Being able to afford to use manufacturer coupons is a sign of privilege since you can afford to pay the tax while people who cannot have to “pay” full price for the item out of their benefits.

When I walk around the store (or anywhere), I have to keep an eye out for loose change on the floor so that I might possibly be able to use a manufacturer’s coupon. Otherwise, too bad so sad it has to come out of my SNAP benefits.


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary September 16, 2012 at 9:07 am

I’m quite sure this varies from state to state. In my state, grocery food is not taxed at all, and coupons are deducted from the taxable amount of non-food purchases. You’ll have to check the regulations for your state.


Melissa September 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I am in for the challenge. Honestly it works out to be pretty close to our target for groceries anyway. We’re a family of 4 and I am 6 months pregnant.

I went grocery shopping for the week and spend $118 today. Hopefully we won’t need to buy anything before Friday. I do have plans to go apple picking on Tuesday, don’t quite know how to calculate that in because it is as much of an event/activity as groceries.


Anne Weber-Falk September 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm

My sister received food stamps when she was a young mother. I remember asking her why she bought some “questionable” groceries when she was on public aide. She turned around to me and said “Anne, even poor people need to have a treat once in a while.” I never questioned a person’s grocery choices again. Who am I to judge.


Namastemama September 14, 2012 at 5:56 pm



Rachel September 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I just wanted to say THANK YOU for such a refreshing post regarding judgement of those on assistance. The downright hatred I have seen on social media and blogs has long bothered me, so your post that no one has the right to judge really made my day. We are not on assistance, but know many who are and the anger and judgement toward these people is so misplaced and sad. Again, thanks for making a stand on this issue and not permitting the negativity here!


Katy September 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Happy to oblige. 😉



femmefrugality September 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I’d like to thank you, too. Too often, especially every fourth year, I think it turns into a political issue and people forget that while there are some that abuse the system, they’re in the extreme minority and that most of the people receiving these benefits are honestly just trying to get by. And it can be demoralizing to be one of those people.

This is a great challenge and I’m looking forward to following it.


Linda September 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Your post, Katy, was very interesting. I would like to participate in the food stamp challenge…wish me luck, and good luck to you and anyone else trying it.


Anna September 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Hello Katy! This has nothing at all to do with food, but I just had to share my “Katy Moment” of the day. My husband is admittedly NOT the frugal one in our now 11 year marriage. He’s not a spend thrift, but he also wouldn’t even think of shadowing the door of Goodwill. So this morning I had our kindergartener dressed all cute for school in a “new” shirt that also bore his school’s mascot, and my husband complimented how cute he looked and asked me where did I find that shirt. My answer – The Salvation Army Thrift Store for $0.99. The look on his stunned face was beyond priceless! Lol! Have a great weekend and keep the inspiration coming! 🙂


Katy September 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Thank you so much for doing this, Katy, and thank you for setting some ground rules for the comments. I think we all make judgments about others and it helps to have this stated up front, so we can all be a little more careful.


Diane September 14, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Thank you, Katy! We can walk the walk we want, and others will walk their walk. I, for one, appreciate your stand on this matter.


Lou Rodriguez September 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

And this is why I read and follow your blog Katy; you’re an authentic person! You have proven yourself a descent and caring person with this post and I applaud your push-back on those comments. Hip hip hooray for Katy! 🙂


Rachel September 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I apologise if my comments yesterday were out of line.
My issue with the challenge would be the fussy eaters – a 3yr old, a 7yr old and a somewhat older male… Our staples are spag bol, rice with some meat/veg and sauce (stir fry, curry, etc) and chicken soup once a week. Anything remotely resembling vegetables gets refused (or picked out), as do beans, lentils – all the cheap proteins. The kids won’t even eat straight eggs – like omlettes. To incorporate truly budget meals I would have to get creative with the hiding of certain things and overpowering it with yummy flavours…


Sass September 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Can I suggest at some point getting a super fine grater? This is how I manage to squeeze veggies into the mouth of my super picky child. Finely shredded zuchhini, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. can be hidden in a multitude of things if they are shredded finely enough.


Mel September 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

I’m a fussy eater with multiple food allergies on top of a religion that has additional dietary restrictions. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

I know this is hard to hear, but people who are truly poor don’t get the luxury of being able to be fussy. I could not be fussy on $25 per month for food as I was waiting for SNAP to come in.


Elaine in Ark September 18, 2012 at 5:51 am

“I know this is hard to hear, but people who are truly poor don’t get the luxury of being able to be fussy.”

Times were tough when I was a child, but we always had two choices at meal time:

Eat it

Go hungry

No picky eaters at our table! (On the other hand, 2 of my brothers became really picky eaters after they got married. They were their wives’ problems then.)


Rosa September 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm

we had those choices too, and it turned out my brother was going hungry a lot because his food allergies gave him such bad feelings (throat closing, roof of mouth itching, puking) if he ate the “eat it” choice, he’d choose to go hungry. He couldn’t articulate that as a little kid.


Laure September 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I get a lot of great ideas from your blog, and always feel motivated by your blog. I really enjoyed the ideas from your last monthly food challenge. This time I finally looked up my state’s benefit, and for 1 person, it is $188/month…so I feel better that I’ve been finding it a smidge unpleasant to stick with my $100-$125/month (including paper products and most HBA). I have no plans of changing my budget — a bit tight around here! — but feel a lot better knowing it’s probably reasonable that I’ve been finding it hard… Looking forward to lots of motivation next week. Thanks for having the blog, and sharing so many great ideas.


Dusti September 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I don’t know of I can mention this or not, but the October issue of Real Simple magazine has an article on dinner time makeovers. Most of the people they worked with were busy moms and one didn’t really know how to cook. Some of their recipes are a little spendy but I plan on using the time saving methods they provided.
In defense of people on food stamps, I know several working families who receive assistance. Should they or their children not be allowed the occasional treat? Additionally, when frozen pizza is on sale for less than a couple pounds of produce, feeds more people and lasts longer, what would you buy?


Loobie September 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Thanks for calling it Katy. In the comment I left yesterday, I was indeed judging my relatives for their food choices and you are right – none of us have the right to judge others for their choices in life – food, or otherwise.


Katy September 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm

😀 Hey, I have been the recipient of self-righteous food judgement, and it thoroughly pissed me off.



Kristen | The Frugal Girl September 17, 2012 at 8:07 am

I’ve been too…it happens when you share what you eat with the world. Inevitably, someone will have something to say about your diet (and often, you get two equally impassioned people saying opposite things.)

I bow to people who write daily “This is what I ate” blogs…I can only imagine how frustrating the feedback they receive must be.


Shelly September 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I hope no one took offense to my comment yesterday either. I did not mean to be offensive at all. My heart breaks when I hear of people who can’t feed themselves. It is also disheartening for me to think of kids going hungry because the food stamp money has run out too soon. I don’t know if it is some parents don’t know how to meal plan and budget while others do. I wish their was a way to help those family take advantage of frugal shopping to make it possible to get to the end of the month. Frugal shopping doesn’t have to mean cooking from scratch for all meals it could be buying oatmeal in bulk or store brand oatmeal for cereal in the morning verse the cold cereal. There is a big price difference. That why we use cold cereal as a treat in our home and then only when it is on sale and with a coupon I can get it for around $1 a box and oatmeal is a staple breakfast item. Water is our main beverage which also helps to save.

We spend $300 a month for our family of 4 so that works out to around $2.50 per day per person. But that also includes our dog/cat food, kitty litter and the few paper products I purchase. So I will participate in the challenge, I don’t know if I will get a blog post up each day though. I am a numbers person so I all ready know how much a cup of sugar or flour cost for each recipe. I know I am a budget nerd. I also remember most of the prices of each item I paid in my pantry. So I will do my best to be very accurate at the cost.


EcoCatLady September 14, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I too hope that my comments were not offensive. I did not mean to imply that I thought people on public assistance somehow didn’t deserve it, or should simply make better choices. Quite frankly, I think that this country needs MORE public assistance not less.

My beef is with the consumer culture in general. I mean, as the woman they interviewed for your Today Show segment pointed out, if everyone in this society lived frugally the economy would go belly up. So in a very real sense, the spendthrifts of the world are the upstanding citizens and we frugal types are the dangerous subversives!


Steph September 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hey, I like that idea of being a subversive. I don’t think the UK has an equivalent to this? $4 per person per day works out about £222 for my wee family. This would be a massive challenge for me. I’m not sure how US v UK food costs compare. My flat is way too small to bulk buy food or have a pantry (my kitchen is smaller than some US pantries). I will try though and hope I learn something in the process. x


Pat September 15, 2012 at 5:07 am

I just came here today ( 1st, but not last visit) from “Poor to Rich , a day at a time”. So will do a brief intro. We are retired, and in Canada, so I will do what I can to meet your challenge requirements. Due to some major health issues, and health related major home renovations my food budget ( and everything budget is very low and not likely to improve for the foreseeable future.) Last week I spent $11.81 cents on groceries, for 2 seniors ( human), 1 senior (small dog), and 1 ( teenager and very active mouser) cat.
I have stocked up on many staples and am trying to live out of the pantry till pension day. This year the fall does not see us with a freezer full of garden vegetables. My garden drownd and neither of us was able to keep up the work in our large garden ( something I have always had to fall back on.) I tried going to our farmers market as it is touted in all the media….. didn’t buy a thing…. couldn’t afford any of it! All was twice the price in our local store, and didn’t always even look that good! Sorry, but I was so dissapointed. Dh is no longer able to hunt, so that extra is no longer available either. I have found that I am making a couple of double batches of Scones ( dh calls them “fancy bannock”) a week. This helps with cutting bread expenses down ( I don’t make and serve any desserts with the exception of tinned fruit in jello). So often lunch or snack is a scone, with cheese ( block cheese cut thin) tea or coffee. I have stocied up on rasins and dried cranberries and add a handfull to my scones. Love when cranberries (fresh) go on sale and I can stock up and put them in the freezer , they go so well in muffins and scones, or made up like a jam. Oh, I also wanted to mention we live in a rural setting, and I buy my eggs from a neighbour for $3/dozen. About the same price as the store, but I can see these chickens and know what they eat, and that they go outside and have a huge fenced run for a very few chickens!
Looking forward to going over the site in the next few days, and taking part as I can on Monday.
Also Like having the ground rules set out. Nice to know what is expected.


Mindy September 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

Typically, I make a meal plan for a week or two, than do my shopping based on that. Because I have a stocked freezer and pantry, yesterday I went to the grocery store and spent only $33. I bought bacon, feta, coffee filters and fresh produce. My goal is to plan the next week and a half worth of dinners and not spend another dime.
For anyone who thinks you can’t feed your family healthy food on a budget, or that it takes hours to get yummy dinners on the table, pop on over to my blog and see what we’re eating.
Thanks for the motivation to purge our backstock, while forcing me to get creative, and use what we have, in the food department.


Sass September 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

I’m in on this one! Currently I’m a one in the household type because my daughter is away at school. I’ve been trying to get my total budget down to to $125 including dog food and this may be just the kick in the hiney I need to really put my nose to the grindstone!


Rosa September 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Oh man, I JUST went to the farmer’s market this morning and already blew the budget for this challenge by buying meat & cheese that I totally wouldn’t buy if I were on a tight budget. I may follow along and not try to do this til the following week.


Teri September 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I’m so glad you said this, Katy. Thank you for being a kind, nonjudgmental person. “Walk a mile in his moccasins”, is always a good philosophy.


Teri September 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I forgot to say that I spent $28 for groceries this week, but I have a really nice pantry. So, I would have spent much more without my pantry. We have 2 people living here.


Rachael September 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I appreciate that you took the time to make this post and set these ground rules. I will say that the good thing about some of the negative posts yesterday was that it gave you and other posters a chance to tell the other side of the story.

I will say that one thing I really like about your blog is that you really teach by example.


tna September 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

I love seeing how everyone else does stuff. One of my favorite parts of novels is when they describe how people eat…I think that’s how I started eating sardines, someone in a novel loved them. Anyone see “What the World Eats” by Time? Really interesting.
I’m in for the challenge….but I’m going to keep at my $2.85 a day for one person. I bought avocados for 29 cents yesterday! Gonna pull out some chili from the freezer and have it topped with avocado, tomato, and lime juice. maybe a couple of warm tortillas. Rainy day weather food, yum! If I heat it up in my titanium mug and eat from said mug I won’t even have to wash a pan. win*win


Poor to Rich a Day at a Time September 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm

What a great buy on the avocados! I looked today and had to pass them up as they were $4 for a bag of 5 of them! Too steep for me!


rosarugosa September 16, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I think it would actually be helpful to judge the food choices; we should just avoid making judgments about the people making the choices. For example, it could be constructive advice to tell someone that she could have gotten better value from her food dollars if she did x and y, but not useful to tell someone that she is a bad mother because she bought sugary snacks for her family 🙂


Ashley S :) September 16, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I have a question I haven’t seen addressed anywhere else – am I supposed to factor in meals the kids get outside of home? I have 3 kiddos, and all eat breakfast and lunch at daycare/Head Start/school. Our SNAP budget would work out to be $140 a week, but typically we spend $80 a week on food and personal items, and I am able to keep our pantry quite stocked. I plan on counting the cost of any ingredients or items we use from the pantry, but am wondering if I should somehow try to factor in the costs of meals the kiddos eat elsewhere.


Mel September 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm

To be fair, you should if you are paying for them. I know a lot of people who have a grocery budget of effectively zero because they eat out all the time. Not all people on food stamps qualify for free reduced lunch so we have to send kids to school with food made from home.


Terri September 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I’m really interested in following along – it’s a great concept. I’m an American living in Australia and I can’t imagine spending only $4 per person per day. I don’t think that we could do it here, groceries are just so much more expensive. I admit that we don’t always buy the cheapest of some products (mainly milk and eggs) but we’ve watched our grocery bill double in the last five years and it would be useful to search for ways to combat that.


michelle d September 17, 2012 at 6:14 am

I’m in. Should be interesting.


Kelly September 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm

This is such a great idea!!! $4 pp a day would be a little rough in my family of 2, but only because my daughter has Celiac disease. BUT… we do have the staples already on hand, her bread!!! About twice a year it goes on sale (from $7 a loaf to $5.50 a loaf) and I literally buy out the store!! I keep it in the deep freezer on the back porch until she needs a loaf. I wonder how far $4 pp will go in this tiny little family of ours…. can’t wait to see!!!! We are fortunate because we eat almost no “boxed” food, everything is usually fresh, so this challenge should get intense. I am very good about spending as little as humanly possible at the grocery stores (I have to shop at 3 to get all of our groceries. 1 Big named, 1 gourmet (for gf flours and such) and 1 health food to get the super good gluten free foods). The only issue I have ever had with the SNAP program is this… I have a co worker who is a family of 4. She “brags” about getting $670 a month in assistance, but every single month she is out of SNAP money by the half way point. That isn’t the issue… the issue is that she buys the most expensive cuts of meats and really only shops the frozen foods and pre packaged grocery aisles. She is always telling us about her super great steak dinner, the crab legs, etc… that she had the night before. Don’t get me wrong… EVERYONE deserves good yummy meals, but steak every night seems to be a luxury. I have even (in a friendly way) talked with her about how I will buy a nice selection of meats and veggies and then use my crock pot to make the meal extraordinary. She always claims that she just doesn’t have that kind of time. But… it’s not up to me to make her choices, so.. oh, well!! Another young girl at my church gets the SNAP program as well (she works as well and is a single mom to 1). I have no clue how much she gets, but I do know that she makes all of her daughters goodies from scratch and budgets her SNAP money for each month so that there is always some left over. Then for holidays, birthdays and such… she can splurge and buy the bakery cakes, the big hams and such. I think that is a lovely idea!!!


Shannon October 4, 2012 at 8:53 am

I have to admit we do receive SNAP to the tune of about $280/month for our family of 6. I am a very, very frugal shopper and price match at our Super WalMart for most things — I came out today with probably 12+ bags of groceries for right about $50. I did use 2 coupons. I ALWAYS get comments from the people behind me in line, asking me how I do that.

I make our own bread, yogurt, hamburger buns, pizza, laundry soap and laundry pre-treat, and pretty much anything else you can think of making homemade. If I can’t afford to buy it, I try to see if I can make it or we go without.

I’m always looking for ways to save money; my husband has been working part time and finishing his degree (he’s on his last class) after 25+ years experience in banking. Yes, you have to have a degree now, no matter how good you are. I thought I was pretty frugal before, but I’ve definitely taken it to a whole new level and I don’t think I’ll ever go back. I canned peaches a few weeks ago and make our own freezer jam. We do have a full pantry and freezer. I have learned to stretch a dollar and myself to find a way to be home with our 4 kids who are still at home, ages 7-14 (plus 2 in college and 1 married).

I know there are probably people out there who work the system because I’ve seen some, but I don’t want to be one of them. And I try to give back to others in ways I can. My daughter and I just made 6 extra loaves of bread to take to neighbors who are dealing with major health issues. We also often feed my in-laws: one is just recovering from major surgery and the other has stage 4 cancer. You do the best you can with what you’ve got and see the opportunities to learn what you can. An abundant life isn’t about having a lot of stuff. It’s about having everything you need.


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