Last week, one of my “real life” friends invited me to participate in a Facebook challenge that was designed to raise money for a good cause.

For a hot minute, I was super annoyed.  After all, I’m still reeling from the horrors of the Ice Bucket Challenge.  With millions of people lacking access to safe water around the globe each year, it absolutely blew my mind to watch everyone I know waste gallons of water in the name of charity.  Only in America, folks. #FacePalm

Regardless, this challenge was different.  Nothing would go to waste and the cause is something I actually believe in.  The details:

A family of 4 with a $1000 monthly income gets less than $11 per day for SNAP benefits (food stamps). A family of two with a monthly income of $500 gets about $6.50 per day.

Here’s the Challenge (and a learning experience for your family)

  • Go to store and buy everything you will eat or drink for two days with $22 (family of four) or $13 (Family of two)
  • Post picture of what you bought and donate $11 to Love INC of Greater Hancock County

OR you can donate $100 to LoveINC of Greater Hancock County

Is $22 Enough for Two Days of Food?

Let’s face it- $22 is not a ton of money for food.  In a regular ol’ 30-day month, that amounts to around $330 for groceries for a family of four.  But, is it enough for food for two days?  Let’s see what I bought to find out:

foodAs you can see, I actually brought home a pretty big haul for $20.55.  The details:

  • Thin Spaghetti: $1.00
  • Spaghetti Sauce: $1.00
  • Refried Beans: FREE with coupon
  • Jiffy Corn Bread: $.40
  • Tomatoes: $1.49
  • Shredded Carrots: $1.99
  • Lettuce: $.99
  • Yogurts: $1.60
  • Bananas: $1.29
  • Mac-n-Cheese (2): $1.49 (used coupon)
  • Bread: $.99
  • Milk: $2.99
  • Cheese: $1.99
  • Eggs: $1.99
  • Tuna (2): $1.34

Total: $20.55

Making Smart Grocery Purchases

I get the feeling that this exercise was designed to show people how little food stamps can buy, but it actually had the opposite effect on me.  Sure, $22 is not a lot of money for food for two days, but it can go pretty far if you make the right decisions.  And to be honest, the groceries above are pretty much what we eat on a regular basis.

A banana and yogurt for breakfast is pretty common in our house, as is a salad with refried beans for dinner.  We eat grilled cheese all-the-freaking-time- usually with soup or a salad on the side.  And scrambled eggs?  My kids will eat eggs and toast for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

As many of you know, we typically spend $500-$600 per month on groceries, but that’s only because I have a few splurges that wouldn’t work if I were on SNAP.  Things like alcohol, pricey snacks, and specialty foods tend to make it into my cart- even when I have the best intentions.

But, could I feed my family of four on SNAP benefits?  You bet!  Here’s how:

  • I would only buy produce that is on sale- Grocery stores almost always have produce on sale, and I typically only buy what is in my budget and avoid the rest.  So if avocadoes and tomatoes are on sale, we have guacamole.  If raspberries are on sale, we have them for breakfast.
  • I would stock up on staples- Rice and beans are inexpensive kitchen staples that can be used in a plethora or dishes, or eaten alone.  If my grocery budget were severely limited, I would try to plan most meals around those items.
  • I would create meal plans- One way we save on our grocery budget is creating meals that use ingredients we already have.
  • I would make sure we eat leftovers- Throwing food away is akin to throwing money away.  No bueno!  If we were short on funds, I would turn all of our leftovers into meals.
  • I would continue to be a vegetarian- Avoiding meat means plenty of money for fresh produce instead.

Is It Always This Easy?

Of course, it’s easy for me to get by on a SNAP food budget.  I have a car and can drive myself to the store without using public transportation.  I also live near several stores that offer beautiful, fresh produce and awesome prices to boot.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone.

According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the poorest Americans around the country live in “food deserts.”

“Food deserts are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.”

-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Food deserts are found all over the country- in both urban and rural areas.  Even worse, people living in those areas don’t always have access to a grocery store within walking distance or reliable transportation that can take them there.  Imagine having to take a two-hour bus ride to the grocery store just for the privilege of having fresh food for your family.  With that in mind, it’s easy to see why some families end up eating convenience foods from the corner shop instead.

Could You Survive on SNAP Benefits?

It is possible to get by on a SNAP food budget?  Of course it is- but only if you have access to transportation and stores that offer fresh produce at prices you can afford.

And for the record, I did go ahead and donate $100 to Love, Inc. anyway (Love In the Name of Christ).  If you want to as well, you can do so here.

Do you think it would be easy or hard to survive on $11 in groceries each day?  Could your family do it?