Today marks Day 7 of my Food Stamp Challenge! I am also double-posting this post on my class blog.
Today is the last day of my Food Stamp Challenge! I’m so ready to stop having to think about everything I eat It’s not that I’m hungry or tired of eating Ramen (Note: there was NO Ramen on my menu this week!), I’m just tired of tracking and calculating every little thing. In the first part of this post, I’ll share what I had today and my final cost for the week. At the end, you’ll see my reflection on this project overall.
Today for breakfast, I enjoyed a sesame bagel. I got this bagel at Safeway yesterday, and it set me back $0.50. For lunch, I had a apple (Remember, that ridiculously priced kind that I got at the farmer’s market for $1.16) and some caramel that I got at Safeway for $1.50 (I ate approximately $0.40 worth).
I also went to the gym today to get a smoothie. I love the smoothies there! Last year, the smoothie place was on my meal card and I ate 1-2 every single day. This year, I don’t have a meal plan and with smoothies costing $4.25 each, I have to limit myself! Because I did so good this week staying on budget, I “splurged” on a Caribbean Craze smoothie. It was SO worth it.
For dinner, I made a meal that I discovered this summer when ground beef was on sale for a good price and we were looking for some “new” ways to prepare it. I found this recipe on Pinterest for Korean Beef. It’s delicious! Between the 3 of us, we ate over a pound of ground beef (my portion costing approximately $0.93). We used up a bag of frozen veggies ($0.30 cost for me) and served the beef over rice (approximately a $0.20 cost for me). The chives/green onions were free, as they were from my garden. Rice is a staple that everyone should have on hand and know how to cook. You can buy a bag of rice in bulk and it lasts quite awhile! We eat rice a lot because it’s cheap and good for you. We prefer the brown rice, but were short on time tonight, so white rice was made. As I’ve mentioned before, purchase meat when it’s on sale and purchase enough for leftovers and to freeze. “Good” prices are going to vary by region, but for my area: $2.50 is a great price for ground beef and $1.99 (or less sometimes) is a great price for boneless chicken breasts. If you ever get “too much” meat, you can always freeze it and learn new recipes to make a new dinner for your family.
My total for today is $7.74! I got fruit, veggies, and meats all in one day! I obviously could have spent less, but I still stayed under budget.
Week to date: $3 + $2.75 + $3.15 +$2.49 + $6.94 +$2.85 + $7.74= $28.92. I have $1.08 left of my $30 budget! Yay!
Now that I’ve gone a week on the Food Stamp budget, do you think it’s doable? Is it fair to give someone $30 a week (or approximately $120/month -which is what I find more acceptable because savvy shoppers know you can’t buy everything you need in just one week)? From my experience, I’m going to say YES! I’m sure many people will disagree that $30/week is unreasonable, but I know people who successfully feed their families on a budget even less than what Food Stamps gives. It IS possible, but there are things one must understand.
- Is it possible to stay on budget if you have certain allergies or conditions? A lot of the times, it is possible. There are usually ways to get around certain allergies by purchasing other foods that meet the nutritional values that you’re lacking. For some families, this isn’t possible, and I understand that, but you can always evaluate your shopping habits to see what you really “need” and see what things you can substitute with that may be cheaper.
- Do you have to shop the sales and use coupons? Not necessarily, but it certainly helps a ton! Many of the items I ate over this week, I was able to eat them for free or very cheap due to coupons. There are so many online resources that help people coupon and save money at your local grocery store. Spending a hour or two every week could significantly cost your shopping costs. You can use coupons and Food Stamps at the same time; why not get the most out of your money? At the very least, shop the sales, especially with meat! Paying full price for everything is never going to keep you on budget. If ground beef (or cereal, carrots, etc.) is on sale at the beginning of the month, buy for at least the rest of the month! You may have to use up money from upcoming weeks to buy these items in bulk, but it does save you money in the long run. There is NO denying that.
- Does it take a lot of planning? Yes, it really does. Planning for your meals instead of buying on a whim or eating out is extremely important to staying on a budget. Once you get used to shopping for particular dinners, buying in advance, and packing lunches, it becomes second nature, but it is something that a lot of people should be trying. Planning for what your family eats can save you money and time. Plus, eating in is healthier for your family and also increases table-time discussions!
- Can you stay on a budget and still eat healthy? Absolutely! You saw in my posts, that I had fruits and/or veggies every single day. I avoided processed foods as much as possible. Compare produce prices at your local grocery stores and shop the sales, as always. Buying frozen veggies (especially when they go on sale for $1) is a great way to get veggies on the table. Food like rice and beans are staple foods, meaning they can be used for many recipes, but they are also inexpensive and are good for you. Limiting junk foods is another huge money saver.
- Can you still have splurges when you’re on this budget? Of course! If you eat frugal in most of your meals, you should definitely have room to eat out every once in awhile. I was able to get food out 3 times this week (Panera bagel & tea, Chinese food, and a smoothie). When eating out on a budget, you still have to be conscious of what you’re ordering (I chose a $1.19 bagel at Panera compared to my usual $7 panini) and often times you can share with friends on family (like Chinese food). Even though I was able to eat out a few times, knowing how to cook is extremely important! If you don’t know how to cook, contact a family member or take a class. Cooking at home saves a lot of money.
- Lastly, can everyone stick to this budget? Absolutely not. There are some people who have extreme allergies, do not know how to cook, don’t have access to health foods, and don’t know how to plan for meals and buy sale items/use coupons. Not everyone is able to eat on $30 a day, but I don’t think it’s too hard to ask that everyone reevaluates how they are spending. I guarantee there’s something that can be changed to help you save some money!
That marks the end of my Food Stamp Challenge! I hope you guys enjoyed reading the posts. Next time you go grocery shopping take a moment and see if you’re able to cut back on some purchases and save some money. Everyone, even those not on food stamps, should be learning how to stick to a budget!
You can see all my Food Stamp Challenge Posts here.