Thursday, September 27, 2012

Taking on the SNAP challenge

Not too long ago, Crazy Dumbsaint of the Mind posted a food stamp (SNAP) challenge, and I took her up on it. Basically, can you survive on your state's food allowance? I took her up on her challenge, because, well, I like a good challenge. Especially challenges that help me simplify my life and keep money in my pocket.

Figuring on the maximum, even though I only qualify for $0, I have a monthly food budget of $747.48. Now, we could totally survive on a great deal less than this, but I would like to do more than survive. I like to feed my family with wholesome food and, to boot, we've been challenged by a Higher Authority to give up gluten and dairy. Believe me when I say that no one in my family is the least bit happy about this. I'll wax on about the evils of dairy another time, but it really is not a necessary human staple.

Since the hubs and I are a bit on the fluffy side of skinny, I've decided that we are going to go primal and go all hunter-gatherer in the grocery store as a way of life and he's agreed to put up with it. It's meat and vegetables vegetables and meat. That means I'm not shopping for breads, cereals, pastas, etc. The kids still get gluten-free baked goods (and I get to sample them) and sometimes I serve corn chips or corn tortillas. It's all about moderation, 80/20, yada, yada. I'm not radical about it. Anyway, back on topic, my shopping is centered around meats, vegetables, and a modest supply of gluten-free baking goods for the kids.

I've focused on whole-foods for quite a while now, so I have mostly phased out prepackaged foods and make most things from scratch. That used to include bread. Switching to paleo-ish meal planning has not been that difficult. Instead of coming up with a starchy side, I just skip it. Easy-peasy. It is a bit more expensive, though.

Since the hubs gets paid 26 times a year, and I shop weekly, I figure my weekly food budget is $172.50 for a family of six. I think this is doable. If we can eat for $2 a day, we can do this.

Seven breakfasts: $20

I usually serve eggs and breakfast meat, and I can easily use a dozen eggs for this meal. I budget 8 oz of meat for the family, whether it be sausage or bacon. I used to buy the $1 package of breakfast links, because they're tasty, but have you looked at those ingredients? Yikes! Eggs are about a dime a piece and breakfast meats average 19 cents an ounce. Rounding everything up, breakfasts for the week will cost about $20 for all of us.

Seven morning and afternoon snacks: $20

I usually serve fruit in the morning and popcorn, kale chips, or roasted chickpeas in the afternoon.

Seven Lunches and Dinners: meat $65, everything else $67.5

Lunches will mostly be planned leftovers, crudites, and fruit. The 14 meals I plan to make (in no particular order) are:
  1. Tacos served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, salsa
  2. Tacos again. We LOVE taco night.
  3. Chili served with pumpkin cornbread
  4. Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and side vegetable
  5. Chicken and dumplings (from the roast chicken leftovers)
  6. Chicken paprikash with GF dumplings and salad
  7. Chicken salad with tossed salad and fruit
  8. Salmon chowder with salad
  9. Meatballs and spaghetti (GF noodles)
  10. Meatloaf, green beans, salad, and mashed veggies
  11. Sausage and potatoes, served with salad
  12. Carnitas, served with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, corn tortillas
  13. Leftover carnitas
  14. More leftovers. There's always leftovers.
I suspect this is too much food, but better too much than not enough. After breakfast foods, snacks, and meat, my budget has $67.50 left for all of my produce, coffee, tea, and beverages.

I usually shop several times during a pay period. I would love to only shop once, but I inevitably forget a few things and I just can't fit all the produce I like to buy into my fridge. I buy all my meat for the pay period during my first shopping trip and promptly put it into the chest freezer. I also buy as much produce as I think I can fit into my fridge. I try to hold out for a week before I go to the store for more produce or eggs. We eat a LOT of eggs.

Eating frugally is largely a matter of organization and discipline. You have to keep meal-making foods on hand at all times. You must have an emergency plan for when you forget to thaw your meat or life gets in the way. Cooking or prepping foods ahead of time also save a lot of time and money, because when you are prepared and have a plan, you are much less likely to say, "forget this. Let's go hit up the dollar menu."

That's it for now. I'll post my grocery lists, money spent, and recipes when I get rolling.
So, what do you think? Tell me about your budget and what's on your shopping list.

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