It's the last day of the June Food Stamp Challenge, issued by Katy at the Non-Consumer Advocate, and it couldn't have come one day sooner! Boy, am I sick of thinking about food and prices and grocery shopping. I haven't been so focused on it since I was literally almost starving 20 years ago in Manhattan, when I earned $1200 and paid $650 for rent. And that was part of the point, to illustrate how difficult it is to eat well on a very tight budget. It's easy to make poor and/or inconsistent choices.
The challenge was to try to feed your family on the amount you would receive in food stamps if you were eligible. My husband and I have been doing fine with a monthly budget of $323, which I set for myself over a year ago when I read this post at The Crunchy Chicken. Her Sustainable Food Budget Challenge was to try to eat local and organic on the monthly household maximum allotment, and we haven't usually had much trouble doing it. The problem is, the rules vary by state, and depending on your income (or lack thereof), it's difficult to calculate the exact amount you would receive. Katy used what she determined to be an average of $101 per person, and so our challenge was to stick to a budget of $202 for the month.
I knew it would be difficult with our CSA delivery knocking $92 off the budget right off the bat ($46 per biweekly delivery). That left $110 for the entire rest of the month. I'm actually amazed we got anywhere close to that. Our total grocery bill for June was... drumroll, please...$235!! And let me be clear, that amount is for food, from the CSA, a grocery store, etc. It doesn't include toiletries, paper products, or alcohol. And it doesn't include eating out.
In normal times, I would be ecstatic with that amount. I didn't really even entertain the idea that we would be able to come in under $202. But amazingly, many people who took the challenge are on target to succeed. A lot of them have blogged more regularly, and more provocatively than I have this month. Click here to check out Julia's consistently relevant posts about the issue all through the month, at her blog The Modern Muse.
I could write about all the reasons we failed, namely because I was working away from home practically the entire month, so had much less time to plan and cook than I might have. What's interesting to me is that we could even come close, while receiving a CSA delivery and buying organic milk and yogurt, and even organic chicken a couple of times. What I noticed is that the first thing cut from the budget is snacks. I don't mind baking more, but I'll be glad to get back to our regular $323 budget next month. Now it sounds like a lot to me!
Incidentally, my husband didn't even know we were doing this challenge, because he's already a little impatient with my food waste/composting schemes, and so I was afraid he would be skeptical and feel deprived no matter what I bought or cooked. And truth be told, he did run out for his beloved Trader Joe's snacks a couple of times, so our $235 total is probably closer to about $265. Or maybe even higher. Big fat failure. Oh well. The biggest thing I've learned is that I'm glad I'm not still almost starving in New York, and really glad we're not on Food Stamps. The next time you see someone in line using food stamps, don't judge them. Give them a break and assume they're going through a hard time and even with the stamps are still hungry. Because they probably are. And be grateful if you don't need them.
Did you take the Food Stamp Challenge? How did you do? Tell us about it in the Comments section. And feel free to weigh in with your thoughts even if you didn't take the challenge.
I'll let you know how I did with my other challenge for June - take a walk every single day - later today.