Food Stamp Challenge: Day One

Today is the first day of the Food Stamp Challenge. We challenged all of you to live on a food budget of $4.00 a day – the average a food stamp recipient receives –for five days. Six people on staff at the Food Bank decide to take the challenge and share their experiences with you. Here is what some of them had to say this first morning of the challenge.

Larry Sly, Executive Director. I had a good breakfast of a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee, so I’m feeling pretty good.  Not exactly a time to gloat since I’m only hours into the challenge and I’m pretty sure I will be tired of oatmeal by Friday.

Shopping with my $20 yesterday was educational.  I went to the Farmer’s Market, to Trader Joe’s and to Whole Foods.  I normally don’t pay attention to food costs, but I had a friend with me who is quite cost and health conscious, so I learned a lot.  I made the decision to indulge in coffee, but I had to drop strawberries and avocado from my diet.  Corn tortillas will be my main grain product.  My fresh fruits and vegetables consist of blueberries (a few in my cereal and yogurt), a $1 discounted cantaloupe from the Farmer’s Market and romaine lettuce that will make me two Cesar salad dinners.  Any thought of buying organic food went away quickly; that extra 20 to 40 cents makes the purchase impossible.

I still have 94 cents left for a spontaneous purchase.

Joan Tomasini, Food Drive Coordinator. I was very pleased shopping when the cash register total came to $19.77. I feel that I stayed true to my likes: nonfat milk (I did pay 50 cents more for the brand I liked but chose to make that sacrifice), OJ, tuna, apples, whole wheat bread. But this is going to be a boring menu. So I decided to make my menu a bit different. I volunteer at some soup kitchens in San Francisco and often hear of people who live in a single room with no kitchen so I wanted to experience what they do so everything I am going to eat is without cooking.  Must say this will also make me eat 3 regular meals a day so I can spread out my food. Should be an adventure…

Caitlin Sly; Farm 2 Kids Coordinator. So far I have had only a cup of the coffee I bought from the dollar store.  I missed breakfast today but am going to see if I can get back to the dollar store and find any cereal.  So far, I am really looking forward to lunch and it is only 9:40am.  I have not had time to do extensive shopping so I plan on having a can of black beans for lunch and then do my shopping for the week after work today.

Veronica Wimer, Purchasing Manager. My tummy started growling at 8:40 and stopped at 9am when I had my breakfast of: 1 oz instant coffee, 3 oz milk, and one carrot.

I will not be repeating this menu tomorrow. The combination of coffee and carrot, both which have a negative effect on blood sugar, started my stomach rumbling at 11am, but I had to wait until noon to eat my 1 ½ C lentils and 1 oz of cheddar cheese. Now I feel better. Snack time is at 3pm, one small apple and 2 TBS PB which is supposed to hold me until dinner : pasta, broccoli and egg salad sandwich.

Here is my breakdown, I’m under budget, I’ve got 50¢ to splurge on something…

Food Item Size Quantity Total Cost Daily Allotment
Whole Wheat Bread 1 loaf (15 slices) $            1.95 3 slices
Fuji apples small 6 $            2.49 1.2
Natural PB 16 oz 1 $            1.79 3.2 oz
Carrots ($1.04/ lb) bulk (.38 lb) 7 $            0.40 1.4
Low Fat Milk 32 oz 1 $            0.90 6.4 oz
Cheddar Cheese chunk 10.56 oz $            2.63 2.11 oz
XTRA Lg AA Eggs ($1.49/dz) dozen 10 individual $            1.20 2
Whole Wheat Rotini pasta 13.25 oz 1 $            1.08 2.65 oz dry
Pasta Sauce 28 oz 1 $            0.99 5.6 oz
Tuna, Chicken of the Sea Chk Lt 5oz 4 $            2.72 .80 can
Instant Coffee 1 oz packets 6 $            0.99 1
Frozen Broccoli 16 oz 1 $            1.49 3.2 oz
Lentils bulk ($.89/ lb) 0.98 lb $            0.87 3.2 oz  (dry)
Total $          19.50

There is still time to be a part of the challenge! Visit for more information on how to get started. Let us know how the challenge is going for you in the comments section below.

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