The Food Stamp (SNAP) Challenge

Yesterday as I was checking some of my favorite blogs, I came across Sandy’s piece on The Food Stamp Challenge. She shares some numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (many people still refer to them as food stamps).

Please check out her post or the original report from the USDA. Here are some numbers that caught my eye for here on Married Food regarding food budgets.

The average monthly benefit was $132.98 per person. That’s roughly $33.25 per week, $4.75 per day or $1.58 per meal for 3 meals per day, seven days each week.

Sandy asked readers to share their thoughts on making this budget work for them. I shared my comments which basically said that for a sustained amount of time I would have a hard time keeping to that budget. It could be done, but changes definitely would be made. I thought about it some more and wanted to expand on my comment here.

Keeping to a Tight Food Budget

For a limited period of time my family received food stamps and it was a challenge for my mom with 3 kids to feed, however with careful planning and a system she made it. While I only have a limited perspective of back then, I do remember clearly some steps that my mom took that made a big difference.

Cooking in the Kitchen

If anybody is on a tight budget and want to have wholesome meals that taste good, learning the basics of cooking is vital. Once you learn the basic mechanics of recipes, you can adjust them to your tastes. It will not only help you to save money (you can buy ingredients in bulk), but the variety of flavors will be welcomed by your palate.

  • Stir-fries
  • Paella
  • Pastas

In fact, Mark Bittaman, author of How to Cook Everything, has released some fantastic videos to get started:

The next biggest worry for people is the time involved for preparing meals. The good news that cooking doesn’t have to be time intensive. All the above dishes are not only easy to make, but they are relatively quick. Some of the dishes allow to take a break while the ingredients are cooking.

Finding Affordable and Good Food

I’m happy to see that more and more grocers are offering affordable good food. Even the supermarket chains have affordable fresh food options.  I recently read that more farmers are accepting payments through Electronic Benefit Transfer system so that food stamp recipients can get local good straight from the source. They is still much to be done to make this option more available to farmers, but it’s a nice step in the right direction.

We discovered that using Community Support Agriculture programs like The Produce Box can be a frugal option.

Introducing More Vegetables Into Diet

For our family we had cut back on meat and focused on getting our proteins with beans and nuts. Even if you don’t plan on being a vegetarian, moving to a more plant based diet can have some wonderful health benefits. You also can stretch your dollar further by eating less meat as it tends to be the most expensive part of a meal.

Thoughts on Eating on a Limited Budget

With some helpful tips on how to slash grocery bills while still eating well, those on a limited food budget (for whatever reason) can benefit greatly. I’d really like hear your thoughts about eating on a fixed budget. What’s your food budget now? Could you adjust it to the average monthly benefit from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program? How would you do it?

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