September Challenge 2015

by Beth - Budget Bytes
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How did September get here so quickly?? For the past month I’ve been trying to decide if I was going to attempt last year’s SNAP Challenge again this year. It was a tough decision because the challenge itself was extremely difficult, but also extremely insightful. In the end, I decided to compromise. It’s not the SNAP challenge, but it’s similar. I’m calling it my “September Challenge”.

September Challenge 2015

Why I’m Not Doing the SNAP Challenge

Last year’s SNAP challenge was hosted by Feeding America, but I noticed that this year they had removed all references to the challenge from their website. I’m not sure why they’re not promoting it this year, but not having them backing the challenge makes it difficult for me to explain the concept of the challenge to those who are unfamiliar (and it also stinks because now all the links in last year’s challenge go nowhere).

I also feel like my life is SO different than it was last year and that I don’t think it’s fair to say that I’m attempting to replicate the experience of someone on food stamps. Not only do I have all the “advantages” that I had last year (walking distance to grocery stores, ample kitchen equipment and pantry staples, a lot of cooking experience, no family to care for, etc.), but I also work from home now. So, yeah. I have all day to plan and cook my budget meals. I think it’s borderline insulting to say that I’m going to try to live like I’m on food stamps, because honestly it’s just not even close.

Last year’s SNAP challenge was incredibly insightful into how hunger affected my mental state (stress, concentration, emotional stability) and the social effects of food restriction. I’m not sure doing the challenge again would produce different effects, so I think for the most part, that aspect would just be a rehash. If you haven’t read through last year’s posts, I highly suggest it because I experienced many unexpected mental and social effects that were quite eye opening.

Why I Still Want To Do a Challenge

Doing the SNAP Challenge last year reconnected me to my roots. This blog was born out of my own personal challenge to eat on $6 or less per day, so going back to a regimented grocery budget helped me refocus the efforts of this blog. Some of my favorite recipes came out of that month of restriction because I was forced to really tap into my creativity.

It also forced me to do more menu planning, which is one of my least favorite tasks. I think that was also beneficial to many of you. Seeing how someone else pairs recipes to form complete meals or even a day’s worth of meals can be very helpful.

I like having the opportunity to show you the full picture – the entire grocery receipt, a photo of all the goods purchased, what was eaten each day, and how much it costs ingredient by ingredient versus the actual grocery receipt. The big picture is very important.

What is the September Challenge?

So here is what I decided to do. I’m going to stick to the $4.50/day, $31/week budget because it truly is a challenge. I’m going to do it for the entire month of September. I’m going to flex my creative muscles and use a mix of old and new Budget Bytes recipes to create weekly menus for myself. I’ll share the new recipes, update the old recipes with new prices and photos, and give you a weekly breakdown of what I ate and what it cost me, as well as any insights or struggles I experienced.

I’m going to take full advantage of things I already have on hand because I believe in reducing waste and I want this to be an exercise in clearing out my pantry. This means that the first week or two may have unusually low grocery bills as I use up my own stockpile, but the grocery bills will go up towards the end of the month as I begin to replenish my staples.

I’m going to use this time to recalibrate my grocery and cooking habits and hopefully come up with some new, very budget minded recipes for all of you.

My September Challenge Goals

  • Use plenty of dry beans and whole grains
  • Don’t forget about protein (I don’t usually concentrate on protein, but I’m doing a lot of strength training lately and I can feel my body craving it).
  • Make sure I get both fruit and vegetables every day
  • Make room for coffee in the budget this year! Last year I skipped it because I was afraid it would cost too much.
  • NOT BE HUNGRY! (that was the biggest challenge last year and I failed miserably)

I hope this exercise is mutually beneficial to both you and me! Remember to follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) so that you don’t miss links to old recipes that I’ll be updating throughout the month (the first of which will probably be finished tomorrow!).

And as always, feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, and constructive criticism in the comments below. I love hearing what you think!

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  1. As a SNAP recipient myself, I find it very commendable that you admitted openly why you are not doing the “SNAP” Challeng” and for acknowledgingthat it CAN seem insulting for certain bloggers/bloggers to say stuff like “oh, see? It’s not THAT bad!” I appreciate the considerate manner in which you addressed this issue, while simultaneously explained WHY you’re doing YOUR “September Challenge “instead. I know this post is like 7 years old now, or more, but it’s still… You are appreciated.

    1. Hi Tracy, Unfortunately I probably won’t be doing another SNAP challenge because of the way Budget Bytes has grown, I now cook other food outside of my normal weekly needs for other projects, and I live with someone now and can’t exactly impose such a strict diet on them just for an “experiment’s” sake. 😅

      1. I’d love to see another challenge, perhaps for a household of 2 (if that’s your current situation) and how things have changed. I cook for two and try to keep under $100AUD per week, and I still come back to your SNAP + September challenges for inspiration.

        1. I’m planning to do a vegetarian challenge in January, but it will be just me eating (my boyfriend has a lot of stomach issues, so he often can’t eat what I cook) and I’ll have some meal plans out around that time as well, which should be a good starting point for two people! :)

  2. I intended to do this with you this year, but due to family emergencies and illness, the time slipped past me. It seems to me that you have been doing this for at least 3 years, and there are pantry items legitimately left over from previous attempts–spices, baking supplies, etc. For myself and my family, I’m going to use the rest of this month and the first of next month for a pantry raid–only adding a few fresh foods to what is already in the house

  3. I give myself food challenge months a couple times a year. As a prepper I make it part of my training. Last March I only ate from my emergency food stockpile. It wasn’t difficult and I ate well because my pantry, root cellar and freezers are almost always well stocked. I learned what I need to stock more of and what I don’t really use.
    Last month I did different challenge. For cooking purposes I pretended the grid was down. All my meals were cooked on a wood fired rocket stove, solar oven or eaten cold. I have a greater appreciation of my propane stove than I had two months ago.
    It’s easy to do challenges like these for a few days or a week. A month is completely different. Somewhere in the third week is when it really starts to be challenging. I’ll try the September or the SNAP challenge even though the accounting will be tricky. I grow, forage or hunt more than half of what I eat. When I calculate the cost of a meal how do I account for wild mushrooms or garden herbs and vegetables?

    1. Personally, as those are from nature ingredients/sources they would have zero cost to you.

  4. I have subscribed to your blog for years, and cook your recipes several times a week. I have never commented before but wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your frugal recipes and blog posts.
    We are a family of four and my grocery budget each week is between $40-$45. Your recipes have really taught me how to stay within that budget and cook delicious meals. Thank you!

  5. I also lurk but thought I’d take the opportunity to show support. I’m from Sydney Australia so everything I have made from your book/site is maybe 3x as expensive sadly, even shopping at Aldi. Even still it is still much cheaper than other options. I currently live with my family (I’m still at uni) so money isn’t such an issue now but I’m happily saving for later when it will be. What I wanted to mostly say is that I feel this site is teaching me larger life skills that will stick with me into my own family. <3 thank you.

  6. I like challenging myself in similar manners for the same reasons: it forces creativity and helps me to refocus my budgeting goals. It is way too easy when you don’t “have” to to not make wise budgeting decisions.

  7. We are trying to spend as little as possible this month. I had thought I could get by with $50-60 for groceries for the month. Might be closer to $75. I’m feeding myself, my dear husband and his 2 teenage boys who are with us 1/2 the time. We have lots of food in the freezer and pantry.
    I love the SNAP challenge and I love budget bytes.
    Banana bread baked oatmeal and the breakfast bowls are my favorite!