how do poor people eat?!

food stamps

I know somebody who is disabled, and we were recently talking about how expensive food seems to have gotten lately.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that her monthly food stamp benefit is about $150 (our monthly budget for the two of us is more than three times that much!).

So I did a little research.  Nearly 1 in 6 Americans receives food stamps, with an average monthy benefit per person of $133. And I got to wondering…

…how could one eat a healthy diet for $37.50 per week?

Chips and soda, ramen noodles and pasta are all cheap, but is it possible to eat the way my husband and I are used to eating (lower sodium and fat, with less processed foods) for that amount when we are used to spending so much more?

I decided to challenge myself to feed our little family of two on less than $75 per week, which seemed impossible.  I focused on weekday dinners, as we normally have leftovers for lunch the next day.  I deducted for breakfast foods and weekends, leaving about $50 per week for the two of us, or $25 per person!

I planned based on sale items at our local grocery store to build a simple 5-meal menu:

1. Mediterranean Skillet Chicken with orzo and green beans
2. Italian Roasted Pork Tenderloin with mashed potatoes and corn
3. Easy Mexican Chicken and Beans wraps/burritos
4. Yummy Pork Chops with white rice and broccoli
5. Southwest Skillet Stroganoff with crushed tortilla chips

Each recipe is taken from this cookbook, and I will post the details of each meal daily.  I found fresh vegetables to be out of our reach without a very good local farmer’s market.   You may be able to find inexpensive produce shopping at your local farmer’s market or roadside farm stand.

Shopping list = $42.25 AMAZING!
(items I already have in my pantry are in parenthesis)

  • ground beef {substituted ground turkey for the more expensive beef}, 1 pound = $3
  • chicken breast, bone-in and not skinless, 2 pounds (bought more to account for removing skin and bones), $1.49/lb = $4
  • pork tenderloin, about 3.5 pounds, $1.79/lb = $6.50
  • salsa, needed 16+ ounces, and the best deal per ounce was a 48 oz jar = $5
  • pasta, 6 oz = $1
  • Italian-style stewed tomatoes,14-1/2 ounce can = $0.75
  • black or pinto beans, 15 or 16 ounce can = $0.75
  • corn with red and green peppers, 11 ounce can = $1.75
  • Italian-style green beans = $0.75 (we do not like the flavor of fresh/frozen beans – I know we’re Philistines)
  • black olives, 6 ounce can = $1.50
  • taco seasoning, 1-1/4 ounce envelope = $0.75
  • fat-free evaporated skim milk, 12 ounce can = $1
  • diced green chilies, fire roasted, 4 ounce can = $1 (optional)
  • 1 lemon = $0.50
  • white potatoes, 5 pounds = $4
  • soft tacos, 8 whole wheat = $2.50 (optional)
  • tortilla chips, 10 ounce bag = $1 (optional)
  • frozen broccoli, 12 ounce bag = $0.75
  • frozen sweet corn, 12 ounce bag = $0.75
  • sour cream, 8 ounce container = $2
  • butter, 1 pound = $3
  • (olive or vegetable oil)
  • (dried basil)
  • (fennel seed, crushed – I may change this to Italian seasoning when it comes time to cook)
  • (grated parmesan cheese)
  • (garlic, chopped)
  • (soy sauce, reduced sodium)
  • (vegetable broth, low sodium)
  • (ketsup)
  • (orzo)
  • (honey)
  • (salt and pepper)

Note: If you would like to try this menu, you can print this shopping list by clicking the “Print and PDF” button below – it will allow you to delete as much of the text as you want prior to printing so you don’t waste ink/paper.

The sales in your area will obviously vary, but my hope is that you will find this post both useful and inspirational.  I hope to continue this series for at least a month.

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