The SNAP Food Challenge: Part 1

The SNAP Challenge: Part 1

Let’s start this off by saying that this is NOT a challenge for those who are already shopping like a boss on a budget and providing nutritious foods for them and their families, proving already that it can be done.

Because I post my grocery hauls a lot on my blog and social media, I often get a lot of people saying that there is no way they could shop like that at their store for a variety of reasons. Some of them being they don’t have a big enough budget, don’t have a 99cent store that provides insane amounts of good foods, or that they only go to one grocery store and don’t have time to shop several places to save money. These are all ways that I manage to shop so cheaply – shopping around, having access to a 99cent store, and the time go store to store. However, I know not everyone can or will do that, I want to show my budget shopping (super healthy still) at just one store each week.

Recently I have been pushing myself to save money, but also eat healthy foods on a budget more and more. Now I don’t limit myself if there is something I need, but that’s the point of this challenge. Not everyone can just get another bottle of olive oil, or another pack of meat if they run out mid week if they have already spent all their food budget money. I am challenging myself to set a budget, relatively lower than what most people spend on food each week (whether they eat healthy or not) and get enough healthy food to last 7 days.

I chose to call this the SNAP challenge for two reasons:

1. Two years ago Gwyneth Paltrow tried to shop on a budget for herself ($29) while eating healthy and based it on the average amount of money someone receiving assistance would have had in 2015 for SNAP food benefits. While it’s “supplemental” sometimes people may find that is all they really have to spend. She only made it 4 days and recounted her journey in a blog. I would like to retry that on the 2017 SNAP average to help people who might still think they can’t eat healthy on that tight of a budget that they can. Below is what she got and made it four days with:

2. While not everyone’s budget is that tight or everyone is on SNAP benefits, things in life happen that can cut into our budgets and we all have fallen on hard times. I would like to help people who are trying to save money or maybe going through a hard time see that even if you’re usually healthy budget gets slashed, there are still ways to eat healthy for less even if you only have to temporarily.

So I based it off the average for 2015 (since it says currently the benefits havn’t changed much since then) and did the numbers per week for a household of two people. The numbers come to about $35.50 per person per week, or $71.00 per week for food. That’s approximately $3.38 per meal for us if we don’t have snacks.

Now while I know I could do this by using my 99cent store and then shopping around other places for rock bottom prices, I’m doing this at one store and this week I’m choosing sprouts. I have a WholeFoods, Sprouts and Fry’s all by my house. I don’t usually shop at whole foods so I won’t be going there, because I wouldn’t go there regularly. However where I would usually start at the 99cent Store and then hop between Sprouts and Fry’s for their cheapest sales, this week I will be going to just one.

I’m starting at Sprouts because I believe that might be more of a challenge for me seeing that overall they are more of a health food store than a regular chain grocery store so they don’t have as much for store brand low prices. However I’m hoping it balances out with the fact that they have a bulk section and if I shop carefully I can balance that out in the end.

Here are some of the rules:

  1. I have to make enough food for two people to have 7 days worth of food.
  2. I am only shopping at one store each week.
  3. I am sticking to $71.00 for 2 people each week. ($35.50 per person)
  4. I am shopping for both a vegetarian and an omnivore (showing two different lifestyle choices).
  5. I will stick as close as possible to the foods we already eat to see if what we currently like to have (smoothies, tacos, fresh foods) is possible if I’m carefully budgeting.

What do I think will be the biggest challenge for me?

I think there will be three big challenges for me this week. I want to stick closely to what we already eat which includes my several smoothies a week with protein in them (vegetarian protein supplementation). I also feel like the drinks we like to have every day like tea or coffee may or may not fit into the budget. If they don’t that’s ok, it would be nice if they did. And the last challenge will be getting enough protein for my very active, very tall and built fiance who will need a lot more food than I will to keep him fueled.

The only thing that will come from my own pantry will be salt and pepper to take this as serious as having an empty pantry to fill. I will mostly likely have to choose between olive oil and butter, and having 10 spices or seasonings to choose from and just having a few.

And most importantly this challenge is also a reminder for me: 

I came from a family that worked it’s bum off my whole childhood to make ends meet. While growing up and now off on my own we all have more than enough, it is a reminder that what I take for granted each week as something that just is, isn’t reality for everyone. And for most of my life it wasn’t a reality for my family.

In the midst of appreciating what I have, I can also do what I can to encourage others who might go through a hard time with money not to give up. That the dollar menu isn’t the answer (because at one point I thought it was) and that healthy pantries can be filled on every budget. And it will also remind me that I can make a difference further than education. I can still donate to food pantries and give them health foods to provide to families as well.

I mean to do this challenge in the most heartfelt way. Because I spent a lot of my life living below the poverty line, and understanding that healthy was in how much my family had to spend. It was on how my mother chose to spend what we had and made it work. And while now I preach budgeting and priorities, that’s not always everyones limitations and so instead I’ll work within someone else’s constraints and see if I can provide a good example of what you can do inside of it. 

And if I can complete this challenge on what I have set aside (without having to go back and use the extra money to get more food)…I’ll be donating the difference that I saved out of my normal budget to give food to a food bank. I will be giving to the places that gave to me as a child.

If anyone else is doing this challenge I’m super excited to see how you did and see your meals and ideas!