News & Views

Writings from

SNAP Challenge: Getting Started

SNAP Challenge: Getting Started

For Hunger Action Month, my family and I are taking Feeding America’s SNAP Challenge. We’re going to try to experience what it’s like to eat on just $4.50 a day per person like many of our fellow citizens who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to feed their families.  We’re using this as an opportunity to teach our son (and ourselves) about hunger in America, to help him (and ourselves) remember how fortunate we are to have so much, and to renew our commitment to helping our neighbors in need.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 11.58.22 AM

This is my son and a giant pancake. Which he ate. All by himself.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve agonized about this.  We have a 4 year old son who can clean out a fridge and pantry faster than any grown man. I mean, I was warned about teenage boys and how much they will eat, but I was hoping we had a good 10 years or so before that was going to happen. No, my active (some say “wild”), healthy, and fit 4 year old boy eats constantly.  He will eat his entire dinner, and 10 minutes later he’ll want a snack. By bedtime he’s hungry again. After all the books, and the tucking in, and all the stalling tactics, he hollers out to us that he needs “bed food”.  Yes, this is a new category of snacks that are just consumed in bed. With a four year old food-vacuum like my son in the house, you can understand why I’m nervous. How in the world could we possibly keep him full on $4.50 a day? Since we try to give him healthy, low-sugar, and organic snacks (when we can), we’d use up $4.50 before his “second breakfast”.  This is going to be tough.

The first thing I did to get this challenge started was to sit down and figure out the rules.  We are a family of four, but one of us is only a baby and is completely breastfed, so really we’re only talking about feeding three. SNAP benefits are equal to about $4.50 per person per day.  So that’s $13.50 we can spend each day to cover three meals for three people. And snacks. We’re going to need snacks.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 11.52.55 AMThanks to Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program, SNAP dollars are doubled at my local farmer’s market.  Though it’s not part of the official SNAP challenge rules, I’m going to take advantage of this program, and integrate it into my challenge.  I will use whatever money is left after the grocery store (if there is any), and I’m going to double it myself and head to the farmers market. I hope I can get some fresh food to plug in the gaps in my menu. More on this in my next post.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 11.49.54 AMI know I can’t just go to the store and hope it works out to be less than $100. I need a plan.  So I sat down and tried to come up with meals that don’t require many ingredients, and that I thought would be inexpensive.  Even though my son is a big eater, he can also be pretty picky so I tried to think of things that I knew he would eat. Nutrition is, of course, a top priority. How can I get enough food and make sure it’s healthy food? This is the real challenge.

So here’s my list. I’m going to head to the store soon and see if it works out. I have NO IDEA how much this is going to cost me, but I’ll have to make my modifications at the store and let you know how it goes.

Breakfast ideas:
cereal and milk
oatmeal and raisins
frozen waffles

canned tuna
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
fried egg sandwiches

Dinner ideas:
Black beans and rice
Spaghetti and marinara sauce
Soup and sandwiches (maybe grilled cheese?)

Dinner sides:
Broccoli (frozen or fresh?)
Steamed carrots (frozen or fresh?)

And snacks–seriously, this is going to be tough.
A bag of clementines
cheese sticks

How does this list took to you? Do you think I can get all of this for less than $100?  Will it be enough for all three of us?  What would you change? Leave a comment for me and stayed tuned to the blog for more updates!

4 Responses

  1. 1. I’d skip the cereal and milk – costly and you soon feel hungry. Go with the oatmeal… leaves the stomach slower so you don’t feel as hungry as early. Also, see if dehydrated fruit in the oat meal might be cheaper than raisins.
    2. See what the local farmers market has at the end of the day… see if they’ll sell cheap.
    3. Buy day old bread… my grandfather did… saved money plus he claimed it kept him from getting cavities
    4. Makes sure everyone cleans their plate. Wasted food is .. a waste.
    5. Make sure that people have a class of water with each meal. You need to drink it anyway… may as well do it as part of a meal to help stretch things out.
    6. Go foraging…. got any dandelions in the lawn for greens on the sandwich?
    7. When you get veggies, use the WHOLE plant. Broccoli leaves and stems are edible… just like the florets. But red beets with the greens…. they are edible too… and you can use the crunchy stems as “green” croutons. Don’t buy caned peas/beans if you can buy them still in the pod … that part is edible too… and has LOTS of fiber.

    Good luck

  2. Jessica Morton

    Emily, my grocery budget is between $85-$100 a week for the four of us. I try to buy 80/20 organic. I do buy frozen veg which helps. I do buy fresh as well just not as much. I bake a bunch for snacks for the kids too but do still buy some regular snacks. You can find coupons for good food too. If you have a Super Target around that helps a bunch for me. We aren’t lucky enough to have a really great farmers market around so I have to truck it to the new Trader Joes. I definitely think you can do it. Probably be tight but you can make it!

  3. Are you aware that SNAP Benefits can be used to plant a garden? Yes! They can be used to purchase seeds and seedings of food-producing plants and, according to the National Gardening Association,$1.00 invested should yield at least $8.00 worth of wholesome, nutrient-dense food! Not only this, but the families of gardeners eat 1.5 times as many fruits and vegetables and are 3.5 times more likely to eat all they recommended servings.

    Let’s get real…in general, people are not literally starving to death here in the US as they do in third world countries. Hunger and food insecurity is primarily a result of families and individuals running out of money the last few days of their pay period due to diminished income, budgeting troubles, or unexpected expenses. Raising a garden is very cost-effective and can make the difference between self-reliance and dependence on government and community hand-outs.

    During WW II 40 % of fruits and vegetables were grown in so called “Victory Gardens”. It is time we came restore this tradition and build a rich network of home and community gardens to strike at some of the root causes of poverty and dependence.

    Using SNAP Benefits for this, whenever possible, is noble and enriches the gardener in a myriad of ways!

  4. Pingback : SNAP Challenge: Part 4

You are donating to : via
PayPal/Credit Card

I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
First Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Special Instructions
Loading..., Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (EIN #27-2433274).