Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eating on Food Stamps

The question that Chambanamoms posed was "could your family survive on food stamp budget" because Amy is taking the Feeding Illinois challenge. The rules are pretty simple. You $4.50 per person day for your grocery budget. A family of 4 would get $18 dollars a day or 126 for a week. You aren't allowed to eat out, and you aren't allowed to use food already in your house, unless you cost out the portion that you use from your budget.

I don't know about your grocery budget, but the reality for me is that I would really like to have a food stamp budget. For our family of 4, we budget $300 a month for groceries (if you did the math, the SNAP budget is $504 a month), $150 out of each check. Occasionally, I go over budget (which I realize isn't an option for food stamps) like my last trip when I hadn't been for over a month because of the move. And we also eat out occasionally, which, again, I realize isn't a reality for food stamp participants. However, included in our grocery budget is our paper goods and cleaning supplies, which wouldn't be included in a food stamp budget and the food for the kids' packed lunches for school. If we were really on food stamps, we would also be getting free or reduced lunch at school and the kids would eat what was on the menu so those things would be slashed from my budget.

I understand the point of the challenge. If you have a $200 a week grocery budget, it can be pretty eye opening to see how little food stamp participants get. But I don't. I have an even smaller budget and I manage to eat just fine. None of us are going hungry, we eat meat, we get fresh fruits and vegetables and I even buy convenience foods.

My question to you is where is the break down? This budget is livable and workable with very little effort. I shop at 2 stores, both within a block of each other, I don't clip coupons and we survive just fine. I even kept to my budget while doing Weight Watchers, were I only ate low fat, high fiber foods (which is another point of contention. Why is my bag of spinach $1.99 but a bag of Doritos is $.99?).

The change isn't more money being thrown at the program. Perhaps the program should come with some basic budget, shopping, and nutrition classes to help the participants get more for their money? I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that not only will I take the challenge, I live the challenge every day and have for years and have no problem living that way.


Looseyfur said...

I had this thought yesterday when all the challenges kept coming up on the blog, too. My grocery budget is $100 a week, too. But it does not include my HMR products, which are $36 a week. And I know that 30-40 percent of my food bill is fruits and vegetables, and 10 percent is something usually like freaking laundry detergent or a combination of other non-edible household necessities (deoderant, kleenex, toilet paper, etc.)

But I do think that teaching people how to use their $100 for healthier purchases would be a great benefit. Because, holy cow, you can get some really crappy, high-calorie, high-fat unhealthy food with food stamps.

Mama2SweetBabyJames said...

Amen, sister! We live on much less than $4.50 per person per day for our food budget. It's hard for me to imagine that being a challenge, but I know it is for many families. $500/month for food would be luxurious to me. But then I wouldn't be so creative with turning random odds and ends into something edible, I suppose. :-)

Catch Her in the Wry said...

I totally agree that $4.50/person/day is very manageable and can still be healthful. I see too many food stamp recipients buying expensive items like salmon and steak, while my cart has chicken and tuna. In fact, that just happened again today. Food budgeting and nutrition courses should be required before receiving food stamps.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

I don't think I could feed our family for that little. We eat no junk, and very very little processed food. We do buy organic meat but we only have that once or twice a month. I do refuse to shop at stores like Aldi's (there's a reason why it's cheap). I make 99% of our meals. And the food stamps we got after my husband lost his job did not cover our food budget. I budget out 200 per week for all grocery items (including nonfood stuff) for a family of five (six really but she's not eating yet.

Here's my take: good food is expensive. I buy organic salad greens at 4.00 per pack. I could buy how many boxes of mac and cheese with this? Or frozen pizzas?

Just thinking that maybe we shouldn't target the individuals who use food stamps. Seems to me the problem is much much bigger.

The Fearless Freak said...

Ginger, I agree, the system is broken and does need fixed. However, the people that are getting food stamps often don't know any better so they can't do any better. If kids have better fuel, they stand a better chance of doing well in school. Kids that do better in school, do better in life. Starting with teaching people who live in poverty how to better manage their money and how to eat better with what they have could go a long way towards breaking the poverty cycle.

I'd also be interested in hearing why you are opposed to Aldi's. We shop there as our main grocery store and while everything is generic, I haven't anything with a significant nutritional difference, from what I would buy at a more expensive store. Milk is milk, whether I pay $1.99 or $2.59 for it. Of course, it is non-organic, but so is everything else I buy. Our last shopping trip, I spend $102 at Aldi's and had an overflowing cart (plus I bought a birthday gift while I was there). At the other store, I spent $130 (that is what happens when you move and let your pantry dwindle down to almost nothing and don't go shopping for almost a month) and got 12 items. That was mainly meat but still the price difference is staggering.

~rachel~ said...

When we are being good and actually budgeting our money we don't spend anywhere close to $4.50/day. When we aren't paying attention I spend a lot more, but that's also when we make lots of extra trips to the store and end up walking away with stuff we don't need and wouldn't usually buy.
I think they should teach some budgeting shopping kind of classes for food stamp reciepients too!
I also hate how they lump together everyone who gets foodstamps. I am pretty sure we would be eligible for food stamps if we applied, but we do fine on what we make so I don't feel the need to do that (and we can afford to eat out way more than we should..)

~rachel~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

hWe also eat for far less every month than the food stamp budget would be. We used food stamps a few years ago, and had far more food in the house during that time than we do now. I bought more extras and always had money left at the end of the month. We budget $500-600/month for 8 people.

As for food stamp users buying more expensive stuff, well it's in the budget for what they are given. I used to joke that I could buy steak, but couldn't afford to electricity to cook it with. Millions could probably be save every month, if budgeting was taught and they were expected to shop like the rest of us have to.

The Fearless Freak said...

Interesting that we we talking about Aldi's and then today I came across this article about Trader Joe's and Aldi's being owned by the same company. Does that say more about Aldi's or Trader Joe's?

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