SNAP Approved Meals - The $4.50/day meal plan

As I said earlier this week, since I couldn't participate in the SNAP challenge myself, I would create a meal plan that fits within the guidelines of the program and the challenge.

First, as someone who meal plans on a weekly basis, I really didn't expect this to make much more time than my usual planning does. I was way off on that. Every recipe needed to be scrutinized for costs, availability and leftovers.

Second, while I do pay attention to what things cost at the grocery store, I realize that I'm quite lucky in life that I've never needed to pay this close attention to detail on the prices. I chose these recipes based of prices at my local Aldi store since they are the most affordable store in the area. I actually went there and spent 30 minutes or so walking around the store and jotting down the price of items.

Here are the challenge "rules".
  • The food budget for the challenge is $4.50 per person per day for every day that you participate in the challenge. 
  • Do not eat food that you purchased before the challenge. 
  • Avoid accepting food from friends, family and coworkers. 
The meal plan I created is for two people which I assumed had access to a microwave at work. 

While you are not supposed to use anything purchased prior to the challenge, I am taking the liberties to read that as actual "food" not the following items that I expected to be 'standard' in a house hold. Those items are: salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, cooking oil. 

I ended up making a two week meal plan including breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert for 14 days. Of course, there is always the option for one to eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal, but I thought coming up with a realistic plan as healthy as I could manage would be a bigger challenge. 

SNAP Challenge - Week 1 Menu 

breakfast - french toast, banana, orange juice
lunch - broccoli soup, water
dinner - beef stroganoff, water
dessert - chocolate pudding 

breakfast - egg wraps, orange juice
lunch - broccoli soup, water
dinner - chicken wings, buttered noodles, steamed carrots, water
dessert - grapes

breakfast - oatmeal, banana, milk 
lunch - chicken wings, buttered noodles, steamed carrots, water
dinner - mushroom frittata, water
dessert - chocolate pudding 

breakfast - mushroom frittata, orange juice
lunch - broccoli soup, water
dinner - pasta with ham and peas, water
dessert - grapes

breakfast - mushroom frittata, milk 
lunch - pasta with ham and peas, water
dinner - beef tacos, water
dessert - chocolate pudding

breakfast - oatmeal, banana, milk 
lunch - beef tacos, water
dinner - pork tenderloin, couscous, steamed broccoli 
dessert - grapes

breakfast - french toast, banana, milk
lunch - 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, grapes, water
dinner - vegetable soup, water
dessert - chocolate pudding 

As you can see, there are a lot of repeated meals during just one week. I had to choose meals that were cheap and made a large enough quantity that that could be served as leftovers throughout the week. 

The total cost for these meals came to: $62.31
On $4.50 per person, per day the 7 days gave me $63 to work with. Not even a dollar left over to cover tax or if any of the items listed above didn't come in exactly the quantities needed. 

The second week of planning was much easier because I already had some basic ingredients that could be reused. The total for week 2 came to just under $49. Now that is really impressive. Personally, I think this fictional couple I created should use their extra $14 to splurge on something other than water and juice to drink and maybe even have a store-bought coffee and donut one morning.

The grocery list, menu and recipes for WEEK 2 can be found here

In Conclusion: While eating on $63 a week for a couple is possible, it is not easy. You need to be creative and not get sick of eating the same thing over and over again. The things that bother me most about this are:
1. SNAP is meant to be assistance to purchase food, but for many families it is all they have. 
2. When you sign up for SNAP, there is no education. No one tells you how to eat within this budget. 
3. Healthy, fresh foods are not cheap. Nor are they readily available in many of the areas where SNAP use is highest. 

I am going to deliver the grocery list, menu and recipes to the local food banks in my area. If I can't always afford to donate food financially, the absolute least I can do is share my knowledge and passion of cooking to anyone who is willing to listen (or read, in this case.) 

What are you doing to help stop hunger? 

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