Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Thing #258--Are You Up To The Challenge?

There was an article in yesterday's POST-DISPATCH about the challenge of staying within a food stamp budget.

According to the article, a disabled person in Missouri receives $25.38 a week, or about $3.62 a day in food stamp assistance. It went on to mention how the director of the local Food Outreach and several area politicians are challenging themselves to eat for a week on that allotted amount. I don't think I'm up to that kind of challenge, but I was curious how my food budget stacked up, so I calculated the cost of the food I ate for an entire day.

Here's what I ate today:

  • 2 homemade chocolate whole grain muffins (oatmeal, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, flavored with cocoa powder)
  • banana
  • homemade mocha java (brewed coffee mixed with nonfat milk powder and sweetner)
  • egg scramble (2 eggs scrambled with green pepper and served with salsa)
  • 2 slices bread machine bread sprinkled with cinnamon sugar
SNACK (one during work and one when I got home)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 serving generic "Triscuit" crackers
  • toasted cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread with generic "Veleeta" cheese
  • sliced tomatoes
  • frozen corn
    (Note-I would normally have a glass of milk with dinner, but discovered we were out)
  • watermelon
This was pretty representative of my daily diet. We rarely eat big honkin' pieces of meat, and we're trying (somewhat successfully) to eat lower on the food chain. I try to cook whenever possible, and don't buy a whole lot of processed food. I'll occasionally indulge in a bag of chips, some ice cream, or cookies, but I try to keep the waistline-expanding junk out of the house for my own safety.

I made a little spreadsheet to figure out the cost of my food. I actually tried to figure out the "per serving" cost of the basic ingredients I used for the muffins, which necessitated a trip to the grocery store to check out some prices. I weighed the tomato to figure out its cost per pound, but guessed on the banana, apple, and watermelon.

When I added up the cost of all my food I was AMAZED (and pleasantly surprised) that it came to exactly $3.62, or what the paper said the hypothetical disabled person would receive per day. As noted, I didn't have the milk I usually have; that would have pushed me over the limit.

I have no desire to continue the experiment for more than one day, but it was an eye-opener to see what that small amount of money can buy.


  1. I think what a lot of people forget is that food stamps are meant to be a supplement to the food budget, not the entire food budget. The "challenge" I think is just political grandstanding.

  2. I'm fortunate that I've had no first-hand experience with food stamps.

    I think I've always done a good job managing my grocery money (especially back when I had three teenage boys at home); I just wanted to know how I stacked up against a "standard". Turns out I did pretty good.

  3. I don't think we have food stamps in Canada [99% sure that we don't - at least not in Ontario], but we did during World War 2, but you had to use them for certain things like butter, milk, eggs...

    I wanted to do a challenge to see how much each day I spend on food - it's on my ET list, but I should probably bump it up since time is dwindling! Joseph and I spend so little on groceries...generally under $40 per week.

  4. Impressive. I know in our house we spend way more than that on food. We have never had any experience with foodstamps (thank goodness!) but oh what a chalenge! With a 1-year old (who must have whole milk) and a 4-year old (who drinks 1% like us), we go through at least 2 gallons of milk in a week. Even if we had that $25.30 * 4 people budget, we'd still be cutting it close every week (and we eat out 1-2 times most weeks, which wouldn't even figure into that $100 budget).

    Maybe if I didn't work and could bake all our bread from scratch, and had enough flat space in our yard for a vegetable patch, we could get close....

  5. Kristi,

    It helps that we have no kids at home complaining about the HEALTHY food I'm serving :-)

    A couple of things I've learned over the years:

    --My bread machine really helps. It takes about 10 minutes of real work (and about 3 1/2 hours of waiting time) to make a loaf.

    --I also have a muffin recipe that gives proportions rather than ingredients; I can use up what I have in the house.

    --If I cook extra and freeze it, then I have leftovers on days I don't feel like cooking!