The June Food Stamp Challenge Lives On

by Katy on June 15, 2011 · 70 comments

For my family, June of 2010 will be remembered as the month when we spent less than $350 on food. This is the amount that a family of four would typically receive were they receiving food stamps. As we normally spend around $450, it was not a terrible stretch for us, but I would be lying if I said it was easy.

There was only one meal out, (takeout Vietnamese food when I was sick) and I insisted that I take over 100% of the shopping and cooking for the month. I knew that my husband who is not a frugal shopper would ruin everything were he to make one of his typical Trader Joe’s trips that tend to run $40+ for a single bag of groceries. Therefore, he was banned from shopping for the month.

In the end, we spent $100 less than normal, which I was able to send to The Oregon Food Bank as a donation.

I considered running this challenge again this year, but my family was so sure that they had been deprived in the name of a blog stunt, that it wasn’t worth the lack of family harmony. It’s ironic, actually, as I was so obsessed with concocting frugal yet delicious meals, that the family ate better than ever! There were no “Hey, who wants eggs?” kind of meals and I think drawing the card of get-out-of-making-dinner-for-a-month should be worshipped instead of complained about. But hey, that’s just me.

Angela over at My Year Without Spending participated in the challenge without telling her husband, which I considered to be both clever and worthy of a movie treatment. (Oh, the mayhem! Oh, the possibilities for hijinks!)

However, I was really wanting to shine a light on the issues related to food insecurity, both throughout the blogosphere within my own family unit.

Julia Park Tracey of Modern Muse just learned yesterday that her coverage of the June Food Stamp Challenge won first place for multimedia journalism from the East Bay Press Club. And let me tell ya, she deserved it! I reprinted her posts a couple of times last year, as she really went whole hog with her participation and chronicling of the challenge.

So, congratulations Julia!

Last year’s stats of 1-in-5 Oregonians receiving food stamp benefits prompted this challenge, and I recently had an opportunity to talk with a state employee about how this year compares. And the answer I received was that things are even worse this year than last.

Which brings me to this question:

Are you interested in participating (and reading about) another food stamp challenge? I am willing to dedicate the month of July to food insecurity issues if this is something you’re interested in.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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


{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

Megg June 15, 2011 at 10:32 am

I’d try….but I’m afraid I couldn’t do it! How do you find out how much your family would get? I’m guessing it’s different for every state? Because I’m in the Seattle area and it’s much more expensive than, say, the South.


Annie Jones June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

This topic is very interesting to me, and I’d love to watch others participate. I don’t think I’ll participate, though. We are a family of 3 and so far this year I’ve spent less than $900 on groceries. That’s less than $150 a month for the family, or $50 per person per month. This challenge wouldn’t be much of a challenge for me, and it’s thanks in a large part to us growing some of our own veg. and eating venison my husband shot and processed last fall.


Katy June 15, 2011 at 10:48 am


You are exactly the person who I want to be participating, as you sound like you would have a lot of great information to share.



Erin June 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

This is an interesting concept. I would be interested in giving it a go because I think my husband and I spend far too much money on food. We are in the process of relocating so next month would not be a possibility but I would love to give it a try in the coming months. Interesting!


Jessica June 15, 2011 at 10:37 am

This hits a bit close to home…

While we thankfully have a healthy emergency fund saved up, with my husband currently job-hunting we are spending exactly what we’re bringing in this month and don’t want to dip into our savings unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately I do the budgeting and my husband does the shopping, and so while he knows what his monthly budget is, usually we end up having a conversation in the third week of the month that goes something like this: “You’re $10 over budget already.” “How could I possibly have spent that much???? That can’t be right!!!” He just keeps a rough sum in his head of the major shopping trips he’s taken and forgets about those little trips for milk, bread, fruit, etc. that add up.

We got in a fight yesterday when he picked me up after work and headed straight to the grocery store. I reminded him for the third time that he’d blown $90 of our grocery budget buying the supplies to plant fruit on our apartment balcony and there was no money left in the budget. His response was something like, “But we’re out of milk! What are we supposed to do, just not buy milk?” Maybe you should have thought of that before you spent all the grocery money…

Sigh… Moral of the story–it’s a good thing we’re not on food stamps, and I guess I need to teach my husband how to budget better.


joy June 15, 2011 at 10:45 am

I would be interested in trying it and hearing about how other people are doing it.


Lisa June 15, 2011 at 10:54 am

This challenge is one that could be beneficial for one and all. Whether you’re a food stamp recipient or upper middle class, being more conscious about how you spend your food dollars will be an eye opening experience.


Tracy June 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I agree….I am not anywhere near dire need but could be way more conscious of my spending.


Susan June 15, 2011 at 10:56 am

I don’t know how this would work for me in the UK. I try to sick to £200 a month for me and Ewan. I think that is about $325 a month for two people. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And the worst part…I plan menus and hardly ever have any waste…it all gets used. Does this include other things in with your shopping like toilet paper, shampoo, etc. Because if you don’t count those things, I actually spend less. By the way, I posted the original letter I wrote in a plain envelope today so hopefully it should reach you!


Kira June 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

I tried to do this last year but my mother in law (bless her soul) who lives with us thought we were in some kind of dire financial situation so she kept running out buying more and more food. I tried explaining that it was more like a “game” for a month to do it, but growing up during the depression when she had to sacrifice, just doesn’t make sense to her when we can afford to buy whatever our family wants that we wouldn’t want to spend top dollar. I loved reading about it though.


danyel June 15, 2011 at 10:59 am

I am actually on food stamps.


Amy June 15, 2011 at 11:10 am

I was planning on doing it for the remainder of June-mid July anyhow as a fundraiser for cancer. I’d love to read about other people doing it too!


Jenny June 15, 2011 at 11:12 am

I’m interested. Seems like the cost of food has been climbing fast lately. I’ll have to look up what you’d get in my state as I’m quite curious.


Ciara June 15, 2011 at 11:16 am

Did you include all food/beverage types in your budget? Like wine, eating out, hot bar foods, etc. These are things that food stamps wouldn’t cover.

I’ve been on food stamps for the past two years. It’s been really helpful and most months, I am able to make my budget.

What I did the first month I quit working full time and started on food stamps was that I saved all of my itemized grocery receipts. This helped me really identify the essentials vs. what I needed to find alternatives for. I buy mostly whole, organic foods. By eliminating some things, I am able to buy things like local glass bottled dairy products and coffee. But, I also shop at the farmer’s market and buy a lot of bulk items and rarely have packaged foods in the house. I get $167/month (my income is around 6-800/month).

I think it’s important that when we participate in these challenges, we recognize all the unsung heroes. There are mothers and fathers who do this challenge 12 months a year. Every year. I really like how you donated what you normally would have spent to the Food Bank.

Thanks for addressing this issue!


Jennifer June 15, 2011 at 11:40 am

I would be very interested in participating and reading about others participation. I’ve downsized just about everything else, but still struggle with my food budget. I would really welcome this challenge!


Julia Park Tracey June 15, 2011 at 11:53 am

Wow, thanks for the mention, Katy! I applaud you doing this again — there is sure to be a lot to learn by trying this challenge. We’ll be doing it unofficially, since we’re buying a house and that means we’ll be BROKE!!! You go, girl!


No Debt MBA June 15, 2011 at 11:57 am

I second the earlier question about finding out what the food stamp allotment would be for your area. I’m very curious. We currently spend about $25/week for two people so around $55 per month per person.

Do you lose the ability to buy in bulk with food stamps? Like could you go over one week and then spend a little less other weeks?


Indigo June 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I grew up one of five kids with a single working parent. We were always strapped for cash, but my Mum was too proud to ask for help. We always had a garden, even if it was just in containers when we lived in small apartments. A few years in a row someone would hit a deer right in front of us. She would check to see they were okay and then dress the deer and toss it into the van. We never had prepacked foods in the house beyond a jar of spaghetti sauce. It seemed there were always beans sitting in the crock pot. Forget things like cookies, ice cream, juice.

Even now that I make a decent living I can’t bring myself to buy frivolous foods or go out to eat for anything other than a special occasion. I spend between $100- $150 a month, but that includes toiletries, dog food, and cat food. I eat well. Today I had homemade hummus, homemade soft pretzels, a salad, and strawberries in chocolate yogurt for lunch. Tonight I’m making Thai curry.


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending June 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Ha! So funny about the movie treatment! I knew my husband would have been convinced he was being deprived if I’d mentioned it to him, and I have the same problem with him shopping at Trader Joe’s. Turns out he didn’t even notice anything was different, and we spent just $215 for the month.

I’ve been able to utitilize a few of the lessons I learned long term, but most of all it’s a function of time. When I’m working too much, I simply don’t have the same amount of time and energy to make healthy meals from scratch, or bread or any extras. That’s when we turn to Trader Joe’s for some help.

I’m always interested in food issues if you’re interested in writing about them. Thanks!


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending June 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Oh, and a couple of nights with my husband cooking also helps. He mostly makes pizza and pasta, but we won’t gain weight if it’s only once or twice a week, and those are cheap offerings! And tasty!


Kathryn June 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm

The last time I looked up how much my family would receive if we were on food stamps (sometime last year), it was actually more than our grocery budget at the time. Go figure.
I can say that it’s a challenge to make our budget each month, especially with the kind of food we buy (stuff like nuts, salmon, organics), but we have a lot of tricks for pulling it off. It does give me sympathy for people on food stamps.


Mel June 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I want to know her tricks!!!


Amber @ June 16, 2011 at 3:40 am

Me too!


Kathryn June 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm

In short, we follow a few basic principles:
1. We eat almost no meat or processed food.
2. Our meals are balanced and nutritious but usually have only 2-3 inexpensive ingredients (e.g., beans and rice with yams, eggs with one fruit/veggie and toast).
3. I make out weekly menus based on sale circulars and seasonality, then shop at multiple stores to get the best prices on particular items.
4. If we have extra money in our budget, I use it to buy in bulk or stock up on any sale items we use regularly.
Katy, I love your blog and would be happy to do a guest post if you think there would be enough interest.


Kathryn June 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

BTW, this discussion prompted me to look up the latest food stamp info for my state. For 2011, the maximum monthly benefit for my family would actually be about $220 more per month than my family’s current grocery budget. And, in my state, you can use food stamps to purchase plants or seeds for growing your own food.

Mary Kay June 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I would be interested in participating, but with the travelling we do in the summer a month in the fall would work better for me.


NM June 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I would enjoy reading and learning about ways to stretch my food budget and make inexpensive but enjoyable meals. Food insecurity is heart-breaking and I think anything we can do to highlight the problem and potential solutions is a step in the right direction.


sandy June 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I would love to give it a try in the spirit of “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” and to remind my family of how good our lives really are in comparison to others who are just as deserving.


Deedra Climer Bass June 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I actually AM on Food Assistance. I quit my job last June to better care for our teenage daughter who has emotional issues..then my husband lost his job this February. He’s “reskilling” to become an organic farmer. We went from earning about $180k annually to about $30k for a family of 4. I just got my Award Letter today and we are getting $418 a month (MI US). I’d love to participate in the project by showing how a real life family on Food Assistance can still make healthy food choices.


The Saved Quarter June 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I participated last year while I was on food stamps. Readers of my blog seemed to appreciate the look into what I actually purchased and the menus I made with it.

Good luck to your husband!


Karissa September 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I wish I made 30k a year and got $418/mo in food stamps. You lucky dog, eating like kings!! I make 20k year with 4 kids and receive no assistance because I “make too much” in MI also, count your blessings!!


Marie June 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Have you seen this movie trailer yet?
It looks really interesting. I have been volunteering at a food pantry and as a mentor for someone who is in transitional housing and it is SO hard to find money for food in the budget, especially for families. It seems like the summers are so much harder for families because schools do not provide those lunch and breakfast options that they normally do. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to cook very cheap and very healthy options so I am looking forward to resources. Great post!


Elaine June 17, 2011 at 6:58 am

Marie (reply # 29), some of the schools in the city where I work serve free lunches for all children under the age of 18. The food pantries are always cleaned out in the summer months.

It’s heartbreaking to think of kids going hungry in AMERICA, the richest country in the world! Shameful!

Kudos to everyone who is helping!


namastemama June 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

YES! I was wondering if you were going to do it and had decided that we would do it as a family, for June. July we will be vacationing so it wouldn’t work then.


Mama Minou June 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I’d love to participate! I actually kind of tried this last October after reading about your experience. My kids were not too happy with me, but we kept our monthly food budget at around $300 for a family of 4 (we live in the Pacific NW). I’m interested to see how I can manage in July with (hopefully) a productive garden.


Kathleen June 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I, too, am on foodstamps. For those of you who cannot participate because it would be “too inconvenient”, try to imagine how inconvenient it is when you have no choice. And I’m not near as bad off as a lot of people here in our land of plenty. There are many unfortunate families who cannot qualify for whatever reason, but have no resources.
A true test would be to complete the challenge whatever your plans for the month.


Lynda June 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I followed your challenge last year and enjoyed it. We’re grandparents that have the family (2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, one daughter and 4 grandchildren) over for dinner on Wednesdays and brunch on Sundays. I have a huge garden, chickens and a small farm produce stand. I also manage the local Farmers Market and Community Garden. We don’t spend much on food. I do a ton of canning for the whole family and I cook from scratch, I even make cheese. I trade jams and jellies for feed for my animals. I forage for alfalfa, pears, plums and apples. But, if you do go ahead with the challenge, I’d give it a try.


Amber @ June 16, 2011 at 3:43 am

I would be down for it! We eat pretty healthy, so our main expense occurs at the Farmer’s Market (oh and wine/beer). For a family of 4 (one who is only 5 months) and a cat, I think we spend about $400/month, but this would actually be a good incentive to track it and see where we can reduce our spending for a good cause.


Linda June 16, 2011 at 4:10 am

I spend less than the Food Stamp allotment for food. I spend about $40-$50 per week for a family of four. That includes all paper and personal care products plus cat food. We would have to spend more to accept this challenge.

Even on vacation we do not spend that much. This year we are splitting a condo with another family. We have a full kitchen. I will bring all my food with me because I know how to shop where I live. When we go away, I never know which stores to shop.

And before you ask, YES I buy fresh fruit and vegetables. I have a local restaurant produce market that sells deep discounts. I get big bags of lettuce for $1. The bags of lettuce are at least 3x the size of what the regular stores sell for $1!!! Bags of apples and oranges for $1. I never know what they will have. I just stop by once or twice a week to see what the deals are.


Carla June 16, 2011 at 4:59 am

My husband has a simple policy: if what he wants to eat is not in the house he drives to town and buys it. Period. He does not do what he considers food, i.e. “goodie”, deprivation. Due to some health problems I’ve been unable to do much of the shopping lately and I don’t even ask what he spends. He brings it in, I try fix it (mostly). He seems to get upset if I even HINT that he made a bad food choice. I don’t think cutting back would work in this house, although I am fascinated by the tricks the rest of you employ. Love to watch it all…


Val June 16, 2011 at 6:18 am

My better half is a chef, so we definitely know how to overspend money on food. For two of us, we average about $600 a month for things we put in our mouths (including dining out, drinks and groceries). These types of experiences can offer some much-needed perspective on necessities versus wants.

However, we are moving next month and also traveling for a week, so I know going into it July would be a bust for us to try and participate with you at home. But I would eagerly read about your endeavors and make a pact to do our own food stamp challenge in August.

As a two-some, I guess our monthly budget would be $175. Just for fun, I expect we’ll make that include beer and wine but do you count pet food, as well?

Also, to No Debt MBA’s point above, we would treat it as a total monthly allotment, which is in line with how the state of Ohio provides food stamps, not as a weekly allotment. Buying in bulk and buying staples on sale saves us a fair amount in the end.


Katy June 16, 2011 at 6:21 am

Food stamps do not include:

– Beer and wine
– Toiletries
– Pet food
– Hot food (like a rotisserie chicken)



Kris June 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

Why doesn’t a rotisserie chicken and the like not count? If I recall, that is the same in my state and I am not sure why. It is real food(vs candy and the like) and it can be cheaper if you get to the grocery store at the end of the day when they want to get rid of the left overs. I have often been able to get two for one and it feeds our family of four with left overs and there is still enough to make chicken salad for my husband’s work lunch and use it in a casserole.

Is it a nationwide rule? If you can use food stamps to buy expensive organic food, you should be able to buy the humble rotisserie chicken.


The Saved Quarter June 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Hot, prepared foods don’t count.


Kathryn June 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm

The government wants families spending their foodstamps at the grocery store, not restaurants. The simplest way to accomplish that is by forbidding the use of foodstamps for the kind of food that’s available in restaurants, i.e., hot prepared food.


Christina June 16, 2011 at 6:57 am

I am single and in NJ that would get me $200 a month if I were getting food stamps. I could easily work with that and have gotten by spending less. However my problem is the eating out or eating prepared foods. I don’t like to waste food so I only shop on the days I know I will cook, and on those days I make extra to freeze. For variety I end up ordering lunch at work, and because I have the bad habit of not eating breakfast I usually get a bagel and coffee on my way to work. This is really starting to bother me not only because of the financial waste but all the excess packaging involved in ordering takeout. So yes, I would like to join the challenge to get myself back on track with cooking and eating at home and making those foods more interesting and delicious than what I could buy outside, even on a limited food stamp budget.


Nancy June 16, 2011 at 8:00 am


BTW I really like your new design.


Paula in the UP June 16, 2011 at 11:06 am

This is something I would like to give a try. I can’t find what my states benefit would be, I’ve done several searches, but can’t come up with a site that gives the benefit amount. I live in Michigan, we’re a family of 2.


Teresa June 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Yes. That is actually how I found your website. I was trying to find out the average monthly grocery purchases in my state (wanted to find out where I am at as far as expenditures – and by some amazing fluke found your blog). At any rate, I was thinking of trying the challenge myself, but was shocked to find out that monthly allotment could be as much as $526! I have to try really hard and buy a lot of extra stuff to get to the $500 mark. Looks like I have already been participating and just did not know it.


Sherry June 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I’m going to try it. We live in New Jersey and the maximum allotment for two people is $367 which seems doable. I’m pretty sure we spend more than that but I’m not as good about keeping track as I should be. This would certainly make me more aware of what we spend. Since I do most of the shopping I think I’ll keep it to myself–hubby’s not into these challenges and I’m not in the mood for another eye roll. I’ll fill him in at the end.


Kris June 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm


How would you figure in garden produce? Do you assume that there is no garden for the average food stamp recipient, thus use whatever the price for that same item(tomatoes for example) is in the grocery store? Or, do you assume that people in your area on food stamps would have access to free produce, as one with a home garden would?

I am in. I finished American Wasteland and it shamed me. I lived overseas for two years and I saw real poverty and hunger; the kind that even the poorest of Americans cannot imagine. I saw how they wasted NOTHING, and it had me change my ways.

Sadly, after coming back to the states and having access to so much food, I slipped back into my old ways. The book brought this back to the forefront of my mind and I think this challenge would be a good re-enforcement for me.

One other question. I have to travel out of state in July for about a week. My husband and children will be at home. I will be eating with the family member I am going out to take care of for about a week. So, during that week should I add up the cost of the food I am eating, even though I won’t be paying for it and add it to the challenge?


K La June 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Let me get this straight, the June Food Stamp Challenge is to pretend like you are on food stamps for a month (roughly $101 per person) and donate “extra” money that you “saved” to a food bank?

Are you KIDDING ME? My whole month food budget for my family of three is $140!! I would KILL to have that much extra money.

I cook what I thought were normal meals for my family. We heat Healthy and we have a nice mix-up: we have Chines night, Thai night, Mexican night, American night, pizza night new recipe night and so on.



Christina June 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I live in an urban area and do not own a car. I love not owning a car but it does limit my ability to buy quality food at the best possible prices. There are stores where I can buy fresh fruits and veggies but frankly sometimes I can smell the pesticide fumes from outside so I stay away. If you rely on the bus to get around that makes bulk buying inconvenient so then you pay more to buy staples like rice, beans or milk from the bodegas.
I am lucky. I have no kids to worry about feeding. I have Zipcar so if I really need a car I can get one. I can afford delivery from the big chain grocery store across town. I can see how it would be tough to feed your family quality, healthy food if you get food stamps and have no access to a car or big chain supermarkets.


Elaine June 17, 2011 at 7:07 am

K La, a lot of people haven’t been taught how to cook healthy, tasty meals with fresh ingredients. Also, not everyone has access to good fresh produce (I’d rather go hungry that eat that tasteless stuff from Walmart, Neighborhood Market, etc.).

Also, consider the single mother coming home from a minimum wage job, on the bus, who needs to have supper on the table in 20 minutes for her kids.

Judge not.


Jenny June 18, 2011 at 8:44 am

I agreee–I see young couples in our store on food stamps buying all convenience type foods, and it’s clear from the conversation as I pass by that they were raised eating that way and don’t have a clue what all those strange raw veggies are on the end aisle.

Our farmer’s market will accept food stamps for the first time this year, and is offering cooking demos. Hoping that some of those 20-somethings will get inspired to cook!


Barb June 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I am a single galon a pension and I try to feed myself on 200 a month and do not often sucess. I suspect maybe you live in a real low cost of living area or have absolutely no teenagers.

For health reasons our diet includes at least four servings of fruits and veggies a day (the us is when college student is home), whole grains and primarily low fat items. We do not worry much about organics in my area.


Mara June 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Part of the problem I noticed with some of the people who did this last year was that the challenge wasn’t accurate. They used food from their freezers or gardens, and didn’t actually buy all of their food from food stamps. Many of the families who are eligible (and accept) foodstamps are in dire situations and don’t have reserves of meat or veggies that they can go to if the pantry gets low towards the end of the month. Which makes for much less interesting meal choices (lots of mac and cheese or beans and rice). The point is to get ALL your food from that alloted amount of money.


The Saved Quarter June 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I participated last year and was actually on food stamps.
My food stamps allotment often allowed me to buy foods on sale and freeze/store them for later. I used foods from my freezer and garden because I had them. It would seem silly for someone who struggles to make ends meet and gets food stamps to not eat food that they already have in their pantry, or to let food in their garden (or fruit hanging in a neighbor’s yard, with permission) go to waste.


Bill Farthing June 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Why would you try to live like you are on food stamps? It’s embarrassing. People can’t provide for themselves and expect the government to save them. If the government could save itself, it would save us all.


The Saved Quarter June 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I’m so in!

I did it last year, receiving WIC and food stamps. We’ve since dropped both, and I’ve dropped my budget from what I had been receiving in assistance. We still eat healthy foods. 🙂


Erin June 17, 2011 at 7:25 am

I think food insecurity is about a lot more than just a dollar figure to hit. While this exercise is interesting, it misses some important points.

We need to think about, as Mara mentioned, many people on food stamps don’t start with stocked pantries and freezers and find it challenging to build that up, if possible.I read challenges like this and see people “borrowing” from their reserves and subtracting their estimated per serving use. We can’t really buy things that way. Why should you for the purposes of the challenge? I just read an article by a well known web writer who did this exact thing and then went on about how easy it is to live on less. Buying a whole bottle of ketchup or olive oil or whatever is a big deal…I remember reading a book that featured a family on food stamps and the mother wanted to bake her daughter a cake for her birthday, but buying the oil for the box mix was too much on a non essential food item.
Also buying in bulk is a great tool, but it assumes you don’t need that money to buy food for tomorrow, so you can stock up for the next month.

Also I think we need to consider getting to stores and the accessibility of stores. Food insecurity might mean that the closest grocery store (with fresh foods) is a long bus ride away, if on a bus route at all (or a long car ride). So some families end up shopping at stores that are overpriced and understocked of good foods. Spacial distribution is so important!

I read some of these comments and feel a disconnect between my experiences and theirs. It’s not that I don’t believe that some people can buy a bag of produce for a dollar, but I’ve never seen that. I don’t even live in a “food desert”. My grocery stores do not discount prices on most close to spoil items. They let them spoil and throw them away. It’s a shame and unbelievable wasteful and greedy. The farmers markets are not cheap either. They are about as much as the grocery store. So let’s stop assuming that “if I can do it, anyone can” because there are places where people cannot grow their foods (no space, start up is prohibitively expensive), cannot access fresh affordable goods, do not have reserves to draw upon, have the time and skill to cook those from scratch meals (many parents work more than one job), and so on.

Not to mention the fact, that for many this challenges requires none of the real stress and insecurity that some people who truly face food insecurity feel.

While these posts and challenges try to raise awareness, they also end up accusing the poor of not doing enough or trying hard enough. Which may sometimes be the case. But it undermines the real hardships for families who live in food deserts or experience food insecurity in real ways that are largely out of their control.


Katy June 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm


I encourage you read the posts from last year’s Food Stamp Challenge before you decide that we are “Accusing the poor of not doing enough or trying hard enough.” That is neither my perspective, nor my intention.

I do not have a pantry, and do not stockpile food. When I did last year’s challenge I chose to both eat from what I did have in my cupboards, but also to replenish it, which I felt equalized things a bit. (Example, I buy Dave’s Killer Bread from the outlet store, and buy 12 at a time to get a deeper discount. This makes it cheaper than the cheapest of the grocery store breads.)

Of course, there is no way for someone not in financial straits to have the exact same experience as someone with genuine food insecurity issues. And we will be exploring these very issues over the month of July. I welcome your perspective and comments and hope you follow along with us.



Kimberly June 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

Given that I’m taking a paycut and have to slash my budget anyway, I’d be interested! If I take 75% of the $350, we’d have around $262.50 to spend on food. I’m pretty resourceful…but I think this would challenge me. In a good way.


Barb June 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I would love to, especially since I’m about to blog on my own on positioning myself for living on social security and pension, however, I have a cross country trip planned for July that includes family celbrations and a trip to Santa Fe and Taos. Maybe I could do it for when I was in town and then break it down by number of days………….


Sass June 20, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I just looked up the maximum allotment in my state Alabama — and for a family of 2, it is currently $367 — wow. My current food budget is $200/month. I’d love to try this challenge! I’d love to shave quite a bit off that $200/month I’m spending!


Tammy June 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I’d be interested in joining this challenge. I am not sure where to find how much I should allot. We’re a family of 6 and currently I spend about $400 a month.


Tammy June 23, 2011 at 2:51 am

Here’s a link I found

but the maxiumum amount for a family of 6 is over $900 and with me spending around $400 a month already I think I’m doing ok. I guess I will bow out of the challenge.


Justin June 23, 2011 at 9:43 am

I work at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and I’m actually working to run a Food Stamp Challenge for my students in October/November. I’m only asking them to participate for a week, but I’m asking them to post their experiences to a website and looking for other ways to help them make the most of the experience. I’m trying to do this in conjunction with a screening of the film Food Stamped and a visit by the filmmakers to campus.

I would love to read about your experiences doing the challenge yourself to have some things to share with my students and/or to try myself if I can convince my partner to join me in doing it at home.


Heather June 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I think I am in for the month of July. I am unemployed as of June 30, and although we have a good emergency fund, it is always a good idea to cut spending as much as possible. I think it will be interesting to see if we can do it, because my son has food allergies, and the baby looks like he will too, so I am eating gluten free as well (as I am breastfeeding). My son can drink goat milk but not cow milk. Add to this the fact that I strive to buy as much organic produce as possible. Eating this way is inherently more expensive, so I am curious to see what the outcome would be. Just don’t tell my husband – I want to do it without a disruption in our normal menu plan. Question – does anyone know if a baby who is just starting solids counts as a family member for calculating the benefit?


Miss Roman Apartment June 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I did this last year with Mr. Spendypan… *cough* I mean, Mr. Foxypants. I’m in the middle of an ONLY HANDMADE challenge for the year, and I’m also competing in Sunset Magazine’s One-block Party Challenge this summer with my neighbors, so I feel like I’m a little more on top of my food situation this year. Oh, and I have to make $8000 by July 20th so I can go to Italy for three months at the end of the year, and that will be extra incentive to spend no money on food in July.

With all my free time I can totally manage this. Count me in.


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