Food Stamp Challenge Clarification

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Okay I just want to clarify that the Food Stamp Challenge posts that I’m writing are not geared towards people who are actually in the SNAP program. People who are in the SNAP program have many challenges in their lives and generally have a tough hill to climb. They are doing the best they can in the midst of difficult circumstances.

The posts I’m writing about shopping for less are for the people who were pretending for a week to be part of the program, in an effort to experience what poverty is like.

I believe that the amount of money they had to work with ($31.50 for the week) is perfectly adequate for a healthy, gainfully employed person with a functioning kitchen and a car to eat well without much effort.

Not everyone in the SNAP program is healthy or has reliable transportation or a functioning kitchen. I recognize that and, as I just said, that’s not who I’m writing for.

I don’t think it’s possible to experience poverty by trying to eat for $31.50 a week. No matter what happens with your food this week, you are not poor. You have an education and an income and a safe place to live.

For whatever reason, these kinds of projects get under my skin. And I feel compelled to explain how you can eat for $31.50 a week.

So that’s what I’m doing.

7 Responses to “Food Stamp Challenge Clarification”

  1. Ruby Leigh Says:

    Brilliant Clarification

  2. I understand. I is a good idea to try to stick to some type of guideline to see if you could try to eat for the same amount. People do get offended.

  3. lessisenough Says:


    This comment got stuck in the pending queue, and I would like to respond but I’m not sure if I understand it.

    Are you saying that I should try to stick to a budget and eat for a small amount of money? The reason these projects make me nuts is because I’ve been eating for around $3/day for the past 8 to 10 years. My monthly average for this year is $88.14, which works out to around $2.76/day. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s second nature for me, and I can’t imagine what I would have to do to spend $4.50/day on food.

    Though as another commenter pointed out, food costs are very different in different parts of the country, so I’m sure that’s a factor.

  4. Liz Adams Says:

    This is by way of being a followup to an earlier comment where I reminded you that food prices vary widely all over the country, and that the specific items you purchased I simply couldn’t, even though I’m an experienced, very frugal, shopper, and have been for years and years.

    Anyway, I just figured out my expenditures on food for the last month, without trying particularly to economize, just spending in my usual style, feeding one person, with a functioning kitchen and good skills in there. turns out I spend an average of $30 per week on foods. So even though food prices do vary, I guess I’m hitting on the sales and the seasonally cheaper items, because it does work.

    One caution though: if you don’t already have spices and cookware and that sort of thing, this might not be quite so possible. but I don’t feel deprived at all. I do bake my own bread, and when I am in a mood for cake, bake that, too. No packaged cereals, nor crackers nor cookies from the store. I think that kind of item can push up your bills in a hurry.

    And my food bill includes occasional company for a meal, too, not living like a hermit! easy access to an Asian supermarket is very good, produce being much cheaper there and a very wide range.

  5. lessisenough Says:

    @Liz Adams

    Thanks for the follow up.

    Yes, you need some pots and pans and a sink and running water and electricity a cooktop and at least a toaster oven in order for this to work. But I feel like most of those things are fairly basic, and some things like pots and pans and dishes can be gotten cheaply at thrift stores, if you’re really starting with nothing. Also spices can cost a bundle, but you don’t need to get everything at once and if you can find someplace that sells loose spices, where you can get just a little bit for a little bit of money, it makes it much easier.

    I’m standing by my assertion that the limiting factor for most people in terms of eating well is not money but skills and knowledge — if you know how to cook and know how to shop, you don’t have to spend much money at all to eat well. It does take time to learn those things, but once you have the knowledge, it doesn’t take hardly any time at all. I can make a good dinner for almost nothing in 20 minutes with things I have on hand.

    Another limiting factor for some is access to full-scale grocery stores coupled with lack of transportation options. I’m not discounting that problem at all, I know it’s real, but it’s generally not something that spending more on groceries can solve.

  6. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the link. The finding that most fast food is bought by people in the middle class doesn’t surprise me at all, though I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion that because people like it, changing habits will take a long time. I think fast food is great as an occasional treat, but for me it loses its appeal when you eat it all the time.

    I think that if people figured out what the quick and easy options were for cooking at home, and figured out a system for keeping the pantry and freezer stocked with things they could cook quickly, they would do that instead going to the drive-thru. People want to do the easiest thing. For me personally, cooking pasta at home, or making scrambled eggs, or an omelette, or whatever, is easier than going to the drive-thru.

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