First Person: We Took the 'Food Stamp Challenge'

Yahoo Contributor Network

A lot has been made lately about celebrities or public officials taking the "SNAP Challenge" in an attempt to live off of the average per person SNAP allotment. An MSN Money article on the subject reported that "More than 20 Democrats in Congress and other luminaries such as Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and actor Ben Affleck have taken the "SNAP Challenge," trying to live on a daily food budget of $4.50 to draw attention to the plight of the poor."

However, our family seems to manage just fine on this amount or even less; and it's really not that much of a hardship.

A family affair

Initially, that $4.50 average daily SNAP allotment might not sound like much. That's only about $135 per person a month. However, for a family of four like ours, that would equate to $540 a month for food or almost $6,500 a year. This amount is actually much more than we need.

So how much money does our family actually spend on food compared to those who are on the SNAP program?

How much we spend

We spend about $300 a month on our food budget, and this typically includes things for our baby like diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, and similar items that while not all food, are purchased on our regular grocery shopping trips. This amount only equates to $2.50 a day per person and is only about 56 percent of that average allotment for SNAP recipients. And bear in mind that SNAP is meant as a "supplement" to a recipient's food purchases. Therefore, to some, it might seem unreasonable that we only spend $300 a month on food items, but it's true, and it's really not that difficult to do.

How we spend so little

In our area of Chicagoland, we are blessed with several discount food grocery stores and of course Wal-mart. Shopping at such locations and making use of sales and non-name brand products really helps us cut costs. For example, by shopping at Aldi, we're able to cut at least 30 percent off of most food purchases compared to other area grocery stores. But discount shopping is really pretty simple, and there are other things we do as well that help us cut food costs.

First off, we tend to make weekly shopping lists for our grocery store excursions. Second, we create weekly meal plans that are often based upon items that we need to finish up or that will expire soon. Third, we utilize leftovers. And fourth, we typically keep backups on hand of the products we tend to use most in order to reduce costly trips to the grocery store for a single item or two in which we might be tempted by impulse buys. In this way, we reduce food waste, avoid overbuying or impulse buying, and we generally make efficient use of our food and food money.

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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.

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