Lessons Learned from Pretending to be on Food Stamps

Of course I should have blogged when I did my experiment but was too lazy at the time!  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, about a month ago, I blogged about taking a week to experiment with eating a home for a full week on a budget of about $63 dollars.  $63 represented $1/meal/person/day.

A few days before The Grocery Shopping Day, I went online to find some recipes for people on a budget.  Lesson #1:  It takes planning.  Yes, the foods are different.  When you’re on a budget, you don’t really indulge in salmon sashimi, Chinese beef jerky, black bass, or steaks.  Lesson #2:  You have to make sacrifices.  I had to come up with recipes for 21 meals… as if we were really going to eat breakfast suddenly.    With the recipes, I came up a shopping list.  On Sunday, September 23rd, we went to Lucky’s to buy our groceries.  My original plan was to go to a Chinese supermarket because generally the prices are lower, but due to logistics, we couldn’t do this.  When we were ready to pay the bill, it came out to about $68.00.  Instead of putting back something, I decided to just buy it all.  Lesson #3:  It can be embarassing.

We went home and put away the groceries, while I took out my recipes to start prepping the meals.  If I used items that were already in the house, I would calculate that into the final total.  Unfortunately because I can’t find my notes and have a bad memory, I couldn’t tell you what happened every day, so I’ll just summarize.

Everyday Daniel and Caitlin brought lunch, usually leftovers.  Caitlin thought it was great because she didn’t have to eat sandwich meat at all.  She thought “being poor” was fine… except the part where you couldn’t buy anything you wanted!  We had run out of rice the week before, but I was adamant on not buying anything because it would not be in our budget, so we didn’t have rice all week.  On Saturday, our couples group had a potluck, and I was assigned to bring rice (I assigned it to myself months ago, can you believe that?!), but I had to ask someone else to bring it instead and explained the experiment.  See Lesson #3.  On Friday, I had a going-away lunch for a former co-worker, so I had to decide whether the experiment was worth the sacrifice, but I decided to attend anyway.  Lesson #4:  It’s a blessing this is not my real life!

Sunday, we had our final meal, but one interesting thing is that we still had food in the refrigerator that carried over into the following week.  Most of the meals consisted of cheesy pastas, but we always had meat in every meal… in fact, we had ground beef, chicken breast, and ham.  Lesson #5:  You CAN eat healthfully.  Another thing I noticed is that normally I would toss out the cooked pasta that didn’t make it into the dish; after all, pasta is REALLY inexpensive, but one time I took the extra macaroni and made it into a seafood pasta salad for our snack, and other time, I made it into another dinner of cold pasta noodle.   Lesson #6:  You have to be creative.  That’s probably why we had food for the following week.  The last note is that I managed to lose 4 lbs. in that one week!  I was never hungry, I didn’t exercise, but I’m not really sure why I lost weight!  Maybe rice IS really bad for you.  Or maybe eating out is really bad for you.  Lesson #7:  Your waistline may decrease.

I don’t know what the final cost was for the week, but I’m guessing that it was under $75, minus the part where I went out for lunch ($21).  In the end, we didn’t go hungry, we didn’t eat any junk foods, we ate at home every meal (except one), one of us lost weight, and we learned some lessons.  Of course, this isn’t my real life.  If it were, I think I would be quite stressed from the inability to buy foods that I really want and eat out when I want to, plus we’d get tired of pasta pretty quickly.  I’ve said before that money gives you choices, and this is a great example.  For those who do have to live this way (not just living within a budget, but living within a very strict food budget), this can be difficult.

If I can do this, anyone can, so I do challenge you to (1) find out how much you normally spend on groceries in a week, and (2) try this experiment for a week, and (3) take the difference that you saved and make a contribution… maybe to a soup kitchen feeding the homeless or to a food bank.

Would I do this again?  YUP!  I’m quite frugal, so I just look at this as a way to purposefully save money, but I’ll take better notes next time!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. angryflower1
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 10:49:00

    Thank you for visiting my blog.  I read your post today… and to tell you the truth I was on Food Stamps when I was living in Michigan. I always get 100.00 a month because I live in a Subsided Housing. But I wasn’t lazy. I work 12 hour shift job for over a year and I could live with it. I was single at the time.
    As soon as I moved to Idaho to get married, if we could get food stamps its 20 dollars a month, I don’t know why?  I don’t go to food banks because it’s expired food. And I rather be broke wasting 200.00 a month for food than asking for anyone for food. I’m low income but I don’t need pity, I need help in getting a better job… but that’s another 20 bucks.
    I really don’t know why you did that experiment if you’re not low-income. Basically you did that “experiment” to be featured instead of learning what it is to be living on welfare. It’s not an insult or offense, that’s just my opinion. See ya later gotta go to work.


  2. Annette33
    Oct 19, 2007 @ 22:32:00

    Girl, didn’t know you were blogging!  Will have to come back and spend some time here reading.


  3. Shutterbugd
    Oct 28, 2007 @ 02:19:00

    Interesting experiment… so now you should post what exactly you ate during the experi…. I’m curious… did ya write it all down??? 


  4. Momof2GreatCats
    Nov 10, 2007 @ 18:26:00

    Really interesting!  I’m glad you tried this and I find your observations enlightening and insightful!  🙂


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