SNAP Challenge: Could Your Family Eat Well on $4.50 Per Person Per Day?

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Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky posted on Facebook today:

I went shopping earlier today because I will be participating in the SNAP challenge. The SNAP program helps feed 47 million people, but this program could be cut by $20 billion. For the next week I will only eat $4.50 per day worth of food and I will update you on my meals and experience. I encourage all of you to join me this week to emphasize the importance of this program and why millions of people can’t afford these cuts. I want to hear from you on what you think.
And here is a photo of what’s in her cart:
SNAP Challenge
Congresswoman, where are the fruits, vegetables, and other real foods in your shopping cart?  Ramen, cereal, and tuna will not sustain anyone for a full week.
It absolutely breaks my heart when I go into Dollar Tree on a Sunday to buy my newspapers, and I see people doing a week’s worth of grocery shopping there, buying almost all processed, preservative, salt & sugar laden foods on their SNAP card because they don’t think there is a choice and that this is how they have to live.
Now the question I would like to pose to all of my Raising A Family On A Budget readers – Could you feed your family well on $4.50 per person per day?
Currently, we are a family of 4, so that means on a weekly basis I would have a food budget of $126.  That money is only for food – not toiletries, paper products, baby care items, pet items, or cleaning supplies.  Just for food.  Could you do it?
Here is what we purchase & consume in a typical week:
From Halo Farm – TOTAL $5.72
2 gal of Milk  $5.72
From the local produce market – TOTAL $18.39
1 lb of grapes  $1.99
5 apples  $1.25
bananas  $2.37
5lbs potatoes $1.99
salad greens  $3
pineapple $2
cantaloupe $2
bell pepper $1
onions $.79
6lbs carrots $2
Bottom Dollar (because its on the way home from our main grocery store) – TOTAL $.88
1dz eggs $.88
ShopRite (from my trip from this past Sunday, not all to be consumed in 1 week, some goes to the pantry) – TOTAL $90.54 before coupons (yes, you can use coupons along with your SNAP benefits)

2 bags dried pineapple  $5.98
1 bag popcorn kernels $1.79
4 boxes of pasta $2.20
olive oil $4.99
4 cans of corn $3.56
1 salad dressing $1.99
2 boxes of cereal $3.49
1 box bisquick $3.99
2pkgs Italian Sausage $5.98
10 yogurts $3
1/2 gal coconut milk $2.99
2 bricks of cheese $3.98
1 box of crackers $3.99
bread $1.99
peanut butter $2.49
4 can of tomato sauce  $4
2 cans tomato paste $1
1 box of tea $3.69
2 pkgs ground turkey $4.99
5lbs Chicken Breast $9.95
2 cans tuna $2
5lb AP Flour $1.99
4lb Sugar $2.39
1lb butter $1.99
brownie mix $1.49
Bag of Pretzels $2.39
raisins $2.25

All of those groceries for a Grand Total of $115.53, without using any additional coupons or offers, just the sale prices.  That is $10.47 under budget, which if I was in a spend it or lose it mode, I’d spend the extra on stocking the fridge with more fresh fruits & veggies for snacking, or a few extra packs of chicken for the freezer.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that you can use your SNAP benefits at local farmers’ markets, produce stands, butcher shops, in edition to the regular grocery store.  You can even use your SNAP benefits at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, which if you are watching your prices, have better deals than the regular grocery stores on a lot of items.  I particularly like the bulk bins at Whole Foods because I can buy just the amount I need, and on weeks where the budget is tight, I don’t have to stock the pantry with an item to have enough for a meal or two.
I will say, I am lucky enough to not require assistance.  My husband & I both work (him full time and my part time), plus I coupon to stretch our dollar any which way we can.  We have had times during our 13 years together that we were getting by on a beans & rice budget (about $20 a week for groceries if we were lucky), and it was those days of not having things that has made us incredibly thankful for what we do have today.
I believe the SNAP program is a benefit for those individuals who truly need it, and like the WIC program, can change the lives of families who are struggling to make ends meet and keep their heads above water.  There is nothing wrong with utilizing assistance when it is necessary, that’s what these programs are in place for, but we need to make sure that there is education going along with the distribution of these supplemental programs.
Jan Schankowsky wants to hear from you about your thoughts on the SNAP program.  Visit her Facebook page to chime in on the conversation, or feel free to share your thoughts below.
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