Tag Archives: cooking on a budget

Dietetic Intern Courtney’s SNAP Challenge Introduction


My name is Courtney, and I am a Virginia Tech Dietetic Intern, on the path towards becoming a Registered Dietitian. What will I do with these new credentials, you ask? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that this week I am going to live off of $32 worth of food.

For four weeks in January, I am interning with the Family Nutrition Program (FNP). Many of the FNP participants are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. During the year 2012, a Virginian with SNAP benefits was provided an average total of $128 per month ($32 per week.) Even though these funds are designed to only supplement funds for groceries, many individuals may use this as his/her only source to purchase food. From January 14, 2013 to January 20, 2013, I am challenging myself to consume meals and snacks that cost less than or equal $32. Not only must I fulfill this requirement, but also, with a degree in nutrition, I should be able to eat a healthy, balanced diet, right? We shall see.

The following are the guidelines I will attempt to follow:
1. The groceries I purchase for the week will not exceed $32.
2. I will participate in the challenge for 7 days.
3. I will not eat food that I already own, excluding spices and some condiments.
4. My meals will consist of the groceries I purchase. For that reason, I will not eat out with friends, even if they offer to buy or cook for me, nor can I eat my husband’s food that he cooks, no matter how tasty it looks and smells.
5. The dietary recommendations for my age and estimated calorie requirement (1800 calories
for 18+ years) will be my guide to meal planning – 6 ounces of grains (at least 3 ounces whole
grain), 2 ½ cups vegetables, 1 ½ cups fruit, 3 cups dairy, and 5 ounces protein – each day. (This
information was obtained from My Plate).

SNAP Challenge 010I was able to buy all this good stuff and stay under budget!

Here it goes!

Dietetic Intern Jessica’s SNAP Challenge- Day 5

Can you tell Jessica has a sweet tooth? Another post about healthy desserts! (See the first one here) She also shares how she uses the spaghetti squash she prepped ahead today. It turned out pretty tasty for her first time making it.


  • Yogurt
  • Apple
  • Peanut butter (1 tbsp)
  • $1.10


  • 2 boiled eggs
  • Toast
  • Soymilk (1 cup)
  • $.90

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Chicken Stirfry Dinner

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Chicken Stir-fry Dinner


  • Chicken and spaghetti squash stir-fry (baked chicken, spaghetti squash, kale)
  • Olive oil
  • Sweet potato with butter (kind of made like a dessert- see note below!)
  • $2.60

Total cost for the day: $4.60

Nutrition profile: Today I was slightly under on fruit, veggies, dairy, and whole grains. I could have added more nutritious foods to my lunch, but I was in a hurry and did not have too much time to think of other stuff off the top of my head.


I needed to use the spaghetti squash that I had in my fridge. This is my first time cooking with spaghetti squash, and I was kind of stumped on how to use it. I know that a lot of people substitute it for spaghetti noodles or make it as a casserole. Unfortunately, I did not budget for that this week. So, I needed to find a way to cook the squash with what I had. I decided to bake some chicken breast and make a spaghetti squash and kale stir-fry. I used olive oil to cook it all in, and I threw in a tablespoon or two of the reduced sodium chicken broth I had left over from the chili. I think the dish turned out lovely! The flavors blended really well as well as the colors. This is a dish I will definitely be doing again.

Let’s talk a little more about this spaghetti squash. I have a confession to make- I have actually tried to make this veggie before (let’s say like three times) and failed. Failed miserably. In the past, I bought the spaghetti squash and tried to cut through it and couldn’t. Then, I stuck it in the oven for like thirty minutes and after getting it out, realized that it was still tough. So, I was determined to persevere and conquer this veggie. Well, I am proud to say that I figured it out. Let me share my insight with you. First, you need a sharp, sturdy knife to cut through a spaghetti squash. It might take a while but don’t give up! Second, it takes a while to cook. It took mine about 1- 1.5 hours to cook. It’s probably not best to come home and start cooking the squash while you’re starving unless you are okay with waiting that long! Third, once it has been cooked, scoop out the seeds and pulp to get to the strands. Take a fork and scrape out the strands. My squash held SO much inside of it so I had a lot of “spaghetti” to work with.

Mashed Sweet Potato for Dessert

Mashed Sweet Potato for Dessert

Now, let’s talk about sweet potatoes.  I LOVE sweet potatoes. Packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, these orange veggies can be cooked savory or sweet. Tonight, I made it sweet! To get the best flavor (in my opinion), cook the sweet potato in the oven for like an hour. But since I was feeling lazy, I zapped it in the microwave for about 4 minutes. This works pretty well and takes less time. To make the sweet potato more dessert-like, I add a tablespoon of butter, packet of Stevia sweetener, and some cinnamon. Yum!  I also made double portions of the chicken dish so I could have an easy lunch for tomorrow.