Eating on SNAP, Recap

For the month of July I tried to feed my family of 3 (2 adults, and a Toddler) on what the average SNAP amount is for that size per this site. Now that July is over and I have finished this exercise, I’m ready to give my general broad opinion.

If you are just coming to this, here are the links back to the other weeks and start of this 🙂
Start
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

When I started this challenge I didn’t change where I shopped. I still shopped my local Fred Meyer, Safeway, and local grocery chain. Sure, going to other stores would have stretched the money farther on some items, but that wasn’t going to be cost effective in the long run as that would require more gas and time. I also still used my rebate apps but didn’t report that off set in my totals. I didn’t do that because you can’t add those pennies back onto the SNAP card.

All in all, it can be done! Is it a walk in the park? No, it’s not a walk in the park. You must buy smart foods and not waste money on crappy foods or toss out foods. Weirdly enough though, it wasn’t that hard in general. Sure several times life got the best if my plan, and I had to reshuffle. I started out over thinking the challenge that I made it more complicated then it needed to be. Once I got my head unwrapped from the challenge, it became easier.

Here are my Tips:
Tip 1)- Write out and stick to a menu!
The biggest help on this was knowing what I needed and only needed. I didn’t go into the store without a list and did my hardest to stick to it. Yes, several times I bought things I didn’t need that week to execute the menu that week. The items bought though were on sale, marked down, and a couple times also had a coupon for the sale item. They were also items that I had been wanting, would eat anyways, and would keep till needed at the great marked down price. But this was only a handful of items over the course of the month, otherwise, I stuck to my list and marked things off as I put them in the cart.

My Family- I write my menu in a Google Doc and have it shared with my Hubby. This way I can always get to it be it at work or from the app while out and about.

Tip 1b)- Include ALL meals!
In our house we eat dinner leftover’s for lunch during the week. I take this plan into account when writing the menu, cooking, and shopping for quantities. Some meals, like ribs and fajitas, are natural leftovers in my house. Other meals like chicken breasts take a little extra thought all the way around as you sometimes need to do some math on the recipe. Hubby eats Costco muffins and bagels for breakfast. I usually yogurt or cereal for breakfast.

Tip 2)- Check for Coupons!
There are so many sites out there to get coupons from! My favorite though, and the only I usually print from, is Swagbucks. With Swagbucks, I earn a point for printing the coupon, and than earn 10 points for redeeming the coupons. Yes, it takes a little bit for the coupons to credit to my account, but it’s still points towards my cash out, plus its money off of things that were already on my list of things needed.

Tip 3)- Check for Sales!
I usually look at the ads as I am writing the menu or at the very least before I finalize the menu and the shopping list. Sometimes, if I see something on sale (usually meats or seafood) I am known to change the menu so I can eat said thing. In July I didn’t do that as I was trying to get through my Freezer and cleaning it out. Also, I have bought stock up items when things go on great sales! For example, Safeway put the Tillamook Shredded Cheese on sale for $1.99 a bag vs the regular price of $3.99 a bag.

Tip 4)- Write and Stick to the list!
Once you have your menu written, take inventory of your cupboards, fridge, and freezer. As you go through them, cross off the items you already have on hand, that way you only buy what you actually need. Do your hardest to stick to the list you have written out! Adding things to it while shopping is impulse buying, yes this includes the markdown bins 😦 and only adds to your check out price.

My Family- I rewrite my list after I have gone through and removed everything I don’t need from the original.

Tip 5)- Don’t wonder the store!
Do not go up and down every aisle. Way to much temptation to grab things for both you and kids, if you have them with you, and only leads to bad things. Look at the aisle signs if it’s a new store or ask for help to find what you need and get out.

Tip 6)- Don’t go Hungry! 
The biggest mistake for everyone is going hungry. I try to eat before I go shopping, as for Miss GoGo though she eats like a Hobbit and always seems to be hungry at the store, even if we go right after breakfast or lunch. She also gets hangry liker her mom, so I tend to feed her if she gets hangry at the start of our shopping, if it’s towards the end, I just deal with her till we get home. I offer her the free fruit first but she’s not always feeling the banana or apple. I don’t buy her cookies or candy, or let her have the free cookie from the bakery. I do cave and buy her blueberries, grapes (after paying for them, as they are a weighted item), or a squeeze pouch from the baby aisle. But I myself, don’t shop hungry. It just makes for bad food choices and unplanned purchases.

Tip 7) Shop twice a week!
Seems a little counter productive but hear me out. If you break down your list into what you need in the first part of the week recipes and second part of the week lists, you won’t worry about using things before they go bad. This is also really good practice for Produce and buying off the markdown racks, and can translate into saving money depending on what is on the markdown rack. It also lets life happen. If you don’t buy all the time sensitive things on Sunday, when you get to Monday and find out about a kids event on Friday, you don’t have to rewrite the menu or waste food.

 

 

 

My Family- I shop on the weekend and again on Wednesday.

 

Tip 8) Consume less Meat!
Full price meats eat up a lot of money in a budget! This is why I tend to buy meats from the markdown section, a little less money but still a large expense, and use same week or freeze right away and why we also by from Zaycon Fresh; thanks to the big freezer we have. For example right now for delivery in September Chicken Thighs from Zaycon are $2 a pound for a 30 lb case ($60) vs in the store the price is $3 on sale. There are great recipes and nutrient dense recipes out there that don’t call for lots if any, meats. I’ve done them a few times, like the Red Cabbage Salad that had more cabbage then chicken, but the carnivore in my house grumps about them.

The biggest surprise I found was in myself, in that I already was trying to run my family on a budget similar in value to SNAP. I think my biggest success though is that I don’t feed a lot of junk food to my family. My definition of junk food includes the regular candy, chips (except for Tortilla), lots of soda (limited quantities consumed and bought in bulk from Costco), and ice cream. But I also include frozen meals, popcorn, lots of juice, and cookies in that category. I tend to do a lot of cooking as I love it and make time to feed my family as much as possible. I also try to feed us healthy foods and meals whenever I can but sometimes, cave to the popcorn and candy home movie night 🙂

All in All, yes it can be done. It takes work. It takes commitment. It takes a change of thought. It takes changing your eating habits to make the dollars stretch. No you can’t eat lots of fancy meals or expensive things. You can eat healthy meals. You can feed the family. I am glad I did this, and I did it in such away that Hubby didn’t even notice. I run the menu past Hubby every week to get his input so it’s not a surprise when he starts to grump about the meals. I will keep aiming to spend near this amount every week. I’ve proven that I can do it. This behavior saves money to the bottom line and is worth investing in the behavior.

I should/will do this again after my freezer it less packed with meats. I know that not buying meat every week played a huge a role in keeping my weekly costs down. I tried to add these value back in my Total Out value, but they were rough guesses. I also know that my cold rainy weather menu selection is very different with different costs. Mostly likely come fall, I will run this again.

Enjoy!

 

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