Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July Snap Challenge

As much fun as I had with the May 30x30 fashion challenge, I’ve decided to do something a little more serious for July.  June was a VERY expensive month for us, what with traveling to Chicago and Rhode Island and Guinevere’s first birthday and all the other birthdays.  So Aaron and I have agreed to put a moratorium on spending for the entire month of July.  Neither of us are big shoppers, but one area we can really cut back is on food.  While I prefer to eat healthy most of the time, it’s so easy to get home from a long day at work and decide to order pizza or Chinese food or, if we really want to splurge, Indian food.  But for the rest of July, Aaron and I have agreed not to eat out or order in (unless it’s paid for by someone else J).

I decided to make this self-imposed budgetary restriction a little more fun by blogging about it.  While planning for this month, I remembered several politicians doing the “Snap Challenge,” so I’ve decided to do my own version.  The Snap Challenge is where people attempt to live on about $120 per person per month, i.e. the amount of money a person would receive on food stamps.  What I find interesting is that the amount of money people get seems like it would be a reasonable amount – I used to spend about $100 a month on my groceries when I was single and living by myself (and a starving artist).  Of course, who knows, I could be eating humble pie by the end of the month.  Hopefully I don't end up regretting sharing my food spending/intake for an entire month!

Here are the Snap Challenge rules set forth by Foodshare.org:
·       Each person should only spend $4 per day on food and drink.
·       All food purchased and eaten in this time must be counted in total spending - this includes dining out.
·       During this time, do not eat any food purchased prior to the start of the Challenge.
·  Whenever possible, avoid accepting free food from family, friends and coworkers since these opportunities are not always available to those in need.
·       Eat as healthy as possible, keeping in mind that this is how many people eat every day, whereas you can make up for lost nutrients next week.

There are a few rules I will not be following.  First off, I think it’s ridiculous to not eat any food that was purchased prior to starting the challenge. It’s not like the federal government comes in and cleans out your cupboards before you start food stamps! (Though there may be some conspiracy theorists that try to claim that happens).  Also, I will not be refusing any free food.  It’s not like a person on food stamps suddenly has to cut off ties with friends and family.  My parents have a garden.  They like giving me some of their crop.  It would be inane for me to refuse free produce!

I have no desire to play the “pretend I’m poor” game.  That just feels a bit too Marie Antoinette for me.  Besides that, I already know what it’s like to live on a very low income.  Prior to law school, I lived on under $18,000 per year.   I was able to pay all my bills, eat out occasionally, and survive.  It was tight, but I did it.  By no means am I trying to demean the plight of people on food stamps, or make it seem like their life is easy.  I have the fortune of living in an area where a banana is less expensive than a Twinkie.  I have a car and can put enough groceries for two weeks at a time in my trunk, which saves us money.  This exercise is really more about reigning in our current family spending and also eating healthier.  I am convinced that Aaron and I can eat much healthier (and for less money) than we have been lately.

So, with that said, here are my rules for Brenda’s July Snap Challenge:
  • Spend what a Snap recipient would spend on food for our family of three or less.  I don’t think G really counts as a full person yet – and besides that, her food during the weekdays is covered by our daycare tuition.  So I’m going to try to spend 2.5 times the amount one person on food stamps receives: $300 per month.
  • Account for each meal individually to create a per person accounting of food I actually consume.  This will make it fairer since I have no control over how much/what Aaron consumes.  So the challenge for the family is spending on a family level, and on consumption is for me on a personal level.
  • Once a week (probably Sunday or Monday), post how I did during the preceding week. Include my favorite recipe of the week.

I went grocery shopping on Sunday, and this was my haul:

The total was $101.76.  Through coupons and Ralphs club, I saved $36.14.  As I said before, I tend to shop for two weeks at a time, so this puts me under my goal of $300 per month, assuming I only need to shop once more this month.

It did include the ingredients for Sunday night dinner, which I wasn’t going to count in this challenge.  We had friends over for dinner, and I decided as one last hurrah, to splurge on hormone-free organic chicken (though it really wasn't that much of a splurge - it was on sale for the same price as regular chicken).  But I think I will include it after all.  I baked the chicken and then we had broccoli and rice for a side dish.  The total for that meal was $7.89 total or $1.57 per person.

Would you ever participate in this type of challenge?  What sort of tips do you have for saving money on groceries?


  1. I think it's really great that you are doing this! People sometime act like living on food stamps is some sort of luxury, but it is really difficult.

  2. This is really interesting! I would have a hard time doing this... plus, my husband does the grocery shopping (which is sort of dangerous in itself).

    1. Haha - yeah, whenever my husband does the grocery shopping, I know we'll end up with some "bonus" item like ice cream or something. :)

    2. I'm always terrified when I have to ask my husband to pick something up from the store. Once he came home with ten (TEN!) boxes of Captain Crunch because it was ten for ten dollars or something. That doesn't mean you have to buy that many!

      This is such a cool challenge! Maybe I'll give it a go in September (because July has started and we'll be on vacation in Aug. And holy cow, September is just around the corner!)

  3. You should definitely try it! I almost thought of seeing if anyone else wanted to do it with me, but figured I should see how I do for myself on it first. :)