Editor’s Note: Deb Heinrich, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s liaison to the state’s nonprofit community, agreed to take the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge this month and live on $4 a day for food for a week. We are posting her experience in this blog over the next few days.
September is Hunger Awareness Month and to help increase awareness of the thousands of people in this state who are food insecure and those that live their lives hungry, I am going to take the SNAP Challenge.
What is the SNAP Challenge?
Well SNAP used to be called Food Stamps. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. People who qualify for SNAP receive $4 per day to spend on food.
The challenge is to try to live on those $4 per day for food. I’m going to take the challenge for one week. Therefore, I have $28 to spend on food for the week. I plan on keeping a little journal along the way. If you are interested in more information about the SNAP Challenge or if you want to join me in the Challenge, you can click here to see how.
I made up a grocery list of things I’d like to eat in the next week with an eye toward frugality. I went to an online grocery store site in order to get a rough estimate of food prices as I was making up the list so that I could stay under $28.
The first thing that struck me was seasonings. I love spicy, spiced flavorful food. Spices are expensive! The next thing that struck me was the up-front costs of stock items in the kitchen like salt, sugar and oil. Since the rules of the SNAP Challenge demand that no food can pass your lips unless you purchase it on the $4 per day budget, I had to incorporate things like salt, sugar and oil which will last much longer than the week, but are pretty critical for the cooking I was planning on doing.
I took the list to my local grocery store, which is not the least expensive place to buy groceries, but I wanted to be cognizant that many people who do not have enough to eat also cannot travel long distances to buy food. I felt I should stay in my community to keep in the spirit of the Challenge.
Here is the list of what I bought:
Vegetable Oil (store brand): $ 1.75
Peanut Butter (store brand): $ 1.99
Diced Tomatoes (store brand): $ 1.00
Vegetarian Refried Beans: $ 1.00
Salsa (store brand): $ 1.34
Soft Tacos (12 count): $ 1.89
Dried Black Beans (store brand): $ 0.89
Dried Lentils (store brand): $ 0.69
Long Grain Rice (store brand): $ 1.50
Old Fashioned Oats (store brand): $ 1.00
Brown Sugar (store brand): $ 1.59
Salt (store brand): $ 0.59
Onions (3): $ 3.82
Carrots (one bunch): $ 1.29
Celery (one bunch): $ 2.50
Jalapeno pepper: $ 0.31
One head garlic: $ 0.50
Red Delicious Apples (2): $ 1.77
I left a little leeway in case I forgot something important. I will be able to go back to the store and get it (if it costs less than $2.58!).
My list includes mostly items that are the store brand. It is heartening for me to note that the labels on the store brand items I bought we not loaded with preservatives and chemicals and fillers like I expected. I know this can sometimes be the case, but for these items, it was minimal. As someone who normally eats organic, that was important to me.
I am vegetarian so you won’t see meat products on my list, but I was sad not to be able to include dairy either. I really love cheese, which was not in the cards for me on this budget!
Well, I’m stocked up as much as I can be. I’m soaking the black beans overnight so that I can cook them tomorrow for dinner. I’ll let you know how the day goes tomorrow.