Friday, June 1, 2012

Food Stamp Budget Grocery Shopping

As I mentioned in this post about the 2012 Farm Bill, one of the most important (and most hotly debated) part of the whole bill is the section that funds the SNAP (Food Stamps) program. I challenged my readers to live on the "food stamps budget", which is about $31 per person per week ($496 per month for a family of four) before making a decision about whether they think the program should be cut or extended. As a side note, the actual subsidy that a person receives on food stamps varies by their income, but for these purposes, the $31/week seems to be the generally accepted amount.

In the above linked post, I also mentioned that our family grocery budget is often right about $200 per month. And honestly, it didn't get down to that level until it was a necessity rather than an ideal. Some months, when we have more discretionary income, that number creeps back up to $300 or so. But the past few months have been tight money-wise. Honestly, in the past few months, we're sometimes scrambling to sell things on Craigslist or have a garage sale to make ends meet, so nearly every category of our budget has been slashed. It isn't always be totally honest, after Justin called me and told me the amount of his paycheck yesterday, I stomped my feet and cried and yelled at God that I was tired of all this trusting in Him for provision business, and that I just wanted to be able to go buy a baby outfit after our gender ultrasound this month, or go out to dinner for our anniversary...or build our farmhouse table, or just to be able to buy some darn cookies at the grocery store. It sucks not to have discretionary money in the budget. But then I came across this on Pinterest again:

I don't care whether all the statistics are accurate--it was the reality check that I needed. It might suck to feel like we're poor, but even so, we are richer and more blessed than most. And those things I stomped my feet and yelled at God about? None of them are necessities, really. And the things that are necessities? Have been provided for in miraculous ways. So, I got myself together, and did what I always do on the last day of the month--a meal plan. And then I went grocery shopping, with our $200 budget in mind--which I know is just reality for lots of families, on food stamps or not. I try to shop once every two weeks, buying the bigger items such as cheese and meat at the beginning of the month. I buy produce and milk as needed. If all goes according to plan, I intend to take photos of what all we're eating this week and post them next Friday, so I won't go into the whole meal plan. Anyway, here's what I got:

{Please excuse my dirty floors}

Here's the run-down....keep in mind that we have meat in the freezer from our cow purchase.
5 dozen eggs- $5.98
16 oz frozen corn- $0.95
String cheese- $2.98
32oz Raspberry yogurt- $1.98
10 individual yogurts- $.44 each
2 eight ounce blocks of neufatchel cream cheese- $1.18 each
Shredded mozzarella cheese- $5.98
2lb block of cheddar cheese- $4.88
Two packages of Bar-S Bacon- $1.99 each
Large Jimmy Dean sausage- $5.89
2 packs frozen hash browns- $1.18 each
Frozen blackberries- $2.38
Frozen raspberries- $2.68
Original Yumm Sauce- $5.34
Sliced mushrooms- $1.49
Baby carrots- $0.79
Red Delicious apples- 2.83 pounds @ $0.89/lb
Jarred Applesauce- $1.88
Two 16 count flour tortilla- $4.68 each
10 pounds unbleached flour- $3.66
2 cans tomato sauce- two for $0.99 total
2 packets Italian dressing mix- $0.55 each
Three pack of fast-rising yeast- $0.88
Whole-wheat Ritz-$2.98
2 large cans of spaghetti sauce- $0.88 each
Folgers Coffee (small container)- $3.88
Jar of crushed garlic- $1.69
Red bell peppers- 0.64 pounds @ $1.98/lb
Bananas- 4.41 pounds @ $0.54/lb
5 pounds of potatoes- $1.49
Yellow Squash- 0.98 pounds @ $0.79/lb
Fuji apples- 3.29 pounds @$0.89/lb
Jar of medium black olives- $0.98
Green onions- $0.59
Two large cans baked beans- $1.78 each
Two loaves wheat bread- $2.18 each
Two containers strawberries- $1.48 each
6 oz blueberries- $1.89
Peaches-2.01 pounds @ $1.49/lb
Calico Cheese- $2.13

Total: $125.21, leaving $74.79 for the rest of the month. I'll keep y'all posted :)


  1. Hang in there - you're awesome at keeping your family to a $200 a month budget, in the long run, it will pay off. On an unrelated but it's been on my mind and kind of is associated note (ha!), I've recently been wondering if I'd do better on a weekly grocery budget instead of a monthly budget.

    We too have a grocery budget that's under the $31 per person per week statistic, I was really surprised to learn that number from your last post, actually!

  2. Thanks for sharing, this is a beautiful reality check for all of us :)

    Thank you for your vulnerability! I'm feeling quite blessed, have a wonderful weekend :)

  3. I LOVE that reality check. And we too are under the $31/person stat. It's a crazy world we live in and you're doing a fantastic job managing your household in it!

  4. I applaud you guys for sticking with a budget. We have tried and failed various times over the years to actually stay within a budget. It's so frustrating because we do have a fairly decent income, but we both feel like we have nothing to show for it. Although it's rather hard right now with our farm start up costs.

    Just curious how you track your budget, have you ever posted about that? I would be pretty interested in hearing about it. We are trying YNAB now and have been for six months. I really like the concept of using last months paychecks but I'm finding it hard to put into practice.

    I wanted to say a big thanks for the farm bill posts. As new beginning farmers it is so frustrating how many subsidies there are for commodity farmers but none for people are raising actual food. Thanks for raising awareness!

    1. As for tracking our budget, we read YNAB, but then created our own budget in Excel. We have line items for literally everything (some months they're funded and some months they're not), and we just enter receipts as we go, so we always know what we've spent and what we have left. It's our goal to start "funds" of sorts so that we have things like auto expenses and Christmas gifts allocated for well in advance. We are definitely a long ways from living on last month's income...we're working on paying down debt and building an emergency fund right now--which was almost fully funded at the beginning of the year and has now been nearly completely depleted (not for fun stuff, for true necessities) :(

      Honestly, sometimes we go over the $200/month budget for groceries. And if it's for stuff like fruit and milk, I'm okay with that!

  5. friend,
    this is so right on time. just today, i've been feeling a bit whiny that we can't go out to dinner tonight ... to celebrate end of the school year, plus my hubby's awesome interview today. but we can't afford it. so instead, i need to *fix* dinner ... and don't feel like it. so much complaining in my heart! argh. ;(
    i continually struggle with grocery budgeting and again this month ran "short" - can't do a big shop until next week and so am needing to stretch what we have til then. and let's be honest: making do with what we have isn't *fun*.
    but it's ok.
    i need a serious perspective-shift today and you gave it! :) thanks, friend.
    we are so blessed.

  6. Wow! Where do you shop? I live in Western Washington, so I didn't expect my prices to be too much different than yours, but the prices you mentioned are significantly lower for several things.

    I am trying to start making more things from scratch to lower my budget. Do you make bread?

    1. I drive into a different town twice a month to shop at this local warehouse store--for almost everything (except pineapple for some reason) is significantly cheaper there and makes it worth the drive!

      I make bread pretty often, but I've found that most of the recipes I've tried yield more of a french bread--I haven't successfully made sandwich bread!

  7. You're awesome, Meredith! Keep up the good work.

    We don't track our groceries but I do know I always attempt to stay around the $60 range every 10 days or so I go shopping. Sometimes I utterly fail and other times I come in below. It's hard on one income but I think it teaches us discipline and gratitude :)


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