Aw, SNAP! : A Food Stamp Budget Challenge

It was almost a year ago that I stumbled upon Michael Nolan’s Food Stamp Challenge . My family had been receiving food stamps ,or SNAP  (or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the USDA now calls it) for awhile. I was inspired to start blogging about  our experience. I believe I intended to write one post, say what I needed to say , and be done with it. What happened was different . Not only in comments, I received emails and private messages via other social networking from people in the same boat, feeling the same things, living the same (or quite often, worse) experience. I decided one post was not enough. There was an opportunity to raise awareness surrounding the issue of food security. There were also people struggling who needed some words of support and a little guidance on how to make living on food stamps be more like living and less like a fight.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything that needs to be said but since it’s been almost a year that I’ve been yammering on at my end about what it’s like, it seems like a good idea to give other people a turn to talk.  I give thee:

Aw, SNAP! : A Food Stamp Budget Challenge

(I need to make a fancy button now, don’t I?)

What for?

Participants in food stamp challenges connect to the reality of what feeding themselves and their family is like with a strict, low budget with no wiggle room. If one if considering  participating in this sort of challenge, they are problem already empathetic to the issue of poverty & food insecurity. Living within the same budget a food stamp recipient lives on makes it a “walk in someone else’s shoes” experience.

The Basics

  1. Using this table  , find the state you live in. That is what your food budget allowance will be per person. The table is representative of a monthly allowance. Divide by 4 to get your weekly amount.Use that amount per person to find your weekly budget.
  2. You can run your challenge as long as you like, with a minimum of  one week. Do only just that week or a whole month. It’s up to you.
  3. The budget allotment is for food only. This also includes any dining out or coffee shop stops.
  4. To make it easy, purchase a pre-paid debit or giftcard for the exact amount of the budget you’re working with. Use it as a food stamp recipient would their EBT (Electronic Benefits Card) .
  5. You can use any items you had previous to the challenge already in your pantry
  6. If you need ideas for menu planning,there are some great resources here.
  7. There is no time limit or calendar you need to schedule your challenge around. This is an open,ongoing challenge.  Do it whenever works for you.
  8. If you receive WIC, you can use it.
  9. If you have a garden or farm animals, you absolutely can use them.

Blog or Guest Blog About It!

  1. If you don’t have a blog of your own, I offer up my blog for you to have a guest spot to share your experience. Contact me  to work out the details.
  2. During your challenge, take pictures of your  grocery receipts, food, or anything related to the challenge.
  3. Tell about your menu and include recipes.
  4. Share your general thoughts and feelings  and what you gained/learned ,if anything. There’s no right or wrong outcome here. Individual experiences will vary and that’s perfect. If you’re experience was negative or positive, it’s all good and worth hearing.
  5. If you use supplemental rograms like WIC or a pantry, make sure you mention them.
  6. If you use your garden, home canned goods,and your own livestock, make sure you mention those,too.
  7. If you have a blog of your own, post your experiences there and link back here.
  8. If you’re doing the challenge for more than a week, you’re more than welcome to have as many posts and share as much as you need to.

Challenge? Pfft! I LIVE  like this!

If you’re a SNAP recipient , mi blog es su blog.Contact me   to do a guest post. Or if you have a blog of your own, feel free to write about it and share the link in the Mr Linky link-up below.

Also, if you are low income but have been denied SNAP because you’re JUST over the eligibility requirements…by all means, share a post with us. Chances are, your grocery budget is even less than the average allotment for SNAP. I know how that works.


Some people think that the food stamp table allows too much and that it’s no challenge at all. I would like to remind people that the amounts listed are an average. Many families don’t get that amount. My own family who receives SNAP gets $652 per month for our family of 7. So, $23/person each week. Our old amount was $452/month for the 7 of us. So, I give those people another challenge…

The Extreme Austerity Challenge

Same rules apply as above. Just use half the amount for your budget.

Also, if you’re an extreme couponer and have stockpiles of boxed and canned foods, I don’t think you would get the real essence of the challenge. The majority of people who suddenly have an event that deems them eligible for SNAP do not have such a resource to fall back on.

22 thoughts on “Aw, SNAP! : A Food Stamp Budget Challenge

  1. I LOVE this idea. I love the Title. You don’t NEED a fancy button, but it would be cool. When do you want people to participate in the challenge? Will it be ongoing? I think I’d love to take part. I lived on food stamps for many years. We stopped qualifying last year somehow. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
    I guess it means we’re rich, yo.

    • Ooh, rich people participating! Fancy. ;-)
      Whenever you want to do it. I’m willing to host until the apocalypse and the death of the internet. We’ll have a new food challenge on our hands then hehe

      • Ha! Rich indeed. Maybe I’ll wait until October to do it. I’d like to do it for a month, and since September is almost over, my OCD won’t allow me to start yet. I’ll keep you posted.

  2. According to Mitt Romney, I live in poverty (I used to think I was middle class, until I learned that you had to make $200K to qualify, darn it). I might as well get used to feeding my family of four on Minnesota’s $115.08 a week! Thanks for the challenge I needed to get me started.

  3. We fall in the area that makes a little(stress little) to much to qualify for food stamps. But according to the chart we would get $196.50 a week for groceries for a family of 6. I set a budget of $120.00 a week that includes all food,paper products, cleaners for body and house, and stuff for 3 cats and 1 dog. I wish we had $196.00 to spend each week!

    Even when we did qualify we didn’t get the full amount. I doubt too many people do.

    • I think I need to amend guest blogger spots to include people who live on less AND don’t qualify. We don’t get the full amount….actually, it’s about half of what the average is for our state

      • Exactly! That’s what makes me made about the blogs that say “food stamp challenge you can buy all whole,organic,local raised on a food stamp budget”. If I had almost $200 a week for food only you bet your butt I would get all that stuff!!

        • I tried to call out a blog on that attitude a few months ago and she responded by sending me links to food pantries in my area and a bunch of stupid websites about eating organic with food stamps, with a very pretentious note about how with more education, I would be able to do it. Puh-leeeze.

  4. We live on it. $444 for a family of 6. Gluten free, and until recently we were dairy and soy free, and so still limit it. My husband rides his bike to work (night shift) to pay for our CSA box. I make almost everything from bulk/scratch that I can make for less than premade. Coupons do me almost no good at all. I have taken up canning and preserving to get the best price on produce, taking in jars from any source, or making trades.

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  6. This is a fantastic idea. I’ve never received food stamps, but as a lawyer for people with low incomes in D.C. (I work for a nonprofit), I’m well aware of how hard it is for my clients to be poor, and how much MORE “personal responsibility” you have to take when you don’t have much of a (or any) safety net or buffer. Being poor, from what I’ve seen, means that you don’t have any room for error. You can’t make a mistake, you can’t be careless, because if anything goes wrong, you get a speeding ticket, you get sick, you get in a bad relationship, you make a bad financial decision, you have to go to the E.R., your car breaks down, your child gets involved with a bad crowd, any monkey wrench in the machinery could lead to losing everything you’ve struggled to build up. For wealthier people, all of these things would be difficulties, but they wouldn’t be tragedies.

    Another big issue (and I know you know, just pointing it out) is the fact that many people who receive government assistance live in urban “food deserts” where there aren’t many or any supermarkets, so despite having fewer resources, they pay more for food and have lower quality options available to them than people in higher-income areas. One organization where I’ve worked has started a roof garden to supplement its food bank with fresh produce, and it does gardening consulting with local residents so they can use what’s available to them (porches, balconies, small back yards) to grow healthy food. They just set up a bee hive, too. They also partner with local farmers to receive unsold produce, and they even give out venison donated by hunters. These efforts have created an amazing community and brought people together in a creative effort that is about so much more than food. It’s truly inspirational to see, and I have to wonder whether it’s something that could be or has been replicated elsewhere.

    Enough of my ramblings – just wanted to add that I found you on the YKIHAYHT blog hop and am going to be following you. You’re awesome!

    • Thank you so,SO much for getting it. SERIOUSLY. It is exactly like that…a very slippery slope .
      And deserts! I have a list of topics I want to cover here in the future and one of them is to address the thing that well-meaning people bring up…”Well, why can’t these people just grow their own food?” (these people. yes, really)
      There is so much that people don’t understand about the food system that exists in America. Well, globally,too.

  7. I’ll see what I can accomplish…according to the list, here in Hawaii, we would get $215.38 for a month…if you’ve never been shopping in Hawaii, it costs anywhere from $5-8 on a gallon of milk (depending on where you go…) For three of us (my husband is overseas, and I have an almost 8 mo old who barely eats anything) on $53 a week…phew. My budget for us with my husband home is $150 and we even have a hard time staying with that! BUT! I’ll try…at least for a week. Maybe a month. It would be nice to have some money I can throw in savings.

    Though, I was planning on starting my veggie/fruit box this next paycheck…I’d have to count that as a whole week, wouldn’t I?

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  11. My family recieves snap also and its nice to.see a blog where someone truly understands. I believe that this will give people the chance to see how the average family on snap lives.

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