Are you familiar with the #SnapChallenge? I wasn’t until just recently. Basically, it is a challenge to see what it is like to live only on the amount of you would receive if you were on Food Stamps (SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). In Illinois, a single person would receive $35/week – that’s $5/day for everything you eat/drink. I usually spend more than twice this amount on lunch alone.
I have been fortunate enough never to have been on Food Stamps, although when I first moved to Chicago I had such a low paying job, I basically had $20 a week for breakfast and dinner and I would buy lunch for less than $6/day (I felt I needed a bit of a treat and that was my lunch).
At dinner a couple weeks ago and we decided to order another bottle of wine to go with our sushi meal. The wine (at restaurant prices) was $60. It just hit me, we just decided to spend (without much thought) extra money on something we didn’t really need, then I thought about how much a family could do with an extra $60. We can live on less than we do — why don’t we try to scale back.
I started out by thinking I will do this the first week of January – but what will be gained by this? Then I decided to set a goal of doing this one week each month during 2013. I think this will be quite tough for me, but then I think about the people who don’t have choice to participate – this is their life. I can push myself to do it.
The key to this program is planning. I will need to plan out all of my meals, use everything and steer clear of prepackaged products. I think shopping at ethnic grocery stores will also be helpful – the fresh produce always seems to be much better than main stream grocery stores (at least in my area of Chicago). I think most of my protein will be coming from vegetables in lieu of meat – meat can be expensive. Although, I do think shopping at the little ethnic grocery stores can help with this too. Buying boneless skinless chicken breasts will be a no-go, but perhaps a whole chicken will work.
Progress / Goals
I will be Blogging, Tweeting and Google Plussing about my experience. I hope to discover (and create) some great new recipes. My goal is also to eat healthy foods. I don’t want to spend 12 weeks this next year living on Ramen and peanut butter. I will also be working full time – so I won’t have the luxury to visit a dozen stores to find the best/cheapest options.
You can see the Snap Challenge guidelines here. One key part of the challenge is that you can use spices/condiments you already have in stock. If we had to buy new spices, I think this would be an extremely bland challenge.
Have any of you tried the SNAP Challenge before? Do you have any recipes to share? What about guidance on meal planning or shopping? Stay tuned – my next blog will be my food plan by day.
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So, how are you doing the math? Multi serving items only a week at a time? Can the cost be spread out over multiple weeks? (Costco peanut butter might blow through two days total budget but could then last months)Seems like a big deal could be the little things like spices and condiments. Drinks would be hard for me, I know I should do more water but usually don't make it happen. I remember shopping at Safeway when we first got married and we would look first for what is on sale. Big change from what you want. It would be interesting too to compare the nutritional value for the weeks on SNAP vs off. Or even just a calorie comparison. And then how that affects you… Mood, etc…I've been using Mint.com for a little while now and it categorizes spending. The food categories : restaurants and groceries are a huge chunk. Good luck!
You want me to believe that you aren't going to eat out with friends or host dinner at your house? Doesn't seem sustainable considering your normal life.