Feeding America SNAP Challenge

by Beth - Budget Bytes
Step by Step

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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!

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

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  1. I wish this could be done again, but with how inflation and COVID has affected everything. For families in 2015, the average was $4.50 a day for an adult with maybe one child here in Missouri. For singles here, it was less. For singles on SSI/SSDI, even less. Currently, I receive $150 a month. Considering inflation, I might as well have never received the permanent increase from $124. I have type 2 diabetes. Finding foods that aren’t swimming in salt, sugar, and who knows what else is difficult. I am thankful for frozen vegetables, brown rice, and ground turkey, though. 😅 Still, it’d be nice to find variety at a lower cost. Shakshuka gets a round about every 2 months. That’s if I save a bit of OOP cash. I’ll always work to have some of that. 🙂

    1. Cherry, as someone who has gone through tough times, I am incredibly sorry to hear about your situation. We do not have plans to update the SNAP challenge, but I will certainly pitch it. Thank you for being here, and hoping things get better sooner than later. XOXO -Monti

  2. First, I’d like to commend you on your effort to do this … and for an entire month. I always shake my head at the well-meaning congresspeople who do it for a week and think they’ve accomplished something. A month at least begins to show you (you, me, all of us) the hardship. Consider this: What if you live in a food desert and have no viable means of transportation other than public transportation? What if you live in a rural area, have no means of transportation, and no public transportation? I grew up in a small town with no public transportation (not even taxi service), and it was a college town. How do you feed your family a healthy diet when all you have access to is a 7-11 type market or one of those everything costs a dollar (but they don’t) type stores or a bodega? What if you work in a big city, work 2 or 3 jobs, and use public transportation? When do you get the time to meal prep? Heck, when do you get time to see your kids? How do you get more than 2 bags of groceries home at a time when you don’t have a car? There are so many different situations people can be in, it’s pretty hard to judge anyone. I eat on a pretty meager budget, and I use the term budget lightly because I don’t budget myself, but I do always try to find the best bargain I can find. I have transportation (albeit 10 years old) and have the luxury of being able to shop different stores to get the best prices. I have food constraints (some religious, some medical); I don’t eat pork or shellfish for religious reasons; I can’t eat many foods (like greens, nuts, seeds) for medical reasons. For medical reasons, I need my meals to be high in protein (I only have 2-1/2 feet of small bowel which is where nutrients are absorbed), so I eat a lot of chicken. I can eat beans, but not on an every day basis. I try to fit salmon in once a week. I would love to be able to afford an all organic diet, but I can’t on my $11/hr job, so I compromise. I tend to buy my meat in bulk or when it’s on sale. I either buy my produce on sale or at ALDI. I work at a specialty grocery store and I do get a discount, but not on sale items, so it really doesn’t amount to a big savings. I have better luck shopping the sales (for example, this week we have 32 oz of extra virgin olive oil for $5.99), and often times shopping at different stores. One of my big savings comes from the big grocery chain in town. Every 5 or 6 weeks, they run a special where if you spend $50 in groceries, you can purchase a $50 gas station gift card for $40 (a 20% savings!). That I do whenever I can afford it. I try to save my non-food purchases for those weeks, like toilet paper, dishwasher soap, bar soap, toothpaste, etc., and even then buy them on sale. In the end, we’re all doing the best we can with what we have. Again, I commend you for taking the SNAP challenge, and for having a successful blog.

  3. Ummm 31.5 per week? That cost more than my weekly groceries LOL I can eat a fancy homemade buffet wity that money

  4. We are a family on 7. Each person gets $1.50 worth of food all day. That is also milk and water for the kids. We can not drink our water. My son can not have milk so he has almond milk. We can not eat pork which is a very cheap meat. 
    Most of our food is made from home. In the summer the oven kills our light bill.
    We have our own business but after the cost to keep it alive we make $26-30k a year. SNAP office does not have the right paperwork to deduct the expenses from our business so we only get $300 food/water for 7 people. We first received $4 per person and I was beyond happy. Since I made special meals for my son with ADHD. When they dropped the amount it reflected in his grades. He made A’s and B’s on his special diet and D’s and F’s on the low income meals. 
    I recently found this site so I hope I can find some healthy meals.
    Thank You for Caring for Families