Monday, October 09, 2006

How To Eat On Food Stamps

In a recent Kansas newspaper article, the food editor took the challenge to live on the amount of money a single person receives for food stamps (apprx $5.53/day). He stated that on that kind of money it was nearly impossible to have a wide variety of foods or fresh produce. I'm going to challenge that assertion and go one step further.

Since I don't live in Kansas, I'm going to use the quidelines for my state (Florida). I've googled the benefit amount for food stamps and I'm left using the USDA Approximate Max Benefit for my family size. If one is eligible for food stamps, one is also eligible for WIC, as well, so I'll be factoring that in.

The max benefit in food stamps alone for my family size (5 people) is $601/month ($140/week) or roughly $4/day per person (less than the amount that the editor in Kansas received per capita). However when you factor in the milk, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, infant formula & fruit and vegetable juices available using WIC, then that $601 will go a LOT farther.

As I said, there are five of us: 2 adults, one 4.5 year old, one 2.5 year old and one 7 month old. Lucky us, we qualify for WIC for THREE people! At least until the oldest turns 5... (Had to edit that typo as it was leading to some confusion)

Now about our spending habits:

We don't buy pre-prepared foods that often, and I buy organic as much as possible. I have one child in pull-ups and one in diapers. I buy "solution-free chicken" and we don't buy ice cream (except for birthdays) or sodas. Basically, we shop the outside aisles of the grocery store. We only buy real juice (nothing less than 100% juice) and real butter. I don't clip coupons as that would mean I'd have to pay for the newspaper and even if I did clip coupons, none of the stores in my area double/triple coupons anyways.

So off to the (virtual) grocery store we go... I'll only be buying things we normally buy at stores we normally shop. Unlike the folks in the midwest, we don't have Aldi's or Tradxer Joe's (poor us). We do have Save-A-Lot, but the closest one is not open yet. It's been under construction for about 6 months now.

This week at Winn Dixie the following are BOGO or on sale:

Pork Chops - $3 for 2 pounds (two dinners for 4)
Split Chicken Breasts - $2.59 for 2 pounds (two dinners for 4)
5 pound bag of Red or Gold Potatoes - $3.99 for two bags (AT LEAST 2 weeks worth of potatoes)
Iceberg Lettuce - $2 for two
Sliced Mushrooms - $2 for two packs (8 oz. each)
Kraft Cheese - 2 for $5 (cheese sandwiches for lunch for 2 weeks) and this is FREE with WIC
V8 Juice - 2 for $5 and this is FREE with WIC (enough for one week)
Juicy Juice - 3 for $6 (also free with WIC)
Store Brand Bread - 99 cents/loaf (one week's worth of lunch sandwiches/toast)
Tilapia Filets (frozen) - $5.99 for 2 packs of 4-5 fillets (2 dinners and 1 lunch)
1 pound of Strawberries - 2 for $5 (enough for a week of pancakes, oatmeal with fresh fruit and sides with lunch)
Cabbage - 39 cents/pound
3 pound bag of yellow onions - $1.79
Large Eggs - 69 cents/dozen (one week's worth of omelets, breakfast and quiche)
1 pound of bacon - $1.38 (at least a week if not more)

Regular Price items:

Organic Milk - $3.24/half gallon (1 week's worth). WIC allows 2 gallons/week of regular milk at $2.95/gallon. Let's say I only get ONE gallon of *regular* milk.
Baby Formula - $25/can (1 week's worth) - FREE with WIC.
5 pound bag of Flour - $1.99
5 pound bag of Sugar - 99 cents

Now let's assume I want to drive a little further and ADD to my grocery list...

At Albertson's there are the following deals this week:

SPAM 10 for $10 (Normally S1.99/can)
Progresso Soups 10 for $10 (Normally $2.29/can)
Italian Sausage $1.99/pound - ONE pound is two meals for 4 of us + 1 lunch
3 pound bag of Yellow Onions - TWO for $3 - cheaper than Winn Dixie by about a buck over all.
Sweet Potatoes - 89 cents/pound

Canned goods range around 50 cents each on average depending on what you are getting. Let's say I buy $5 worth.

Frozen veggies can be $5 for 4 packs and that will last a week or two depending on the vegetable - I'll get $5 worth of those, too.

Diapers are $5.74/pack at Target (1 week) - I cloth diaper about 50% of the time and when I do, that $5.74 lasts for TWO weeks

Pull-Ups are $15/pack pretty much everywhere (1 week)

So let's say I buy EVERYTHING on my list... That comes to 136.07 WITHOUT taking WIC into consideration AT ALL. And you won't see ANY Tuna Casserole in there. The other things that aren't listed are:

Peanut Butter
Dried Beans
Canned Tuna
Cleaning Supplies
and so on...

But if you factor in the WIC amounts (a savings of approximately $45.33), you'll see that the 140/week will go PLENTY far if you just choose the right things to cook. There's even fruits/veggies in there in the recommended daily amounts for everyone!

Another largely untapped resource is the Dollar Tree. I kid you not. You can often find canned goods/cereal/juice cheaper there than at the grocery and I've not noticed any sizeable difference in quality. I can get a HUGE can of Mangos for a buck and I can't even GET THAT AT ALL at my local grocery. I also get national branded cleaning supplies for a bargain basement price.

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