Eye Opening First Day

As part of Hunger Action Month, Matt and I have signed up for the CalFresh Challenge. In this challenge, participants spend a week on the typical budget of someone receiving food stamps. The budget is only $4.38/day, or $30.67 per week. With two of us doing the challenge, we get a budget of 61.34 to spend on meals for the entire week. That’s much less than we would spend on going out to dinner for one night. In fact, the daily budget per person is less than my favorite drink at Starbucks. This challenge really puts things into perspective.

Planning our meals was more challenging than I expected. I originally thought that I would just go to Walmart to save money, but I REALLY did not want to shop there. I decided that to really challenge myself I would shop at the stores where I usually buy groceries. The exception was that I did not go to Costco. Even though my per-meal costs would have been lower, it’s hard to buy in bulk on this food budget.

Matt and Gwen's groceries the week of the challenge. 

Matt and Gwen's groceries the week of the challenge. 

Even when I came up with meals that I thought would work I found out that costs were higher than I anticipated when I went to the store. I had to adjust my menu as I shopped. It was a little frustrating, but again it was eye opening. Here’s what the groceries look like:

We have about $15 left in our budget for the rest of the week. I feel like I did pretty well with planning, but I’m worried about things I may have forgotten. I’m also worried about the food lasting the whole week. We used to shop once a week but found that we were wasting food because things would go bad before we ate them. Now we try to only shop for a few days at a time to reduce waste. We’ll see how this goes!

To make things easy, we are going to have the same meals and snacks during the day. Here’s the cost breakdown of everything other than dinner (cost per person):

Breakfast (fruit) – .27
Morning snack (string cheese) – .25
Lunch (wrap sandwich) – 1.54
Afternoon snack (carrots and celery) – .35
Dessert (yogurt) – .58
Total daily meals/snacks (except dinner) – 2.99

Breakdown of wrap sandwich:
Wrap – .37
Lettuce – .12
Chicken – .72
Mayo – .18
Tomato – .15
Total cost – 1.54

southwest chili

southwest chili

Tonight’s dinner – Southwest Chili
2 cans black beans (.68 ea) – 1.36
1 can corn – .68
1/2 onion – .20
1 large can diced tomatoes – 2.29
seasoning – .50

Total cost of chili – $5.03

Since this makes a lot of chili, we’ll be eating it for dinner over 2 nights, making it $2.52 per meal ($2.51 for the leftovers).

So how did we do on the first day of the challenge? We spent $8.50 total on all of our meals, or $4.25 per person. We managed to stay within budget, but we also made a large meal that can be used for leftovers. I’m a little worried about making it through the rest of the week on our budget.

The chili was pretty delicious, though! It’s one of my favorite things to make. Usually we like to put it on top of a salad, and I like to add a dollop of labne on top. We kept it simple this time.