A couple takes the Food Stamp Challenge and discovers it is possible to eat healthfully on a tight budget. Careful planning and a home garden help.
By Jason Song
March 11, 2009
I was reading a book about the joys of making your own bacon, preferably with mail-ordered pork belly, when my wife mentioned something about a food stamp challenge.
It sounded ominous.
We were considering buying a house and the economy seemed shaky, so it was a good time to tighten our belts, she said. We would live on $72 worth of food a week, she explained, about the same amount a family of two in California would get in food stamps.
Is that truly necessary? I asked. Sure, the cookbook suggests making bacon from pork that cost $88 for 9 pounds, but I was never actually going to do that. And we're pretty thrifty, I argued. We splurge occasionally but we pack our own lunches most of the time, even grow some of our own vegetables.
But then she showed me our credit card statements and receipts, and I realized we weren't actually that thrifty after all. We'd spent almost $700 the month before on food, including alcohol and going out.
Maybe it was time to cut back, I thought. And $72 sounded like a perfectly reasonable limit.
"Should we try it for a month?" I asked.
"How about two?" she countered.
We weren't the first nor the most severe members of the Food Stamp Challenge -- in 2007, several members of Congress budgeted just $21 a person, the national average a food stamp recipient receives weekly. The focus of our challenge was different. We weren't making a statement about hunger awareness or pretending we were poor; we wanted to change our lifestyle and our budget.