SNAP Challenge: Week 3 Summary

by Beth - Budget Bytes
Pin Recipe

This post contains some affiliate links, which means that we make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

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

This super easy and satisfying, "sweep the kitchen" Penne Pasta with Sausage and Greens is an entire meal in one pot. Cook once, eat all week.

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 -

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

Share this recipe

Posted in: ,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Leave a Comment
  1. I live right next to that rouses, have you tried the Winn Dixie across the street? They have A lot of buy one get one free deals. (I usually go to both)

    1. Yeah, I have to say that I really do not like Winn Dixie. :P I hate the “card price” system because it makes it so much more difficult to gauge pricing and changes. Also, I find their produce really lacking in quality. BUT, it doesn’t matter anyway because I moved to Nashville. Hahah :D

  2. I just stumbled on your blog and can’t seem to stop reading! I know this is a much older post, but in regards to if a meal didn’t turn out as planned, I usually recreate it into something different. For example I made a bunch of scotch eggs and my family was tired of them. I took the hard boiled eggs out of center for eggs salad and used to sausage outer shell with diced potato and bell pepper for a breakfast meal.

  3. Not everyone on SNAP is able to cook complicated meals ….they might work two jobs or be too sick to cook anything but a simple meal. My biggest hint into making this work is stick to your shopping list, shop sales both seasonal and cyclic (my store offers canned and frozen vegetables about half off every four weeks. Mostly I survived by balancing pasta to sauce etc. and limiting major shopping trips to once a month. Milk, brad, eggs, and butter etc. I bought once a wee. By limiting exposure to the center of the store the temptations are limited and it was easier to do that balancing act. There was always the food pantry for the months that things din’t work out well, but you need to know what is available at your pantry…the one here has day old donuts and bread from the grocery store up the street…ahhh great for those sweet tooth moments. Eating healthy takes either garden, a buck in deer season and time to bake and or mass prepare meals….assuming you have a freezer for that or even a larger refridgerator.

  4. Hello,

    I just discovered your blog and I am really enjoying going through your recipes and reading about this SNAP challenge. I am not sure if it has been mentioned by anyone but I wanted to let you know that on Day 15, you did not go over budget! You actually came in at $4.05 (not the $4.55) you have which means you were $.45 under budget. I realize this was over a year ago but thought you might like to know!


  5. I think popcorn would be nice at a potluck. People could take some in a napkin or maybe you could make clever paper cones. Your price on popcorn looked very reasonable.

  6. I know I’m late, but I’m just starting my SNAP Challenge. I blogged about it a year ago and although I wanted to do it I also didn’t want to! I did my first shopping trip today:
    I was over budget for the week, but as long as I’m under at the end of the month it really doesn’t matter since SNAP is given monthly.

    I was thinking of doing a feature of some bloggers who have done the challenge at the end of mine and if I do I’d love to feature you!

  7. I think you are great and am cheering you on! You give me ideas.

    As a holistic nutritionist, I question your intake of veggies. I see that you spent .69 on a bunch of green onions. I don’t know the prices in your area, but couldn’t you get nearly one pound of yellow onions for the same price?

    Meat seems a big part of your budget. I use dried beans and legumes daily. A one-pound bag (dried) can yield six to eight cups of cooked protein. So cheap, healthy, and filling. I consume meat maybe twice a month.

    I also used very, very little dairy – maybe 3-6 ounces a month! Once you break the dairy habit, you will feel better and have more $$ in your pocket.

    I should note that I feed two people and two pets on $12 a day in the Washington, D.C. area.

    Keep up the great work!

  8. I like your comments on bringing food to a social event. People respond to this in a lot of ways, one being to refuse the invitation out of shame/budget worries. Another is to bring something simple and relatively cheap and then probably eat too much because there is so much good food! It is also a great way to add diversity to a diet lacking in taste and nutrient variety…

  9. I have always loved your blog but this challenge has made me a devotee! I am currently on SNAP and every month there has been more month than benefits so I have to supplement with cash (which I understand is how the program is supposed to work). I’m thankful that I can actually afford to buy food for the last week of the month when I have nothing left on my card.
    I have been trying to plan meals more effectively and not splurge on junk but I get overwhelmed. I can follow recipes but I’m not very good at looking at a bunch of ingredients and creating a full meal. We pretty much eat either spaghetti, cheeseburger macaroni (I’ve figured out how to make this without the box), chicken & veggies, and that’s about it. So thank you so very much for this. I will definitely use not only your recipes but also the principles behind the choices you’ve made in my real life SNAP challenge and when I’m finally off of SNAP I will have a great foundation for not overspending on food.

    1. Many of us who follow Beth’s blog have either been in your shoes, or functioning on very low budgets forcing us to experience the same food choices you are making. Beth’s real talents are building flavor and variety into these very low cost recipes. Long may she cook–and blog.

      It sounds like you depend on ground beef and chicken–been there, done that–but think about boneless pork when you see it on sale. I can frequently still find that for about $3 per lb, and good quality hamburger is getting to be really expensive. I know that Beth has a bunch of meat stingy and flavorful recipes for pork, too. The best of luck to you–may your circumstances improve soon!

    2. I know this is long past being useful at this point, being about 4 years too late lol, but Janmaus has the right idea, as tempting and yummy as ground beef is, sometimes it is more than I can afford, even with the sales my store has on meat (the day before the use by date passes they mark it down 25%, i buy it up on sale and freeze, still stays good a couple days past use by date when thawed) so I have turned from using ground beef as my go to cheap meat, to using ground pork.
      1lb of the cheapest ground beef at my store is $2.25-2.49 (skillet mix, not 100% beef, has a mix of beef hearts and soy protein mixed in), while 2.24lbs of ground pork, on sale, was only $3.03
      Used it to make Asian inspired pork meatballs to freeze, to add along with some frozen veggie mix to my ramen as needed! Love being a thrifty shopper and catching good sales at my store!

  10. Your comment about being unable to attend a BBQ with friends due to coming empty handed resonated with me. Even a bag of branded potato chips costs $2.50-$4.00. One thing you could have planned into a tight budget is glazed carrots. I just bought a 2 lb bag of carrots for $1.19, but the 1 lb bags were only $.79. I sometimes do a ginger glazed carrot recipe for a family side dish. It’s both tasty and inexpensive–takes about a tsp of fresh grated ginger, 1-2 T honey and 1 T butter for 1 lb of cooked carrots, either cut into sticks or coins. It costs not much more than $1 to make enough for a bunch of servings, 4-6 as part of a meal, probably 10 at a party where folks tend to take just a little. The ginger is probably the most expensive ingredient, but a tiny knob will cost only about $.50. Folks at parties do like veggies. I always look for them as I hate to eat just meat, fats, and starch–plus there’s often a vegetarian looking for options.

    1. janmaus,
      That is a great suggestion! Thanks for sharing. I usually make a bean dip (like soak & cooked white northern beans pureed with a little olive oil & sirarachi). I guess if you are bringing a dip you should bring chips, but I’ve found usually other people have so I don’t worry about it.

  11. I wouldn’t have suggested going with the yogurt as it’s not very filling, and meat ate up a lot of your budget. I have had to scrape by before, and do it with a huge canister of oatmeal, pasta (99 cent jar and 99 cent for like 16 oz), bananas (47 cents per lb), black beans (99 cents), rice (99 cents), frozen veggies, salsa (1.58 at walmart), fruit that’s in season, pb (dollar store?), bread (1.00). Apples are in season at 99 cents per lb, you can find avocados for 99 cents each as well.