Is it a SNAP to eat on $4.50 a day?

Day 1 –

I literally started shaking at Aldi this morning as I approached the aisles of tasty food and not a lot of money in my pocket.

I have to admit that I’m beginning this exercise in eating on a budget of $4.50 a day (the average budget for a person relying on the SNAP program) with some real fear—no joke! Not since my daughter Alyssa decided we should go “raw food only” in 2010 have I been so overwhelmed thinking about food. I have never tried to eat on a specific daily budget, and trying to purchase enough food to make it through an entire week on such little money is simply terrifying.

I purchased food for the week in one trip. I wanted to be mindful to purchase healthy, nutritious food. I avoided cheap, processed food as much as possible. I didn’t have time to calculate calories to make certain that I’m getting adequate nutrition. I’ll try to do that as I go.

I decided salt, pepper and spices won’t count against my food fund. I did cheat a bit – if food I assumed was cheaper one place when it was actually cheaper in another, I repurchased and traded. This is something I obviously would not have been able to do if I was actually limited to $4.50 a day.

Thanks for my friend Sandy Kramer, I am approaching this week with a grazing strategy, so my approach to shopping was to get as much protein, fresh veggies and fresh fruit as I could buy with an eye toward portioning everything by the day.

I shopped at both Aldi and Dillons Grocery stores. I went to Aldi first; as I couldn’t get everything I wanted there, I went to Dillons. As it turned out, some food was cheaper at Dillions than Aldi. Because I had not anticipated this and because this is my first time trying to budget food in this manner, I also didn’t try to use coupons (I don’t typically collect them and didn’t have any). Were I to try to do this for the long term, I would certainly collect coupons, although I learned today that those on SNAP who use coupons have to pay taxes on them.

So, what did I purchase?

I decided the foundation of my eating this week was going to be a beef veggie soup I make that my family loves. While they’re not taking part in this journey with me, I know (hope) I can make this soup stretch as a foundation for my eating efforts this week. This soup cost $13.89


1.61 lbs of chuck steak – $6.42 (I got this on sale)

2lbs frozen vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, green beans) – $2.99 (gulp! These were much more expensive than I anticipated.)

2 cans diced, spiced tomatoes (basil, oregano, onion) – $2.00

½ Vadallia onion – $.59

1 container beef broth – $1.89


Slow cook the meat in a crockpot (4-6 hours), top with ½ diced onion, salt and pepper and montreal steak seasoning (I couldn’t help myself. It’s just delicious!)

When the meat is done, remove from crockpot, shred, remove fat, put back in crockpot

Add canned tomatoes

Add beef broth

Cook until broth is hot. Adjust seasoning as desired.

Add 1 lb frozen veggies (We prefer carrots, peas, corn and green beans). The frozen veggies retain consistency for several days.

Cook through. Enjoy!

I’m not sure how many servings this makes. When my son Stefan is eating, he can clear the whole crockpot in a little more than a day. It takes Alyssa two days. J Mine will last 7!

Other food I purchased to flesh out the week: $17.22

1 lb grapes – $1.59

1 pomegranate – $.99

1 lb celery – $1.29

2 lbs carrots – $.99

Raw almonds – $3.70

Dried fruit – (mixed berries)  $2.49

Peanut butter – $3.49

Eggs – $1.69

4 pears – $.99

Total food bill (minus tax – SNAP participants don’t pay tax on food) – $31.11

Today so far, I ate 3 almonds and 3 dried fruit berries – 9 a.m.

3 almonds, 3 dried fruit berries – 11 a.m.

½ stalk celery, 1 tsp peanut butter and 5 grapes – 1:30 p.m.

3 almonds, 3 dried fruit berries – 3:00 p.m.

I’ve decided to carry almonds and dried fruit with me throughout the day. About to have 3 more of each.

It’s now 4:30 p.m., and I’m heading out with my friends Jessica and Pam to watch them each enjoy a glass of wine. Pretty sure I’m not going to enjoy watching, but their company will be well worth it. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes.

So, here’s an invitation! Would you like to join us on this adventure? The WSU Hunger Awareness team is taking this challenge during the next two weeks. We’re each doing 1 week solid, beginning and ending when it works best with our schedules. I chose to start today! Follow us on Facebook Hunger Awareness at Wichita State University, Twitter @WSUHunger, #WSUHunger or check out our webpage WSUHunger.wordpress.com. 


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