SNAP Challenge Part 5: The Finale and Did I Make it Under Budget?

The end of the challenge has come. And I’m going to share a few more of the recipes, the struggles, and of course my final numbers because there was an additional purchase that I ended up making, to get me through the week.

Let’s start with the recipes

I want to point out how much I enjoyed getting creative through out this week, with the limited spices and ingredients that I was able to buy. While I bought very small portions of many things, usually I have a whole spice rack at my finger tips and that makes getting new dishes with old ingredients to the table very quick and easy.

However, I was able to have very good use of the three spices I had, and realized that sometimes, quantity of spices doesn’t matter. Even meals that I had worried about being bland, ended up delicious with just one spice added.

And of course there was a vegetarian and omnivore version to all of these dishes.

The recipes are great in simple variations and the salads let me use up a lot of the foods I had bits and pieces of left over. These also created lots of left overs, like most of the recipes, and I was able to pack them and eat them for lunch and dinner the next day.

The Snack Struggle Strikes Again

Now onto another struggle I encountered. I originally thought that snacking was going to be my downfall. I felt like I was eating bean soup for a snack and that I would eventually not be able to go on with that. Well that proved true. While I had a few apples, and the oatmeal and organic brown sugar to provide me with sweet, I still was missing one important snack in my life.

And that snack was chocolate.

I don’t think of myself as too much of a chocolate monster, but that week, both my fiancé and I were craving chocolate more than usual. So I did end up making an additional purchase with the money that I had not spend yet in my challenge budget. I was about $5.00 under, and was able to acquire some chocolate bars for $2.

Even though I still needed to stop and get something else, I was under budget and my chocolate cravings were squashed with a few pieces of dark chocolate each night.

Final Budget Number

That brings me in at $3 under budget!

I was really proud of the week me and my fiancé spent, cooking, getting creative, and living on a tighter budget than normal. A few things became very apparent to me.

What I Learned

  1. I eat when I’m stressed out, and I’m a snacker. Both of these lead me to buy conveniently packed snack foods from my health food sections and that adds to my grocery bill fast.
  2. I eat out a lot. I know it’s all comparative. But, it really brought it to my attention this week. I remember thinking to myself quite a few times “oh we could just go out and grab something since I’m working late” and then immediately remembering that I was on the challenge. I must have said that 3 or 4 times out of habit. That’s a lot of money each week spent eating out on a whim just because I was feeling “too tired” to cook. But the actuality of it was that I was able to make some meals, from prepped and unprepared foods, all in less time than it would have taken us to drive to the restaurant, order and get our food.
  3. I waste a lot of food each week from eating out on a whim, not using up all the ingredients I buy and letting them go bad before I can use them. It felt so good to be using the fresh foods I bought down to the last little drop. There was virtually no waster this week and usually by the next Sunday or Monday I’m throwing out a few wilted veggies, fruits and meats that might be too old to cook.
  4. Dry goods are a great investment because they stretch so far. I actually used up all of my fresh produce and meats, but was left with some dry rice, all of the quinoa, and the spices as well as half of the oatmeal. This of course is awesome because the next time I go to the store I won’t have to buy as much of those dry goods as I did the first time and can invest in other things like more fresh foods or another big staple like the olive oil that I have tons of left.

I did stress a lot in the beginning about no eating out at all and having to make every single meal. In my head I kept thinking “this probably isn’t a good week to do it, you’re busy.” But it ended up being great because I saved money, and I meal prepped so much in the beginning of the week that I actually saved a lot of time.

Plus, I get to follow up on what I said when I started. This is about raising awareness. Not, saying you’ll have the stores I have or the same amount of money. I just wanted to show the creative, healthy, and abundant meals I was able to create for me and my fiancé on the budget that resigned the average supplemental food income people might receive. While I do not think that the SNAP programs and other programs are perfect, I do believe that no matter what you get, you can make it work in a healthy way. I also believe that places like food pantries are changing peoples lives and helping them make the best of these programs as well and that’s why I’ll be donating to them in honor of this challenge.

Ready to do it Again?

And yes, I would do it again. In fact, I will be replicating it at my main grocery store chain. I know there won’t be a bulk section, but there should be a larger variety of store brand priced items that are still healthy. This challenge has taught me to buy thoughtfully, with intention and not just grabbing things off the shelf that look good, or are convenient or seem like a good buy at the time. I spend time thinking about every single item I put in the cart, and in the end, got more out of my groceries than when I spent double or triple that amount.

I challenge you to do this: plan and buy carefully. So carefully that you might not even have to throw anything away that week. Maybe you already do this, but if you don’t, and you find yourself tossing things at the end of each week, just try this out. It doesn’t have to be on this tight of a budget, but it can be if you’re trying to save money. Leaning out your budget is never a bad thing and if you can save a few dollars by not letting food go into your cart that will eventually just hit the trash, then all the better! And if you are wanting to try the SNAP Challenge and want to share your experience, then please do!