SNAP Challenge: Week 2 Summary

For the entire month of September, I’ll be participating in the SNAP Challenge and attempting to eat on $4.50 per day. Read more here.

Oh what a difference a week can make! I can honestly say that I rarely felt hungry this week, although there may be a few reasons for that. I picked better recipes this week, recipes that kept me both full and satiated. What I mean by that is that I was mentally satisfied with my food. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the “good stuff”. The second factor is that I had a few freebies this week. When you’re on a restricted food budget, free food is like winning the lottery and this week I won twice! The third reason is stress. As the contract on the house I’m purchasing threatens to fall through in the eleventh hour, I may find myself couch surfing at the end of the month (my current apartment has already been leased for October). So, as you can imagine, that has been a bit of a distraction. Maybe I was hungry, but just didn’t notice because of more pressing issues?

This week was also quite a bit easier because I had more to work with. Leftover ingredients and recipes portions from week one meant more variety in my diet. It’s a lot like when I was first started Budget Bytes over five years ago. I had very little kitchen equipment, very few spices or pantry staples, but each week I purchased one or two more items until I eventually had a well stocked kitchen. It’s important to remember that when you’re first starting out (SNAP or no SNAP), that building a kitchen takes time. You don’t have to buy everything at once. You’ll have a narrow range of recipes to choose from in the beginning, but as you build your kitchen you’ll have more options.

So let’s get to it…

What Did I Buy?

SNAP Challenge Week 2 Groceries

I really hit the jackpot this week with sales. It was awesome. I got red peppers 4/$1! Yes, four red peppers for one dollar. Crazy, right? Usually those suckers are like, $3 each. Anyway, if I hadn’t have happened upon that sale, I would have bought green bell peppers or carrots instead. I also hit a sale on shredded cheese, 2 bags for $4. I bought more pita because I found it very useful last week and it’s pretty cheap. For fruit this week I got a pineapple for $2.99, which yielded about 6 big servings. I craved yogurt a LOT last week, so I bought a quart tub of that as well. Finding great sales is infinitely more satisfying when working with a restricted budget. It almost feels like a game.

SNAP Challenge Week 2 Receipt

I still had plenty of the staples that I bought from the bulk bins at Whole Foods last week, so I only needed to visit one grocery store. I didn’t have time to cook my beans from dry this week, so I had to opt for cans. I still came in at only $27.24, which made me feel good. I felt that I had a good variety of foods and had plans for some pretty tasty recipes. I was feeling optimistic!

What Did I Make?

One Pot Chili Pasta - Budgetbytes.com

My main meal this week was One Pot Chili Pasta. It was SO good and SO satisfying that I was a little sad when it was finally gone, even after eating it for an entire week straight! That’s the type of recipe you have to look for, something that is just so good you’ll love it till the last drop.  This recipe was also very filling. I started out the week with 1.5 cup servings, but soon realized that was probably more than I needed. I felt overly full and sometimes not very hungry for dinner. So, I scaled back to 1 cup per serving for the rest of the week.

Peanut Butter Hummus - Budgetbytes.com

The second recipe I made this week was Peanut Butter Hummus. Hummus is so versatile that I knew I could add it to my daily meal plan in a variety of ways without getting sick of it. Plus, it’s very filling. I ate this with the red bell peppers as a light, but filling snack, and I also smeared it inside of a pita then added an egg for a hearty breakfast sandwich. YUM. <3 Hummus.

I filled out the rest of my days’ meals with pineapple, yogurt, and a couple leftover servings from week one’s meals.

What Did I Eat?

Day 8

  • 1/4 cup oat bran $0.19
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.08
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.18
  • Dash of cinnamon $0.03
  • 1/4 cup soy milk $0.09
  • 1 serving melon (week 1) $0.37
  • 1.5 cups One Pot Chili Pasta $1.62
  • 1/2 cup yogurt $0.41
  • 1 Tbsp oat bran $0.06
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.18
  • 1 oz. feta cheese $0.43
  • 2 Tbsp hummus $0.11

Daily Total: $3.75

Reflection: I wasn’t really hungry for dinner that day, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I was over stuffed from the big helping of chili pasta at lunch or if my metabolism had just slowed down from last week’s starvation. Then I felt a little guilty because worrying about your metabolism slowing down probably isn’t something that a lot of people have the luxury of worrying about. Gotta meet those lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy before you can worry about things like metabolism. :/  Even though I wasn’t “hungry”, I still craved things like salt and cheese. So, I caved and ate a chunk of feta. It happens.

Day 9

  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 1 large egg $0.21
  • 2 Tbsp hummus $0.11
  • 1.5 cups One Pot Chili Pasta $1.62
  • 1 portion melon (week 1) $0.37
  • A LOT OF FREE POTATO CHIPS
  • 1/2 pita 0.17
  • 1/2 cup yogurt $0.41
  • 1 portion pineapple $0.50
  • 1 Tbsp oat bran $0.06

Daily Total: $3.62

Reflection: Someone brought a HUGE bag of potato chips from home into work because they didn’t want them. I went crazy on those chips. Consequently, I wasn’t hungry for dinner again, so I made a yogurt parfait with pineapple and oat bran. I can see how the starve/binge cycle can be a contributing factor to obesity and health disparities among lower income populations.

Day 10

  • 1/3 cup oat bran $0.25
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.08
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.18
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.02
  • Dash of cinnamon $0.03
  • 1/4 cup soy milk $0.09
  • 1.5 cups One Pot Chili Pasta $1.62
  • 1 serving Curried Chickpeas with Spinach (week 1) $0.85
  • 1 serving pineapple $0.50
  • FREE PIZZA!

Daily Total: 3.62

Reflection: Just after I ate my dinner, a friend called up and said, “Hey, how about pizza and a movie?” I got the movie, he got the pizza, and I was in heaven. Who knew frozen pizza could feel so extravagant? I was still super full from the curried chickpeas, so I only ate two pieces (that’s child’s play for me normally). It reminded me growing up in a big family. If there was something tasty or extra special, you ate it whether you’re hungry or not because if you don’t, someone else will and there won’t be any left when you finally do get hungry. I was completely full, but ate the pizza anyway. Just like old times.

Day 11

  • 1/3 cup oat bran $0.25
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.18
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.02
  • Dash of cinnamon $0.03
  • 1/4 cup soy milk $0.09
  • 1/4 cup hummus $0.23
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced $0.13
  • 1 cup One Pot Chili Pasta $1.08
  • 1 serving pineapple $0.50

Daily Total: $2.59

Reflection: I went out of town that day, so between the red peppers and hummus, and the chili pasta in the evening, there was a really long stretch with no food. I couldn’t just stop and get a snack or go out for lunch with my sister. I just had to tough it out. In retrospect, I could have packed a lunch, but those are new habits that you have to learn the hard way.

Day 12

  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 2 Tbsp hummus $0.11
  • 1 large egg $0.21
  • 1/2 cup yogurt $0.41
  • 1 serving pineapple $0.50
  • 1 Tbsp oat bran $0.06
  • 1 cup One Pot Chili Pasta $1.08
  • 1/4 cup hummus $0.23
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced $0.13
  • 1 whole pita $0.34
  • 1 large egg $0.21
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese $0.33

Daily Total: $3.78

Reflection: I had left over shredded cheese from making the One Pot Chili Pasta and it was taunting me from the fridge. I finally gave in and hat pita/cheese/egg, my most favorite comfort food. It felt good, I felt full, I felt happy. It’s amazing how much food affects your psyche.

Day 13

  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 2 Tbsp hummus $0.11
  • 1 large egg $0.21
  • 1 serving pineapple $0.50
  • 1 cup One Pot Chili Pasta $1.08
  • 1 serving Soy Dijon Chicken bowl (week 1) $1.49
  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese $0.25

Daily Total: $3.98

Reflection: Again, feeling totally satisfied today. Why is cheese so powerful? My friends all ordered food for take out and I was a bit jealous that I couldn’t participate. Thank God I wasn’t still hungry, I would have had to leave. No, I take that back. Thank God I have such great friends because they would have insisted on feeding me. :)

Day 14

  • 1/3 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.08
  • Dash of cinnamon $0.03
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.02
  • 1/4 cup hummus $0.23
  • 1/2 red bell pepper $0.13
  • 1 serving pineapple $0.50
  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter $0.23
  • 1 bag cheese puffs $0.99

Daily Total: $2.63

Reflection: I gave in to the junk food. It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? I wasn’t hungry, but I still craved a salty, crunchy snack. I think that’s just old habits that take a long time to break. It was a big bag, so again it left me not really hungry for dinner. That’s not a good habit to be forming.

 

Final Reflection

Total Consumed: $23.97

Grocery Total (incl. tax) $27.24

I’ll admit, I waited until just before writing this post to calculate my daily totals again, so I didn’t really know if I was on track throughout the week. I wasn’t really ever hungry, though, so I figured I must have been doing fine. I’m pretty sure that was the sluggish metabolism talking or just sheer stress from thinking that I’m going to be homeless at the end of the month. It looks like despite my increased portions, I can still splurge a little more. Overall, I think this week was a success. I felt well fed and stayed within budget. I did get a couple freebies and I did cave to junk cravings a couple of times, but that happens even when I’m not working on a restricted food budget. This week I felt okay, like this budget was doable. I even contemplated keeping this up after the challenge is over.

I think eating on a very restricted budget is definitely takes a lot of practice, skills, dedication, and tools. Even after all this time and with all of my resources, it’s still taking a while to get the hang of it.

Read through my experience from beginning to end:

SNAP Challenge Intro

SNAP Challenge Week 1 Summary

SNAP Challenge Week 2 Summary

SNAP Challenge Week 3 Summary

SNAP Challenge Week 4 Summary

SNAP Challenge Final Thoughts