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I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

#SNAPChallenge - Week 3


I couldn’t afford all of my groceries this week. I had to weed through my cart and return items back to the shelf because there was not enough money in my budget (and even still I spent more than I should have.) It’s the first time I’ve ever had to do that (or at least that I can remember having to do it).

I have just completed week 3 of the @Feeding America #SNAPChallenge in an effort to raise awareness about hunger. The goal was to eat on a budget of $4.20 per day ($30 per week) and my personal goal was to see if it could be done with a real food lifestyle. In week 1 I realized that my meals were way over budget mainly because of the meats I had previously purchased from my CSA, but I rectified that during week 2. Did I do any better during week 3?

What I bought:


I had $12 worth of coupons this week so I was excited to be able to spend over my $60 budget and use them. I’ll be honest and say that several of the items I bought I did not actually need but there were some buy one-get one deals at the grocery store and I fall for them every single time. Even with the half-price deal on Triscuits, I realized I could have gotten the generic brand (which is just as tasty) even cheaper at Aldi. The coupon and BOGO deals gave me the false sense of security that I was actually saving money.

You’ll see I did do some deducting on my receipts - I bought dog treats and two potted parsley plants for my garden that I did not intend to apply to the challenge. But did you know that you can use SNAP benefits to purchase seeds and edible plants to grow your own food? I was not aware of that until after I made the adjustments, so technically, I went over budget by $6.28.

What I prepared:

Sausage Risotto

Tossed Salad
Sliced apples with my beloved goat cheese

Asian lettuce wraps from 100 Days of Real Food

Lemony Chicken Soup
Roasted asparagus

Dark chocolate and peanut butter cups from 100 Days of Real Food


I only planned a couple of items for this round of the challenge - I just wasn’t in the mood to think through two weeks of meals. I knew I needed to have meals where meat was not the main focus, so I decided on Italian Sausage Risotto from Farmstead Chef and Asian Lettuce Wraps from 100 Days of Real Food. Again, using the CSA purchased meats put the meal costs out of range (the sausage for the risotto was $6.44 and the ground pork for the wraps was $9.50.  No doubt that conventional meats could be purchased cheaper.) I still had the Lemony Chicken Soup to prepare from last week and plenty of egg cupcakes in the freezer so I figured I would wing it past that. I put half of the meat for the lettuce wraps in the freezer, so I can look forward to that later.

I also decided to try making something to curb my daily chocolate craving to see if it was cheaper than buying the 85% chocolate bars from Aldi. The bars have 5 servings at .40 cents each. The extra dark chocolate peanut butter bites from 100 Days of Real Food came in at .18 cents each but the problem with them was they are SO SO SO good and I wanted to stuff them all in my face at once. It was hard to restrain myself (needless to say they won't last as long as I had intended them to).

What I ate:

Day 15

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
1 fried egg with salsa $0.56
2 pieces bacon (I counted this as free because Boy Toy sent me home with his leftovers)
½ apple $0.29
(from last week) Broccoli/rice/chicken casserole $1.64
Lemony chicken soup $0.73
Triscuits $0.27
2 chocolate bites $0.36

Total cost: $3.90




Day 16

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Egg cupcake with salsa $0.81
2 pieces bacon (free)
(from last week) Potato Soup $0.50
Broccoli/rice/chicken casserole $0.82 (there was only about ½ serving left from last week)
3 Asian Wraps $2.81
1 cup rice $0.10
½ apple with goat cheese $0.79
2 chocolate bites $0.36

Total cost: $6.24




Day 17

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Egg cupcake with salsa $0.81
2 pieces bacon (free)
Lemony chicken soup $0.73
Triscuits $0.27
½ apple with goat cheese $0.79
3 Asian Wraps $2.81
1 cup rice $0.10
3 chocolate bites $0.54

Total cost: $6.10




Day 18:

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Egg cupcake with salsa $0.81
1 pieces bacon (free)
Lemony chicken soup (lunch & dinner) $1.46
Triscuits (lunch & dinner) $0.54
1 apple $0.50

Total cost: $3.36




Day 19:

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Egg cupcake with salsa $0.81
Lemony chicken soup $0.73
Triscuits $0.27
Sausage risotto $1.63
Salad with oil & vinegar $0.46
Roasted asparagus $0.40
2 chocolate bites $0.36

Total cost: $4.71




Day 20:

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Apple with pimento cheese $1.06
Sausage risotto $1.63
Salad with oil & vinegar $0.46
Roasted asparagus $0.40

Total cost: $3.55

Tonight was date night and with Boy Toy. In all honesty, I wasn’t very hungry which is unusual for me by the time the dinner hour rolls around. My dinner consisted of a small garden salad with Italian dressing and three of us shared a small loaf of French bread with olive oil and vinegar and a couple of kalamata olives. I washed it all down with two draft beers.




Day 21:

Tea sweetened with sugar $0.05
Apple with pimento cheese $1.06
Salad with oil & vinegar $0.46
Roasted asparagus $0.40
1 chocolate bite $0.18

Total cost: $2.15

Today was more “free” food. I was participating as an exhibitor in the Great Grapes festival and even though I packed breakfast and lunch for myself, I ended up not eating the risotto. My girlfriend and I were checking out the wine vendors when we decided we needed food. She wanted pizza and I was a bit embarrassed to say that I really needed to eat my packed lunch instead. I had no cash on me and the pizza vendor was not set up for debit so she shelled out $6 for my slice of pizza. Later in the day after everyone left the festival I ate the salad and asparagus and Boy Toy fed me roasted pork tenderloin and salad for dinner.

Thoughts and revelations:
    • I had to return food to the shelves because I overran my $60 budget this week. Granted, I had the money in “real life” but what if it just wasn’t there to be spent? How embarrassing or degrading is it to wheel up to the cash register and find out you do not have enough money to purchase food for yourself and family? How do you make the decision of what to return when you need it all?

    • My motivation for meal planning quickly waned after the beginning of the challenge. I can see how difficult and stressful it would be to HAVE to do it and do it down to the penny all the time.

    • By this week of the challenge I’m not paying much attention to my daily meal totals. My mind set is that I’ve already spent the allotted amount of money and there is going to be enough food for the week(s), so why does it matter? But this kind of thinking could get me into trouble if I constantly had no regard for how much I was eating and suddenly the food/money ran out.

    • My friend had to fork over cash for my lunch on Saturday while we were at a wine festival. I had packed lunch but wanted to “run with the crowd” and eat pizza. I paid her back but even in “real life” I was embarrassed that I had no cash (which is not unusual for me) and embarrassed to eat my packed lunch.

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