After adding how much I ate through the whole week, my costs ended up to around $29.50. I ended up having leftover food, including: about ¼ cup beans, ¼ cup broth, ¼ cup diced tomatoes, ¼ box rice, couple slices of bread, ½ cup of spaghetti squash, a couple eggs, a packet of oatmeal, a bunch of Stevia packets, instant coffee, and some cake mix. These items total to about $3.50.
If I were to continue the SNAP challenge into another week, I would use these food products to make the Southwestern Beans and Rice dish again as well as a spaghetti squash dish.
My meals left me pretty satisfied and full, and I did decent on meeting the MyPlate food groups goal. The hardest food groups to meet were dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Because I don’t tolerate regular cow’s milk, I have to get most of my calcium sources through soymilk and yogurt. Being low in calcium is serious business! Calcium is essential for adequate growth and a handful of other functions. Those who are not lactose intolerant should aim to consume the recommended 2-3 cups of dairy per day (recommendations vary slightly for different people). Even for those who are lactose intolerant, you can purchase lactose free milk or milk alternatives, like soy or almond milk. The key point is to get calcium-rich foods in some form or another.
Next, I think that if I would have added a serving of veggies to my lunch every day then I would have come closer to meeting the recommendations. I ran out of fruit by the end and was not able to eat multiple servings per day. I bought bananas because they were really cheap- but, I did not realize how fast they would go bad. The apples lasted a long time in the fridge, but they were more expensive.
Looking back, there are several things I should have done differently.
- I should have bought a big container of yogurt instead of small individual containers
- I should have used a big container of oats instead of buying the individual flavored packs.
- I should have cooked more rice and beans dishes.
- The bananas and apples were not the best options. Depending on the season, certain fruits are cheaper and last longer.
- I need to find out when meats and poultry go on sale at my local grocery store. The chicken I bought was the most expensive thing, but I bet I could have found a cheaper protein source if I knew when food went on sale at the store. I am going to start looking into this more.
- The soymilk cost a LOT. If I were able to tolerate milk, I would have used dried milk instead.
- Depending on availability and each individual location, farmer’s markets need to be used way more often by those looking to save money. This is especially true for those farmer’s markets that allow for SNAP/EBT benefits.
Well, the SNAP challenge has definitely been an interesting experience that makes you appreciate your food dollar so much more than before. The main things I learned from this experience:
- Use whatever resources you can to make living healthy on a budget easier to do
- Take advantage of farmer’s markets
- If able, look online for low cost recipes
- Check out government resources such as http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
- Be a savvy shopper.
- Look for sales
- Look for seasonal produce
- Compare prices of fresh vs. canned vs. frozen
- Make a plan and stick to it!
- Plan several meal ideas at the beginning of your week
- Make some meal and snack food ahead of time
- Plan on making meals that can be doubled or tripled. Save the extras for lunch or dinner.
Eating healthy takes time and effort. Eating on a budget takes time and effort. When you try to successfully combine the two, you have an even greater challenge to tackle. But, the good news is, it can be done! Most people don’t do things perfectly the first time. Planning meals and finding what items are the cheapest and most nutritious takes lots of time. You might plan a week’s worth of meals and find that what you thought would work doesn’t work. Don’t get discouraged! Keep on working at it and you will eventually become a wiser and savvier food shopper and healthy eater.