SNAP Challenge: Week 3 Summary

It’s funny how three days into this challenge I couldn’t wait for it to be over, but now that I’ve completed three weeks I feel totally in the groove and like I could possibly do this long term… well… I could do this long term with a couple of liberties. Week three felt like I was just going through the motions of the challenge, without many new revelations. That might be because my mind was so preoccupied with house and mortgage stuff that food just wasn’t even on my radar, but there were a few times during the week that the challenge was a challenge. More on that later. First, let’s take a look at what I planned for the week.

What Did I Buy?

SNAP Challenge Week 3 Groceries

I planned another pasta dish for this week, so I got the ingredients for that (sausage, pasta, tomato products) and I knew I wanted to make a stir fry with my left over cabbage, so I got some extra items for that as well (ramen, cilantro, carrots, green onions, bell pepper). Pita has been serving me well, so I happily bought that again. There weren’t any good prices on fruit this week, so I had to settle for three apples and planned to eat a half apple per day. That’s not much, but at least it’s something. I also had to make room in my budget for a few staple items this week: eggs, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

SNAP Challenge Week 3 Receipts

Just a few days into the week I knew my recipes weren’t quite filling me up the way that I wanted (the way that week 2’s chili pasta did), so I scrambled and bought a couple extra items to make a quick pizza. I had everything I needed at home except some sauce and a few veggies for the topping, which I grabbed off the salad bar. I have to say, going to the grocery store only once per week is one of the major good points of this challenge. Somewhere along the way over the past couple of years I let my hectic schedule get in the way and gotout of the habit of shopping only once per week. I didn’t realize how stressful it really is to have to stop two or three times per week just to pick up a few items. The little bit of planning it takes to make sure I only have to go once per week is a total time and stress saver.

What Did I Make

Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens - BudgetBytes.com

My main dish this week was Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens. It was totally delicious and I never got sick of it, even after eating it for six days in a row. That’s a winner. BUT, it wasn’t quite as thick and filling as the One Pot Chili Pasta from last week.

Penne Pasta Containers

I portioned out six containers, then put the leftovers in a larger container (I only have six smaller containers). A friend came over and I offered the leftovers to him, which unfortunately left me with only six days worth of pasta. I wasn’t worried about it at the time because I love to share, but when day seven rolled around, I was hungry and there was no pasta to be eaten.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles - BudgetBytes.com

My secondary meal was this Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles. SO good and full of vegetables. I was really surprised at how much I liked the leftovers. I expected them to be not so good, limp vegetables and the whole lot. Well, the softened vegetables were actually pretty good and a little easier on my stomach, so I win!

Homemade Pizza

A few days into the challenge, I wasn’t feeling quite as full as week 2, so I used what I had and made a pizza. I used the same technique as the No Knead Pan Pizza, except I did it on a flat pizza pan and made it larger instead of making it smaller and thicker like a pan pizza. I bought more toppings this time around, too, so my total pizza cost came to $4.09 and with eight pieces, $0.51 per piece.

As usual, I ate oat bran or eggs for breakfast and filled in the gaps with things like pita and peanut butter or stove top pop corn.

What Did I Eat?

Day 15

  • 1/2 cup yogurt $0.41
  • 1 serving pineapple (from week 2) $0.50
  • 2 Tbsp oat bran $0.12
  • 1 serving Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens $1.32
  • 1 serving Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles $0.74
  • 1/2 apple $0.40
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (from week 2) $0.13
  • 1 oz. feta $0.43

Daily Total: $4.55

Reflection: Wow, this was the first time I went over the $4.50 daily goal! It doesn’t even look like a lot of food. It’s a good reminder of how some foods are so much more cost effective than others. Some of my other days I fill my whole notebook page with things that I ate and still come in under $4, while this list only took up half the page.

Day 16

  • 1/3 cup oat bran $0.25
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.08
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.02
  • dash of cinnamon $0.03
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.18
  • 1 serving Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens $1.32
  • 1 serving pineapple $0.50
  • 1 serving Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles $0.74
  • 1/2 apple $0.40

Daily Total: $3.52

Reflection: The cabbage in the stir fry really upset my stomach today and I panicked a little thinking that I wouldn’t be able to eat it for the rest of the week. That’s a lot of groceries to waste and I didn’t have funds to replace the recipe with something new. What was I supposed to do? What do people do when they’ve spent all of their money on a recipe and then it turns out inedible? You’re just screwed? I guess you’re just always one step away from starving.

Day 17

  • 2 large eggs $0.40
  • 1 whole pita $0.34
  • 1 serving Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens $1.32
  • 1/2 apple $0.40
  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter $0.26
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil $0.04
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels $0.04
  • 1 Tbsp butter $0.15
  • dash Cajun seasoning $0.05
  • 1/2 cup yogurt $0.41
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds $0.18
  • 1 tsp honey $0.06

Daily Total: $3.87

Reflection: I skipped the vegetable stir fry because all that cabbage gave me a stomach ache the day before, and it left me absolutely starving today. I ate a lot of snacky type things to try to squash my hunger. The pita/peanut butter/apple sandwich was pretty awesome, but I knew I needed to make something to tide me over for the rest of the week. I remembered that I had a bag of shredded cheese in the freezer from last week’s grocery haul, so I decided to make a pizza the next day.

Day 18

  • 2 large eggs $0.40
  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise $0.10
  • 1 serving Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens $1.32
  • 1 serving Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles $0.74
  • 3 pieces pizza $1.53

Daily Total: $4.26

Reflection: I decided to give the stir fry another chance and I’m glad I did! The vegetables had softened in the fridge and they were much more kind on my stomach. Now I LOVED the stuff and couldn’t get enough. I had started the dough for the pizza the night before, so I went ahead and made it anyway. It was pizza and pizza is good, so I ate three big pieces. YUM. It’s hard not to go overboard with pizza, but I knew I needed to ration it out for the remaining days of the week.

Day 19

  • 1/3 cup oat bran $0.25
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter $0.08
  • 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar $0.02
  • dash of cinnamon $0.03
  • 1 serving Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens $1.32
  • 3 slices pizza $1.53
  • 1/2 apple $0.40

Daily Total: 3.63

Reflection: Awwww yeaaaahhhhh. PIZZA! Pizza makes me feel good. I had planned to limit myself to two pieces per day and stretch it out over four days, but that totally didn’t happened. In other news, I closed on my house today and I really, really wanted to go out, celebrate, and have drinks with friends. I’m pretty sad that I couldn’t properly celebrate such a huge life event, but that’s reality, isn’t it? Also, my neighbors had a BBQ and not having funds to bring something to gathering makes you feel awkward. You don’t want to show up empty handed and you don’t want to decline the invitation, so you’re just kind of stuck. I think I’ll be more sensitive to hidden reasons why people might decline social invitations in the future.

Day 20

  • 1/2 cup yogurt $0.41
  • 1 tsp honey $0.06
  • 1 Tbsp oat bran $0.25
  • 1 serving Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens $1.32
  • 2 slices pizza $1.02
  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter $0.26
  • 1 small coffee (from a coffee shop) $1.38

Daily Total: $4.87

Reflection: When I woke up today I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I think the stress and chaos of yesterdays events (closing on the house early and unexpectedly) finally hit. I was working the weekend shift and desperately needed a coffee to get me going. It’s been surprisingly easy to give up coffee for this challenge, but today I needed it like my life depended on it. Let me just tell you, I usually dislike the coffee from the hospital coffee shop, but that day it was the best coffee ever! It was worth eating up a large portion of my daily budget. It helped me make it through my work day instead of crawling under my desk and falling asleep. It’s just not a liberty that can be taken every day.

Day 21

  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 2 large eggs $0.40
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese $0.25
  • 1 serving Curried Chickpeas with Spinach (frozen from week 1) $0.85
  • 1/2 pita $0.17
  • 1/2 apple $0.40
  • 1 serving Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles $0.74
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels $0.09
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil $0.04
  • Dash Cajun seasoning $0.05

Daily Total: $3.16

Reflection: It was the last day of week 3 and I didn’t have any pasta OR pizza left. Thankfully, I had one little serving of curried chickpeas (from week 1) in the freezer. If I hadn’t had that, then what? I guess I’d be eating plain pasta with butter and salt or whatever else I could find in the back of my pantry. Living on such a restricted budget is definitely all about the planning and if you get it wrong, you pay.

Final Reflection

Total Consumed: $27.86

Grocery Total (tax incl.): 26.96

My mind wasn’t really in the challenge this week because of all the things going on in my personal life, but the restriction still had an impact on my lifestyle. Most notably, how it impacts celebrations and social gatherings. Food is such an integral part of our culture and it’s hard to take that out of the equation. I know now that I want to be as generous as possible with people around me because I don’t know what might be going on behind the scenes and when times are tough, even small gestures are extremely appreciated.

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