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. Seriously?

    I am dissapointed. I thought this article would be uplifting, proving that you CAN eat well for $30 – in fact you can eat GREAT!! $30 a week for one personis quite a bit of money. My Husband and I spend $50 a week on groceries (including cleaning products, toiliteries and paper products) and manage to eat and live very, very well. We shop using coupons and I cook our dinners with leftovers for lunch the next day. Our diet is full of fresh vegetables, healthy whole grains and lean protein. I plan our shopping trips ahead of time and shop sales using coupons – perhaps the writer of this article should spend a little more time planning her meals and shopping trips ahead of time (like many American's do – especially those out of work!!) and less time at Starbucks.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  2. Ashley

    I already do this. For one person, this isn't a challenge. If you had to feed a family of four, then maybe. I used to live off of $50 a month when I first graduated college. Did you read that? $50 A MONTH.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  3. Christiane

    I eat very well on less than $30/week and I shop exclusively at local farmer's markets and Trader Joe's/Whole Foods eating all organic foods. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts. No problem. In fact, while I do not use food stamps myself, my local farmer's market encourages their use and doubles them to stretch the dollar even further for poor families. I can buy plenty of fruit, greens, carrots, onions, squash, etc for the week for $15. A loaf of bread for $2. A box of pasta or some rice for about $2-3. A couple can of beans for $1 each. Oatmeal for $3. I spend the rest on something a bit more expensive like cheese or nuts. I am curious to know how and where the writer of this article is shopping. Close to $5 on 2 chicken breasts? I do not eat meat anymore, but I always see chicken breast for $1.99lb. That was either some premium expensive meat or massive portions! And bread for $3? I can buy a large artisinal organic loaf for $2 – what bread is she buying? Fruits and vegetables are not expensive. Shop in season or if all else fails bags of frozen spinach are $1-2 and are extremely nutritious. Buy strawberries and blueberries during the summer when they are very cheap and freeze them youself for the winter. Throw a handful into your morning oatmeal. Apples are 79 cents a pound around here in fall and winter and bananas are always very cheap. So you can't afford Starbucks? Who cares? You are better off without the high calories drink.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Luke

      I live in Spokane, WA and the cheapest chicken breast I have found (I LOVE chicken) is $4.99 a pound. I am 6' 4", not fat and about 210lbs. I only have to shop for myself and I spend $130.00 every 14 days to have the food I need.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
      • Rachel

        Hi Luke,

        If you don't mind frozen, you can usually find a bag of frozen chicken breast tenderloins for anywhere from $4.99-6.99 per bag. This is what I buy for my family of four, and I usually get 3-4 meals out of it =) Fried chicken, chicken pot pie, homemade chicken noodle soup, and baked chicken are a few of our favorites =)

        September 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
      • Christiane

        Maybe those are drastic cross state differences then. At my regular supermarket today, whole chicken is 99 cents a pound and boneless, skinless chicken is $2.29/lb. At my local Whole Foods, organic pasture raised chicken breast is $2.59/lb. Much less than the price in the article.

        September 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Cindy

      You assume that the people on food stamps have nothing better to do than to go all over the state looking for bargains. Truth is most don't even have transportation except for buses, they have kids, and most of the ones I know have part time jobs or go to school. It's not easy for them, no matter what you think.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
      • Christiane

        I never mentioned anything about driving around looking for bargains. I am just surprised that people keep saying healthy foods are so expensive. From my experience living in both NJ, NY, and MA, frozen vegetables are very cheap. Picking up the first circular I see: 1lb bags of vegetables are 10 for $10. Add some whole wheat pasta (4 for $5) and a can of beans ($.79) and you have yourself a cheap and healthy meal of less than $1 per serving. Unless you are living is some desolate urban area where everything is shut down and the closest food store you have is a 7-11 type convience mart, I do not see the problem.

        September 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  4. JJ

    I agree with the others on this not being a challenge if you plan out your meals and gather up some coupons. My DH and I have a self-imposed $30 a week grocery budget, so $15 a person. The trick? I cook all of our meals from scratch, and make sure there are leftovers for lunch the next day. I shop monthly at the Asian market in order to get the best deal on tofu and fresh vegetables, and once a week for staples. We are vegetarians so lots of beans and whole grains to along with the vegetables. To share my love of cooking I also started a budget-friendly vegetarian cooking blog :-)
    We don't have to do this, however we had rather spend our money on vacations and visiting family.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  5. sagewy

    If it is that difficult, why are the women using foodstamps so heavy? I rarely see a skinny mom using her food stamp card.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • marlo

      cuz they are stuffing twinkies, moonpies, chips and processed meats in their pie holes, thats why

      September 22, 2011 at 9:33 am |
      • ding ding dong

        don't forget, koolaid, soda and hot pockets in those pie holes as well

        September 22, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Kaye Wyee

      Ahhh, gotta love that ever-present sense of entitlement. It makes the world go 'round.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Sarck Azm

      Ahhh, gotta love that ever-present sense of entitlement. It makes the world go 'round.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Sarck Azm

      Ahhh, gotta love that ever-present sense of ent!tlement – makes the world go 'round.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Stephen

      Or because they are pregnant with their 5th child...

      September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
      • Larry

        Or because they sell their food stamps for 50 cents on the dollar to buy booze, cigarettes, weed and fast food for themselves and their live-in pimp boyfriends.

        September 22, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Daelda

      Because cheap food often contain "fillers" which, while they may make you *feel* full, don't give you the nutrition you need – thus leading you to eat more. Or those "fillers" are things such a sugar or other high-calorie substances.

      Have you ever gone to a Food Bank and seen what is available to the poor? I have. Meat is a rarity. Vegetables are usually either rotting or on the verge of rotting. Bread is available, but it is usually white bread (which has no real nutritional value). There are often beans and rice, which is good. Milk and juice are very rare. But do you know what they have in abundance? Cookies, cakes, donuts and all other manner of sweets. Stores can donate these items when they are at/past the "Sell By" date and the sweets tend to keep longer due to all the preservatives.

      If someone is hungry, living off Food Stamps and possibly a Food Bank, they aren't going to throw the food away. If nothing else, it fills your belly. Organic and high-quality foods are expensive. Chicken can be found at decent prices, but forget beef. Cheap hot dogs, lunch meat that is on sale, lots of pasta (it's filling), etc. My wife and I do our best to eat healthy, but it can be difficult.

      I served in the US Military for 8 years and am permanently disabled. My wife is partially disabled and has gone back to school to try to update her skills so that she can get a job that will work around her disability. In the meantime, we live on less per month than most people spend on their house payment. We don't like living off the government – but we have both worked hard, paid our taxes and put in plenty of years working (and for me, serving our Country). Without the help, we would be dead. It is that simple. So yes, I thank everyone that contributes to the economy and to the system that allows us to survive. But don't think for one moment that we are "living in luxury" or anything. We are not.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
      • Seeker

        I thank-you for your service. May God bless you. I wish I could be helpful to you, but here is a recipe I have used that is very nutricious, goes a long way and is inexpensive. Saute 1 diced onion lightly, a carrot or two if you have them diced small in a non stick pan. Add any leftover rice that you have (at least 2 cups, but you can add lots if you have it, cold works best) Throw in any leftover bits of meat you have like ham, chicken, beef etc. Even a cut up hot dog can add some protein. Scramble an egg or two if you have them in the center, mix together well and add soy sauce to taste. I have also used frozen english peas at the end to bulk it up. This makes a great stir fry dish that is very filling, nutricious and goes a long way. If I had a way to communicate with you I would send more recipes.

        September 22, 2011 at 11:22 am |
      • Daelda

        Thank you Seeker. I actually make a very good Pork Fried Rice – cheap and nutritious. In addition, I make a *great* Thanksgiving Turkey (when I can afford it). My wife and I don't starve, but we also don't live with much in the way of excess. Going to a movie? Once or twice a year. Eating out? 1-2 times a year. Fast Food? Maybe every 2-3 months. We've been married for over 7 years and we are about to go on our first trip more than 50 miles from home – to visit her son (he's paying for the plane tickets).

        We have internet as our main form of entertainment (and my wife needs it for school). We borrow books from the library and we parked the car once the weather got nice so that we could reduce our insurance and not pay for gas (used public transit).

        Getting government assistance is time consuming, difficult and humiliating. You have to present your entire financial and living situation for scrutiny. Everything is examined, questioned, reviewed and recorded – and it can all be used against you if you are found to have lied about any of it. The penalties can include stiff fines, jail time, disqualification from government assistance programs for years, or for your entire life. Anyone who would CHOOSE to live on an idiot! Believe me, I would LOVE to not have to run around, gathering up a stack of documentation about my finances and my life several times a year and showing them to people. But I have no choice.

        September 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
      • Bravo

        Bravo, sir.

        It's easy in some people's worlds.

        I've never actually had to go to a food bank or get assistance myself, but I wouldn't qualify even if I tried, because I make just a bit too much, I'm single and without kids. Most of the time I do okay, but I don't spend a lot on food except on certain special occasions. But when things get bad, you'll find me with a cart full of beans, rice, pastas and frozen pizzas (the kinds you can get for under a dollar). Because when you don't have enough, you eat whatever is available to you.

        I count myself very fortunate to not be on the verge of starving, but I don't fool myself that it couldn't happen to me. Stories like yours help me keep my perspective on the reality of those situations.

        September 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
      • Mary

        You shouldnt be embarrassed at all. You have paid into this system both physically and financially. It was created to help people like you (and me) as a helping hand during tough times. It is the "lifers" abusing the system who make it hard for everyone else. Thank you for your service and I hope you and your family will see better days ahead soon.

        September 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  6. Fladabosco

    I lived in Mexico for a while. Trying to eat like and American was expensive, eating like a Mexican was cheap (and delish). The author could eat well if he concentrated on filling cheap foods augmented with a small amount of meat. If you know how to cook cheaper cuts of meat you can also eat very inexpensively.

    I produced a blog for a couple of months that specialized in high quality fancy meals for less than $5. It's perfectly doable.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  7. Alexis

    What some people don't seem to get here is that this person who had difficulty getting a week's worth of food for under $30 is in BROOKLYN, where food is expensive. That's why it was so hard to get as much food as they did.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • JJ

      I live just outside of DC in what is considered to be the most expensive area of the US (also area with highest income in US) and I still manage to spend $30 a week or less for two people. I buy store brand for all of my staples and shop at the local Asian Market/Farmers Market for fresh produce. I also use coupons when possible, but since I don't buy heavily processed items most of the coupons go towards pasta and household products (shampoo, toothpaste, pledge, etc.)
      I also have a terracotta garden (pot garden) for fresh herbs and tomatoes, items that I would otherwise be forced to splurge on. Bread? I make my own for about $0.30 (whole wheat) or $0.20 (AP) a loaf.
      Location is NO excuse!

      September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  8. Oscar

    Get a big box of cereal – store brand, boring cereal – and a gallon of milk. Buy some pasta – generally under $1/lb (and a pound is about 1600 kcal) and cheap-ish sauce. PB&J for lunch should complete the rest of the day. It doesn't have to be exciting, just has to sustain you.

    A week's worth of eating is around 14,000 kcal. $30 per week is about 500 kcal/dollar. Remember that whenever you buy anything.

    Another thing to remember is that food stamps are supposed to be a supplement, NOT THE ENTIRE FOOD BUDGET. Also, is the $30 alottment per person or family?

    The author should be ashamed to admit that she is struggling (or expting to struggle) to eat for $30/week. Many people who don't even need do it can do it without any real effort.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Luke

      I would like to know what stores you are shopping at friend. I use coupons galore and still there is no way I could live on $30.00 a week for groceries.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  9. eddantes

    Good article.

    It’s sad the state of affairs of millions of Americans now days, many people are barely making it in the riches country on the planet.

    I’m all for food stamps for the people who really need them, There are people who were poor and need help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off.
    Before I get accused by tea baggers and republicans of being a liberal, if feeling compassion for my fellow Americans is a being a liberal so be it. I’m not writing this comment out my mother’s basement; I am of the “few” fortunate Americans with a job, I’m working 60 hours a week, thank god I don’t need any body’s help financially but I know that millions in this country do.
    In the words of Ted Kennedy:
    "There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • ding ding dong

      USA is destined to be like Rome.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Truth@Eddantes

      I am so conservative that I could make Reagan look like a fan of Welfare, but I agree with you. It is nothing short of a travesty that people (let alone children) go hungry in our nation, which is one of the wealthiest on Earth. And while abuses will always exist, I would rather we as a society err on the side of some welfare recipients abusing the system over scrapping the whole thing.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:45 am |
      • ruby35

        Thank you for saying this. I don't know where all the hate comes from–I sometimes imagine these commenters to be frothing at the mouth over their keyboards.
        Well of course there are abuses of the welfare system. I see them myself all the time. But that does not mean that helping out the poor is a bad idea. It just means that corruption and lack of morals is EVERYWHERE. If I were to look the other way when I saw real need, then I would be no better than the immoral lot who abuse the system. Two wrongs do not make a right.
        And with that said, I think the food stamp allotment should be reduced. I know a family of 5 who receives $700 a month. That's ridiculous. Also, the assistance should be in the form of vouchers for nutritious food staples, instead of the current system where the recipient can use that credit on virtually any edible product. The WIC program uses a voucher system. If it works well for WIC, it can work for food stamps. In the end, if you cannot stomach peanut better and legumes, then that serves as a good incentive to bust your butt to better your financial situation. No one should go hungry in this country, but by the same token, no one should ever be too comfortable on public assistance.

        September 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
        • summa

          Right on, Ruby. I nominate you boss of the world for a day.

          October 16, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  10. The_Mick

    "I scan the chicken and pick up two breasts for $4.62...a loaf of bread (on special but still a whopping $2.99!)...I choose a small brick of Café Bustelo espresso for $2.86" +++++ This producer is NOT a good shopper. In fact, she's awful. This is like having someone who failed Algebra I describe how to do a Calculus problem! She ignores the things that poor people know are cheap: $1.19/lb hotdogs, 49 cent packages of store-brand mac and cheese, etc. If you're going to do such a story, have someone who knows how to shop get the food! I'm better off than most and I NEVER pick up two chicken breasts for $4.62. I look at the sell-by dates and make sure I'm in the store that day (for the sales) and buy chicken for 49-89 cents per pound. Then she gets bread for $2.99. It's 99 cents at Aldi – $1.49 for whole wheat, $1 at dollar-type stores, and some supermarkets do the same for their store brands. You can get enough Folgers coffee for less than $10 to make 380 cups at Costco (have a friend get it if you can't afford membership). And for the same price I get a large brick (11-12 oz) of Cameron's, Eight O'Clock, etc. whole-bean coffee shipped to me from Amazon. Also, she says meat and fish are impossible. Occasionally, I see top-round or bottom-round ("London broil") steaks for $1.789/lb, most recently at ShopRite. I bought a lot and froze it. Fish sticks are relatively cheap sometimes and frozen, boneless, Tilapia fillets are occasionally on sale at 4 lbs/$10.99 ($2.75/lb) at my local Shoppers supermarket. Tilapia is an excellent tasting fish, which I prefer to Pollock or Mahi Mahi. I would have trouble eating nutritiously for $30/month – especially if my sources were constrained due to poverty limiting my ability to travel, but I could do it.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  11. CT

    Each employee in the Justice Department needs to be restricted to live on $30.00 per week and then they would not allow $16.00 muffins to be served at their meetings. This is what is wrong in Washington, their lack of real understanding the real pain in this country. We need change we must cut costs and live within our means. Spreading the wealth would occur naturally if we were not in such great debt.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:54 am |
    • Nick

      Samo for us Canucks

      September 22, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  12. Schlangemann

    Something people overlook: The cost of cooking. Ingredients are all well and good to calculate, but if you want to bake a potato in a toaster oven for an hour and 15 minutes, a heating element running 1500w for 1.25 hours assuming 98% efficiency and 30% BTU loss (convection and radiation mostly) you could be looking at upward of $.16 to cook your potato. Sounds silly, but eat a potato each day and just heating it becomes 1/30 of your budget. This example may sound petty, but consider the efficiency of your stovetop or keeping your coffee maker turned on. And put a lid on your pots... it takes 3 times longer to boil water if you have it uncovered. There is LOTS of latent energy in steam, thats why they used it to move trains.

    Buying ingredients for $30 a week may be easy, actually EATING may not be so simple.

    Oh, and Crock pots FTW.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  13. Karen

    I spend about $300-400 in the summer and can and freeze all the fruits and vegetables I can find. I have three freezers, two of which I bought from garage sales for around $25 each. I then have all the fruits and vege that I need until the next growing season a year later. I then just need to buy perishables such as cheese and milk, which I buy in bulk (for sometimes just a few dollars more than if I had bought a much smaller size at the grocery). Most hard cheeses will freeze, so it is there when I need it. I also buy some things in bulk at Aldis, such as canned milk, which is great for making rich soups with the vegies that I have frozen. It does mean having a summer budget, but I plan ahead so that I can eat like a queen during the winter.

    September 22, 2011 at 6:50 am |
    • Susanta

      Indeed, worth emulating.

      September 22, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Johnson

      Damn, Karen, are you single??

      September 22, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • mike


      Running 2 extra freezers year round is not saving you any money. You're getting frozen veggies then (why not just buy frozen to begin with?).

      2 Freezers probably run in excess of $10 /month in just electric alone.

      Frozen veggies can be bought for under $1/lb at many grocery stores here in the Philadelphia region.

      I suggest the following:

      1. Bulk packages of meats – you can regularly get ground meat for $1.99/lb.
      2. Spaghetti Sauces – $1 per container
      3. Pasta – $1 or less per lb.

      Dollar store has 2 of these Walmart even sells cheaper.

      That's a spaghetti and meatball past dinner for 3 people for $4.

      I agree that $30 for 3 people a week is not enough but honestly I'm very well off and I have chosen not to have kids until I have a buffer in case of "tough times". I suggest that people make more conscious decisions on what they are doing.

      I understand there are some that have just been unlucky (job loss etc) but a vast majority choose to have children with bums out of wedlock. If we just eliminated the 1/2 of the people that do this, then we could give those who actually need it more and STILL save money on the welfare system.

      If someone accepts food stamps / welfare, while they are on it they should NOT be allowed to have kids. plain and simple. If the government is paying for your children already then you shouldn't be allowed to have more!

      I hate that government gets involved with many things but I believe that if you accept money from them for certain things, then certain freedoms should be given up.

      If someone is staying in your house, then they have to live by your rules. Why not the same with government assistance?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  14. Bill

    I am a large man, and eat on ~$30/week. What on earth were you eating before now, that having that budgetary limit is making it difficult for you??
    You simply have to embrace the leftovers!!

    September 22, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • mnmommy

      Completely agreed! I don't understand what's so hard about eating cheap. I feed my family of four healthy meals for around 80-100 dollars per week. We do eat about 3-4 meals a week that are meatless and that are "beans and rice" or pasta w/ sauce type of meals. My grocery bill is more in the summer when fruit is good, but if it's expensive or out of season, I don't buy it. I don't buy name brand anything - always buy store generic, since it's cheaper than name brand with coupon (my grocery store does not double coupons though). Make a menu every week or every two weeks, and make an extensive grocery list before you go grocery shopping. Don't ever go without a list, don't ever go shopping hungry, and don't ever buy stuff that's not on your list. It takes discipline but we've been eating & buying food this way for years and we have saved a ton of money!

      September 22, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • Kirk

      Part of the problem is the (artificial) parameter that were set. There was no carry-over on this at all. Start from scratch and stay within the single week's budget. It would be much easier to have some food carry from week to week so that one can take advantage of sales, and pick up some things that maybe last longer than a single week.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  15. minimalistmenufesto

    It’s a good challenge to undertake and will require you to learn some good stuff about food, nutrition, money and yourself. Half of the world lives on less than two dollars per day, so, it can be done.

    You said that you knew you were making poor choices when you selected some things at the store. You were right. Coffee and a three dollar loaf of bread! C’mon! No Red Bull either, okay? Americans have to change from the Twinkie-Fast food,over-processed choices that big companies foist onto us that thin our wallets and thicken our butts.

    The American Indians taught the conquistadores how to use what the Spanish called tres hermanas , the three sisters of corn, beans and squash. That is the real fountain of youth that Ponce de Leon was after; the secrete for the long life of your body and your $$$: whole grains, beans, and inexpensive vegetables.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:15 am |
  16. TeaMan

    There should be no food stamps. The poor should line up and get one bag of beans and one bag of rice per month. They can survive on beans and rice three times a day, every day, and not starve. If it's good enough for third world countries then it's good enough for the poor.

    September 22, 2011 at 4:05 am |
    • Beth

      @TeaMan: I'm no fan of the Teaparty either, but this obvious attempt at baiting / trolling is rather pathetic.

      September 22, 2011 at 6:29 am |
      • TeaMan

        It was meant to be obvious. I don't want my message to get lost in the real Tea Bagging filth.

        September 22, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Jimboob

      That should work well... Except for how long the line would be.
      Far to many people in this country in a bad way. Maybe everyone should try to live like this for a while. The "Walk in my shoes" idea. Than maybe we could have a serious discussion... Not.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • lesia

      Don't be a moron. There is no reason for any of us to starve but some people are so afraid that someone is getting something free on their watch they say ridiculous things like this.

      Food in America should be the cheapest. Problem we don't hold people in office accountable and I'm not talking about the president, but Congress the majority of whom are millionaires and are so out of touch they would sell the food out of your mouth if they could get elected to their cushy jobs again.

      My mom raised my three sibs and me on $75.00 a month but that was back in the mid '70's when you actually got value for your money, this is a travesty.

      The author of this story is as out of touch as congress, who can afford Starbucks five days a week?
      I'm lucky I can buy a small container of instant coffee every few months.

      I Worked for 30 years before becoming disabled, I don't get food stamps, I need them but for now I'm ok, in a few more years we'll all probably need them especially that member of congress who said after taking care of his family, he only has $400,000 dollars left.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  17. gakkun

    I've spent a little more of that amount on food while in college at Boston. Nothing new and for the price of the (2!) chicken breasts, I bought a 4 lb bag of frozen chicken thighs. Ended up defrosting and portioning out the entire thing myself. Or you can buy an entire chicken for less and debone it yourself.

    Weekly grocery shopping while in college:
    Bread 2.50, the multigrain kind
    Box of pasta $1
    Cereal 2.50 (generic)
    Misc fruits $3-5
    Misc Meats and dairy $7-9
    Misc Veggies $4-6
    Misc monthly expenditures divided by week ( such as a 10 pound bag of rice):$6-7

    So for the price of around 33-35 dollars, along with comparison shopping with store flyers and frequenting an asian supermarket for cheaper prices, I managed to eat quite well for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In comparison, I went grocery shopping with my friend one time and she spent $75 on herself just by choosing brand names, convenience packages, and shopping solely at a rather expensive supermarket (shaw's). It's really all about figuring out how to balance nutrients with your budget.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  18. Missaness

    For myself? Yes, I could spend $30 a week on food, but I don't have to, so I won't.

    Right now for my family of 5, I spend around $150 a week on groceries. Sometimes more, sometimes less. For me, it depends on what the bargains are. If there is a huge sell on steak or ground meat, I will buy in bulk. I have a separate freezer to store it in, to use as I need. Pretty much the same with all meat products.

    What really kills my budget more often than not, is fresh vegetables and fruits. I have an 18 month old and an 8 year old. I need them to get the proper nutrition, not matter how much the 8 year old screams about it. I make the baby food by hand, I can make 18 servings worth of a vegetable product for what it would cost me to buy 4 servings already canned.

    I don't think it's bad, since we're a 2 income family of less than $21,000 a year. Oh. And I don't get food stamps. Or free health insurance. We'll cut something out of our 'lucky' budget before we get help when it is not needed. Lucky being, cutting the cable, suspending a cell phone, not buying a video game or movie, cutting streaming service to movies, that sort of thing. What I put in my family's stomach is more important than the other things, and I don't want to have to rely on anyone else and take the easy way out to do it.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Andrea

      18 servings for the same price as 4 pre made?? That's insane!! Good for you! I wish more people would take responsibility for themselves and their families, and if things get tough, make the choice to forgo something to keep they're families fed I stead of keeping their 130 a month iPhone plan but making the government buy their food!

      September 22, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • MNinGA

      Wow! I totally commend you on making it work on $150. The baby food you make not only saves you money but also is healthier for your baby! :-) I have a hard time keeping my food budget at $200/week for my family of 6, although all four of my kids are teens (19, 18, 16 and 12) so they eat as much, if not more, than my husband and I do. We have our "cheap" nights (hot dogs & mac'n cheese or manwiches) but also try to cook good, homemade meals several times per week.

      September 22, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  19. Chisna

    Food stamps were never meant to be the entire food budget. I also have seen food stamps being used for items I could not afford, or at least make less expensive choices

    September 22, 2011 at 2:04 am |
  20. Brice

    I feed 2 adults and frequent visitors on $200 a month in food stamps. My cupboards and refer/freezer are nearly full at all times with enough food to last 2-3 months. Careful shopping and forward planning are crucial, and almost every course of every meal is prepared from scratch. We eat very well and very well balanced meals; and with sufficient variety to rarely eat the same dish twice in a given month. Frankly, I cannot tolerate the foul tasting and unhealthy garbage that most people I know consume for their meals at $200 or more a week. Sadly, most of those people do not know how to cook.... heating canned goods or nuking something from a pretty box is NOT cooking.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  21. Brian

    Already do. It's called going to college. You'll get used to rice and bologna.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  22. Carol

    Coupons, now available on the internet, helps. Last month I found a $.75 off Fiber One bread. And took it to a store that doubles coupons. Don't know of any that do that in NYC.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  23. Kris

    I DO eat on $30.00 a week–and have for a long time. Pretty easy if you do a little planning ahead and make the right choices. I buy nearly all fresh food, whether meat or veggies and fruit–and improvise. A whole chicken can make AT LEAST three good meals, sweet pototoes are yummy baked, frozen veggies make virtually any kind of vegetable available year round and there are tons of recipes for nourishing, inexpensive meals everywhere online. It's not brain surgery, people, just get creative and learn to cook instead of relying on dinner-in-a-box.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  24. Kendra S

    Nobody has commented on the jar of Skippy? Does anyone pay any attention to what that crap is made of? Palm oil. One of the worst things you can ever eat. Food stamps should be used for healthier options like: fruits, vegetables, real peanut butter, milk, eggs and 100% juice, beans, lentils and quinoa. That is all anyone needs really.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  25. Ironyislost

    3 meals a day per 7 days a week = 21 meals. Is it ironic that the ad in the upper right corner of this article is for McD's Dollar Menu? That's a hot sandwitch every meal and it's only $21! What to do with the rest of the $7??? ($2 was for the tax at McD's)

    September 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
    • HB

      If you eat nothing but a McDonald's sandwich 3 meals a day, not only will you blow up like a balloon from the fat, but you'll probably start going into organ failure in a couple of weeks from eating no nutrients. Haven't you heard Ironyislost? Our country is suffering from an obesity epidemic right now. Your math might be on, but your idea of a meal is way off.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:43 am |
      • Steve

        Running is free

        September 22, 2011 at 3:31 am |
  26. Julie

    Buy whole food ingredients like oatmeal, brown rice and barley. Dried beans, lentils, eggs and cottage cheese. If you keep your pantry stocked when/if you have to cut back you can make it on even less than $30 a week. Buy from the bulk section of the market – don't buy anything premade, ever. Putting the effort into cooking is healthier anyway. Cut back on meat two or three days a week. Learn to bake bread, learn to make the things you take for granted. A person can eat very well on $30 a week.

    Have a look:

    September 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  27. jdoe

    $30 per week per person? Piece of cake. I regularly pay no more than $100 for 4, and there's still leftover food at dinner. The trick is to buy unprocessed food like fresh fruit and vegetables. It's better for you anyway. No need to buy tender cuts of beef. It's the cooking that counts. Better yet cut out red meat and just buy chicken or pork. I go to an Asian grocery store that is vastly cheaper than your average supermarket. And the variety of meats and vegetables they have you wouldn't believe.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • charls

      If you really know how to cook, it is much easier. Many people have never learned to cook. They consider putting a frozen dinner in a microwave to be cooking. Cooking with raw foods is a skill that many people have never learned. How many children are taught to cook by their mothers anymore? In most families, both parents have to work and so they tend eat out several times a week. If they lose one of their incomes, they can no longer afford to eat out and must adjust to eating at home. Suddenly someone has to start cooking every meal.

      Many of comments come from people who know how to cook and so it seems to be a minor problem to them. I would guess that many people have never really cooked anything in their life. So having a skill like cooking becomes very handy when you are poor. Just like being able to fix your own car when it breaks down.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  28. Hawke

    I can eat on $30 a week but I'm awfully grouchy when I do. I have Greek yogurt, bananas, green beans, and ExtendShake everyday. It's great for my diabetes–keeps my blood sugar super normal and my energy is up but it always feels like I'm missing out. I'm gluten intolerant and carb sensitive in addition to being diabetic.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  29. ORTNmom

    I fed a family of 5 last year including a 3 teenagers (one a boy!) for $70/week. Easy? No, it took planning. Doable? Of course. Coupons. Sales. The author spent $2.99 for a loaf of bread? I could by 3 loaves of good, name-brand bread at Dollar Tree for that amount, or make wonderful homemade rosemary bread for .25 cents a loaf (grow my own herbs in pots). Cook ahead. Buy bulk when possible. Put leftover bits and pieces of meat and vegetables in a homemade soup–restaurant quality food at pennies a serving. $30 per person is more than doable. There is also an organization called Angel Food Ministries that sells good meat and fresh fruits and vegetables at a deep discount. I never took advantage, figuring we were managing on our $12 each and others were worse off, but the organization is there.

    September 21, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Brian you have advice for any families that don't live in Disney's Magical Kingdom or is this just for the Mickey Mouse Club?

      September 22, 2011 at 12:20 am |
      • Andrea

        Why do you need to insult sOmeone who is handing out advice!

        September 22, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  30. Marie

    What the author, and many, many food stamp recipients fail to realize is that food stamp benefits (or SNAP, as the program is now known) were never meant to provide the full food budget for a household.

    September 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Frank

      Before it was a money transfer system, there was just government surplus redistribution. They provided agricultural production price supports by buying up surpluses and using that, rather than paying producers not to produce and paying low income people to buy food. The subsidy levels are insane now, but all anyone talks about is the food stamp side of the funding.

      Government cheese was actually good, once you cut the mold off the skin. Picking out the non-moldy bread didn't work as well for me though.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
      • MyrnaMe

        I remember the days of the government surplus - in fact the cheese is something I still long for. That was real cheese and not the garbage they try to pass off as real cheese in today's market. Govt Surplus was a much better program than SNAP and WIC as it provided the basic staples to people and did not allow them to buy the junk food and processed foods.

        In addition, the surplus program actually served as a stabilizing force for the farmers - but today we pay the farmers no to grow and then pay the needy to buy junk food. But wait, I am certain that it was a liberal congress that stated that the govt surplus program was too costly for the American people (vs. what we have today?????)

        September 22, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  31. Starbuck

    I'm impressed with all of the ideas. I was laid off from my job one month ago. I used to spend $50 a week on just lunch for myself when I was working. I once spent $35 on 1.5 lbs of halibut. I've gotten more cost conscious since then. I would love to try the $30 per person a week challenge. Thanks for providing the grocery lists!

    September 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  32. carol

    Interesting, but hardly a problem! I have by choice lived on less than that for a number of years in large part because I'm also feeding some 'family members' who don't qualify for assistance, and they do not do without. I have never accepted food stamps or other aid – but love to cook and don't buy anything that's taken the fun out of that cooking. Granted, I have my own hens (so a wonderful supply of eggs) and garden when the climate permits (don't ask about the effect of the great southern drought this year). But yes, a whole chicken lasts me over a week, and I do bake my own bread. I have some serious dietary limitations, and those are proving costly – there are things I simply cannot eat and others I can but shouldn't. But eating comfortably and creatively and healthily for $30 a week is hardly a challenge!

    September 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  33. DesertRat

    I know it varies by region, but we spend $50/week for 2 adults and 1 child here (just food, not toiletries, etc.). Mainly, we shop the ads–either going to a store that honors competitors' prices, or planning which store we visit based on who has the best deals that week. Forget brand loyalty! We don't buy processed foods (except for the rare sale priced item combined with coupons), and we don't feel deprived. I can appreciate the writer's thoughts, but really, she sounds like someone who really doesn't cook. I think it would've been helpful to know how much she was spending on groceries before her experiment.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  34. allasia

    Me and my wife spend no more than $200 a month in groceries. We cook at home and eat meat and vegetables every day. That is less than $30 a week for each of us. So I don't see the problem in living on $30 each per week.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • S1N

      It actually depends on whether you are single or have a family. If you actually cook, cooking for three is about the same price as cooking for one. You just don't have nearly as much leftovers.

      Also, for a minimal investment, you can grad some top soil, vegetable seeds, and a watering can. You can grow a large portion of your own vegetables relatively cheaply. Sure, your lawn won't look as nice, but that should be a non-issue if you have trouble finding the money to feed your family.

      September 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  35. Dillion McCaskin

    Well we spend about 140 a month for food for 2 adults, a baby, and two dogs. So yeah 30 a week is awesome eating if your single.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Glen

      17.5% of your pay check should go to food. So if you lived off of 30 dollars a week that would come to 171.43 week. dived that by 7.25 an hour, that is 24 hours a week.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:25 am |
      • Schlangemann

        You neglected taxes in your calculation, but I like where you're coming from.

        Something people overlook: The cost of cooking. Ingredients are all well and good to calculate, but if you want to bake a potato in a toaster oven for an hour and 15 minutes, a heating element running 1500w for 1.25 hours assuming 98% efficiency and 30% BTU loss (convection and radiation mostly) you could be looking at upward of $.16 to cook your potato. Sounds silly, but eat a potato each day and just heating it becomes 1/30 of your budget. This example may sound petty, but consider the efficiency of your stovetop or keeping your coffee maker turned on. And put a lid on your pots... it takes 3 times longer to boil water if you have it uncovered. There is LOTS of latent energy in steam, thats why they used it to move trains.

        Buying ingredients for $30 a week may be easy, actually EATING may not be so simple.

        September 22, 2011 at 7:25 am |
      • J Taber

        The Cost of Cooking ... thanks Schlangeman, a good point to consider. I'll drop the quick microwave and use my gas range. The gas is free in my building.

        September 22, 2011 at 8:09 am |
      • Oscar

        17.5% SHOULD(?) be spent on food? Says who?

        September 22, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  36. JFritz

    Tofu–$1.79 at my local Kroger, and it's organic! Makes cutlets mixed with a bit of veggies/edamame/soy sauce
    Tofu stir fry–freeze tofu, drain well (wrap in towel, weight, pour off water), cut in cubes.
    Tofu fritata–lightly fry diced carrots, zucchini, onion, mix with shredded cheese and 2 T soy sauce-bake 40 mins.
    Learn how to drain and cook this resource.
    Rice, beans, onion fried in olive oil, cilantro. Yum!
    Lentils (69 cents/lb) and bulgar wheat, topped with onions slow-fried in olive oil (recipes online) Top with yogurt.
    Lentil stew
    15-bean soup (comes in bag in soup aisle–about $2.50). Makes a ton.
    Best cheap and easy bread recipe: 4 cups flour, 1 T. salt, 2 pkgs yeast, 1 2/3 cups very warm water–add water to dry ingredients and knead (or process 1 minute in processor). Let rise 1 hour, punch down & make 2 balls. Place on cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet, cut x on top and bake 400 degrees 30 mins.
    Any pasta mixed with any vegetable and olive oil. Top with grated cheese.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • J Taber

      ... and thank you, JFritz, for the recipes. It is heartening to find that so many people find it quite easy to eat very well on $30 a week or less. I certainly do. I shop for on sale items, cook with basic ingredients, and bake bread, cakes, and cookies. When you start to eat REAL home made food, you can't bear the idea of going back to expensive nutrient-poor, and even toxic processed foods. And cooking is fun!

      September 22, 2011 at 8:15 am |
      • J Taber

        ... and I forgot to add – you feel so much better, and have so much more energy when you eat real food.

        September 22, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Jimjones

      Awesome, thanks JFritz!

      September 22, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • The Hungry Librarian

      Interesting point on the hidden energy costs associated with cooking. Of course, if one is willing to prepare foods in larger batches it's possible to maximize the efficiency of energy use while saving one's time. Instead of using a toaster oven, (which typically has massive heat loss issues), to bake a single potato use a large gas or electric oven to bake 4 and make a few loaves of bread simultaenously. Incidentally, cooled, well-wrapped bread loaves freeze beautifully for weeks! Also, once the oven has been turned off it's possible to use the residual heat to warm lefovers and/or dehydrate thin slices of fruit and veg like apples, pears, carrots and kale for healthy, tasty and cheap snacks.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  37. Leslie43

    I'm trying to remember how long ago it was that we could get chunk light tuna in water on sale 3 cans for a dollar.

    Not 4 cans for $3.

    I think that the cans were 6.5 oz. then, not 5.5 oz.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  38. Brian

    You had 30 dollars for an entire week and you bought peppers? Really? No cereal? One but not two packs of pasta (dinner for four nights at least for at most $2.50)? And you spent 10% of your food budget on coffee? You aren't entitled to anything, so don't complain when you spend money on things you don't need.

    This post illustrates some of the problems with food stamps. You shouldn't have been allowed to purchase peppers. It's a vegatable, sure, but it's expensive, has no real caloric benefit, and is generally a waste of money when you are being given free food. You also ignore that people with children get that $30 for each person in the house. If you have three children, it's pretty absurd to state that you could not live and eat comfortably on $120 per week. Cereal each morning and pasta a few times a week for dinner and you've spent no more than $20 of your weekly budget on half your meals. It doesn't matter, though, since I'm sure I'll continue to see people at the grocery store using their food stamps to buy $50 worth of goldfish, soda and chicken wings, and returning diapers when they exceed their limit.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Melinda

      You seem so bitter and angry. It takes a special kind of personality to complain about the purchase of a pepper. "OMG you bought a freakin pepper with your hard earned cash while pretending you were on a food stamp budget!!"

      Calm down and stop trying to be so controlling and you may find someone to love you someday.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Kendra S

      Peppers are fruits, not vegetables.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  39. Aaron

    She's got pretty expensive tastes for someone with $30 to spend on food for a week. She shouldn't tried out some of the discount grocers....and clipped some coupons.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Melinda

      It's because she's just doing this as an experiment. She doesn't really relate to the experience of someone being so broke that they can't splurge on little things like coffee (and as one commenter suggested – a pepper.) She just bought them anyway knowing that her experiment is only temporary.

      September 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Den

      I agree that they are somewhat odd and random choices. The article would have been much more interesting (and helpful) if she had followed the $30/week rule for 2 weeks and documented not only how hard it was to stick to the budget, but also the different choices she made the second week and why.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  40. Matt

    We are family of 4 adults and spend around $500 on grocery food every month.

    We eat plenty of meat, veggies, fruits etc. Show your veggies and fruits on local farmers market

    September 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  41. Splinter48708

    Guys...what century is this writer living in? Or at least what decade? It's really difficult in places of the USA where you can live on $30 a day in food. This is more like 1950s thinking or maybe the 70s.

    Did they ask people in Arizona and California if they can live off $30 a week. Folks south of Vegas would laugh in the writer's face? Maybe in the midwest where the odds that you're paying for the delivery of the food is lessened due to the growing season and stores working with the local farms to provide fresh stuff (or the ever friendly roadside stands that pop up starting in August and, of course, the Farmer's Market where you can get fresh stuff right out of the field...picked that very day (or maybe the day before...LOL) But, in places where everything pre-packaged and prepared for you...nah, you can't live off $30 a week...I know that from experience.

    Oh well.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Larry Robinson

      I live in Southern California and have no difficulty living on $30 per week. I do go just over that with my 2 buck chuck wine from Trader Joes or the equivalent at Fresh & Easy.
      I eat very well =lots of veggies and fruit, a little fish and sometimes chicken; dark chocolate for my sweet tooth, some brown rice 1-2 times per week.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Sam

      I live in Tucson and have no problem spending only 30 a week, and I buy almost all organic, it's called planning meals, nit buying crap you don't need and home cooked meals!! It isn't a problem here, farmers markets are the hidden treasure for me to do it!,

      September 22, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  42. Kelly

    I just started getting $90.00 a month is food stamps and feel I have won the lottery. It may not seem like much, but it is wonderful. The author does not realize that this frees up money – cash to be used bills and gas and medicine. My food stamp application was processed so quickly too...I am so grateful to my DSS office. And there are local food pantries too. And you always DO have access to what you already have at home, so her experiment is not completely accurate.

    I like the attention that this author is bringing the situation, but she seems a bit too eager and her great sense of distance from women like me is too transparent.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  43. Lynne

    I was a single parent, and my daughter and I ate on less than that many a time. My uncle sent me $100 for my birthday and Christmas, and guess what I spent it on? Food! Any time I had extra money, I bought canned goods to squirrel away. I worked full time but earned just over the limit to be eligible for food stamps. The closest we ever came to going hungry was when I had a huge car repair bill. For a week, until payday, we lived on potatoes. I fixed them every way I could think of and they still tasted like potatoes! What made me so mad during that time was my cousin and her husband, who had 4 kids and were self-employed. They lied about their income, and got all kiinds of aid - food stamps, free eyeglasses, Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets. I never lied about my income and never tried to "work the system," and I wasn't eligible for anything. This was back in the 1980's, and maybe the food stamp office didn't check things out so carefully. Thankfully, those years are behind us, as my daughter is now grown.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • lroy

      We have to be related. Call it New England survival, but I also squirrel away. I have a huge freezer (bought in 1978) that I keep fairly full of frozen dinners when they're on sale. My closed in porch is not heated so I keep the non-perishables stocked; if I have room for six cans and I have only four left it drives me NUTS!...I simply HAVE to buy the other two cans.
      Most weeks I spend $100 and it's just me and the cats. But then again, I shop for the long haul not just for one week.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Evan

      A dear friend of mine was a single mom for a long time, and active duty, and made $300 a year too much to qualify for aid!! Yet her neighbor, who ran a day car((self employed and lying about income) received everything you could think of for free! sad!! She became the best coupon shopper, master of recreating left overs and an amazing cook!! I think in the long run she made out better! (funny, from New England too) I actually learned my grocery shopping skills from her!!

      September 22, 2011 at 3:29 am |
  44. Charlie

    I've lived on LESS than $30 a week for groceries, easily. There are a few basic steps to take:

    1. Cut out all pre-prepared & convenience foods – WHOLE FOODS ONLY.
    2. Frozen veggies have all the taste of fresh, but with a longer shelf life & lower price tag, and without the salt of canned (don't look for the crispy texture of fresh broccoli in a frozen bag, though). These are the one exception to the "no convenience items" rule above.
    3. Frozen chicken breasts bought in 5lb bags and frozen, unbreaded fish fillets bought in bulk (Swai is my current favorite) are a very inexpensive form of protein.
    4. Whole grains FOR THE WIN – brown rice, lentils, chick peas, etc. – filling, healthy, and CHEAP. Also think about adding whole grain pasta to your shopping list for a great flavor, fiber boost, and a way to stretch meats.
    5. Beans bulk up meals without bulking up the bill – again, dried vs. canned.
    6. Cut out non-food "foods" – beer, soda, etc.

    I can eat like a KING for $30 a week, and can eat like a health-conscious bachelor for $10. I love to cook, and have been able to throw together delicious, nutritious meals with a per-serving cost of $1 – $2. Some of my favorites are home made from scratch falafel (baked in the toaster oven after a very light spritz of extra virgin olive oil vs. frying) with some curried chicken breast & rice or lentils, sesame noodles tossed with frozen stir-fry veggie mix (and made with a FRACTION of the oil & grease of store bought sesame noodles – UGH so greasy), and fish filet baked with a parmesan and dill weed crust on lemon-garlic brown rice with steamed Brussels sprouts. Breakfast for me is usually a crustless spinach and eggwhite casserole (one carton of eggwhites, one 28oz bag of frozen spinach, dill & onion powder, top with parmesan cheese & bake). That recipe makes four HUGE servings at about $1.50 each, or you can split it further for more savings.

    Cooking on a shoestring budget requires forethought and planning; you can't just run out to the store every other day for this-and-that (and besides, what you save on grocery money you waste on gas money).

    September 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Aaron

      Thanks for the blurb on the swai. I see it in the grocery store a couple of times a year. It's cheap, and one of the best-tasting fish I've ever had. I had no idea it was also nutritionally sound.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
      • Larry Robinson

        I also eat swai and love it. great tasting, low calorie and very good for you

        September 21, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • lroy

      A couple of problems here. I do not handle raw meat. Two, there are certain grains I cannot digest.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • A

      Great minds think alike, Charlie. I, too, love falafel, and can yield about 32 patties from a box of mix, with the exact method of cooking you described. The boxed mix is very reasonably priced, and much less time consuming than making falafel from scratch.

      I don't know if Costco and the like are allowed, following the methodology of the author, but buying a big bag of broccoli florettes from Costco is another good idea for vegetables. The chicken breasts you mentioned are good to buy there too.

      September 22, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  45. Deb

    It can be done if you have the time to shop the right way and plan. I'm not a meat eater so I survive on a salad a day with an apple, then again I'm only 100 pounds and want to stay that way. I have a cup of coffee in the morning, a light snack for lunch and then a salad for dinner and an applie about two hours later. If you have kids that want to eat a lot of snacks/junk then good luck, but by the looks of most Americans, seems like most people can do without all the extras. Take advantage of the BOGO discounts and freeze bread, meat, etc. Spaghetti is very inexpensive to make. Cereals can be bought on BOGOs with coupons, etc. Lots of people need education on how to shop properly for deals.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Jenny

      You're right Deb; it's very easy to live off of $30 a week when you eat what I am guessing adds up to less than 500 calories a day. The people with low budgets should be focusing on being healthy and giving their body the proper nutrients, not staying 100 pounds.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • holy guac

      You sound like you have serious food issues, and a severe eating disorder. That, and you judge others' worth by what they weigh/look like. You must be a very unhappy person to willfully starve yourself on a daily basis. Your body will not function well without proper nutrients forever. You might as well be one of the overweight people for whom you show such judgmental disdain, there is no way you are properly nourished on coffee, a salad which I bet has fat free dressing, and an apple. Let me guess – your light snack at lunch is a celery stick and a cup of ice. You poor, pathetic, teeny, tiny size zero thing. You will be a very slender little corpse – probably sooner rather than later. It's called ANOREXIA. It's a control issue.

      September 21, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
      • Deb

        First, I am not anorexic and do not have an eating disorder. I have been small my entire life and don't feel the need to eat 3 meals a day because someone says I should. I just went to the doctor for a checkup and all my blood work is excellent. No high cholesterol, no high blood pressure, etc. I walk and exercise every day. For my height, I am the right weight. Secondly, I am not showing "disdain" for anyone overweight. I'm just saying people should cut out all the extra junk they eat. The author is writing about eating on $30 a week and all I'm saying is it's doable. Eat healthy, plan well, shop well and don't buy junk. I take a multivitamin/mineral supplement and get my proteins from eggs and other sources. Don't slam me when you don't know me!

        September 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • lroy

      That's not a very healthy diet sister. I understand you want to stay 100 pounds (I was once that skinny too...a perfect size five; then again I was in high school). Anyway, two packages of hot cereal (mix and match), the whites of two eggs, rice cake with butter.
      I used to eat a whole box of Rice a Roni (teen years), but can't do it now. Now I eat frozen dinners, depending what's on sale.
      And I have to have my large chocolate milk for breakfast.
      HoJo's used to have English Muffin buttered-twice toasted, slice of American cheese, top with tomato, bacon, another piece of cheese and melt for 20 seconds. So just don't eat the bacon.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • kar

      Deb is right. Smaller women just don't need as many calories. I'd guess she probably is getting between 1200-1500 calories daily, altho I do not usually count them, either. A salad can make a fine meal, especially if you include avocado, cheese and even chopped egg.

      September 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  46. r

    Unless you are allergic to them, it was very stupid not to buy eggs.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  47. John

    Just move to Asia. I know for sure that you can buy a complete meal for $1. Do that a few times a day and you'd come in well under $90 a month. Why pay money to the food conglomerates?

    September 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  48. MattCdA

    $30 per week doesn't sound like much at first. However, this equates to about $130 per month for one person or $520 per month for a family of 4. This is definitely enough. A few years ago when finances were tight for my family, we budgeted $250 per month for food for me, my wife and our two children. We got by on that without problem, month after month for 2 years. It wasn't steak and lobster every night, that's for sure. But it was enough for us to eat healthily. My family has now grown to 6, which would be about $750 per month in food stamps. We no longer monitor our expenses to the penny (don't need to anymore, thankfully), but my wife estimates that we spend $700 per month on groceries. And we don't hold back at all on what we buy ... lots of meats, fresh veggies and fruits, etc. I'm pretty sure that we could easily trim our grocery expenses to $500 a month for our family of 6, if we needed to. So in my opinion, the food stamp allotment could be reduced to $20 per week per person without harming the health of the recipieints, and it would certainly help out a bit on government spending.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • holy guac

      While we are at it, let's just allow $10 a week for children because they are smaller, and really, what the hell are they doing getting the same as an adult?

      September 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
      • holy guac

        And BTW, estimating is not calculating. I bet if your wife actually sat down and figured to the penny what she spends every month, it might not be as little as she thinks she spends. Don't forget to add the side trips for things like milk and bread.

        September 21, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  49. Stowie

    Food Stamps is now referred to as SNAP benefits. The benefits are issued through a card, not stamps, thus the name change. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They are meant to supplement your food budget, NOT REPLACE IT. Yes, some folks abuse it but some, especially seniors, rely on these benefits to help them through the month. Seniors should not have to decide if they will pay for their medication or eat. They should be able to do both! The entire Medicare Drug Plan mess needs to be revisited...but that another thread!

    September 21, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • lroy

      I know what my parents would say...go back to ration cards. I know they used to be traded with other people (which was illegal). Once the ration books were used up, that's it. Just ask anyone who grew up in the 1940s.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
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