Feeding America SNAP Challenge

I can’t believe it’s September already! I’ve been planning to take the SNAP Challenge for months now, and today, September 1st, is day one.

What is the SNAP Challenge? The SNAP Challenge is a yearly event hosted by Feeding America to raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity in America. Participants are challenged to eat on no more than $4.50 per day, per person (the average allowance for food assistance programs), log their experiences, and reflect on the challenges and difficulties.

 

Feeding America Logo

Why am I Taking the SNAP Challenge?

I’m taking this challenge to raise awareness about food insecurity (a topic close to my heart) and to hopefully destroy some of the stigmas surrounding people who need public assistance. Hunger spans across all races, ages, genders, locations, and education levels. Life can be unexpected and unpredictable and programs like SNAP are created to help people through the tough times and get back on their feet. While these programs aren’t the ultimate answer, they do provide temporary relief for millions of people. For more information about hunger in America and who it affects, FeedingAmerica.org has some great information and statistics. I really hope you check it out.

My other motivation is to just simply get back to my roots. When I started this blog I was in a really tough place—working a low paying job and drowning in student loan debt. At that point, I had no choice but to eat on less than $4.50 per day. Since that time I’ve gone back to school, gotten a much better job, and developed flourishing side career as a freelancer. As you can imagine, my spending (especially on food) has gotten really relaxed as my income has grown. I like the idea on eating on less than $4.50 per day, even when you don’t have to, because I think it’s important not to over consume (in all areas of life, not just food). I think this will help me refocus for the blog and, most importantly, be more thankful for what I have.

SNAP

My Goals:

I plan to record everything I eat and drink throughout the day and calculate the total cost. I will be taking the challenge for the entire month of September.

I will be posting some new recipes, some old recipes modified to fit the challenge, and using some previous blog recipes just as they are. At the end of each week I’ll write a summary report for what I ate, how much it cost, and my reflections on the experience.

Because health is important to me, I’m going to attempt to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables in this plan as possible. Yes, that will be a challenge!!

My Expectations:

Planning is going to be the number one key. There is no way to casually eat on less than $4.50/day… unless I casually just eat half as many meals. Even with all of my years of blogging about the subject, I fully expect this to be a challenge. When I started the blog, $4.50/day was easy, but grocery prices have sky rocketed over the past 5 years, so it will be considerably more difficult.

I won’t be able to indulge in some of the luxuries I’ve gotten used to in the past couple of years, like my fancy coffee (beans, not pre-made drinks). Ooo, it’s going to be tough! My morning cup of joe is one of my favorite parts of the day, but when faced with money troubles, you have to make sacrifices. I’m doing this for real. No pretending.

Snacking will pretty much be off the table. $4.50/day is only $1.50 per meal, if you eat three meals… with nothing left over for snacks. Food for entertainment is not an option at that level. I will need to make the meals that I do have as filling as satisfying as possible to curb my cravings for snacks.

If food for entertainment is not an option, I will have to find new activities to entertain myself and new ways to enjoy spending time with friends. I remember that being one of the biggest challenges five years ago when I was very broke… what did I do to entertain myself instead snacking, going out to eat, or ordering a pizza? I learned about blogging and started a blog! I’d say that turned out well. :)

Stress. Stress is going to make this hard. When I get stressed, I want cheese… or pizza. In the month of September I’ll be closing on my first house and moving. The stress of this transition is going to make this TOUGH. I’m going to want to stuff my face. I know it. But, once again, when you’re faced with money troubles you are stressed. So, this is a very real challenge that people face every day.

 

So, that’s it for now! I’m excited to get started. I’ll be cooking my first batch of meals today, so look for a recipe tomorrow and a summary at the end of the week. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I want this to be a learning experience for everyone!

 

106 Comments

  1. BUT! I just realized something profound; EBT/SNAP does not allow for toiletries – I was marveling over this the other day, because, well, good hygiene can contribute to getting back into the workforce/moving up the ladder. My grocery budget now includes all our toiletries, paper towels (I know, not a necessity), cleaning products, and sometimes consumable clothing basics like socks and underwear. We still probably spend more than $5 per person per day, though. It makes it clear how much we need to be helpful on a personal and local level as individuals and not just rely on a government entity to do charity work for us; I believe they will always fall short.

  2. Tiana Kimble says:

    I think this is a great this to raise awareness, but if you do the math a family of 4 gets 126 per week for food or more than 500 a month. I wish our family had that much money to spend on groceries a month. Doesn’t really seem like that much of a hardship….

    • campmom1 says:

      We are a family of two on a very limited income and only receive $108 per MONTH. I think all politicians should participate in the SNAP challenge.

  3. Nina says:

    Thank you! I didn’t understand the SNAP challenge until I read through this completely, but had made some of the recipes and my family loved them! We chose them because they were meatless and, well, I am currently on unpaid medical leave and living on my VA disability. Our income was cut $5,600/month–no snarky comments here. I wish we had SNAP; we will probably be going to the food pantry and then I’ll be looking through your recipes for what fits what treasures we found. Hopefully we won’t be in this situation too long, but we won’t give up the wonderful new meals you have and shared with us. Thank you for this gift!!!

  4. Jessica says:

    I dare some people who are being snarky about this to participate in the challenge.

    SNAP /is/ supposed to be supplemental, yes, but some people have nothing to supplement! I’m disabled and was getting SSI until I turned 18, and they had me go to one of their psychiatrists and he talked to me for not even 10 minutes and said that I was fine. Um.. No, I’m really not. I am much better than I was when I was a child because, well, I’ve learned coping mechanisms, but I still have problems, including debilitating anxiety attacks(that I no longer have insurance to pay for, either) that prevent me from working a regular job because they’re so random and intense. My son is physically disabled with a severe hypothyroidism, and my fiance is disabled with severe back problems, and is 75% blind and deaf on one side due to a tumor on his spine when he was young. My fiance still works his bum off at a factory, but he struggles. He really, REALLY tries his best and the only reason why he has stayed on at the factory as long as he has is because he tries so hard and goes above and beyond doing what he’s asked. Still, my son and I have both been declined for SSI and we only JUST got on Medicaid and Food Stamps. I’m sorry, but a family of three on $10/hr. is not possible on your own, and we are in a position where it’s not possible for us to get anything better. We’re twenty with a 10 month old son(who HAS to have his medicine, or it could cause severe developmental problems including mental retardation) and another on the way. We have to do what we can while we have to. I’m sorry that other individuals are too prude to sympathize with individuals who DO need it. Yes, there are people who abuse it, but PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. There will ALWAYS be SOMEONE abusing SOMETHING. That’s just the way humanity is. Don’t ignore the vast majority of people who really do need it and discredit them. I’m not sure if cussing is allowed here, so I won’t.. But know that what I want to say to individuals like that is anything but kind.

    I very, very, very much appreciate you taking the time and effort to spotlight this challenge and to take part in it, yourself. So many people take for granted what they have, and what they can work with. It’s sad that the people who doing well for themselves make fun of, scrutinize, and insult those of us not in such good places.

    I could tell so many people of so many VALID cases of people needing help.

    I, myself, had a hard time reeling in my spending and becoming a responsible adult due to my upbringing. Even when my parents made $150k a year with their company, they would blow through their money and live paycheck to paycheck, and fail to meet bills. For a long time after they lost their company, we were on Food Stamps. My mother fed 6 children(most of whom were teens) on Food Stamps while my dad would be out doing whatever and blowing what little money he made. My mother and father divorced a few years ago after it was revealed that my father had been paying for “services”, and admitted to over 40 women. I couldn’t care less what happened to my father; I barely talk to him. My mother, however, was left with no job history in the past 12 years(my mother had to quit work when she had me, due to my problems), had no vehicle, no savings, etc. She had been living in the house I grew up in, until my dad kicked her out of it. She had no money, nowhere to go, and nothing to go off of. Luckily, all of us kids were grown at that point and my oldest brother gave her his truck, and we all pitched in to help her get a deposit to get moved in to an apartment(icing on the cake: she couldn’t take her service dog because he was a Doberman and “dangerous” dogs weren’t allowed), etc.
    Now, imagine someone in the same situation not having that support system to help them. Then imagine them not even being able to get SNAP because people decided that too many people abuse it and that it should be damn near impossible to get.

    Want another story? My mom’s best friend, E(won’t give her full name). E was a massage therapist and made good money. She knows what success is, and had it. When she married her ex-husband, he began to display his alcoholic tendencies. He would scare her and she felt lost; she turned to prescription drugs. She has gone through rehab three times(including once while she was pregnant with her youngest), and lost her well-paying job. She has not touched those narcotics in years, but the damage was done. She is now a single mother of 2 kids under 12 years old, who gets a small amount of child support that barely covers her rent, has a part-time job, and struggles. Yes, she messed up. NO she is NOT lazy, nor is she a bad mom, or a pill-popper, or anything like that. She did what she did and has moved past it successfully. She’s on her feet, but barely. She still needs help.

    People may SEEM like they’re fine. There is much more beyond what you see while someone is checking out in line with their SNAP card. They have energy drinks on the belt? Well, did you consider that maybe they have multiple jobs and need it to function so that they can afford to pay rent and bills? Or maybe that they grab as much overtime as they can, but they also have kids at home that make sleeping difficult sometimes and they just need a frickin’ boost? Seriously, quit judging people and get the heck over yourselves. You may find yourself in the same situation someday.

    • LaTrice says:

      I agree with you, Jessica because some people don’t understand what it feels like to struggle on a daily basis-especially when they don’t have enough to eat. And that’s why there’s SNAP, to help families have a decent meal, so they don’t have to worry about when their next meal would come. Also, I’m saddened by these rude and disrespectful comments that some people have posted-which to me is despicable!!

  5. Thank you for doing this SNAP challenge Beth. I hope I will get some new ideas for meals to cook for my family. We have pretty much cut all meat from our diet since it is so much cheaper to eat rice, beans and lentils.

    I’m saddened to read some of the snarky comments here about how some people see people and families that have to rely on SNAP to feed their families. Both my husband and I are disabled. He’s a disabled Army veteran yet he gets barely any money each month from the V.A. Three years ago I was diagnosed with an incredibly rare cranial nerve disorder and over the past year I’ve undergone three failed surgeries – one of which was a brain surgery. In less than two weeks I am traveling out of state (thanks to money raised through a fundraiser and working freelance jobs when my pain was not horrid) for a much more invasive brain surgery. There’s a 60% chance it will lessen my pain, which can only be described as feeling like someone is constantly stabbing me in my right ear. My disorder is also known as the Suicide Disease because it is rare that medications, many procedures or even brain surgery will ever completely eliminate the pain. Unfortunately some people simply give up fighting- for the right medication, an experienced physician, anything to ease the constant pain that alters our entire lives.

    I love to cook and bake for my family. This pain is so awful and never ending that my husband- who is due for a spinal surgery once I am healed from the upcoming brain surgery, has taken over making lunch and dinner. Trying to cook or do much of anything while in such extreme pain is impossible. I miss cooking for my family.

    My husband and I have become used to the glares and nasty comments we get while we’re paying for our whole food ingredients at the store – wheat flour, rice, beans, fresh fruits and veggies, and a lot of very expensive goat milk that WIC helps with, as my youngest is allergic to all but goat milk. At times I think about turning to the people behind me and explaining the pain my husband and I are fighting each day to get healthy meals made for our two children and ourselves. We are embarrassed that we need assistance – we don’t need to be made to feel worse by people who make assumptions about who we are and how lazy we must be because we use SNAP. Our lives have been severely altered by the rare disorder I have, the extreme pain we are both in, and numerous failed surgeries. I know the people who make nasty comments here or at the store don’t know anything about our disabilities or disorders, but is saddens me that people are so quick to judge others instead of being compassionate. I did not ask to be in severe pain every moment for the past three years, just as I did not ask to be born 4 months premature with cerebral palsy. I hope the people that make critical comments about my family and I are grateful for their health and good jobs, because I lost mine in an instant, and now, yes, my family and I use SNAP to make sure there is food on the table and in the fridge.

    We don’t buy junk food with our SNAP card, but truthfully even if people do, that is their decision. No one has the right to be the SNAP- use police and make rude assumptions and comments about folks who buy energy drinks or sugary, salty, processed food with their SNAP card. If they do that’s their own choice- I don’t see how it affects your life and why it gives anyone a right to judge them. We all make poor decisions in life- if a person in line in front of you is buying Rockstars with their SNAP card, and that’s the worst thing they’ve done, I’d give them a pat on the back, because I’d bet that the other people in line have made a worst health decision that day. Perhaps we should each consider what we can do to be healthy ourselves instead of being the critical voice against all SNAP users because one time you saw someone buy junk food with their card. That’s their business- not yours. It does not represent every person that uses SNAP to buy groceries, just as the guy buying a case of beer in front of me in line doesn’t mean I should judge him as a worthless drunk.

    I ask that people not judge because they do not know the whole story behind why I use SNAP and WIC, and they don’t know why the person in front of them at the grocery store is either. Let’s be kind to one another, please. Life is hard enough without making people who are struggling feel bad about getting a little bit of help to make it through the hard times. Thank you!

    • I agree with you 100%! Thank you for sharing your story and opening up a window to the inside for those who can’t see it. I admire you for staying so strong. :)

      • Thank you for your kind words Beth. I am a long-time lover of your blog and I love trying the new recipes you post. Thanks for the amazing recipes, your book which I can’t live without, and for taking on the SNAP Challenge. I follow so many blogs, as I try to find my own voice and stories for my new blog, and you are one out of a hundred who took on this challenge. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing ways to make a limited grocery budget work, and for helping erase the stereotypes that follow those of us that use SNAP. You are an amazing blogger and person, and I’m so glad to learn some new, cheap recipes and read your compassionate words.
        My second brain surgery is in exactly a week. I can’t describe how terrified I am, knowing the not-so-great statistics for this type of brain surgery, but I feel I owe it to myself, my two young girls and my husband who has waited these long three years for his spinal surgery to help ease his daily, horrible pain to try to get better and lessen my constant pain. I want to get back to the person I was before this horrific disorder took hold- playing in the park with my girls, cooking and baking every day. Your blog taught me how to cook years ago- thank you so much for that! I look forward to returning to my kitchen and getting back to living my life after I heal from this surgery. Thank you again, for inspiration, and the many meals my family and I have eaten together and enjoyed from your blog and cookbook. I can’t wait to get back to my family and my kitchen!

  6. Serena says:

    I’ve been following your challenge, and contemplating doing it myself. My only hesitation is that I did the “SNAP challenge” for 2 years while I was a single parent going through nursing school. Still a single parent, but now on a nursing salary.
    One of the best things I did during that time was buy a Sam’s Club (we don’t have Costco) membership. I could buy bulk rice that lasted months for just a few dollars. Buy cases of veggies, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Bulk containers of spices and bullion. Chicken breasts for 1.75-1.99 a pound. I could even afford fruit snacks some months because I had so much on hand from previous months. Bulk is the way to go on a budget, but your blog helps a lot, because you add a lot of international cuisine for cheaper than take-out, which breaks up the monotony. Thanks for that!

  7. breeanna says:

    Here recently, my husband and I have become more and more intrigued with living a life of simplicity, and the area of food is definitely one we tend to over-emphasis, over-consume, and really just take too lightly. For the longest time, we have been selfishly concerned with the number of calories we should eat in order to lose a few extra pounds, when really we should be thinking of how we can sacrifice and save money that could be spent toward more beneficial areas in society. Thanks for sharing this challenge and opening our eyes to the possibility of eating less while spending less. We love all your recipes and look forward to your next book. :)

  8. Rebecca S. says:

    I love that you are doing this challenge. Food insecurity is a topic that I’m very interested in and I’ve read a lot of articles and watched a lot of documentaries on the subject. I’m curious about the idea of being able to eat healthy and meet a person’s nutritional needs on a SNAP budget. For many people who rely primarily on food assistance programs, nutrition can be a huge problem. Healthier foods are more expensive than high-calorie processed foods. Those who are fortunate to live in areas where fresh produce is available can cook healthy meals, but definitely sacrifice quantity for quality. Obviously your meals are health conscious. As you are doing this challenge, are you tracking your nutritional input? How many calories, and how much protein, vitamins and minerals you are getting? Are you able to get enough of everything on a very small budget?

    • I’m not tracking it, but I will touch on that in my weekly summary… I definitely don’t think I met all my nutritional needs in week one. :)

  9. Teresa says:

    It would be GREAT if when people are enrolled into SNAP they also receive information on how to prepare meals that fall within SNAP guidelines. Perhaps that will be one of the byproducts of raising awareness within the general public about the program. Many people did not grow up with good nutritional habits and simply lack knowledge that would be beneficial to them and their families. There will always be people that look for loopholes, but I think the majority of people that require SNAP are good, decent folks who are not looking for a handout. If someone handed me 5 a day with which to eat, I’d need some ASSISTANCE on HOW to do that. Kudos to you for taking the challenge and bringing your creative ideas to the table.

  10. Samantha says:

    I’m so interested and want to share this topic with our student reporters at the college where I work. Talk about a teachable moment! Thank you and keep up the good work.

  11. Beth, I’m so happy you’re doing the SNAP challenge. I live in a very low-income neighborhood, many of my neighbors are part of the SNAP and it’s such a struggle for these families to get by day-to-day, especially when, often, we don’t know how to cook very basic meals, were never taught how, or were just thrown some leftover McDonalds because it was cheap and easy growing up. I can’t wait to try all your recipes, and share them with my neighbors here!

  12. I’m glad you’re doing this to raise awareness! I love your blog and the recipes you come up with–it’s definitely helped me with my budgeting! That being said, I spend about $100/month on groceries if I’m splurging and had no idea I was living well under the budget for food stamps. I guess I will be continuing with that through this month!

  13. Pam Patrick says:

    Have you seen the SNAP inspired cook book by LeAnne Brown titled A SNAP Cookbook Good and Cheap? You can download a free PDF version.

  14. Danielle says:

    I like the idea of this challenge. I’ve been following your blog for a while and love many of your recipes. Today though my husband and I sat down to do our budget and we have $175 for 2 weeks for gas and food for our family of 6 due to some unexpected expenses. I look forward to see what recipes you present and hope I’ll be able to use them in our very tight meal plan for the next 15 days!
    Thanks for all you do!

  15. Kach says:

    If you’ll be posting your summary at the end of the week,then my family will do this too! A week behind of course, and possibly with a few modifications for the ever-snacking toddler (real snacks, not packaged). I’m looking forward to your progress! I believe access to wholesome healthy food is a disparity that also works to keep the socioeconomic gap in place.

    • Well, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be successful each week because it really is an experiment. Now that I’m mostly through this week I will definitely do things much differently next week! :) Soy, you may not want to follow exactly. :P

  16. Marie says:

    I cant wait to do this, I’m hoping to do it next year. I’ve either been pregnant or nursing every challenge for the last three years. I know nursing and pregnant moms qualify for extra subsidies In the U.S. ( I’m Canadian). I cannot imagine how much stress this would add for moms, especially when stress can inhibit milk production. Formula can be insanely expensive. We don’t spend much on food, but we are lucky because our base has a program for military families to buy vegetables at wholesale prices.

  17. Samantha says:

    My spouse and I have been eating on $4/per person, per day for about a year now. I’m not saying it hasn’t been difficult, but we were trying to become debt-free. (We will pay off our last debt NEXT WEEK!)

    Anyway, this really surprised me that we were eating on less than we would have received in food stamps! I had no idea. I know I am feeling the crunch, we can almost never go to a restaurant, or buy anything that is not for a specific (cheap) meal. I would love to raise this spending amount to $5 – $6/per person, per day, in order to be able to splurge once in a while, but I completely agree with you that “it’s important not to over consume”. We are definitely anti-consumers and will need to find a new balance soon!

    • Congratulations on paying off your debt!!

    • Sarah says:

      Samantha,
      Congratulations on paying of your debt! What an amazing milestone. I am inspired to keep chipping away at our final debt- a large student loan.
      Beth, your blog provides so much inspiration too! Eating healthy food that tastes good (and is inexpensive) is so important to my family. Thank you.

  18. Laura says:

    I think it’s great that you’re raising awareness about this. My young family was on SNAP for bit until my husband’s job converted to full time. Before we applied, he was virtually starving himself to keep the food budget low enough. We were living on less than $3 per person per day.

    I hope that people take the right message away from this “challenge”. The point is to empathize with the plight of the nation’s poor, not to feel good about the bargains you’re able to score.

    Beth, I appreciate your comment about the cooking resources (not) available to many on SNAP. Browsing tips on “living frugally” can be very frustrating for someone who literally does not have enough money at any one time to purchase in bulk, does not have access to more than a small freezer, has limited access to transportation to buy food in multiple places, etc.

  19. Michael says:

    As a 105 pound 5’11”, eating too little can actually be a little dangerous for me. I’ve found areas to cut back like saving gas by riding a motorcycle (speaking of dangerous >.>), drink tons of water instead of other drinks (Which does mean I lose out on some calories, but I can replace them with foods), and various other things. I could probably cut back food a bunch, especially since the cooking relapse of going to college, but too much will not end well.

  20. Allison says:

    I’m so excited to be a long-time reader of your blog, so I can read your experiences during this challenge. I wish you all the best!

  21. Higgy says:

    Is the $4.50 a day per person? I kinda hope not because I just did the math and I only spend about $3.90 a person a day (we are a family of 3) but I do use tons of coupons and stock up on meat markdowns and stuff. I’m torn between feeling sympathetic towards people on SNAP because on one hand my family was on it for a short period of time when my daughter was born and I know how much it can suck but on the other hand it makes me sad and slightly jealous. I am a cashier in a grocery store and see how much money is wasted by some people on SNAP. Did you know you can buy energy drinks of SNAP? Yeah you can and people do. I’m not saying EVERYONE wastes it but it seems like there is a lot going on.

    • Nicole says:

      There are a lot of loopholes in SNAP that need to be covered. I’ve used SNAP at 2 different times in my life (both while un/under employeed) and it is frustrating. In m

    • Rachele says:

      I think you’re missing the point of the challenge.

      Also, grocery costs are not the same nationwide and it costs far more to feed a teenager than a toddler. You’re costs are not the litmus for everyone’s grocery budget.

      • Higgy says:

        You’re right about it costing depending on where you live. I can’t get a gallon of milk for under $4.50 anywhere abut apples are super cheap. Also I know it costs more to feed a teen than a toddler. My husband is a big guy not fat but tall and bearish. He eats what 2 normal people would eat in a day. So I guess You could say I feed 3 adults and a toddler for the same price. So like $2.93 a person a day. I’m doing better than I thought.

Speak Your Mind

*