Hunger in America – Feeding My Family on a Budget: Week Four

We have just finished our fourth and final week of living on a food budget equal to SNAP equivalent for a family of four. To read more about what prompted this experiment click here. I am happily surprised to see just how successful I think we were. With a budget of $632 I did feed my family of four healthy and tasty meals for a month. This week I spent $118.12. This brings me to a total of $631.86. A mere 14 cents under budget!

Two shopping trips: $88.40 and $24.72 plus $5.00 for a ham steak from the freezer equals $118.12 for the week.
Two shopping trips: $88.40 and $24.72 plus $5.00 for a ham steak from the freezer equals $118.12 for the week.

$632 a month means I am spending $5.26 per person per day. Looking at it that way – I have no idea how I made this happen! But I did. And honestly it was not all that hard. But it definitely took work!

In the beginning of the experiment I mentioned that my husband would not be brown bagging his lunch. In my thinking, if we were really qualifying for SNAP, my children would be qualifying for free lunch, and that is not the case. I pack them both lunch every single day. I do realize not feeding my husband lunch on weekdays was a savings to the budget. My husband and teenage stepson are both big eaters. Additionally at some meals, not everyone was home. For three days I was away at science camp with my students.  But then other nights we fed extras – friends over, my son Robert home one weekend, and friends over last Friday for dinner and watching the World Series. Yes, I even entertained on this budget.

The coming and going of family members and guest over a month’s time is just life.Because we are a blended family and our schedule is fluid – I am actually accounting for 27 days, not 30. It’s just the way it fell. Over the 27 days I prepared, cooked, and served healthy and tasty meals for my family. This is a few days short, but if I needed to, I could stretch what we still have in the house and make it last. Though I do admit the pickings would be thin. In the fridge I still have milk, cheese, eggs, apples, jam, peppers, onions, zucchini, and lettuce. In the pantry I still have cereal, rice, beans, soup, potatoes, oatmeal, bread, crackers and the brownie and muffin mixes that I never made. In the freezer I still have 2 pounds of frozen salmon as well as frozen vegetables and fruits.

Did we miss certain things? Absolutely! In fact my family is very excited for this experiment to be done and over with! What have we missed? Loaves of nice hearty seedy organic bread, nuts of any kind (nuts are expensive), assorted flavors of Chobani, salami, fresh fish, and the bags of ready to pour foo-foo salads! I have also missed convenience. I have shredded all my own cheeses, I have chopped all my own carrots – no bags of mini carrots for the school lunches. I have made large batches of oatmeal – no small packets from Trader Joe’s.

Budget Meal Planning

This shopping trip included a gallon of milk. I realized after I put the groceries away that it was sitting on the counter.

What We Ate this Week:

Sunday:
Fried eggs and toast
Leftovers for lunch
Pasta with meat sauce, french bread, and a salad

Budget Meal Planning Pasta With Meat Sauce

Monday:
Cereal, banana, milk
Tuna Sandwich, carrots, bananas, graham crackers,
Cracklin’ Chicken, broccoli, white beans

>Budget Meal Planning Cracklin' Chicken

Tuesday:
Oatmeal with blueberries
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, grapes, celery, pretzels, rice krispy treat
Leftovers – What I call a picnic dinner (we were watching the world series)

Wednesday:
Smoothie: mango, pineapple, banana, flax seed, ginger
Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Apple, carrots, granola bar, pretzels
Joe’s Special
Budget Meal Planning Joe's Special

Thursday:
Cereal, banana, milk
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, apple, celery, crackers, rice crispy treat
Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup

Friday:
Smoothie:  peach, pineapple, mango, banana, flax seed,
Chicken Salad Sandwich, apples, grapes, crackers, granola bar
Veggies and dip, cheese and crackers, hummus, pepperoni pizza, and cheese pizza topped with chicken, zucchini, mushrooms, and mozzarella (This was what I served to friends for dinner while we watched the World Series. I never would have spend $10 for the veggie tray for just our family. But since this was a last minute get together, I splurged on some convenience items. My friends didn’t seem to mind eating Walmart pizzas.)

Budget Meal Planning Pizza with Vegetables

Budget Meal Planning Pizza with Vegetables

Saturday:
Egg Scramble with potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and cheese
Left overs for lunch (pizza, pasta, chicken salad sandwich)
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Budget Meal Planning Egg Scramble

Budget Meal Planning Roasted Chicken

Budget Meal Planning

Sunday:
French Toast
Chicken salad sandwiches
Pasta tossed with chicken and vegetables, and salad

Budget Meal Planning French Toast

Budget Meal Planning chicken Salad Sandwiches

So what does this experiment tell me? Well, pretty much it says that I can feed my family healthy and tasty meals on $632 for a month. Does that mean that everyone can? No. I realize my results are a product of what I have available to me and my ability to  plan, store, and prepare food. Making this work came at a cost – I lost convenience, and as many families know – time is precious! At the end of the day we are all tired and hungry!  Believe me, there were a few nights that I would have loved for us to head out to dinner or at least head to the local taqueria for a meal not prepared by me.

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