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OSU SNAP Challenge: $4.50 a day, the food stamps way!

 Written by    February 27, 2014

Hey everyone!

It’s obviously been a long time since I’ve posted, but I thought that instead of trying to catch up on what I’ve missed, I would instead get back into the groove by talking about my latest endeavor – the OSU SNAP Challenge! Put on by The Ohio State University Food Fellows (and backed by the College of Social Work and Mid-Ohio Food Bank, among several others), the SNAP Challenge is a method to raise awareness of the issues of hunger, poverty, and food insecurity in our nation. For those who are confused as to why I keep saying SNAP, it’s an acronym for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as Food Stamps.

The main idea of the SNAP Challenge is this: live off of the amount of money that a typical SNAP recipient receives for one week. That amount comes to aboutย $4.50 per day. That’s $31.50 for a complete week – and that’s all you are able to spend on ALL of your food needs.

Read more to learn more about SNAP, the SNAP Challenge, and see pictures of how much food I was able to buy on this budget! It’s all I’ll be eating for the week!

Now, here’s a little more info about SNAP that many of you probably don’t know (I didn’t!):

  • To get SNAP benefits, households must meet certain tests, including resource and income tests. For a family of four, the gross monthly income should typically fall at or below $2,552/month.
  • Food stamps aren’t actual stamps or books anymore – SNAP recipients receive an EBT card, which looks similar to a credit card and can be used at stores that accept the card.
  • It varies slightly by state, but SNAP benefits in the state of Ohio are issued during the first 10 days of the month – read: this means if you go over the budgeted daily/weekly amounts early on in the month, you will likely NOT have enough to get you through the end of the month!

SO! I saw a flier on campus advertising this challenge and decided that it was one I would like to take. To be honest, the competitive part of me started thinking, “Oh, I canย totallyย do $4.50 a day. I bet I can even make healthy choices and homemade meals…I’m cheap already!” Maybe not exactly those words. But, I did see it as a challenge to overcome! And the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be really impactful to see, and to help others see, the struggles that no- and low-income families face each and every day,

Here are the guidelines to follow for the challenge:


Includes ALL food and beverages

Can use coupons

Do not shop at membership clubs

Be aware of all food purchased/eaten during the Challenge week


Do not eat food purchased prior to the challenge

Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or while at work

Keep track of receipts

Note experience, especially food choices between variety and quality of food


Sound difficult? Today is my third day of the challenge (I started a day late since I couldn’t get to the store), so I thought I would recap how it’s been going! I was hoping Costco could be my friend with its bulk foods, but of course, there is no way typical impoverished families can afford a membership at a food club like that, so they are off limits! So I headed off to Aldi; although it’s further away, it is much cheaper than Giant Eagle or Kroger!

Here is a photo of my receipt –

I did go over budget by $0.71 ๐Ÿ™ It was the darn pudding & jello! I just knew I would be craving dessert all week if I didn’t grab something to satisfy the major sweet tooth I’ve got! I will say that it was hard. I planned ahead, spending probably half an hour figuring out how to make meals that would utilize the same ingredients and making sure I could actually get those ingredients at Aldi (it’s not as extensive as a regular grocery store). Then at Aldi, I went along, punching the prices of everything I put into the cart into a calculator to make sure I was on track price-wise.

There was one point, when I was getting bread, that I sat for a long time trying to figure out if I should get the 99 cent generic bread or the whole grain oatmeal bread (yumm) for a dollar more. In the end, I ended up choosing the plain bread – you got more for your money, and that extra dollar could get me something else to eat! I also got pretty excited to see that summer sausage was on sale for a dollar off. Actually, it was kinda sad how excited I got…but I thought yay, meat other than chicken for the week!!


Here is a photo of all of the items I bought for the week’s meals and a list –

  1. Gallon skim milk
  2. Chicken thighs (2 lb.)
  3. 2 cans mixed veggies
  4. 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  5. Salt
  6. Bag of gala apples (9-10)
  7. Bunch of bananas (6-7)
  8. Can of black beans
  9. Can of diced tomatoes
  10. Small jar pesto sauce
  11. 1 roll of biscuits
  12. Wheat bread
  13. 1 can tuna
  14. Big bag of egg noodles
  15. Big bag of long grain white rice
  16. Natural peanut butter
  17. Strawberry fruit spread
  18. Cream cheese
  19. Block of colby jack cheese
  20. Summer sausage
  21. Dozen eggs
  22. Strawberry Jello mix
  23. Chocolate pudding mix

I’d say that’s quite a bit of food – 23 items – for just over $30! Curious as to how I will make it work for a week??ย Stay tuned for my next post covering the meals I’ve eaten in the first 3 days!


Cassie โ˜ฎ




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