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!

 

96 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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. :)

  3. 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. :)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

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