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Could you do it on a food stamp budget?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

This type of challenge has been making the rounds lately on blogs and talk shows even by mayors.  I'll be honest, I hate these challenges for a variety of reasons. The whole thing reeks of privilege and shaming. That being said, I know I couldn't do it.

 

But I am curious about other's methods of radically trimming their food budget through menu planning. What are your tried and true methods of cutting food costs?

post #2 of 37

I had to answer your post 'cuz we took the food stamp challenge because my DP's work was having everyone who worked there do it, and it was actually so easy, we ended up only spending 1/2 of our budget so we splurged and spent $40 going out to eat at the end of the week. Years ago I actually was on food stamps and my partner and I lived on $125 a month in food. We never went over and payed for food ourselves. I have no idea how we did it, but I don't remember it being a big deal at the time. I remember one week spending like $35 on groceries, and worrying because we had spent so much money lol. 

post #3 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdinaL View Post

This type of challenge has been making the rounds lately on blogs and talk shows even by mayors.  I'll be honest, I hate these challenges for a variety of reasons. The whole thing reeks of privilege and shaming. That being said, I know I couldn't do it.

 

But I am curious about other's methods of radically trimming their food budget through menu planning. What are your tried and true methods of cutting food costs?

 

Yes, we could do it without too much trouble.

 

I also hate these challenges where prominent individuals don't do any planning or actually shop sensibly and then declare they are starving and no one can live on a food stamp budget. They never buy a bag of dried beans or oatmeal.

 

Meal planning and sticking to your grocery list! Start with planning to use what you already have. Plan meals that go together- like using leftover meat another night in a casserole.

Buy less meat. Eat more beans and lentils. Try to have 3 meatless dinners each week.

Stay away from convenience foods or packaged meals. Shred your own cheese and cut up your own fruit.

Don't try to buy organic everything.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Make friends with a gardener or plant a garden.

Don't try a brand new recipe every single day. Try something new once every couple of weeks instead.

Drink tap water.

If you buy meat, boneless skinless chicken breasts are not the cheapest option. Try a whole chicken or chicken thighs. Cut up meat and put it in a casserole, soup or stir fry to stretch it farther.

Have soup for dinner at least once a week.

You can use leftovers for lunches or freeze them for another day.

Buy store brands or generic. There are a few things we have to buy a certain brand name but most things aren't too different.

post #4 of 37
Thread Starter 
Great advice!!
post #5 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by RStelle View Post

I had to answer your post 'cuz we took the food stamp challenge because my DP's work was having everyone who worked there do it, and it was actually so easy, we ended up only spending 1/2 of our budget so we splurged and spent $40 going out to eat at the end of the week. Years ago I actually was on food stamps and my partner and I lived on $125 a month in food. We never went over and payed for food ourselves. I have no idea how we did it, but I don't remember it being a big deal at the time. I remember one week spending like $35 on groceries, and worrying because we had spent so much money lol. 

 

That's our food budget for a month for 2 adults, 2 kids, a lot of times. redface.gif

post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
That's amazing. I'm having trouble keeping under $150/week for two adults and a kid.
post #7 of 37

I'm sure it depends on your region and the cost of living.  We don't get any food stamps or WIC but we spend very little on food because our budget is small.  We can't afford to buy organic everything, I've had to stop worrying about it and just buy the items with the best ingredients. We eat a lot of Mexican type food and stir fry--veggies (usually frozen unless fresh is on sale), frozen chicken breast is $10 for a huge bag, ground beef from the local butcher is cheap if you buy his frozen day old beef, beans, rice, noodles, and tortillas. If you vary the herbs and spices you can create a lot of variety. I also buy a whole chicken and make several meals out of that--chicken and dumplins, BBQ, and if there is any left chicken salad. 

We eat whatever berries are on sale, fresh or frozen.  Buy a couple tubs of vanilla yogurt and add granola and berries. We keep bananas and apples on hand too. I splurge on peanut butter without hydrogenated oils, and the kids like PB&J.  Sometimes I make bread with the bread maker I found at Goodwill new in the box for $6 (!!), but sometimes we buy bread.  I buy bagels and/or English muffins when they are on sale buy one get one free.

That's how we spend very little on groceries per month.  

post #8 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdinaL View Post

That's amazing. I'm having trouble keeping under $150/week for two adults and a kid.

 

Don't be too amazed just yet. A lot of our meals during those times are pancakes and eggs. redface.gif If I have them, l'll put some banana or something in the batter. If we eat any fruit or vegetables, it's usually stuff I get off the discount/markdown shelves, or stuff that's about to be thrown away. DF and I don't eat much for breakfast/lunch under normal circumstances, so going without (for him and I, I don't really limit the kids' eating), isn't a big deal. We have a garden during the spring/summer/fall, too, that helps a lot for produce.

post #9 of 37

Korean grocery stores- the produce is much more fresh and so much more affordable. Literally 60-70% of stores like Ralphs and Albertsons. I can't buy everything there but it's my go-to for produce (which is a substantial part of my diet since I try to eat healthy).

 

Also incorporating more legumes and beans in your diet. High in protein, low in cost.

post #10 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackeke View Post

Korean grocery stores- the produce is much more fresh and so much more affordable. Literally 60-70% of stores like Ralphs and Albertsons. I can't buy everything there but it's my go-to for produce (which is a substantial part of my diet since I try to eat healthy).

 

Also incorporating more legumes and beans in your diet. High in protein, low in cost.

Any sort of "ethnic" grocery stores usually have good cheap produce and rice and other staples like that..tea, too!

post #11 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShyingViolet View Post

Any sort of "ethnic" grocery stores usually have good cheap produce and rice and other staples like that..tea, too!


Also cheap stuff that adds lots of flavor to rice, beans, tofu. Mexican groceries often have limes 10 for $1, hot peppers, packets of spices for $0.99, not to mention bulk beans. Asian stores have green onions 3 bunches for $1, cilantro, garlic, cheap tofu, etc. Indian groceries - spices, spices, spices!

post #12 of 37

If we wanted to try this type of challenge, are there links that provide the $ amounts for various areas of the country?

 

Edited to add:

 

Never mind - found it for my state. Max. amount for a family of 4 is $668 for a max. gross montly income of $2,498. So yes, if I cut out a few things & didn't stock up too much, I could make it on that amount. $150/wk. is my goal amount, although currently I usually can and do go over. When I spend $150 for the week, I cut out snacky stuff and make most meals around pasta/rice/other grain plus tofu/beans plus veg.

 

I should add that that would be possible because

a. I have a car and good cooking facilities.

b. I have cooking skills and the inclination and time to cook from scratch.

c. I live in an urban area with a multitude of grocery stores around and accessible.

d. I can afford to stock up on bulk stuff now and then.

post #13 of 37

Our area must be really high - I used to have food stamps when it was just DD and myself and always had money left over at the end of the month.  It rolled over to the next, so after I was back to work, I still had a little cushion left.  I did learn to grocery shop from my uber frugal stepmother though!
 

post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by MariesMama View Post

Our area must be really high - I used to have food stamps when it was just DD and myself and always had money left over at the end of the month.  It rolled over to the next, so after I was back to work, I still had a little cushion left.  I did learn to grocery shop from my uber frugal stepmother though!
 


I think you hit the nail on the head there. Having frugal shopping and cooking skills is key (plus the stuff I mentioned above - transportation and access to stores). Without those it would be tough.

post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcneal View Post

 

That's our food budget for a month for 2 adults, 2 kids, a lot of times. redface.gif


bmcneal, have you ever seen this:

 

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/40dollarmenu.htm and http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/70dollarmenu.htm

 

Some of the dishes are not what I would make, but the advice is good & the only plan I have seen to really spell out how to stretch the budget like this. Good luck to you! Hope your situation improves soon.

post #16 of 37
How do you find those numbers for your area?
post #17 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelBee View Post

How do you find those numbers for your area?
For my family, max benefits would be 1202.00/month. That is not counting being pregnant with twins.
post #18 of 37

I don't know exactly how much we could get. I know it is based on the thrifty budget here http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm but then I think they expect you to spend some of your own money, like 30% I think I read, so you end up getting like 30% less than thrifty or??? Either way the thrifty budget comes out to $945.36 for our sized family and I think we could exist on that but that is all we'd be doing. We have tons of food intolerances to deal with here, so that is a factor, but given the amount of food the avg. person eats - 3 to 5 lbs. - and we'll go with the lower end since I suspect many Americans over eat plus we have kids too, so 3lbs. per day per person is 24lbs. a food needed per day or 720lbs. per month, which gives us about $1.31 per lb. of food to spend, not excluding sales tax which can really add up. Which means either less food overall or lots of the same thing - beans, rice, bananas, milk, eggs maybe, potatoes, celery, carrots, that kinds of stuff. No room in there for getting stuff to season the food with really.

 

So those numbers don't take into account the fact that how much you get changes by how much you make I believe or the fact that grocery costs are different all over.

 

And so many ideas on cutting costs are just totally unfeasible for families in poverty. (If I hear the idea that you can save money going to farmer's markets one more time... banghead.gif. I guess it may be true somewhere. Around here they are  2 to 4 times more, which is fine because the farmer's deserve a living wage, but I can't afford it.)

 

It is really easy to say eat more beans and rice, because yes they are cheap and yes you can survive on them but for so many adults this type of diet makes us really sluggish, slowing down productivity, and it can contribute to obesity.

post #19 of 37

I have recently fretted a bit about the spectre of unemployment. Decided to plug in the numbers and see what I'd get if I lost my job. It came to $290/mo and the WIC benefits for my two kids seem to be worth about $60/mo based on what I spend on those items. So for me and two 3 year olds, for $350/mo. Thankfully I have an Aldi nearby so can shop cheaply for many items. I'm sure I could do it. I can make my own bread, plant a garden beyond my current tomato bush (wouldn't be working so would have plenty of time)...I do not eat beef or pork and am happy to buy chicken legs or whole chickens instead of boneless skinless chicken breast. Frozen veggies are cheap. Aldi gets some great deals on fruits. Yes, I could do it.

post #20 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by fruitfulmomma View Post

I don't know exactly how much we could get. I know it is based on the thrifty budget here http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm but then I think they expect you to spend some of your own money, like 30% I think I read, so you end up getting like 30% less than thrifty or??? Either way the thrifty budget comes out to $945.36 for our sized family and I think we could exist on that but that is all we'd be doing. We have tons of food intolerances to deal with here, so that is a factor, but given the amount of food the avg. person eats - 3 to 5 lbs. - and we'll go with the lower end since I suspect many Americans over eat plus we have kids too, so 3lbs. per day per person is 24lbs. a food needed per day or 720lbs. per month, which gives us about $1.31 per lb. of food to spend, not excluding sales tax which can really add up. Which means either less food overall or lots of the same thing - beans, rice, bananas, milk, eggs maybe, potatoes, celery, carrots, that kinds of stuff. No room in there for getting stuff to season the food with really.

So those numbers don't take into account the fact that how much you get changes by how much you make I believe or the fact that grocery costs are different all over.

And so many ideas on cutting costs are just totally unfeasible for families in poverty. (If I hear the idea that you can save money going to farmer's markets one more time... banghead.gif . I guess it may be true somewhere. Around here they are  2 to 4 times more, which is fine because the farmer's deserve a living wage, but I can't afford it.)

It is really easy to say eat more beans and rice, because yes they are cheap and yes you can survive on them but for so many adults this type of diet makes us really sluggish, slowing down productivity, and it can contribute to obesity.
This is everything I am struggling with right now.
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