Could you eat on $30 a week?
September 21st, 2011
01:00 PM ET
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Sheila Steffen is a producer for CNN. Tune in to American Morning this week for special reporting on hunger in America, and check back with Eatocracy to see how she does on her food stamp challenge.

That is the reality for the more than 40 million Americans who rely on food stamps. According to the Food Research and Action Center the average food stamp allotment is just $30 per week.

I began thinking about taking a food stamp challenge earlier this month when I met several women who we profiled on hunger for two CNN stories (which will be posted on this site later in the week). These women had to make tough choices between paying bills and buying food. Often they skipped meals so their children could eat. Often the amount of food stamps they received was not enough.

Living on a food stamp budget for just one week won’t begin to put me in these women’s shoes or come close to the struggles that millions of low-income families face every day; week in and week out, month after month. But I do expect to gain a new perspective and a better understanding.


– September 19-25
– No eating of food that I already have.
– I may use spices, condiments and oil that I already have.
– I will avoid any free food from friends, or at work.
– I will eat and drink only what I buy for this project.

I already feel the challenge just by the awareness of how much I have (or don’t have) to spend on food for an entire week. There can be no leeway. No impulse buying. No visits to Starbucks, or the vending machine at work for an afternoon snack, and certainly no dinners out or glass of wine in the evenings.

On the first day I go to the grocery store (Fairway) and try to put fruits and vegetables in my cart - things I normally eat a lot of. I grab a bag of 12 apples that at $1.99 I think is a good deal. I also take some broccoli, a container of tomatoes and a bag of 4 peppers which I agonize over and later regret buying. That’s already close to 1/3 of my entire budget!

I reluctantly grab a small bunch of loose spinach but realize the salads I normally bring and eat at work are not going to be possible and if I don’t change my strategy I’m not going to have enough food or the right food and will end up hungry.

Fish and meat are out of the question so I scan the chicken and pick up two breasts for $4.62 though I know I should probably select the package of chicken parts. I also grab a box of pasta, a loaf of bread (on special but still a whopping $2.99!) and peanut butter and jelly. Cost: $20.16

With my remaining $10 I head to another grocery store (C-Town) determined to do better; ignore brands and nutritional content and look for the cheapest food that will be filling. I get a bag of dry black beans and a bag of rice figuring that will be a meal for several days.

I also grab a box of Farina; it's like Cream of Wheat but cheaper, and I can't afford oatmeal. Coffee is something I don’t want to do without, especially if my energy level becomes low so I choose a small brick of Café Bustelo espresso for $2.86 and forego the milk.

Lastly, I find cans of tuna on sale! For $.99 I grab two that are packed in water and feel really good about that choice. Still, I leave the store feeling less than satisfied and walk home questioning my purchases. I feel totally constricted; not free to eat the way I want or buy what I want. I cannot afford that freedom.

I get home and realize I’m hungry. No need to ask myself what I feel like eating. It will be Farina for breakfast – all week long.

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Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • News

soundoff (1,079 Responses)
  1. kalster65

    They key here is life skiils: when I was growing up they actually taught home economics in school. We grew up in a single parent household. My mom worked and got home at 7pm, so she taught my sister and I how to prepare (simple at first) meals, so that we she got home we ate together. It was a great confidence builder for us kids. We felt like we were contributing and we were learning valuable skills. Sis made salad and I baked chicken at made rice. Mom bought only things on sale and we ate well on a tight budget. They key is never doing take out. As an adult, I know my prices, so can identify good deals, then stock up when the price is right. I plan my shopping and I always have key items on hand, so no impulse takeout orders when tired and hungry. I continue to hone my cooking skills, which are way more important than recipes, and seasonally vary what I cook. I have a big commute, so I can't cook every night. I usually cook twice a week, often making more than one thing, then have good home cooked food on hand all week. We probably spend about $75 per week for 2 people and eat very well. That includes some splurging, so I am confident that I could reduce that by $15....making it $60 for 2 people. My main point is that $30 per week per person will work easily, even in high priced NYC, but you need to have the skills to plan your shopping, take advantage of sales, keep your pantry stocked with these sale items so that you never run out and have to pay full price in a pinch, and learn how to cook your own meals. Friuts and veggies can kill the budget, but even these have sales.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  2. Really?

    Once again...

    My Comment is awaiting moderation?

    What exactly is offensive about this:

    "Didn't someone from CNN do this already?

    I don't get food stamps, but I basically live on $100 in groceries a month. That's $25 a week. It's not that hard for a single person to do if they plan for the pricey staples, like meats and get cheaper substitutes for name brands. Eat a lot of rice, bean, noodle and potato based dishes, and you'll get plenty of variety and be full with minimal cost. I basically live on rice and beans. You can do all kinds of things with them, and both can be under a dollar per meal."

    I'm really starting to get tired of the internet police.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  3. Uhhh

    Didn't someone from CNN do this already?

    I don't get food stamps, but I basically live on $100 in groceries a month. That's $25 a week. It's not that hard for a single person to do if they plan for the pricey staples, like meats and get cheaper substitutes for name brands. Eat a lot of rice, bean, noodle and potato based dishes, and you'll get plenty of variety and be full with minimal cost. I basically live on rice and beans. You can do all kinds of things with them, and both can be under a dollar per meal.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  4. Ames

    I have a budget of about $30 a week for food and I seem to do just fine. The writer here made 2 HUGE mistakes when you're on a fixed budget. 1. COUPONS! Check out the fliers and the paper to see if you can use any coupons. You don't have to be one of those extreme people who go to great lengths to pay as little as possible for their groceries, but man, do coupons help. 2. Buy what's on sale. If there's a deal, buy that. You'll have to adjust your menu for the week depending on the sale, but you'll save money. Also, knowing your prices helps. If you know milk is cheaper at the gas station then it is at the convenient store, buy it there. Don't be afraid to go to several different place and price compare. It takes time, but it's worth it. I can eat how I want (organic and fresh whenever humanly possible) and I live in Chicago where prices are high. Not NYC high, but not small town cheap either.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  5. Raj

    Also, you can't count some of those prices in your $30/wk budget. For example, Café Bustelo espresso for $2.86. That box of coffee with last you weeks. So really it's a cost of $2.86 / 10 for this week assuming it lasts you 10 weeks. Also, 12 apples at $1.99, are you going to eat 12 apples this week? probably not. Unitize the parts, and then budget. Spending $2.86 on coffee this week is rough, but you will have $2.86 extra every week for the next 10 weeks (assuming it lasts 10 wks).

    September 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  6. Ciara

    Perhaps Colorado is less expensive than I thought. My husband and I live on $300 a month in groceries and that allows us to buy healthy foods, fresh and organic produce, wild fish and free range poultry (we rarely eat red meat), even a few luxuries like mozzarella and feta cheese for caprese and Greek salads, if you consider those luxuries-which I do because we live on student loans. We can even afford a glass of wine in the evenings. We don't even have to bake our own bread. The trick is being creative in the kitchen and knowing how to make multiple meals out of a limited quantity of ingredients. Everything is cooked from scratch and our meals are quite diverse ranging from Italian and Mexican to Indian curry dishes and Moroccan chicken. I don't even consider myself a great cook, but I am good at finding what's on sale, and stretching the use of the ingredients, and I also work, so I have a limited amount of time and energy to cook. My point is that you don't have to sacrifice a lot to live on $30 per week, per person.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  7. Jen

    Trader Joes is a great place to shop. They've got lots of healthy food and low prices.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  8. torreypines

    Learning to cook/eat on a tight budget can be learned but is easiest if you stay out of the big stores and lean toward ethnic markets and farmer's markets. I primarily shop at an ethnic farmer's market (Middle Eastern/Eastern European) as well as get staples at Costco (Tofu, spinach, soymilk, oatmeal, peanut butter, brown rice, beans etc) . I'm able to feed my family of 4 (including toiletries) for about $300/month; this includes a splurge or two (wine and chocolate) at Trader Joe's. I recommend,, I don't feel that we're doing without at all and enjoy eating whole foods that aren't processed. I make a lot of soups and send the kids to school with a thermos of hot soup every morning. Start to experiment, it's actually a lot of fun as you learn new recipes. If you visit an ethnic market and see something in the checkout line you've never tried, ask the person. People love to share their ideas and recipes. I've discovered so many wonderful dishes this way.

    Have fun and Bon Appetit!

    September 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Crazyhorse

    As any college student knows. Ramen on sale for 5/$1 comes to about $23/month. Spend the remaining $7 on vitamins. Yes this is not healthy but it works. Don't forget make use of free condiments to enhance your ramen.
    Ketchup and drained noodles (don't use flavor packet) makes ghetto spaghetti
    Soy sauce and drained noodles is poor man's chow mein
    Hot sauce packet and drained noodles makes kimchi noodles
    If you can steal an egg drop it in boiled noodles for protein and it makes a birds nest soup
    teriyaki and chili sauce packet in noodles with water and flavor packet makes sweet and hot soup
    Parmesan cheese packet with a butter packet cooked down and put over drained noodles make hobo freto.
    Dry noodles crunched in a ziplock make croutons.

    I think we had about 25 recipes in all, don't forget places like polo loco have salsa, onions, and peppers!(gotta get a few veggies in)


    September 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Monica

      Wow, thanks so much for these tips! I am a single mother of 5-year-old twins and very often feed them and am forced to find the cheapest thing for myself, hence the Ramen. The only thing I've been adding is Piccapeppa (a form of steak sauce) to them. Now I'm actually excited about trying new things. Thanks again!

      September 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • mrsl

      Don't any of you college students purchase the meal plan at school. I purchased one for my son and I supplement with snacks for him.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
      • blbuzard

        Meal plans cost quite a bit of money, money that I couldn't afford in college. My parents didn't have the money to help with college, so it was up to me to pay for it.

        When you have to make the choice between a meal plan and taking out additional loans(and knowing the loans will cost you later) and eating ramen, you go with the ramen.

        It's nice that you are helping to support your child, but most parents can't which leaves the students to fend for themselves in whatever way is best for them. ;)

        September 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
      • Richard

        Meal plans are not bad but if the student is forking over the money themselves it ends up costing more than going out every night. I did it for the last 3 yrs. I had a meal plan my freshman year and then decided to stop and I saved alot of money. I also don't usually eat 3 meals a day either two decent size ones and 1 or 2 snacks.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
      • mrsl

        You're right, meal plans are expensive, however I don't want him eating a diet of raman noodles or mac n cheese. I will be down grading his meal plan to 14 meals a week as he informed me he doesn't eat breakfast.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
      • Tony

        The meal plan for my daughter at college was $1800 for 4.5 months. That is almost $100 a week and it was lots cheaper to have her buy and cook her own food.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
      • Richard

        Tony, What is you daugher eating for $100 a week bud. I mean sorry but I can go out and eat everday well since I don't eat breakfast for a less than that. Lunch ~6.00 a day thats $42.00 a week, Dinner ~7.00 a day thats $49.00 a week, total $91.00. If I buy food other than that it will just subtract from the total. I personally don't like to spend more than $40-45 a week on food but thats on weeks I treat myself to dinner on Sundays.

        September 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
      • Richard

        Sorry Tony I just skimmed you post ignore my last one please. But this is a pretty go estimate of costs to eat out everyday and how it is alot cheaper than buying meal plan.

        September 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
      • mrsl

        I think my son's meal plan for 19 meals a week was around $5,000 for the year, but that did include dining dollars which he can spend at the fast food chains they have on campus.

        September 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
      • Sara

        Instead of purchasing a meal plan, see if you can purchase an expense plan.

        At my school, there isn't really a discount for purchasing the meal plan. If you math out the cost of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dining hall each day, it's the same as you would pay without the meal plan. My parents got me a meal plan, I knew I wouldn't be eating in the dining hall that often, and the meal plan people kindly converted the cost to an expense plan. I could still eat in the dining hall when I felt like it, and I could also go to the mini-grocery-stores around campus and buy milk, cereal, etc.

        At the end of the semester / year, the meal plan goes away, no matter how many meals are left on it. The money in your expense plan doesn't. If they only knew how little the meal plan was used! Halfway through the semester, students with a meal plan start treating all their friends to free food ("Want to go to the dining hall? I have like 150 meals left, I'm never going to use them all").

        Of course, that whole plan depends on the school, how much the dining hall meals are individually, how much of a discount the meal plan is, and what other food sources are available via the expense plan. Here, every time a parent talks about buying a meal plan, I wince a little.

        September 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Sara

      Ramen noodles aren't really healthy for you, though. They're fried. You can buy the baked ones for a bit more money. Is it really cheaper to buy several packs of ramen just for the noodles than it is to just buy a box of spaghetti?

      September 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Jerv@Crazyhorse

      The best post today! Thanks!

      September 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  10. Ray

    $30 would be like striking gold,,,,,,i got $16 a month for food stamps

    September 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • florante

      Did you use the intenet at a public library? Or you have internet at home?

      September 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
      • Trwer3

        HA! Look in the mirror honey. That should be the LEAST of your concerns.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
      • MarkinArk

        Probably using that $120 a month iPhone plan! :s

        September 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  11. CNNuthin

    Church dinners. Youth Groups. Other projects created to help the less fortunate.
    We need to get rid of this mentality that these are only for the homeless. Or that we have more than others. Donations are made to these groups to help out those in need and if you are in need, you will probably be welcomed. They can help with food, shelter, clothes, laundry services, and a host of other things we all need. I would like to acknowledge "Youth on Fire" "Stand up for kids" "Bridge over troubled water medical services" and the many churches that welcomed me when I was at my lowest. I now am doing a lot better and try my best to give back to these organizations so that they may help others the way they helped me.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  12. lisa

    You've obviously never had to do without, and you lack creativity. 30 dollars is a fortune! Grow up.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  13. Erik

    In the state of Pennsylvania, if you have $0 income, a family of three will get $536/month in food stamps. And every child in Allegheny county can show up at various locations to receive three squares a day. And then there are food banks as additional resources. And now Taco Bell wants to be permitted to accept food stamps as payment. What a joke. The only hungry people in this country are those kids that have parents that sell their food stamps for cash and turn around and buy drugs with it. And whether you give those people $50 or $500 or $5,000 in food stamps each month is irrelevant. There are more than enough safety nets in place to care for those that need it (and don't need it). If you believe otherwise, you will likely need to use one of these nets soon enough, as they are disproportionately used by the less intelligent.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Lee

      I agree, Erik!
      I know someone who gets food stamps and they buy crabmeat and shrimp and things that working people cannot purchase. Amazing! If a person on food stamps would buy the basics, $30 a week is very doable! Another thing, if you are on food stamps, STOP SMOKING! Cigs are $7.00-$8.00 a pack. Some people don't have money for food, but will ALWAYS find a way to smoke, booze it up and do drugs.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
      • steja80

        Was at a local (pricey) grocery store and the woman in front of me got mad and started yelling at cashier to "stop judging her for using food stamps" because the cashier told her that there wasn't enough money left on her food stamp card to purchase both items she was trying to buy. Let me note that the woman in front of me was trying to buy some sort of shrimp salad from the deli and a large package of king crab legs.
        Although that was irritating, I know that there are people out there that are more responsible with their food stamps.

        I have never been on food stamps & hope I never get to that point, but based on overall what I have seen people purchase with food stamps, I don't think the system is working very well. It'd be hard to fix as people seem to always push the limits on any system that is in place.
        PS – I just went to the store this morning and spent $25 for the week for both my husband and I -
        3 green peppers, 8 oz. mushrooms, 2 bags of lettuce (not iceberg), 12 pack of string cheese, 16 slice pack of american cheese, gal milk, doz eggs, gal apple cider, pretzels, corn chips, oj – not from conc,, 2 bags carrots, instant rice, gnocchi, cookies, graham crackers, saltines. Will eat with meat I bought on sale last week. This is $25 for 2 people & we're not eating ramen...

        September 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Really?

      The only hungry people are the ones whose parents sell their food stamps? Are you kidding me?

      There are a LOT of people who pull in a paycheck that by far can't stretch to pay everything they need to, but still don't qualify for food stamps. These children go hungry. There are people who qualify for a modicum of food stamps, but not enough to make sure that everyone is kept constantly well fed.

      Yes, if you make nothing and have children, you usually get a lot of assistance from the government. But if you even have $100 in the bank, you'll get very little. If your paycheck AND the government assistance still don't add up to enough to provide all of what you need you end up not eating.

      September 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  14. Raven2366

    To answer the question about whether or not, I can live off of $30 a week in groceries, the answer is I LIVE OFF OF LESS.

    There are four adults in our household. Myself, my husband, our adult handicapped son and our son-in-law. I purchase all of the groceries out of my income from a partime job that gives me less then 16 hours a week, at $9.00 an hour. I also pay for all of my own working expenses as well. On the average, I spend $100 a week on groceries. This includes all of our household cleaning and most personal hygine items. use coupons when possible to make the money go a little further and to purchase treats and such. We also grow some veggies in our garden that also helps a lot. What we don't use, is given to neighbors and freinds so it's not wasted. Trust me people, three out of the four in this house are chubby, but not obese. So we're not exactly starving here. Most snacks are homemade.

    As someonelse already stated above, the reason why most on FOODSTAMPS and other HANDOUTS, can't seem to make what they get last, is because it's not their money. If it was, trust me they wouldn't be buying all of the soda, chips, cookies, $40 bakery cakes for every birthday, candy, energy drinks, LOBSTER, SNOWCRAB LEGS and so on, that they do before they purchase healthy veggies, fruits and the likes. How do, I know this. That job mentioned above, is how. I'm a cashier at a local grocery store and more then 3/4 of our customers use EBT, to pay. NOW THEY WANT TO LET THESE PEOPLE USE THEIR EBT CARDS AT MCDONALDS!

    September 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • texas35

      Wow! That's pretty disappointing for me to hear. A McDonald's dollar burger is a treat for my daughter!! I usually have around $20 a week for groceries. I'm a single mom, no child support, and no government help. I work full time and make sure my daughter has everything she needs. Those EBT folks need to find out what it's like to struggle using their own money. That's the only way they'll learn to appreciate that free McDonalds!!

      September 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • foodstampcashier

      I agree. I feed 8 people on $150.00 a week or less. I'm not complaining because my husband and I decided to have 6 children, nor do we expect the government to help us. I earn that $150 a week working at a grocery store. I and everyone I work with hate working the first week of the month. That is when "state benefits" come out. These people spend twice as much as I do to feed half as many people. The nutritional value of the food they buy is nowhere near what we feed our family. They buy JUNK! Someone needs to tell them that soda is not required to live. They also buy prepared, frozen foods. Let's teach them how to cook. I am also baffeled by their ability to afford tatoos, piercings, manicures, designer purses and the latest cell phones. If the government insists on continuing to feed these people they could do so more cost effectively and nutriciously by creating distribution centers and giving each qualified person their allotment of food per week/month. If they don't like it, they don't have to participate.

      September 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  15. atxitmom

    Fish and meat are out of the question, so she picks up chicken. Huh?

    September 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Ryan

      If you're confused- fish and meat (red/pork) are generally more expensive than chicken.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
      • Frank Garrett

        Pretty sure pork is cheaper than boneless skinless chicken breast.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Frank Garrett

      She considers chicken a vegetable.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  16. Harriet Moore

    The program is not designed to cover all food costs. Yep, you have to use your own money sometimes!

    September 21, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Tyrone Robinson

      What? And tap into the welfare check? Unheard of, what will I use for liquor then?

      September 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  17. Steve

    Nice to see so many people bash the author. If you have transportation, living on 100 dollars a month for an individual is easy. In matter of fact you can live like a king. This will not work in some places as it depends on living near a bulk store like COSTCO. I did the following test. I gave myself 200 dollars for the first month as startup and then 100 dollars for each succeeding month. That 200 dollars had to be used for all my startup spices and oils as I was starting from scratch. I found not only could I eat well, but I stil had a diverse diet. I needed to plan out my weekly meals so I could rotate out my oldest food. Most of my vegies were seasonable and I ate a lot of carrots and spinnich. I ate more apples and seasonable fruits. But COSTCO always has something in. If I wanted to go healthy or organic or even forgo gluten it was stil possible. I pretty much found that unless I was an absolute glutton I could buy more food then I could eat.

    The key is to buy in bulk. The price per servings go down. At 8 dollars for a 40 pound bag of rice, that is 10 cents a serving for your grain at dinner. My weekly sequence was rice, spaggetti, maccroni, brown rice, and potatoes. I did not even bother with tuna and went straight to the canned sockeye salmon. I also ate a lot of hotdogs and hamburgers and had budget for whole wheat buns. If I wanted to cut down on the glutton I bought massive cashew bins and went nuts. Little bit harder. There was even money in the budget for pop and frozen pizzas. Though not too much pop.

    Here is the rub. Pop, alcohol, junk food, and candy are expensive even at bulk stores. I found my budget destroyed if I set my eyes on the candy. I can see it being hard to live on foodstamps if you do not have transportation or access to a bulk store. And clearly some bulk stores do not take foodstamps. But for everyone else who crys poverty because 100 dollars a month is not enough for food, unless your on a special diet, your not trying hard enough.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Frugal Hausfrau

      Steve, that is a good point on transportation and location. A lot of studies, well documented, with the prices and the items, have shown that in many, especially, inner city areas, the costs are higher for the same groceries than they are in the suburbs. Add to that the problem of transportation and the cost and time logistics when shopping by bussing it! It could be a nightmare.

      September 26, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  18. Sara

    It's hard to brown-bag it everyday when your co-workers in finance order out for sushi/gourmet meals, and worse when the company pays for them and not for you.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Shaneeka Williams

      I feel ya sister! That's just them trying to hold us down though.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm |

    Christine - You can either figure out a way to make this special time in your life fun, or you can feel sorry for yourself. Get a crock pot, or a toaster oven, or both - cooking in a microwave all the time is silly. We lived in a hotel room for a year and a half and now we laugh and talk about that time with great pleaseure. You can do this!

    September 21, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Raven2366

      Been there, done that about the living in a hotel for long periods of time. Hated every minute of not having a real kitchen to cook in. Spent well over eight months living in a hotel while being shipped around while my husband, who was in the Navy at the time, was training others to use a new computer system. After the first week the hotplate showed up. Week three or so, the toaster oven appeared next to the hotplate. We even bought our own coffee pot somewhere along the line. By the time we were settled again, we had a kitchen full of small appliances ready to go.
      Your right, it's not what you have, it's what you make out of what you have. Like you, twenty plus years later, my husband and I, look back at that time in our lives and laugh.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  20. Mark

    You concluded that you couldn't afford meat or fish, so then you bought chicken and tuna??

    September 21, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Class Clown@Mark


      September 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  21. Dazzled

    By the fact that this person said that she shopped at Fairway and C-town, I think it's safe to assume that she lives, or is doing this experiment, in New York City where food is at a premium. I also live in New York City and have had out-of-town friends be completely shocked at the price of groceries. $30 a week here will NOT get you what $30 a week will in other cities/states. It's a very very small budget for a single person. You simply cannot compare food prices in Sarasota to food prices in New York City. It's apples to oranges. Good luck, Sheila! If you live in North Brooklyn, Food Bazzar on Broadway and Manhattan Ave will get you more bang for your buck.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Ellen in NYC

      Exactly, when I read this, I thought, upper West Side.
      People from outside of NY have no idea what kind of prices are here or what the resources are for people who generally do not have cars and have to walk their stuff home. I'm in Chelsea where a lot of people shop in the chain drug stores because they are more convenient. But beware of them if the items are not on sale. I had a raincheck at one drug store for a jar of $2.99 mayonnaise (plus I had another dollor off with a $1 coupon.) Their regular price for that mayo is $8.49!
      I am recently laid off and I spend a lot of my time prowling around for cheap food. It feels like a job onto itself.

      September 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
      • JTaber

        I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,and it is true that all food items are generally more expenseive than in other places, but, you do have to know your prices and shop around. I started working on lowering my food budget in May and am eating very well on $29.25 a week. I am lowering the budget more as I improve on shopping and cooking skills. There is a Target and a Costco on East 117 Street and the East River. There is a fast and frequently running M16 bus from the Upper West Side that services the supermarket complex, and I've seen lots of shoppers get on that bus with their shopping carts filled with bulk items from Costco.

        September 22, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  22. John Doe

    $30 a week per person is a piece of cake! - My family of 5 lives on $350 a month ($11.66 a week per person) in the state of Alaska (not cheap food) and we eat well and we eat what we want. The key is three-fold:
    – Only buy staple ingredients (no pre-packaged, pre-made anything) and make everything at home (especially bread)
    – Eat normal size portions (not restaurant portions)
    – Plan, Plan, Plan your shopping by knowing your prices and using coupons

    Too many people on food stamps do not know how to stretch the dollar because it was never their dollar to stretch. We as a society can not afford to offer further funds to further promote this practice through offering additional funds. You have to put people in tight spots to get them to learn from necessity. I learned my shopping skills due to college (not having enough money to survive week to week) and not having Uncle Sam to pay my tuition, housing nor food. Necessity is a great motivator - I actually suggest further reducing the amount of food stamps per individual.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Marti

      You can say anything you want, and try to make people believe it – but, I DO NOT believe what you have reported here!

      September 21, 2011 at 11:50 am |
      • wills

        It's certainly true. Eating normal portions (rather than restaurant portions) cuts the bill in half right there.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
      • Kate

        Why wouldn't you believe her facts? She's telling the truth and I know because I go through it every month.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jamie@John Doe

      Did you get Pell grants and or subsidised loans when in college? Did you get a first time home buyers loan from Freddie or Fanny? Is the cost of your electricity being subsidised by the state of Alaska or are the rates regulated?

      One way or another a lot of us are benefiting rom other folks paying their taxes and Uncle Sam using the revenue on various programs. The least we can do as a civilized society is make sure folks get fed.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:58 am |
      • John Doe

        I received nothing from the US government as I was continually told that my family had to many assets - nice for my family but not for me who was on his own. Second - I did not go to Univ in Alaska. Third, this is about food prices and not about all other costs - If I can feed my family for $350/month is a state that has high food prices, than anybody in the continental US should easily be able to do the same.

        I laugh at your ignorance, your inability to read an article and take away the key messages, your response to my statement (without creating a new statement) and making assertions about "subsidies" you think I receive without knowing the first thing about my situation - but then again your response clearly demonstrates that you did not take advantage of the primary education provided to all Americans free of charge.

        September 21, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
      • Jamie@John Doe

        "primary education provided to all Americans free of charge." I don't laugh at ignorance, I abhor it. You are drowning in it. Who exactly paid for that education of yours "free of charge?"

        September 22, 2011 at 7:23 am |
      • Jamie@John Doe

        That's what I thought, you teabagging, ugly dimwit. Just like a three year old yelling, "mine, mine, mine!"

        September 23, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • anne

      I believe you. I feed me and my son on 25 a week, I'm careful and desserts are few.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  23. LindaY

    Good grief, what is she getting chicken breasts for? Get leg quarters; they are always on sale, and taste better. To make them healthier, remove the skin off before baking and drain off any other fat that accumulates at the bottom of the baking dish as it cooks. Or buy a whole chicken on sale: several meals there, also meat for sandwiches, and then take the carcass, add some cheap veggies like carrots and celery, and make chicken soup. (After Thanksgiving our friends give us turkey carcasses they don't want to bother with. We usuall managed to peel meat enough for another meal or two off the bones and make gallons of delicious turkey soup.) Look in the manager's specials bin for other meats. We got a pound of stir fry beef for less than four dollars the other day. Two meals for two (four ounces per person per meal). Buy store brands on everything, and don't buy breads in the supermarket bakery. Try wheat tortillas instead of bread to save a few carbs. Buy milk by the gallon rather than the half (milk is milk, you don't have to get a name brand). Find a discount place like Aldis. Beans are a good nutritional substitute for meat. Rice and beans together are excellent. Also bake potatoes and eat the skins! And don't forget the Ramen noodles.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  24. rwee2000

    I only spend between 40 to 60 a week for a family of 3. And we eat GOOD, I buy the least processed food I can find, bread that cost $1 to 5+ a loaf can be baked for much less (I've done it for less $0.25 when I catch flour on sale) I buy whole chickens, for the price of a single breast or two, fresh or frozen vegetable, I do stews, stir fries, make soups, I use a beans, rice.I make and buy pasta, so I have lots of options because I know how to cook and how to flavors to make a good tasting meal.

    I seldom buy "name" brands as I find they have more sugar or corn syrup then no name brands. I'm making homemade chicken pot pie, this weekend, two meals at least, so I'll have that and some homemade fresh dinner rolls, hot out of the oven thank you I see the store has carrots on sale so steam carrots on the side. It's not that hard if you put in just a little work.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Frank-O@rwee2000

      Care to share your chicken pot pie recipe??

      September 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  25. taxpayer11

    Several of the people I know that get food stamps and complain about not having any $$ also smoke $7 a pack cigarettes... maybe if they stopped spending $150 a month on their habits they could afford more food and stop supplementing those costs with taxpayer money... I know that's not everyone, but there are a lot of folks that continue with poor habits and addictions while welching off the government.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • coolbreeze

      Amen to that my brother, I also see beer in their cart and then drive off with a nice pick up truck

      September 21, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • douglas james

      Should have seen the junk food students bought at a local 7-11 and they had free breakfast, lunch and claimed they were poor. When the parents would pick them up many were smoking, and they to claimed poverty. Most of them were on food stamps..Get real America.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  26. nimrod

    Seriously, Orowheat bread and boneless/skinless chicken breasts!!?? You should have bought a whole chicken and store brand bread. Boil the chicken and save the broth to cook your rice in. You might even look for day old bread. Bigger bag of rice and bulk beans.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Jimmy's friend John

      You can go to Jimmy Johns and get some of their day old bread for only 50 cents each. Its a lot better than the crap the grocery store bakes and its 16" so it ends up a lot cheaper, you can get 3 sandwiches out of it. Or if you feel like buying one of their sandwiches you get 2 loafs for free.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • wills

      That's right, you want to buy rice the way the far east Asians do, in 40+ pound sacks. Super cheap.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jon Doe

      That's what happen when a well-off individual tries to do a research on food stamp by staying in a tight budget. She simply doesn't have the survival skill unless she is really in that situation.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  27. Elaine

    Coming from a country overseas, it apalling to me that the poor cannot afford fresh fruit and vegetables. In Greece, you can go into a market and walk out with an entire bag of fresh fruit and vegetables for less than $2. A lemon is like 3 cents. In the U.S. lemons are 2/$1.99!! You can eat very cheap there if you make everything yourself – it's the junk food that's more expensive.

    You don't ever see poor people buying McDonalds (when there is one around) or frozen dinners. Tomato and cucumber salads, bread, vegetable soup with lots of beans, baked stuffed vegetables, baked chicken and potatoes some feta cheese and you don't need anything else to be healthy! The problem there is actually find a job lol...

    September 21, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Frank

      Many countries are that way. Talk to a Colombian farmer, they can't even sell food crops, the US imports undercut them due to all the subsidies. Domestic sales aren't as directly subsidized, it's all on the production side.

      Nice little system the US agricultural conglomerates have bought for themselves with a few "donations" to politicians.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  28. Kevin

    lets see... from farmers market in houston:
    Big bag of tomatoes: $1
    Bag of yams: $1
    Bag of green beans $1
    giant mango $1
    Bag of oranges $1
    acorn squash 3 for $1
    bag of Zuccini $1
    bag of summer squash $1
    bunch of fresh basil $1
    Fresh "blanco" cheese (1 lb) $2

    Throw in tea, flour, rice, corn meal, (all bought in bulk) a dozen fresh eggs and a 10 lb bag of chicken thighs from the meat market ($0.49/lb) and you've got food for 3 for a week for well under $20.
    Why pay for name-brands and packaging?

    September 21, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • coolbreeze

      Boy that cheap...1 lb of tomatoes where I live fetch for almost $3. And that's just about 3 tomatoes. One green pepper fetches for $1.99

      September 21, 2011 at 11:44 am |
      • Kevin

        I know! Since I found the farmers market (back in my "poor college student" days) I haven't purchased produce from the "supermarket" in over 12 years!

        September 21, 2011 at 11:50 am |
      • dnfromge

        I have several farmers markets and farm stands in my area are they are all crazy expensive – I would love to see prices like that!! I've even seen the same brands (berries in particular) that my local grocery stores carry. The tomatoes at one actually had the little bar code sticker/product code number just like the ones in the grocery stores. So, not all farmers markets are created equal and not everything is "local".

        September 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • mrsl

      Farmer's Markets in the Boston area are not that cheap.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:58 am |
      • Kat

        agreed. The first time I decided to try a farmer's market near my house outside Boston, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, and raspberries cost almost $40! BUT, the quality of those tomatoes and peppers were a lot better than most of the grocery stores near me...

        September 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • It's real easy

      Steffan picks up a whole TWO chicken breasts for upwards of $5. You don't buy boneless, skinless breasts if you're on a budget; ever.

      On your list, you forgot to add grits at five pounds for less than $2... and I don't want to hear anything about "ewwwww – grits". Beggars can't be choosers. You do what you have to do with your limited purchasing power.

      The biggest problem with food stamps are the abusers; the fat mamas who load up with the groceries, pay for the majority with food stamps, and drive off smirking in an Escalade.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
      • Southerner

        ...b-but...I LIKE grits. Took me FOREVER to find a supermarket up here (Boston) that would sell me some friggin' grits. :(

        September 21, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Raven2366

      I like how you broke that down. Very cheap and very sensible. I shop at a local butcher for most of our meats Here's a break down of last week's bill. Keep in mind, this covers this house of four, for about two weeks .

      2 Boneless Chicken breast, BOGO (Buy one, get one free) 3.97 for both
      2 Packs First Cut Porkchops. BOGO. 3.2 pound total. 5.78 for both
      4 1lb packages of sausage BOGO. 7.48 for all four.
      2 packages of Chicken Thighs, 4.5 pounds total... 5.25 for both
      2 LARGE RIbeyes (a treat for hubby's birthday)...12.12
      1lb Deli Chedder.... 4.98
      1lb Smoked Ham. 5.10
      1lb. Beef Balonga.. 3.89
      1 large Vadalia onion .79 (my own were not quite ready yet. Sniffle.)
      4 nice baking potatoes.. 2.00

      The total bill. $51.36. Sense in most cases the meat or main course is the most costly part of the food budget, I think we get away VERY cheap. The sales above are very typical for the place. We also know where the meat comes from and it's always FRESH. They also sell frozen veggies in 4lb bags that go for 3.99 a bag. I usuall get three of these in place of those stakes, but our garden is going strong so we didn't need them this week.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • W247

      YAMS are a great source of nutrition and pretty cheap! Roast them in the oven and they are good hot or cold.

      September 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  29. coolbreeze

    Okay who grew up with the ghetto breakfast..Scrambled eggs with hotdog instead of suasage. Or the Ghetto dinner Sardines in tomato sauce over rice

    September 21, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Mary

      I only had a hot dog in a real roll instead of white bread when I slept over my friends houses. And did your Mom tried to sneak powdered milk into a jug like mine did? Yuck.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • BrianB12

      Ghetto breakfast was the only way to go. We got bulk know the 10lb bag of corn flake or cheerios...and that was the ONLY breakfast. If we ran out of milk (we lived on a farm so I was lucky enough not to get powder) you either used water, fruit juice (if there was any), or ate dry cereal. I will admit on Sundays we got scrambled eggs, but that was a serious treat.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Richard

      Ghetto breakfast. Growing up (I am only 22) that was my favorite breakfast. Same with Dinner Sardines and Saltine crackers I could live off those things. But hey Thats what happens when you grow in the backwoods of east Tennessee/west North Carolina. And we could afford food I just chose to eat those, I liked them still do.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  30. Really?

    Could you eat on 30$ a week????? Seriously, who is writing this? I hope this is a challenge for a family and not an individual. Food stamps or not, I think a lot of single people eat on 30 dollars or less. I'm sure the majority of broke college kids could throw down a menu of noodles and veggies and a jar of peanut butter that could come in at 30 dollars or MUCH less (20$ is probably more likely). In fact, I have a great job and a graduate degree and I frequently eat for less than 30 dollars or less (weekly)...............Maybe you should consider the amount of food stamps handed out or the author should consider how much they are paying weekly for food.......geez. We must be an overweight country if we are so spoiled that 30 dollars can't afford to get food for a week.......

    September 21, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  31. rojer

    Agree with one of the first posters that you shouldnt get to make bad choices with taxpayer money. Problem is that poor folks are often stupid. Ive got a contractor that seems to think my 15 hr job should feed, cloth and shelter his whole family... and still the guy goes and buys two sandwiches and a coke for 7 dollars whereas mine cost $2.50. Dont get it. Guy could have had 7 sandwiches or even better beans and rice for a month for his family. I ate PB&J for about a year straight for lunch when I started the company (and probably still should though ive upgraded to tuna) but somehow this guy and his ghetto babys mama and their kids cant be bothered to cook. Im a liberal at heart but starting a biz has a funny way of making you a republican. We definitely need to overhaul government assistance to get it to folks that use it appropriately and force the others to the street.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  32. K

    I also grew up poor and we did not take welfare, so I do know what it is like. I agree with the posts about generics and no name foods most of them are very good, but I didn't see any information about using coupons. Coupons would also stretch that $30 much further. (I'm not talking about extreme couponing, I mean everyday normal coupon use.)

    September 21, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • MY Money

      How many coupons have you ever seen for generic products?

      September 21, 2011 at 11:38 am |
      • Jerv

        I regularly see coupons for store brand stuff.

        September 21, 2011 at 11:40 am |
      • K

        My fault, I should have been more specific. true, there are rarely if ever coupons for generics or store brands. If you know your prices you can buy name brand items with coupons for cheaper than generic. For example, the carolina rice in the picture, it retails for $1.39 where I live. I regulary get coupons for $.50 off that brand and my store doubles so I get a pound of rice for $.39. Much cheaper than the store brand where I live. I have no loyalty to name or store brand, whichever is cheapest when I am buying is what I get. My point is there are strategies to lower your food bill, not just going in and buying whatever you see like the reporter in this article seems to have done. (On a side note, coupons do seem to be getting harder to find, some are delivered with the newspaper and some come in the mail. does take some sork to find them)

        September 21, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Terri

      I can easily live on the $30 a week but you mentioned coupons. I can't seem to find coupons anymore. It used to be that with Sunday's newspapers and sometimes Wednesday newspapers you could find all kinds of coupons. I don't know where to look anymore though.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:43 am |
      • Strongforu

        Try coupon or google your favorite products for coupons.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • mklsgl

      There are no coupons for generic store brands.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:44 am |
      • Lisa

        A chain like Kroger offers tons of coupons for their store brands. When you register your frequent shopper card you can load coupons to your card online – everything from fresh produce/fruit to dairy to natural foods. I even get coupons in the mail for the Kroger store brands every month or so for the products I buy most – which includes things like fresh spinach, baby carrots, string cheese, etc. All Kroger store brand.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
      • yupper

        Yup, I do the same thing, Lisa.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  33. Mike Simms

    I don't have money issues, but I still spend only about $20-30, a week on food. To say you can't it do healthily is garbage. Yogurt for breakfast, fruit/granola for lunch and a meat or pasta with veggies for dinner. You can get 5 or 6 meals out of $10 of meat and chicken. Pasta is a dollar and you can get 3 meals out of that. I don't limit myself as to what I spend, that just ends up being the bill for the food I eat. If more people ate a similar diet, then I'm guessing they'd have more money in their pocket and fewer weight issues.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • sam

      Could not agree more with you Mike. I spend under 30$/week and eat healthily. I am currently without a job, but have saved money so I can spend more, simply choose not too. My diet is oatmeal in the AM maybe yogurt or an egg, Leftovers for lunch or a sandwhich, and then cheap meat ie pork or chicken with beans, rice or pasta for dinner. The veggies I buy are carrots, onion, celery, and normally one or two sale items. If eggplant is a good price, i can get three meals out of 1. Also, learn to bake your own bread, its saves money, and is easy! Like anything, eating healthy and cheap is doable, it just requires a bit of time and effort.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    She is a bit silly - like she had no time to do this and just grabbed things. It would have been easy enough to go through the store planning her purchases and jotting down the costs, and then going back to select things. $30 a week for just her own self? A breeze. Instant coffee, tea bags, sugar, oatmeall, 10 pounds of potatoes, a whole chicken, frozen veges at a buck or so a bag, bread from the day-old rack, peanut butter, margarine, chunk of cheese, eggs, canned beans, rice - This is actually easy if you just work on filling your belly!!!

    September 21, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  35. barry

    What a sad story

    September 21, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  36. Rickie

    Interesting idea. Personally, I make my own coffee which reduces spending on coffee in NYC by about $10-15 a week. However, to go out for food, even a simple sandwich and drink can run you $13! Let's not talk about dinner, where if you go out to a restaurant in the city, you're out $20-50, depending on the venue, with additional for drinks.

    Sigh- this city is too expensive
    Oh, and rent is due on the first of the month

    September 21, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  37. Christine

    Now imagine trying that feat for 2 people without food stamps (because my husband is in school full time apparently student loans disqualified us from getting any help) and without the benefit of a full kitchen – just a small microwave and a mini-fridge because we live on campus in a grad family housing, but we could only afford the studio apartment which didn't come with a full kitchen. Your sodium intake (due to preservatives for shelf stable foods) goes through the roof as ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee, PB&J and the like become staples in your home. Having a salad, or anything fresh is a luxury, and since we don't have a freezer we can't get any meats or anything that needs to be frozen. I miss fruit. I miss the snap and the pleasure and the taste of fresh veggies. We've been at this for 2 months and have 8 months to go - I'm not looking forward to seeing what my blood pressure becomes while living here. :(

    September 21, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Mary

      I would bite the bullet and invest in one of those electric woks if I were you. You can make just about anything in them.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • lizng

      I wish you the best. I had a few REALLY lean years trying to support myself while going to school. There were months that I counted change to make sure my rent was paid. About 30 a week was my food budget and I felt like crap because I just couldn't afford to buy decent food to fuel my body. Four for a dollar mac n cheese is great for the budget but it's so full of chemicals. If you have even a small patio space, you can totally grow some veggies to supplement what you can't afford to buy.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Colin

      Don't stress too much on the sodium thing. Most peoples (>80%) blood pressure is not affected by increased sodium levels as much as the popular press would have you believe.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Ed Moen

      I used to hang the veggies out the window in a nondescript bag (color of the building/house exterior – less noticeable – later on I put out a planter box and stored my food in it with nice plastic plants on top and no one was the wiser) in the Winter/Fall. Works as cold storage. (Keeps beer cold, too, if you can afford it.) Get a one burner hotplate and a metal steamer – works. Or get a rice steamer works for Quinoa (total protein) and other things, too. Buy vegetables that don't go bad fast like cabbage. Ask your mom for her old crockpot. Learn a different way of cooking. I lived with a microwave and small fridge for 3 years.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Sara

      Can I politely suggest buying fancier peanut butter? I keep PB&J in the office fridge, so I'm getting the nutrition facts off the jar right now. The Smucker's Organic creamy peanut butter (refrigeration required, ingredients are "organic roasted peanuts, contains 1% or less of salt") has 2% of your daily allowance of sodium per serving, and I think it tastes a lot better than processed peanut butter.

      September 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • LP

      If you can get a hold of a toaster oven and a hot plate, you could move far beyond the microwave-meal place you're in now. You may need to shop a little more often for your perishables, since you have such a tiny fridge, but that just might be worth it. Do you perhaps have a friend within walking distance with a bigger fridge/freezer where you could store some items? When I was in school we would cook up huge batches of stuff and eat it all week – perhaps you could spend a day cooking a few items at a friend's and keeping them in his/her fridge or freezer. Best of luck to you!

      September 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  38. Flat broke

    $30 for 7 days, 3 meals a day, works out to about $1.42/meal. My budget is $0.86/meal ($18/person/wk). The author needs to give up on fresh fruits and veg unless it's on sale. Frozen is considerably cheaper, canned is even cheaper yet. Buy cheap meats – never pay more than $1.20/lb on meat. Load up on cheap fillers: Pasta, grains, legumes, beans. Fresh milk can be cut with powdered to make it go farther.

    Many people already mentioned it: Ramen is cheap and versatile, it's a good filling base that can be made more nutritious with the additions of veg and some form of protein. For the cost of your bag of apples @ $2.00 you could have bought 8 boxes of generic mac n cheese, or 20 packs of ramen.

    There was recently a challenge in my city, that challenged people to cook a meal for $5 (or the same as a fast food value meal) what they fail to realize is for so very many poor people eating fast food, it's the $1 menu they're buying from. I would love to see a competition cooking show that limited the contestants to $1 or less per plate, required it to be bought from a regular supermarket grocery store, and it has to be healthy.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  39. Pamela

    I can easily eat off less than $30 a week. I do it all the time. I bake my own whole wheat bread (two loaves at a time which lasts me two weeks, a thick slice for breakfast with a scrape of butter and a little jam). Why pay for someone else to bake bread when it is easier and cheaper and has more nutrition if made at home?

    I rarely eat lunch anyway and shop for meat at a local warehouse distribution place that is open to the public. There I can buy five pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts for $1.49 lb., or leg quarters at 69 cents a lb in five pound portions, either lasts me well over a week. large bags of stir-fry and regular veggies for under three bucks apiece. Rice is cheaper than dirt, a dash of sauce and, VOILA!, stir fry for dinner.

    I have friends with dairy goats I buy milk from and pasteurize it myself (easy enough to do with a thermometer). Other friends have large truck gardens I get fresh veggies from in season and barter and swap services with for canned veggies during the winter months.

    There are tons of opportunities out there to save money on food. You just have to know where to shop to get the biggest bang for your buck, how to barter and how to skip over paying the middleman when it comes to preparation.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  40. Mary

    The stores don't make it easy, not putting price stickers on the packages anymore. Very annoying. But home cooking is the key to keeping costs down and stretching the money out. And learning savings tips like freezing leftover spaghetti sauce and using it for chili on another day. It has almost become a survival course.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  41. ana

    I don't know how many of them are really in need of food stamps, and it is effecting them but I know people who work in a motel, who will not work more than certain hours because they will become ineligible to get food stamp, and also the lady I spoke to bought a 75 dollars hang bag, and said she loves it and wanted to buy for long time, really? I make good money but never spent that much money on a hand bag.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  42. Sara Bean

    It depends on where you live. Personally, in NYC, where a sandwich costs $6'd be difficult. I guess I'll stick with the street meat vendors for a week and cut down to two meals a day.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • nimrod

      Make your own sandwich!!! Half a can of beans and two slices of bread will give you a nutritious sandwich for way less than $6.00. Add a banana for dessert and you should be good till suppertime.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:37 am |
      • Ew

        thats no way to live

        September 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
      • W247


        When you have no choice, that is the only way to live. You find what will give you the most protein and nutrition per penny and start being creative.

        September 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
      • Ew

        That is not what is happening here, nimrod is suggesting a way to save money, not how to survive. If you can afford something better than beans and bread then theres no reason to voluntarily ruin your quality of life like that.

        September 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Patricia

      I have to admit it sounded like a "real" experiment but then I read the article – what a piece of crap! And an insult to those who HAVE to eat on $30 week (or less). First of all, its evident that the writer lives on the Upper West Side in NYC – she shopped at Fairway, which is a high priced supermarket. Better she should have read the food ads before shopping and shopped for her veggies and fruit at the West Side Market where veggie & fruits are VERY reasonably priced, just a couple of blocks above Fairway. Also she should have had a menu in mind, not simply grabbed what she wanted without a rational plan. I'm a 65 yr-old woman who is retiring next month and will live only on SS. I will be shopping for myself (and my two cats) on $40 a week – and I will be doing it with a plan which is what most people who live on tight budgets do. Ask me to keep track of my shopping and menus and see how its REALLY done in the REAL world, not by a young woman who simply is filing a story for CNN. I can't believe that CNN has posted her article like its some type of real research on poverty – but as my friends say, I shouldn't be surprised.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  43. coolbreeze

    my wife and 2 for about $65 dollars/week. No food stamps No help from anybody..We eat chicken, fish, beef mostly with veggies, rice, and drink lot of water instead of sugary drinks or sodas. We make sure we have leftovers for lunch for us to take to work and for our kids we pay for their school lunch at school. I think america Over EATS and doesn't drink enough water which is FREE. Sometimes we blame someone else for our own failures and complain on WHAT WE DON'T HAVE but be realistic sometimes and see HOW much of blessings we have. GOD is GREAT GOD WILL PROVIDE.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  44. silly white chick

    I don't get food stamps.
    But what makes me at the first of the month I ran out of coffee.
    So I went to the store and Coffee had been raised to $12 a can for folgers or Maxwell.

    The grocery stores raise prices around the 1st cause thats when foodstampers get their money!

    I had to settle for a $3 can of coffee .........that tasted like crap.........

    September 21, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • silly white chick

      i grew up on beans and cornbread.

      egg biscuits and gravy

      September 21, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Ed Moen

      Go to Starbucks and get some samples. :)

      September 21, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  45. Nwest

    I am bothered by how many people still add milk, eggs, and meat into their carts. Beans and rice are excellent sources of calories, calcium, protein, iron, and fiber. They are food staples in many nations in the world. Their fat content is next to nothing, they're dirt cheap, and won't perish. Instead of the $1 loaf of white bread, consider $1 of kidney beans or lentils.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • MM1970

      overeating carbs like that is a sure path to obesity and disease. Other countries thrive on carb heavy diets because they are also calorie restricted diets – there is protection in restricting calories.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:31 am |
      • Chris Reed

        It won't make you fat if you don't have all of the processed foods, soda, sugar, etc. to go along with it, and you don't overeat. That's the mistake Americans make.

        September 21, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • ummm

      How do you spread peanut butter and jelly on a plate of beans and take it to work?

      September 21, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • wills

      Yep, it's a myth that eating healthier is more expensive. Cut out animal products to eat better for less. It's also a myth that carbs lead to obesity. Only eating too many calories does.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:40 am |
      • MM1970

        actually, recent studies show that eating too many carbs really messes with your insulin response, which can cause you to gain weight.

        you can slow that down by eating "good" carbs (beans, fruits, and whole grains), but too many carbs and not enough fat is a real problem!

        September 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
      • Deb

        Eating too many simple carbs does lead to obesity and higher cholesterol levels. Nutrient dense, high fiber carbs, like beans, doesn't. A calorie is not just a calorie. It's about quality, not quantity. Check out the science.

        September 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
      • Frugal Hausfrau

        The other replies are correct, and often quality fruits and vegetables, even frozen cost more than meat. There are even valid scientific evaluations now that say skim and very low fat milk does not have the balance from the fat to slow down the insulin reaction to the sugars! A calorie is not a just a calorie. I've eaten a low fat, higher carb diet for a good part of my life, because that is what for years was a ton of excercise, very active, and got diebetes in my 40's. Oh yes, and I switched to vegetable oils in the 70's, like "they" said to in an effort to be healthy, and got high cholesteral...Now we know that all that was just bunk.

        September 26, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • What?

      Beans and rice are good protein, but you cannot get complete protein except with meat or dairy products. So unless you've made the commitment to being vegan, then meat, eggs, butter and cheese are important food stuffs.

      I can't believe this is what you chose to harp on. Of all things. You can complain about name brands and junk foods, but saying it appalls you that people add basic staples like eggs or milk to their carts? Give me a break.

      Just because it is vegetable based or says "healthy", "natural" or "organic" on the label, doesn't make it genuinely healthy. People like you just follow whatever eating fad you think is healthiest, then condemn everyone else for normal eating habits.

      September 26, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  46. Noxious Sunshine

    Lol.. I lived with a girl who got nearly $700 in fodd stamps. She had also 4 children, me, and oftentimes her brother & his friends to feed (dont ask). We ate well, to be honest. And this was in Glendale/Phoenix, Az.

    To those who are struggling, google "Angel Food Ministries" ... $40 will get you a good 10lbs of various meats (chicken, ground beef, steaks, pork chops, etc), fresh & frozen fruits & veggies, bread, pasta, etc. They have diff packages available & add-on "extra meat" & "extra fruit" boxes. Yes, they take foodstamps.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • JennaBee

      I Googled Angel Food Ministries and it looks as if they have fallen on hard times... This makes me sad.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:37 am |
      • Noxious Sunshine

        Funny, i just looked it up recently, and it seemed to be fine in my area.

        September 21, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • wills

      I used to get leftover groceries from a friend of a friend. They were leftover because she took too many groceries from the food bank. All free. No wonder food banks have a growing need. One time I got deli sandwiches that would cost $6 each.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Brenda

      Sadly, we were notified here in NH last week that Angel Food had suspended operations, as has SHARE, another food coop.

      Also, here in NH it is very frequent for the very poor (making $1100 a month, for example) to receive $16 a MONTH for food stamps. Anyone making over $2000 gross probably doesn't qualify, even if they are negative after shelter and medicine are paid.

      NH sets it just enough so the state can show the feds they have provided stamps to the target percentage of poor, but not enough to come close to living on.

      A studio apt rents here for $650 a month, a hotel room with a minifridge, microwave, and coffeemaker costs $170-200 a week. Single men and women with no children do not get medicaid even if they have diabetes. Only kids, pregnant women, women with kids under 4, and people approved for social security. 7 year waiting list for subsidized housing, longer for mental health or developmental disabled services. Lately we have seen some increase in people stealing food, collapsing from low blood sugar, increase in anemia symptoms – fainting etc – and pantries are often empty. Also, home ec classes stopped in the 1980's, so anyone under 30 who is poor probably doesn't know how to cook, read a nutrition label, or compare unit prices. They may not know multiplication or division, and often don't know how percentages work. County Extension that used to teach these has been closed due to budget cuts. Last, no mass transit, so local mom and pop convenience stores are all many can get to – Cumberland Farms, Mobil on the run, etc are the grocery store.

      I run a ministry that drives people to market basket on food stamp day – the only store here that doesn't raise prices for the 5th. Most of our clients need one on one assistance to shop, cooking lessons and things like pans, spatulas, containers to store food. We often provide paper and pens to write a list on...yes, there are people who waste the stamps, but very few are cheating the system. We have one client buys 2 lobsters every month. Her abusive husband usually will not hit her for a couple weeks – is she wasting money? That person buying all those bottles of brand name soda? Here in NH, they are often selling them and using money to pay for rent, gas, etc or trading them for daycare.

      Nicotine kills your hunger. It allows you to concentrate. Lots of our clients could not handle working, parenting, shuffling to various appointments while doubled over because they ate 2 packages of ramen yesterday and are just trying to get to the free supper at the church 2 days from now. Several of our clients, once taught how to shop, cook, etc have taken the states free offer of patches etc and cut down or quit.

      5 fraud investigators in every state would have a huge impact on cheaters and save millions. Requiring food stamp recipients to attend free classes (with transportation and daycare provided) would greatly reduce waste and greatly reduce public health spending. Won't happen here in NH. Only revenue is real estate taxes, cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling, and tea partiers who support institutionalizing disabled and poor in warehouses or (as one suggested) Siberia.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
      • Frugal Hausfrau

        Bless your heart for telling it like it is! Those of us who waste on our own habits thousands of dollars or even hundreds, can be so quick to condemn the poor for wasting a few dollars, or spending their meager amounts in some such way we don't agree with.

        I might want a cigarette, too, if I were in their position with their worries. I might want to buy a lottery ticket if it gave me some hope, some tiny little hope, that things might be better. That feeling might be more of a payoff for me than keeping the dollar!

        September 26, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  47. LP

    Is the $30 per person or per family – it's not clear in the article. If it's per person it shouldn't be too difficult, with some planning and thoughtful decision-making. The grocery bill for my husband and I runs about $50 a week. That includes fresh meat, veggies and fruit, very few processed items. If you add in the occasional take-out, beer & wine, and Starbucks, of course the total is more, but those are optional items that we would forego if we were truly limited to $30.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  48. Andrew

    I make way more money than my bills account for and I get a good portion of my groceries from the dumpster at trader joes for free. So much food is thrown away in this country. More people need to think outside of the "American Dream Box". We are not what we used to be and we need to start taking action!

    September 21, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • wills

      I'll be checking out my local TJ's Dumpster. Thanks.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Brenda

      We are lucky in that respect here in NH – many stores and restaurants actually put the food in boxes near the dumpster or on top of it for a short period. Not Walmart though! When the food stamp system crashed one month and hundreds of shoppers walked out, Walmart threw away perfectly good food even though people were begging them not to, some even offering to buy it with cash to take to the food pantry.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  49. Lisa

    My mother raised three of us on her own with no public assistance. I can remember all too well the days she would go without meals so we could eat. Living on $30 a week as a single person is one thing, but trying to raise children on that tiny amount is another. I applaud your efforts though. Good luck with your experiment.

    On a side note, I believe the entire foodstamp system needs a serious overhaul. I know of a single father with one child who recieves a little over $400 a month in foodstamps and a single mother with two children who get only $189 a month. Both parents are employed and make close to the same income. Where does the math come from?

    September 21, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Brenda

      If Obama every tried to make that public on a web site like he did with Am Recov Act there are lots of senators, reps, and govenors who would be ready to do anything to stop him.

      On the campaign trail in NH, he supported the idea that it would be published just like the IRS tax amounts are, and that the adjustments made for area price differences would be published too. A politician who overheard it said "good. when they see how much more massachusetts pays, we can get more of them to apply there" In 2006 I lived on the boarder of NH/Maine and the worker at the DTA specifically suggested I find someone in Maine to collect my mail as "I would get more there". Rumor has it that NH saves millions just from such "suggestions" each year. Needless to say, politicians in Mass, Maine, and Vermont border communities were not amused.

      September 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  50. nimrod

    It would be very boring to try to eat on such a restricted budget but the fact is that many people in the world eat a monotonous diet. Meat is expensive and not really necessary for a nutritious diet. Your first choices probably should have been dried beans and rice. A legume combined with a grain will provide all the amino acids you need for a complete protein, so beans and rice or beans and corn or beans and wheat can basically take the place of meat. Add garlic, onion, salt, and some bullion powder and you have what a large portion of the world's population eats on a daily basis. Fresh vegetables and fruit provide fiber and vitamins but are pretty expensive and again, beans and unpolished rice are great sources of fiber and dark beans are full of phytonutrients. Sodas, kids' drinks, and bottled water are expensive, and often bad for you: tap water is cheap and generally completely safe to drink. I'm not suggesting that it would be easy or fun, but when the taxpayer is paying for your food, you shouldn't get to make poor food choices. I see so many people on food stamps with chips, sodas, and various other forms of junk food in their carts. I have also noticed that the store puts "food stampable" stickers on such high dollar items as fresh salmon (about $9.00/lb) which I seldom purchase unless it is on special (I am after all, spending my own hard earned money, not the taxpayers'). I think that there should be a section in stores where the food stampable items are and they should be restricted to high nutrition, low cost foods, lots of rice, beans, powdered milk; no junk food, no expensive cuts of meat, no canned or bottled drinks, etc.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:18 am |
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