Tag Archives: budget

Farmers Market SNAP Challenge Guidelines

Take the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge

  1. Sign Up for the Farmers Market SNAP Challenge
  2. Join the discussion on social media using #fmSNAPchallenge.
  3. Attend the SNAP Challenge Social at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.
  4. Support the Blacksburg Farmers Market SNAP Incentive Program or your favorite hunger relief organization. You can specify your donation to support the Blacksburg Farmers Market’s SNAP Incentive Program by putting it in the memo line of your check.


Virginia Farmers Market SNAP Challenge

SNAP Challenge Guidelines

  1. You are pledging to limit your food shopping to $7.50 per day per person for a total of $52 for the week, $40 of which should be spent at the Farmers Market. As with SNAP regulations, this amount does not include hot prepared foods (like hot rotisserie chickens), restaurant meals, or alcohol, as these are not allowable purchases with SNAP funds.
  2. You can use whatever cooking oils, dried herbs, and spices you already have in your pantry.
  3. You can use any home-grown or home-preserved (not store bought) produce that you already have.
  4. If during the Challenge, you are offered free foods, such as at a meeting or social function, you can enjoy these. For many families on SNAP, these sources of food help stretch food budgets.
  5. In the spirit of raising awareness of hunger in the community, please share your experiences, positive or negative, on social media using #fmSNAPchallenge. Pictures of your grocery shopping, your meals, or your emotions are encouraged. Participate in online discussion of the #fmSNAPchallenge on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. We will be posting resources and daily reflections throughout the Challenge.

The purpose of the Challenge is to experience the difficulty of eating healthy on a SNAP budget, raise awareness of hunger in the community, and support the SNAP Incentive Program at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.

The “S” in SNAP stands for Supplemental, which means that this food budget is not supposed to provide 100% of a person’s needs, although for many hungry families, it is the only money available to feed themselves. Knowing this, you may not be able to stay on-budget or eat as well as you’d like and that is okay. What changes did you try to make to your usual shopping habits for the Challenge? Did they work or not? These are the kinds of thoughts the Challenge is intended to raise.

Tweet: I’m taking the #fmSNAPchallenge & you can too. Challenge Guidelines & Sign Up here: http://ctt.ec/go4Ch+


Share Arrow

Dietetic Intern Courtney’s SNAP Challenge- Obstacles versus Advantages

Obstacles versus Advantages

I think my pros outweigh the cons for this SNAP challenge.

I think my pros outweigh the cons for this SNAP challenge.

What I predict will be my most challenging obstacles are the following:

  1. Staying active with a limited food supply –
  • During the week I exercise 5-7 days a week from 15-20 minutes up to 90 minutes at a time.  Will I be able create a meal plan on a budget while maintaining my lifestyle?

2. Convenience and spontaneity –

  • I have no idea what I’m going to eat tomorrow, let alone in the next hour. My husband and I keep staple foods in our house and snack/fix meals on a whim. This meal planning thing will be a huge change for me.
  • Convenience is a very close third place after nutrition and cost in regards to priorities of food.  In lieu of cooking, I sometimes opt for microwave meals, ramen noodles, mac&cheese from the box, hamburger helper, and, yes, even a fast-food cheeseburger (Shame on me, right? No, it’s not an everyday or even an every week occurrence, but this ideology is a topic for another day’s discussion)

What are my advantages?

  1. Nutrition education
  • I have a Bachelors of Science in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise with an emphasis in Dietetics from Virginia Tech and I am an aspiring Registered Dietitian.

2.  Meal planning experience from class projects during school

3. I am petite.

  • Besides the increased calorie needs due to my activity level, my calorie requirements may be less than many people, particularly male individuals.

4. I am not feeding a family; this week I will only be feeding myself.

  • If I had more mouths to feed, I would have added SNAP benefits to spend; however, I would be dealing with different food preferences.  Also, if I was preparing for additional people, convenient foods may seem more appealing.

5. Utilities

  • Microwave, stove, oven, fridge, toaster, blender – I have all of these available and plan to use them in an attempt to increase my meal variety.

6. Time

  • Minus the 40 hours committed to my work site and class this week, I am relatively flexible this week. I am able to make necessary adjustments in order to prepare meals and snacks.

7. Cooking skills

  • I am no master chef, and I’ve only been cooking for the past 5 years, but I am fully capable of frying an egg, making toast, cooking rice, and roasting vegetables – all of which I plan to do this week.

What special skills or challenges do you have that make eating on a budget easier or harder?

Build a Better Pantry Part 3 – Freezer Foods

Now that we’ve posted about foods to stock in your pantry and refrigerator, it’s time to “chill” and talk about foods to keep in your freezer. Here are some reasons why your freezer can be your best friend:

  1. It’s a wonderful time-saving device when you don’t have time to cook from scratch
  2. Once defrosted, frozen foods are just as tasty as they were when fresh
  3. Perishable foods last longer when frozen

Freezing is a smart way to avoid wasting food (and money). Foods (like meat) that are approaching their expiration date can be safely stored in the freezer, and thawed once you’re ready to use them. Although perishable foods do last longer when frozen than when kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator, don’t forget that they won’t last forever. This chart is very helpful for knowing how long your frozen foods are good for. Smart tip: write a date on every item you stick in your freezer. That way, you’ll know whether or not it’s still safe to eat.

Also keep in mind that there are right and wrong ways to thaw frozen food items. Read up on the right way to thaw frozen food to make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk for getting sick from your food.


Better Pantry Freezer Foods

Grains myplate_white_grains-1

  • Loaves of whole grain bread
  • Muffins: make a large batch and store in the freezer for a quick breakfast on busy mornings.
  • Pizza dough: having frozen portions ready to go in the freezer makes homemade pizza nights quick, easy, and kid-friendly.

[Loaves of bread can be kept in the freezer to extend shelf life. Make sure loaves are wrapped tightly with plastic and foil to keep any air from seeping in. Muffins and unrisen dough should also be sealed tightly in plastic bags.]

Fruit myplate_white_fruits-1

  • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
  • Mango
  • Tropical fruit mix

[Buying frozen fruit is a great way to keep from wasting money on fresh fruit that spoils before you can eat it. Fruits that are out of season, especially berries, are actually cheaper when bought frozen instead of fresh. Fruit is frozen at its peak in freshness, so you know you’ll always be getting the sweetest, ripest fruit. Be sure to buy frozen fruit unsweetened so that it doesn’t have extra sugar added to it.]

Vegetables myplate_white_vegetables-1

  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Blends of several different veggies

[Frozen vegetables are really convenient – they are already prepped and ready to cook so that you don’t have to worry about any rinsing or chopping. Just like fruit, out of season fresh veggies can be expensive. Buying the frozen option can save on cost without losing flavor.]

Protein myplate_white_protein-2

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Fish (tilapia, flounder, shrimp, salmon)
  • Ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)

[If you find a good sale on meat, stock up and freeze the extras to use later on.]


  • Hard or semi-hard cheese
  • Cottage, ricotta, and cream cheese
  • Milk
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt

[Freezing dairy products can cause changes in their texture. For that reason, these items work best when added into recipes instead of being eaten alone. For more basics on freezing dairy products and how freezing may change their quality, click here.]


  • Nuts
  • Jams and jellies: check out these tips and recipes to make your own “freezer jelly” at home.
  • Coffee

Not only can you freeze the individual “ingredients” listed above, but prepared meals like stews, soups, and casseroles can be frozen and reheated later on. Check out this helpful fact sheet, paying special attention to page 2 for tips on freezing and serving prepared meals. See, your freezer really is a wonderful thing!

What’s in your freezer? How long has it been since you cleaned it out? Now might be the time to sort the fresh items from the freezer-burned!

Dietetic Intern Adrienne’s SNAP Challenge – Wrap Up

That’s All, Folks!

Well, I have finished the SNAP challenge and can truthfully say I learned a lot about grocery shopping on a tight budget. It was tough adjusting to a week without ice cream, but substituting fruit for a sweet treat was equally as satisfying. My meals and snacks were both nutritious and filling (and under budget), so I feel like this week was a success.

Here are some things I learned that helped me stay within budget:

  • Plan ahead: I would not have stayed within budget without meal planning first!
  • Use coupons and savings cards: free grocery membership programs can really help you save.
  • Take a look at the tag: price tags help you compare unit prices to find the cheapest option.
    • Unit prices tell you how much the item costs per pound or ounce. This podcast describes how to find and use them for the best deal. Added bonus: I’m in the video!
  • Try something new: lentils and beans are inexpensive and very nutritious, don’t be afraid to try them if you haven’t already.
  • Keep your eye on the prize: I tried to be very aware of how much we were eating each day so that we didn’t run out of food before the end of the week.

Shopping with couponsI have often heard that eating healthy foods is very expensive — it seems like people are always arguing whether or not this is true. From my perspective, I think that it is doable if you are willing to sacrifice some guilty pleasures (like ice cream, cookies, soda, chips, and other junk food). Comparing the unit prices of fresh, frozen, and canned produce to find the best buy will also be kind to your wallet.  I really did miss my usual sweets, but I was happy to leave them behind for other options that would keep me healthy and feeling good.

The greatest thing I learned from this experience is that grocery shopping with a restricted budget is definitely not easy. The time it takes to plan out every meal and snack, compare prices, and prepare each meal is a really big time commitment.

TIME = MONEY…the less money you have to spare, the more time it takes to plan and cook from scratch so that you stay within budget. The less time you have, the more you might have to pay for convenience and fast-foods on the go.

I will certainly take this experience with me, and I hope that my story has taught you something, too. Thanks for reading along!

Dietetic Intern Adrienne’s SNAP Challenge – Day 7

Sunday’s Meals:

[BREAKFAST]: oatmeal, peanut butter, banana, skim milk
[LUNCH]: leftover turkey lentil chili, apple
[SNACK]: carrot sticks, celery sticks, peanut butter, skim milk
[DINNER]: chicken vegetable stir fry, brown rice, pineapple rings


I love stir fry! It's a great way to eat lots of veggies.

I love stir fry! It’s a great way to eat lots of veggies.

Today’s report: not quite enough dairy, as usual. But, I went over on vegetables, fruit, and protein. This is my second day a little over on protein, which I’m happy about since I’m making up for the days at the beginning of the week when I didn’t have quite enough.

Tonight we had a delicious (and healthy) chicken and vegetable stir fry with brown rice. Added bonus: my husband made it! Getting family and friends to help in the kitchen can be a lot of fun and can take a little stress off of you if you are the head cook in the household.

Are you responsible for most of the cooking at home? I love to cook, so I’m happy to do it most of the time. But, I can’t complain when someone else wants to take over. Plus, tonight’s meal was delicious and a great way to end this week on the SNAP challenge.