Monday, November 12, 2012

Pre-Food Stamp Challenge: A Typical Week of Food

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This week, we are starting the Food Stamp Challenge. As we explained on Food Day, this means we will spend a week eating on the same amount as a food stamp recipient.  In the District, this equates to $32/week for a single person.  To see the monthly benefits where you live check out this site.  

In D.C., roughly 23% of the population relies on Food Stamps (140,000 as of July 2012). Nationwide, 47.1 million Americans rely on Food Stamps. To see statistics released by the Department of Agriculture in November 2012, click here. We understand that living on Food Stamps for a week will not come close to the challenges faced by struggling families. But, at the very least, we hope it will provide us with a deeper understanding and perspective on hunger in America. 

SNAP is the Department of Agriculture program that provides Food Stamps for 22,684, 508 million households

Prior to sharing our shopping and cooking experience, we wanted to give you a glimpse into what a ‘typical’ week of eating consists of for each of us.


Normally, I grocery shop for a week’s worth of food Saturday or Sunday prior to the start of the work week. Breakfast consists of fruit, yogurt and granola along with fruit juice.  Lunch is normally a sandwich, or salad. I like to prepare lunches for the week over the weekend so that packing them requires little to no effort. I rarely eat lunch outside my office, as I find it saves me a significant amount of money. For diner, I typically plan each night of the week and what I will eat based on my schedule.  This usually consists of two nights of fish with veggies and rice or pasta, two nights of pasta and meatballs, two nights of weekend cooking (planned the day of) and one meal eaten outside of my home. I spend around $65-$75 at the grocery store each week and generally shop with at least an idea in mind of what I will be eating that week. Sometimes I may change my mind based on what is available or what is on sale. A normal shopping trip will take me about 30-45 minutes, and I make it a point to consume everything that I purchase. Sometimes, however, at the end of the week I will end up tossing some veggies that have gone bad or a serving of fish that I did not eat due to a last minute happy hour plan. Overall, food and meal planning is a central part of my weekly routine, but not something that consumes my effort or time.


Unlike Amanda, I don’t really have a “typical week.” Although there are weeks where I go shopping on a Sunday and make something like a pot of soup for lunch for the week, most days I am sort of planning as I go. Many weeknights end with me wandering the aisles of Whole Foods because I didn’t really think about dinner until I finished work and the gym and am headed home at 8 or 8:30 PM.  My weekly grocery bills range from $60-80. I tend to buy mostly produce, dairy (cheese and yogurt), and fish. The one consistent meal of my day is breakfast. I either bring yogurt or oatmeal almost every morning. A couple of days a week, I end up buying lunch because I didn't plan ahead or am meeting friends or colleagues. Those days I spend approximately $6-12 at lunch. I also end up out for drinks and/or eating out for dinner about one night per week. The price of this can vary tremendously and will depend on whom I am dining with, whether I am drinking, and what night of the week it is. On average, I would estimate I spend $30-50 on eating out and drinking per week. Most, but not all weekends, I'll eat brunch out one morning. This ends up costing about $20 on average. 

As I add this up, it is actually surprising how much I really spend on food and drink in a week! I know I'll never be the type of person that maps out every meal--my work schedule and life just don't allow for it. But one thing I am hoping to learn from the Food Stamp Challenge is the value of planning my meals. 

Tomorrow we'll tell you what our $32 got us! Throughout the week, we'll also share some of our budget-friendly recipes that we've made. 



  1. I'm anxious to see how this goes for you! I'll be following...

    1. Thanks, Grace! Day 1 has been interesting already!

  2. This is a great idea, way to draw attention to the DC hunger issues!

  3. What a terrific idea! This is a great way to draw attention to DC poverty issues, and I love the fact that you're maintaining a socially conscious food blog!

    1. Molly- We are so lucky to enjoy great food and restaurants most of the time, but so many in DC don't have that privilege. We wanted to use this platform to bring attention to this major issue in our city and hope our readers will use this opportunity to think about ways they too can give back. Love, Liz & Amanda


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