September 28th, 2011
09:01 AM ET
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Sheila Steffen is a producer for CNN. Read part one of her food stamp challenge, wherein she shopped for a week's worth of groceries, spending only the $30 which would be allotted by food stamps.

Previously: Could you live on $30 a week? | Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America | Childhood malnutrition has long lasting effects

On Sunday night I’m finishing up the last of my big pot of black beans. The bag of dry beans I purchased along with a bag of rice has been three of my main meals this week.

I’m not against leftovers; I eat them. It's just that I normally wouldn’t plan to eat the same thing again and again but this past week it was that, or go hungry. I didn’t have the luxury of variety or choice.

My $30 food stamp challenge forced some difficult shopping choices and as many readers pointed out, I may not have made the wisest. I’m more accustomed to shopping for convenience than hunting for bargains. But I am keenly aware that each purchase I made for this week is accounted for, either for a breakfast, a lunch, or a dinner and maybe a snack.

There is no room for waste, and one bad choice is all it takes to go hungry. If a jar of pasta sauce breaks an entire meal could be lost.

I spend all of my $30 before realizing I've forgotten sauce for my box of pasta. The peppers I'd initially regretted buying come in handy and along with three tomatoes I make my own sauce. Cooking big pots of food is a necessary strategy.

The first two days are filled with periods of hunger. 5:30 on Tuesday seems too early to be thinking about dinner but that’s all I can think about it. I race home from work to fix a chicken breast, broccoli and rice; the best and most nutritious meal in my week. I get to have it twice.

Wednesday’s the most difficult; I wake up hungry and help myself to a big bowl of Farina but realize a ‘bigger portion’ strategy isn’t the answer. It’ll fill me up now but I’m afraid if I eat too much I will run out of my allotted food before the end of the week.

I count the slices of bread in my loaf and discover there are a few extra slices– which means one day I can have two sandwiches! I decide today is that day and bring two PB&J sandwiches to work for lunch.

It's clear food has been on my mind more than usual this week. I think when you have a limited budget and fewer choices; you’re forced to do more thinking and planning around meals. I’m so very conscious, too, of all the things I have to forego. I can’t just grab a coffee or go to dinner with friends. I feel a bit isolated. Not having enough money for food affects not just your mood and health, but also your social life.

Thursday is the first morning I don’t wake up hungry. I think my body may be getting used to less food. Still, I’m afraid I’ll get hungry so I eat a bowl of Farina anyway. I get through the day fine but decide against going to the gym after work. How do parents, who may skip meals so their kids can eat, find the energy they need to shop, cook, and care for the kids?

Coffee may be a luxury, but I’m glad I bought some. If my calorie count this week is low, my morning cup of joe helps make up for it and keeps me going.

A weekend out of city limits proves a bit tricky. Not only do I have to bring food, I can't share it! “Sorry honey, can’t offer you any,” is what I keep saying.

Sounds selfish, right? But my food supply is limited, and this last chicken breast is what I’ve set aside and planned for my dinner tonight. It’s all I have. On Sunday rushing to catch an afternoon train back to the city leaves me no time to make a sandwich, and so I have to go without lunch. Ugh!

Definitely knowing that this challenge is only for a week has been helpful in getting me through it. I’m grateful for the new insight and lesson in empathy. At times I realize it’s difficult to avoid hunger, to afford nutritious food. I certainly won’t look at the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables in the same way.

Next week I can go back to more options and more food. But for millions of Americans across the country this challenge is real. week in and week out.

One in four families - according to the Food Research and Action Center - worry about having enough money to feed themselves and their families. And for those who may get the help of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps, it still may not be enough to buy the minimum amount of food the United States Department of Agriculture says people need to survive.

What I ate this week

MONDAY:
Breakfast: Farina, two espressos
Lunch: PB&J, one apple
Dinner: Black beans & rice (made with: one pepper, two tomatoes), tap water to drink.
Dessert: Small bowl of leftover rice with packet of Splenda sprinkled on top

TUESDAY:
Breakfast: Farina, two espressos
Lunch: Salad (made with: spinach, two tomatoes, 1/2 yellow pepper, one can of tuna)
Dinner: Chicken breast, broccoli and rice, tap water to drink

WEDNESDAY;:
Breakfast: Farina, two espressos
Lunch: Two PB&J sandwiches
Dinner: Pasta (made with: two peppers, three tomatoes) - two helpings, tap water to drink

THURSDAY:
Breakfast: Farina, two espressos
Mid-morning snack: two apples cut up
Lunch: PB&J, apple
Dinner: Black beans & rice - two bowls, tap water to drink

FRIDAY:
Breakfast: Farina, two espressos
Snack: Two cut up apples
Lunch: Salad (spinach, two tomatoes, one pepper, small floret broccoli, one can tuna)
Dinner: Pasta - two helpings, tap water to drink

SATURDAY:
Breakfast: Farina, one espresso
Lunch: PB&J, bowl of applesauce (made with three apples)
Dinner: Chicken breast, broccoli and rice, tap water to drink

SUNDAY:
Breakfast: Farina, one espresso
Dinner: Black beans & rice, tap water to drink
Dessert: One apple

Previously: Could you live on $30 a week? | Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America | Childhood malnutrition has long lasting effects

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Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • News


soundoff (1,201 Responses)
  1. Sick of it all

    Enough of this already – I'm so sick of the welfare state. When I go to the grocery store, it never fails for me to see a person in front pay for the "staples" with an EBT card and then whip out a roll of 50's to pay for everything else. The system is broken and needs to tossed out and rebuilt from scratch – no more free rides! My wife and I are hard working middle class Americans who are not on foodstamps and we certainly don't pull out a wad of 50's at the store. Nope, we work hard to make our own way – we know no one is coming to help us, and that's fine. I just wish the majority of these lazy bums would get off there @sses and do some work already. I can barely afford my groceries for 30 dollars a week, why I am paying for theirs, too? Makes me sick.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Britnee Ramirez

      Fundamentally, I don't disagree that some people abuse the food stamp and welfare system. However, I find your comment unimaginative of the reasons someone may have a "roll of 50s." People with significant debt turn to dealing with CASH ONLY because otherwise their pay would be garnished to repay creditors. If I had to choose between paying rent, groceries, and heating to care for my children, I might avoid my creditors too. That roll of 50s may be the only money a person has, period. And the person is carrying it with them rather than leave it behind where it might be stolen.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Sandra

      There is no motivation to work. When you can get housing, child care, tuition, WIC, EBT/Food stamps (which you can buy pizza hut, shakey's, jackinthe box...) then sell the remaining food stamps, food programs in schools for kids, free back to school supplies for kids...if you know the systems well, there is no motivation to work. Where I live, in California, people drive around in luxury cars mercedes/bmw and they carry designer coach/louis vuitton and other expensive bags and whip out their ebt/wic cards to pay for food...

      September 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  2. Joe

    Maybe these fat-asses with their carts of Pepsi should think twice. How many apples can they buy with their food stamps? it's DISGUSTING and they are laughing at all of us people who actually work for a living paying for their lazy ass bills.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  3. Nancy

    I think that the problem is that if you are only focusing on how much money you need to spend instead of focusing on what you need and what you should eat.

    It is really easy to be discouraged and to think of all the things you can't afford to eat- it is time to be creative and make great meals with what you have and can afford.

    Make it a point to shop around- planning is everything. Chicken, seafood, even steak go on sale capitalize then on meats. Use the coupons you need for the items you really are going to use not for novelty and unhealthy foods.
    When money is tight you can be creative. The notion that you can only eat beans and rice and pb&j is ridiculous and narrow minded.

    You can eat well and healthy if you put your mind into it. There are so many options you just need to be smart about your choices.

    With 30 a week you can buy: Canned tuna, two bags of frozen veggies, pasta, rice, beans, chicken broth, bread, eggs, tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes,onions, bananas,apples,oranges, milk and cereal. You can buy all of these on sale all the time.

    You can make so many different meals with that. I have to feed a family of 5,and I do not earn much so I am creative- I make sure that my family is well fed- not filled with junk.

    The difference is all on how you look at things- not what you can't have but what you have and can use.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Josh

      I am amazed. So people who need assistance, who are already stigmatized by society for being down and out, should be further stigmatized by being told what they can and cannot eat? Because they need help they can't eat just as much junk food as most of you other fat asses in America? This is the REAL class warfare. You want them to prepare healthier meals and go with more nutritional options....that's great, but what makes you think they even know what other options there are? Just because you are all smarmy and content in your little world doesn't mean that everyone else knows what you know. People on food stamps can't use them at McDonalds or Jack In The Box or any of those other fast food places. You can't buy prepared food under current regulations. Everything they buy on food stamps has to be something they can prepare at home. And guess what? When it is mom buying the food and she is the only one working leaving the kids with the teenage babysitter, who is going to prepare all of these Paula Deen approved tree hugging granola eating hippie meals with farina and expresso. NOBODY!! That's when it is Doritos and Hot Pockets to the rescue. Yes, people abuse the system. But it isn't just food stamps. Bankers and Wall Street thieves abuse the system for their own gain and no one chastises and criticizes them for their choice of meal. We can only be as strong as our weakest links, and the poor and unemployed need help in this economy. Maybe we should focus more on helping our country instead of spending $12 BILLION a month on a war that the American people don't want and that we have no business being involved in.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  4. motherof3

    the food choices for food stamps programs should be limited to healthy, nutritious food choices excluding all junk food. Higher priced luxury food items should also be exempt. People are using taxpayer funded programs like these on a regular basis now because of the economic downturn. However, this does not mean that those who receive the benefits should be allowed to live better than those who are still paying into the system. The system needs an overhaul but before that can happen, we need to get people into Washington that can set aside partisan bs politics and work for the betterment of this country.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • CherrySilver

      No kidding, motherof3, but then you'd have all these PARASITES screaming about their freedom of choice. Personally, I don't want to have to pay for their Medicaid *either* to cover their self-inflicted health issues.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Rebecca

      I completely agree. I certainly don't mind helping someone who is struggling and working hard to elevate their family over their current condition. I don't mind helping with staples and even the occasional treat (1 box of brownie mix, 1 pkg of cookies, etc). But you should NOT be able to spend $50 a week on soda, chips and margarita mix! You SHOULD be able to buy shampoo, diapers and toilet paper, though! We SO need an overhaul.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  5. Aunt Aggie

    I've been behind someone at the store who was using food stamps to purchase their groceries – they were eating better than me and I had to pay for my stuff. She was buying cut up watermelon in a container – paying 10 times the price if she had bought a whole melon and cut it up herself. She was eating nice cuts of beef and I was buying hamburger. People who receive food stamps know that if they run out of food before the end of the month they can go to some local food pantry and strock up. No I don't feel sorry for them. I grew up in a family of 12 – my parents never received any government supplement. We never went to bed hungry – we survived on powdered milk, my dad bought everything in bulk – potatoes, apples, pears – we always had a garden in the summer and my ma canned veggies from that for the winter. If we had pork chops you never got a whole pork chop but rather it was cut in half or thirds depending on the size. We learned to love the cheaper cuts of meat – tongue, veal hearts, hamburger etc. During the summer we ate radish sandwiches. No I say folks have it too easy – too many things are handed to them and they don't appreciate it – in fact they expect more. People can learn to survive if they have to – we just make it easier.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  6. Seriously.

    Give me a break. I could feed my family of 5 on $30 a week. Why? Because I clip coupons and read the ads and don't buy name brand and I exert energy to cook my food. Expressos are a necessity? If that was the best menu you could come up with, given that you only had a $30 budget, then you are a complete moron. Christ, just looking at the ad I have with me, you can get a can of soup for 99 cents, a frozen pizza for 79 cents. A bag of potatos for $1.18. Cans of vegetables for 39 cents. Pasta–3 packages for $2. Your article fails to make the point you were striving for, instead, it makes the opposite point. People that are lazy, and think they are entitled to expressos are draining our tax dollars.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  7. Little Miss

    Being a single mom on a limited income and not qualifying for food (or any) assistance I have to budget everything to the penny. However I still manage to feed my son (who is 7 and growing) and me for less than $120 a month. It is not easy, but it can be done. Where there's a will....

    September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  8. jsco

    By the second or third week, you would likely find that the 30 dollar budget is easier to live with. I have had to live with this budget from time to time. Practicing portion control not only saves money but also improves overall health. The way I look at it is that people spend upwards of 20,000 dollars for weight loss surgery that does no more than force them to eat less. Practice some self control and learn to divert your attention from food to something productive.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  9. John

    I used to see a good deal of fraud and abuse among people who received food stamps, such as purchasing large quantities of food, then "making plates" (fixing meals and selling them to neighbors and/or coworkers) for cash, receiving food stamps while working off the books or selling illegal substances to supplement income. It's not that I don't think these things go on anymore. I just don't live in a neighborhood where it goes on anymore.

    I am married and have three children of whom two are teenagers. All three participate in sports and have massive appetites as a result. With my wife attending nursing school, I am in charge of the shopping and cooking (as well as laundry, housekeeping, etc). I spend far less than $30 per person per week on groceries just because I am, by nature, frugal. Much of our meat is bought at Sam's club where a whole Top Round roast, cut into steaks for London Broil, is cheaper than ground beef.. I make large batches of food so leftovers are always available for quick meals. It can be done while maintaining a healthy diet of appetizing food. I am sure it's easier for a family than it is for a single person.

    Much of what I know of frugality was taught to me in the early '80s when my family depended on Dad's garden for much of our diet. The lessons were brought into my adulthood and are being taught to my children so they can eat adequately in bad times and eat really well in good times.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  10. Julie @ Willow Bird Baking

    You also have to take into account the availability of transportation, the presence of food deserts, the time spent working multiple jobs and caring for children, fatigue/taste preferences as a factor (meaning sometimes you're too tired to make the best choices, or sometimes you don't want to eat beans for the 8th night in a row), cooking skills, cooking materials (pots, pans, internet/books to look up recipes, appliances).

    There's plenty here to factor in other than just "Could I go to the grocery store where I shop now and spend $30 to get a week's worth of food?" Plenty of people could do that BECAUSE THE OTHER FACTORS LINE UP TO ALLOW THEM TO DO SO. Then they get high and mighty and talk about how poor people shouldn't be given more assistance because they "should be able to manage" on that amount and eat healthily. Here's a great article on this topic: http://www.racialicious.com/2011/05/12/if-you-havent-been-on-food-stamps-stop-trying-to-influence-government-policy/

    September 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • footnotegirl

      Thank you. Yes, this, SO MUCH THIS. These commenters can't see their privilege because they are soaking in it.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Jenn

      Yours is the voice of reason in the midst of a sea of generalization.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • gotacomment

      You're right, especially about equipment. One reason I can make my food dollar stretch is I own a pressure cooker, slow cooker and a combination convection.microwave. I've made enough pots of chicken soup in the pressure cooker to float Richard's yacht and the slow cooker does wonders for pot roasts and stews (though the pressure cooker does those in a hurry and they're just as good). Because I can cook a chicken in the microwave on the combination setting it takes about 2/3 less time. My food processor is great for making scalloped potatoes (also cooked in the microwave, leaving the stove oven free for something else) and I have a stand mixer as well so I do a lot of baking. I'll admit I'm also lucky in having the kind of job that leaves me some time to devote to food prep. (Before anyone gets mad at me for the food processor, before I got it I used a 60-year-old mandoline to slice the potatoes; a knuckle got bloodied from time to time, but that just added flavor.) The author of this article could have done with a night school cooking course or two.

      September 30, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  11. mouse

    This is what I know about the subject which isn't much....my niece who had 4 little girls before the age of 22 has been on aid since the oldest was born who is now 13 – my niece started nursing school and will be an RN here in a semester or two can't remember – $30 for one person is not much but $150 a week for 5 is so much more do-able. I think we continue to perpetuate the problem by continuing to take care of more and more kids cuz the more you have the more you get and believe me, there is a lot left over when it's $150 a week vs $30.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • John

      I wish there was a "Like" button available (as there is on Facebook).

      September 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
      • Anti-facebook

        If there was a like button like there is on like facebook then like it would be facebook. Grown-ups here use the comment section so you can be eloquent and actually type out full sentences worth of comments. So if that like inconveniences you, then like go back to facebook.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • footnotegirl

      And yet try and add aid for family planning services, lower the cost of birth control for poor women (and men) or fund health clinics that provide reproductive care in poor areas and watch the very same conservatives who blame people for having children FREAK OUT over helping people to not have children.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  12. Shane

    If you were diabetic or obese and had to maintain a low carb diet, this would be an unhealthy diet. An unhealthy diet for a diabetic or obese person often leads to health problems that require a need for medical care – medical care is much more expensive than groceries. Pay now or pay later. The best solution is to stop funneling 90% of America's wealth to the wealthy and bragging about how great a free market society is and face reality that there is a limit as to how wealthy people should become without having to pay their share of taxes. Just shouting socialism is not a solution either.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • yes!

      Amen!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Molly

      Food stamps increase obesity and diabetes, which increases health care.
      When have we had a free market?

      Fair share? LMAO
      A flat tax would be fair!

      What's not fair is 2 people working making the same amount of money.
      1 person spends wisely and SAVES money = no food stamps :( or any other type of assistance......living paycheck to paycheck just trying to make ends meet.

      The other person buys things they probably shouldn't, doesn't budget, or make an effort to better themselves. THey get food stamps, healthcare, and who knows what else. They have much more discretionary spending than the person above.

      The first person can't have an opinion on the matter, because they just don't understand how hard it it.......blah, blah blah.

      I get it. Really I do. The system we have now is far from FAIR!

      October 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  13. emreyes

    I work full time and spend less then that and do not even get food stamps. I feed 2 teenage boys and myself. I spend about 200 a month, thats about what is left over after I pay just the bare essential bills like rent, and utilities. Forget retirement right now or even saving for it. It is possible to eat better then that on much less.. You just have to plan and clip coupons, and watch sales.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  14. Andrea M

    I seem to do just fine eating on the cheap. I manage a pretty balanced diet involving a lot of eggs, (a dozen for just under $2 will give you more mornings of cheaper, healthier breakfasts than that farina) leftovers for lunch, and a wide variety of dinners. Sometimes I'm lazy and make box mac and cheese or spaghetti, sometimes I make fish filets with rice and fresh or frozen veggies. I made a nice sort of sprouted lentil and veg stew over rice a few nights ago which was very filling, super nutritious, and wonderfully cheap. I don't live in a particularly cheap or expensive area to eat (central Denver) but I seem to do pretty well. It helps to not shop at Whole Foods and to plan your meals around what's on sale and what's in season. You can still do that "shop around the outside" thing to get good food, you just have to pay attention.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Me

      Eating eggs every day is not healthy. Farina, on the other hand...

      September 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
      • Wha

        You need to check your egg research.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  15. ptcashier

    As a part time cashier, I constantly see people buying soda ( cart full for graduation party), chips, etc with food stamps. Why? Why does food stamps pay for soda, soda tax and soda deposit- yes it happens daily. When food stamps are used, the balance left is show, it is not uncommon to see balances of $300- $500. I have seen food stamp used by folks 20+ years older, younger or of the opposite gender. We can't question it, but it is so blatantly wrong.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • ptcashier

      I meant that the person using the food stamp card does not match the FS recipient's info on said card. it should be illegal to give your card and pin number to others. if a power of attorney issue, this should be on the card.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
      • Anga120

        Actually, it is illegal. It's called Welfare Fraud. And as a cashier, if you see the information on the card doesn't match the information of the person making the purchase, you should not be allowing the individual to make the purchase using the EBT card. When an individual receives food stamp benefits, they are required to sign an application acknowledging their rights & responsibilities. And one of the responsibilities is she/he is only to use the food stamps for the members of the household. The sharing/selling of EBTs cards is HUGE problem.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
      • ptcashier

        Alas, most stores don't give a rats behind if the person swiping the card is indeed the person on the card. See it often, especially when we have to hand key in the account number as the card won't swipe. Users are reluctant to call for a new card as they loose their current worn/torn card until it's replacement arrives.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
      • StuckInThisTwilight

        Just so you know, when you apply for things like foodstamps, generally speaking an entire family (everyone in the household) is on the application (as to determine how much a family would get depending on size) yet the card is usually issued to just ONE person. How do you know those people aren't one of the other people listed on the application? As someone who was on foodstamps for a period of time after being laid off, the card was in my name alone. That being said who are you to judge if my husband came through the line and used the card, his name was on the application, and he counts as a member of our household, thus legally he can use it. Are you married? Have you ever used your husbands credit card to pay for something? I know I have, he has the same account he has since well before we met, and if I need it he gives it to me to pay for things. Don't be so quick to assume its some fraudulent practice.

        September 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  16. greg

    Gee... thats funny... When I go to the southwest waterfront wharf in DC to buy some small shrimp or snow crab legs, its always interesting that the person in front of me uses food stamps to buy King Crab legs and Jumbo shrimp. I work two jobs and can't afford this food, yet there is someone using food stamps to buy them. Think I'm kidding? Check it out for yourself.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • ptcashier

      happens all the time up here. $40 birthday cakes too, why? If you are poor enough to get food stamps, then you should buy a cake mix for a buck

      September 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  17. KWDragon

    Again, while this is an interesting experiment, it would have meant more if she had stuck with it for longer, like a month or more. Like Barbara Ehrenreich and Nickeled and Dimed. She spent a year living at minimum wages and working rough jobs. I am sure the producer gained some empathy, as she said, but then she went back to a lifestyle not many have or could afford. Wonder what her first "non-food-stamp" meal was, and was it home-cooked or out?

    September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  18. dfdf

    I make 6 figures. These are better than what I eat for breakfast and lunch for workdays.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Yep

      Me too. The health nut bread was a stunning choice for a week of saving money.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  19. Dan Campbell

    As a guy who has lived on a food budget of sometimes $0 a month to $10 a week I can easily laugh at this, especially the rice with splenda for desert. But I must say this is one of the most exotic budgeting meals ever and I give congrats to it. But I hold no pity for these programs or stories due to the fact that I have seen so much squandering waste where parents or individuals can't cut back on their vices, use food stamp money only to feed themselves, and allow their children's only meal to be that from lunch and breakfast in the cafeteria at school.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  20. Ellie

    I imagine it's easier to feed 4 people on $120 a week than a single person on $30 a week. Food is not packaged for single people.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Sandra

      It does seem like you would have more room to play with, having a family on food stamps. I can tell you for sure, my local dollar store sells food, name brand non-expired food...each item is 99 cents...and you can get a whole lot of stuff for $30! I could easily have nutritious meals for an entire week plus, health and beauty items, and cleaning items/household items for my weekly /$30 budget! I've heard of stories of families with EBT cards who would shop the dollar stores and then sell their remaining EBT $ so they could buy other items like alcohol, etc.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  21. John

    When I was laid off from my job I was getting $1200 dollars a month for my wife and I and six kids plus I was getting $240 dollars for unemployment. I didn't even spend that much on food when I was working. I am glad I have a job now but that is why we have so many people that don't won't to work. FREE FOOD, FREE HEALTH CARE, PLUS MONEY FOR SITTING AT THE HOUSE (WATCHING JERRY SPRINGER LOL) AND THE GOVERMENT WILL ALSO SEND YOU MONEY IF YOU GET BEHIND ON YOUR UTILITIES. The whole system needs to be changed.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  22. Pat

    tired of people complaining they dont recieve enough handouts! 75% of the world would LOVE to be able to spend 30/week on food! the problem lies with unemployed trying to maintain their previous lifestyles, it cant happen. instead of complaining about what your not getting, be thankful of what you are!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • greenacres

      Couldn't read any further without commenting. I am a working mother of 2 – My husband lost his job 5 years ago, but has recently found work – I coupon and PLAN my HOMEMADE meals each day. I've perfected my grocery strategy over the years and my pantry overfloweth with bounty to feed my family. I only spend $100 a month on groceries. We eat at AppleBee's once a month on Tuesday's, because the kids eat for .99 cents and me and dad eat for 20 bucks – It's our treat. For those of you who are critical of people on foods stamps for being obese, you are right – Most all of them buy junk b/c it's cheap and they have NOT been taught how to make the most of their supplement – I actually teach classes to women (mostly on Snaps) how to plan meals/freeze berries and meat. It was very much needed, to stretch their dollar. Couponing classes are needed for most recipients too – You can use coupons with Food Stamps – Don't be lazy, CLIP! Planning and working smart can get you through the week and month to provide nutricious meals for your family. This has to be a priority though – Stay out of the grocery stores if you do not receive food stamps – Prices are 15-25% more on food around the 1st through the 10th of EACH month – I stock up the 3rd week/4th week to shop for groceries. I make a 6 figure salary and our household is very blessed – But even for us, I have to consciously work at couponing, saving and planning our meals – WHY? Because it's smart and we have seen GREAT results from it – Another thing, I make my own coffee/espresso at home – I have a small coffee pot at work. I carry my lunch EVERY DAY – and I put meat in the crockpot 4/5 times a week to save time on making dinner ~ IT CAN BE DONE! BE SMART!

      September 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  23. AR

    Sorry to say... $200/m is plenty for 1 person. Add a kid in that and it's over $200/m. What was shown is even better then what some people even eat. Go out buy a 10lb bag of chicken for seven to ten dollars. That should last a week or two depending on the size of the family. For me that lasts about 2 weeks and I work 40+ hours a week. Buy some frozen vegetables for 2-3 dollars a bag. Luckily, I have a rice cooker but 1 bag of sushi rice @ almost $4 a bag and that that lasts me at least a week. So adding this all up. NO drinks included... That's about $15 a week.

    P.s. How much common sense does it take to look for things that are on sale... Usually in the ad or even above the items.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  24. Barb

    Honestly though the average family receives 400+ a monthly on SNAP.. And I have witnessed at our local Wal-mart what everyone calls "Food Stamp Day".. And what I see would break your heart.. For the small handful that make the self conscious super picky choices to make healthy foods that will stretch, there is about four times the amount who make rather appauling choices. Most of the people that rush the night of Food Stamps (ours are released 1 hr before midnight on the tenth of every month) and load up on chips, cookies, frozen pizza.. up to eight or more cases of soda. Ice Cream. Maybe a few healthy choices hidden beneath the layers of junk food. The parents wear expensive name brand clothes
    have well manicured nails. Extensive salon styled hair, while they take no conscious choices in their family's nutrition. My husband and I both work full time jobs and we manage not only to eat off of 200-250 a month but eat well and that is for us and our roommate to eat from. It can be done.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  25. Familyof 4 Adults

    our monthly grocery budget is $200.00 we go to Sam club & buy in bulk & it will last us the whole month. Thats a budget of $50.00 a week for 4 people, thats 12.50 per person... It can be done.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • KWDragon

      In rural America, going to a big club and getting bulk food is often not an option. Just a reminder that not everyone, even in the inner cities, has equal access to affordable food. Of course, in the country, I can grow my own.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • msriss

      Amen!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • msriss

      My Amen was @ Familyof4Adults. I feed a family of 3 on $120 bi-weekly, and that is without going to Sams Club (although we go there on occasion). So it can be done with or without access to a wholesale chain.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  26. Tina

    First of all you did not take any free food. I think that anyone who does not take free when it is available would really be stupid. Especially if you are living off $30.00 a week.

    I agree with many people that cooking from home and making things from scratch is lost art form. I have seen many people who are on food stamps having a bunch of junk food in their cart ect. I agree with the fact that you should have to take 2 cooking classes and account for your purchase when you are on food stamps.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Andrea M

      Free food? Are you talking food bank or "freegan"ism? I do the $30/week (does a single person really need more?) and eat just fine without needing any wort of handout. Why should I take food bank goods when there are people who need it far more than I do? They're not supplementing their food budget, that may be all they get and it's wrong for me to take it just because it's free. As for freegans, they're in their own class. I'm not opposed to dumpster diving and I've certainly known people who do it, but I prefer not to hunt for rancid food in dumpsters. I've left things for freegans, mostly clothes or furnishings I've left beside dumpsters to be "adopted" and I have a few books I've adopted from others who have left them beside the dumpster. It seems like it's mostly hipsters who prefer a romanticized bohemian life (while daddy foots most of the real bills) who participate in that sport.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  27. Julie

    I don't think this was a realistic experiment at all. There are so many ways to eat healthy on a budget, and there are more opportunities out there. At first its hard because all you're thinking about is that the money is not going to get you throught the week. For one person $30 is plenty, if you're not eating out. Yes, it takes planning but so what? Take some more time looking for good deals on healthy food. Put something into it and learn to cook, you could eat very well.

    Have a look at http://www.inspiredhomecooking.com/
    Also, http://www.foodday.org/about-food-day/

    September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • diana

      Also, Food Stamps are a supplemental program. They are meant to add to the money you have for groceries, not supply your whole grocery allotment.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
      • um yeah

        so tell that to the people that have two carts full of junk food, soda and what ever that is driving brand new vehicles. OUR SYSTEM IS JACKED UP

        September 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Hoce

      Julie, I agree with you. It does take some effort! While I am not in a position where I can only spend 30$ a week on food, it doesn't mean that I don't need to budget. Yes, I do see spending 30$ per week challenging, but not impossible in a sense that life is completely miserable.
      Also, due to my strict budget, we do not eat out either (only very rare occasions). When growing up, I believe my family could have qualified for food stamps, but my parents managed just fine, and mainly due to my mom having her own garden and making sure she was a smart shopper. For example, why choose yellow peppers? They cost double of what a green pepper would cost!
      Further, I am confused. This article is misleading; I'd like to know what percentage of America is starving? No doubt there are unfortunate people out there, but the reality is that America is facing a HUGE obesity problem (mostly from overeating). So much in fact, that the CDC in recent years had to term 'obesity' as a disease! From a nutritionist's standpoint, more people need to eat less!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Christie White

      I couldnt agree with you more! Shopping on a budget takes planning. I just watched a tv show where a woman purchased somewhere around $1000 of groceries for less than $30 by using coupons and taking advantage of double coupon days and in-store sales. I dont expect the average person to be able to do that, but my point is that you can save lots of money if you plan and use coupons. If a person does not know how to cook, it should not be the burdon of taxpayers to buy expensive prepared meals. I do feel that one person can eat and eat well for $120 a month. It just takes some preparation and work. I know this because I've done it.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  28. Inky dog

    I grew up on food stamps. We lived way out in the country so there weren't many jobs. My father worked a minimum wage job to make ends meed. My mother was very judicious with our money so we usually ended up with a couple hundred left over a month. However now, I work part time in a store while I'm going to school. The store is very close to some housing projects. So needless to say many of these people are on govt aid. I have customers come in who have 3+ children with them. They are almost morbidly obese. (the customers not children) They will spend in excess of $50 on energy drinks, snack cakes, and chips. It makes me sick. I also make minimum wage with less than 40 hrs a week and somehow i'm still able to make it without food stamps

    September 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  29. stephanie

    If you only get $30 a week for FOOD, why do I see so many people using food stamps to buy pop, chips, cookies and more junk along the same lines? I don't get food stamps and I can't afford that stuff. Also explains why alot of people on foodstamps are fat. They are able to buy junk food.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • sue

      Food Stamps should be allowed only for bread, cheese, PB, cereal and fresh veg and fruit. This will also bring down the prices of fresh fruit like apples, banannas, vegs like beans and cabbage. No pop, cookies, pizza. Unhealty choices should be discouraged and the demand will bring down the price of the healthy ones

      September 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  30. Shit

    I make 6 figures. These are better than what I eat for breakfast and lunch for workdays.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Hoce

      Yeah, I'm sure. How is your comment helpful or productive in any way????

      September 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  31. xeno

    I don't spend much more than $30/person per week in my household, and we eat a lot of organic and specialty foods. It's all about planning, knowing how to shop, and having the storage space and transportation to take advantage of a good deal. Space and transportation are two things not talked about enough. If I see a fantastic deal on oatmeal, say $1.00 for 4 big cans with coupon, I can get into my car, drive to the supermarket with that deal, drive me and my oatmeal home, and have room to store it. When we look at poverty, there is a lack of access to supermarkets that sell at lower prices, as well as a lack of reasonable ability to buy in bulk.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  32. Brandon

    I earn $45000 a year salary. If I could for myself, my month grocery bill is $160 to $200. I can have beef ($4 a pound), fish ($7 a pound) and almost any medium priced food. If you go out to eat, that's not enough. In America, people really eat too much. With my $200 grocery, I am not eating junk food, or overeating. I think that's not only economic and healthy. If I have $30 a week, or $120 a month, I will buy $8 (use $2 or 12.5 lbs for a week) 50 lbs wheat flower from Costco, $12 beef, $6 salad, $4 milk, $6 fruits. That will be a healthy and tasty diet. You can replace the $12 beef with other cheaper options.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jessica

      Brandon, most poor people can't afford that Costco membership and Costco, Sams Club and BJ's are usually not located in cities. Also poor people often lack the transportation to get to them and if they take public transportation they often can only carry a small amount of food home.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  33. Corine Clutter

    I wish I could receive thirty dollars in food stamps. You must be joking about this article.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • jean

      i receive $16 a month food stamps. It helps a lot but which I had more. I am single. Never buy junk food.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  34. Lisa

    Wow, I feed my family of 4: me, hubby, 21 year old son, and 15 year old daughter, on usually $90/wk., sometimes as low as $75, and that includes cleaning supplies, TP and paper towels. And we eat healthy and very well! Pricebook, people, comparison shopping and buy in bulk. Gees, it's not hard at all! Go to Frugal Village, tons of tips over there. We're in a depression, you'd better all learn how to shop!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Me

      That's great, however, you don't know someone else's situation. Perhaps that person works 2 or 3 min. wage jobs and does not have TIME to go to all that trouble. Perhaps he or she lives in an area of town without affordable grocery stores so he or she has to buy all groceries at convenience stores. Perhaps the person is disabled.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Texas Pete

      It is about the discount of buying in bulk. It might only average $80 a week per person to feed 4, but with the same meals, it could easily cost $50 for the same type of food if only one person is eating it. Basically, each additional person costs less and less.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  35. thesecondavid

    I'm solidly middle class and I spend $100 every three weeks on food. Its not that hard.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Me

      Baloney.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
      • Texas Pete

        Yeah, I am guess a lot of baloney gets eaten for that kind of $.

        September 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  36. Cyrus

    $30/Day translates to $900/month on Food Stamp. Which states give that kind of money for Food Stamps? Are you insane? This is a retarded experiment! In a place like NYC, depending on economic conditions, Food Stamps give between $250 and $350 per month for a 2 person household (i.e. $11.66/day for both). I challenge you to live in NYC with $11.66 per day for food. We will see how your "experiment" goes.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Binky42

      You misread. It was $30 per week.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Lisa

      It's $30 per WEEK, not day, LOL.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Cameron

      read again! it says $30/WEEK! not $30/day

      September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • motherof3

      it's $30.00 a week, not $30.00 a day.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Justin W

      If you would of read teh article it says $30 a week.....not day....

      September 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • John Smith

      The article specifically states $30/week, not $30/day. Read the article carefully before making such rash judgments.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • DJ

      Not A DAY CYRUS! $30.00 A WEEK!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Jennifer

      I live in FL and I was behind a woman in the grocery store that gets 2500.00 a month on her EMT/Food stamp card. I almost screamed! I work paycheck to paycheck and don't use the State to provide for my family. I know a lot of people need it right now, but 2500.00. That is crazy

      September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
      • Jennifer

        Supposed to say EBT/Foodstamp

        September 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Cyrus

      My apologies. It was an oversight on my part. Either way, I was trying to make a point about living on $11.66/day on food stamps in NYC.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Cyrus

      Yes...I made an error. Once again, my apologies. It's $30/week...not day. Thanks everyone.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • DS

      years of retail experience talking. i have seen families use their food stamp cards, and still have over $1000 in unused funds. I have seen people through with 4 boxes of crab legs ($30 each), lobster tails, etc... My friend is currently on food stamps for her and her two daughters and she gets $500/month

      September 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Reading

      Did you not read the article at all? It's $30 a WEEK, not per day.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
      • Cyrus

        Told you it was an honest mistake. Want a notarized copy too? Was trying to make a point about living on food stamps in a place like NYC.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • carlee81

      It's 3 billion rupies an hour, you misread.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  37. Elizabeth

    I like this comment.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  38. vicster

    Sorry, but this is not how foodstamp folks usually eat. This lady is putting a low-fat balanced meal together and includes options like several espressos a day. The writer said she was hungry. You look at the real folks on foodstamps and you seldom see thin starving people – obesity rules. Why not do this challenge using food that these people actually eat?

    September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • panda

      Folks, I work in grocery retail and the majority of food stamp individuals eat very well. They often set the alcohol and luxuries aside for a separate purchase. It is not a bad life at least when it comes to food. I know and see that there are many legitimate food stamp users and thank God for this tax service for those who really need it. However, the basics should only be provided on this program and there should be much more monitoring of this sad system. I have believed that this system alone has contributed to the great demise of our country...there are many lazy folks out there. They are the same people who will brag about unemployment benefits. They are the same ones who will laugh at this post. Thankfully, I am learning in my own life not to judge this to harshly, because the Lord will cut of all those who do not bear fruit...He is a God of love, but also a God of justice. That is my peace in this life.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
      • Me

        Wow. Your "God" sounds like a real jerk.

        To the original poster: obesity means the person is not healthy. They are actually malnourished. Malnourished people can be thin OR fat. Cheap food causes obesity. People aren't eating well off food stamps...they are actually eating very poorly.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  39. Tiffany

    I don't know where the $30 a week came from. Sounds like the author just took a number that sounds like it would be hard to live off of and used that for her "study." It is opinion articles like this one that really bother me, where no research or thought has been put into them, they are just thrown online and picked up by CNN.
    My sister and her family of 4 had to live with food stamps for a while. She got so much money between those and WIC that I got to go shopping with her and use the money to buy my own groceries too. Needless to say it was quite a bit more than $30 a week.
    I find this article misleading and I am not sure what sort of action it is calling for it's readers to make. Overall, I wish I didn't read it because I am so annoyed that this garbage is on CNN at all.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • donotbeleveit

      Maybe you should pay that money you spent you were not entitled to back so that others who need it can eat. I call that fraud.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
      • Tiffany

        haha, yeah, I'll get right on that. I'm just saying this article is crap and I don't feel even a little bit bad about taking advantage of the government when I had the chance since I may never get to again and I sure do pay enough in social security and taxes to get something.

        September 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Bioartchick

      This article makes you angry? What is wrong with you?

      September 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Bun

      Agreed! Reality is, who on foodstamps gets only $30/week? Everybody I know on food stamps has so much excess that they invite other people to shop with them or they buy food and give it away. Also, I agree with those who have clearly observed that many/most food stamp users are OBESE and use food stamps to buy junk such as chips, soda, and unnecessary snacks. We, the real working people, easily can obtain quality, healthy, nutritious food for much less than $30/week per person if we want to. Ever heard of using coupons on top of sales for dry goods such as pasta and cereal? Ever heard of buying fruit such as bananas and apples for less than $1/piece? You get the point...

      September 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
      • Ginger

        "Real working people" also receive food stamps. Times are tough, full time jobs are harder to find, and families are struggling to survive. Food stamps aren't just for the unemployed.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Ginger

      If your sisters family was completely unemployed, had high living expenses and had small children young enough for WIC then her allotment may have been higher than others on food stamps. The amount varies depending on family size and income. If they were receiving more than they needed, they should have declined to use their WIC to start with, and used their food stamps for those purchases. It is illegal to buy food for other people with food stamps.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Matt

      Wait, your sister was on WIC and EBT/Foodstamps and she got so much money you were able to buy your groceries on her stamps??? I don't know where to start being angry. 1. Your conning sister gets more money for being a useless drain by spreading her legs and popping out babies she "can't afford" so the system has to pay for them. 2. She gets more money than she can use. 3. You seem to think it's okay, you feel entitled to get your groceries on her foodstamps. 4. Obviously neither one of you pay taxes, I'm steaming that I'm paying for all this! AMAZING. I want to move to Venezuela, where at least everyone's taxed and everyone's in the crap.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Qdrake

      The author sated in the first post (link in the article) that across the nation the average amount of food stamps (SNAP) granted per person came to 30$ per week. This was apparently calculated by taking each state's allowed amount across all incomes and averaging, throughout the entire country. Where, exactly, she got the number from (i.e. who calculated it) I wasn't clear on. But since this was an average across the whole nation, it follows that some states give much more and some, a lot less.

      The author apparently lives in New York City, and spoke in the first post of "walking home" from her grocery shopping. If you read the post it is painfully clear that this young lady has never had to seriously budget her food expenditures or plan her shopping/eating. I think the real point of the article was that a young woman with no experience in having to restrict her food purchases due to poor income, tried to learn something about how people who do live with such restrictions have to live. I hope it did teach her some empathy and I really hope she explores budgeting and home cooking further. She could clearly save herself a LOT of money if she planned her meals and shopping, and had a larger home cooking repertoire.

      Secondly, perhaps she was trying to speak to others like herself who have never had to watch the food budget that carefully, and try to give them a little perspective on how hard things can be if you are uncertain how you are going to feed yourself. From a number of comments I've seen on this site, a LOT of people could use a little more empathy for the less fortunate.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  40. Firebolt

    http://www.cookforgood.com

    Take a look at this website. This lady helps folks prepare nutritious meals on an extremely low budget. She focuses on people who are on public assistance or are just limited on how much they can spend on food every week. It's good stuff

    September 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  41. Ralph

    There was a time several years ago when our family of five had to live on food stamps until I found another job. It was not difficult at all. In fact, we felt guilty because we qualified for more than we needed to live on. With the proper budgeting and self-control it is not difficult at all to live on what the government provides in food stamps.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  42. chaffer26

    I lived on that for a while, although my food choices were different by necessity. I have a paralyzed stomach, so food sits longer than it should. For the better part of 2 years, I was on liquids mostly, with some crackers or very plain cookies to satisfy my need to chew. The only way that I blew the budget was buying aclear supplement drink that boosted calorie intake without causing pain. Most times, I got by on about $25 dollars a week, outside of that supplement drink. One bonus, I rarely felt hungry due to the medical condition. Although able to eat more regular foods now thanks to finding a treatment that works, I still find myself in that mindset of nuying so little, then having to go back for more when it runs out.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  43. Elizabeth

    I'm sorry, but I, the working American having been paying into the tax system my entire life. Never took a dime from the government. I see people the use food stamps buy Breyers ice cream and brand name everything. But yet, I, the working American, buy the generic brand. And to top it off, their rent is subsidized by my tax dollars and I see them on their porches smoking cigarettes. In Connecticut, cigarettes are between $7.00 – $9.00 / pack. Something is very wrong here.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Binky42

      My white trash sister in law (5 kids from different fathers, no diploma, etc.) is on every kind of assistance imaginable. But she can still afford, somehow, to buy cigarettes at $6 per pack. Thankfully the authorities are now on to her and we're hopeful that CPS will finally take the children and put them in a good home.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
      • Frugal Hausfrau

        Was a time when family would step in to help out, not expect the government to do so

        September 29, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • JayZoo

      You, the hardworking American, need to learn how to write. Don't use the, "comma by the breath," theory. At least express your thoughts in complete sentences and not fragments.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
      • JayWho?

        JayZoo: when you promulgate that Binky42’s use of commas is “by the breath,” your point is not only unclear, but incorrect. As for your own mangled syntax, your use of commas in the middle of your sentence implies you are using an appositive when, in fact, you are not. Case in point: your use of commas makes you a bit of a hypocrite (Greek translation: actor). Rest easy: with time and more practice (and maybe some hours with Alexander Pope), you will improve.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
      • carlee81

        You are using the colon too much. I suspect in the real world, you talk out of the colon as well. I write well while making right hand turns avoiding the tern in the middle of the road. At ease, grammar police.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • mplaya

      Exactly Elizabeth! I used to see the lower income folks walk to the 7-11 to buy food that was most likely 3x more expensive than the supermarket – problem was, the supermarket would have had them walk an extra block or two. I am lucky enough to have a job and a hme, but I still hunt for bargains, use coupons and buy the store brand of a lot of items as they taste just as good as their brand name counterparts. There should be more stringent rules in place to ensure the folks getting help USE that help wisely.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Cindy Christina

      Please be careful with the generalization here. We don't all abuse the system. Of course a lot of people do, but a lot of hard working, wealthy citizens abuse the system too. And besides, it is really bad karma to be so uppity about your station in life. It is not that difficult to go from having practically everything to having practically nothing. Trust me, I know.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Me

      I'm sorry, but do you get this upset about those who are TRULY gaming the system...you know, the wealthy who don't pay their fair share of taxes?
      Since you don't know the whole story, it's not cool to judge. I know! Let's only allow the poor to buy used clothing and generic brands! That'll teach em to be down on their luck!

      September 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
      • Matt

        Yes, when I the taxpayer not on welfare or food stamps is buying generic, or thrift store clothing, driving a 9 year old car and I'm not too good to save a buck, but the person I'm supporting through government assistance has on brand new Gucci, Prada, buying the name brand cereal driving a last year model car at 20% financing there is a problem. If the person I'm supporting has a better quality of life than me, there's something inherently broken in the system and it needs to be revamped, overhauled, scrutinized to the fullest extent. If you get government assistance, it's assistance to live until you get things straightened out, it's not an entitlement program so you get the best food and sodas free and blow your other money on junk. There needs to be a course that you are required to attend and update a social worker with your progress if you are on gov't assistance, bottom line, no joke, it's not a way of life and should not be handed down from one generation to the next.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Frugal Hausfrau

      You, the hardworking american, take subsidies from the government all the time. Much, if not all the food you eat is subsidized in some way to keep costs down, farmers in business, you drive cars on the roads paid for by taxes, you take advantage of the mail, you use items made by industries that are subsidized, have used phones that were subsidized, imports and exports are regulized and subsidized, Substities create supply and demand, regulating many markets, milk is generally under subsidy, student loans are subsidies, gas is substisized, alternative energy is under substity, many homeowners, recently have been substitized on their houses, those over the years with fha loans were substitized. There's Ginnie Mae & Freddie mac, Airlines have been substitized. Railroads, the same. Sugar has been, corn, which feeds beef. Many foods resulting from grains are substitized. There is no end to the arts that are stubstitized, schools, Any government program one might take advantage of is, in effect, a subsidy...ever rented a library book? Ever driven on a bridge, taken someone to court? Called the police? Enjoyed swimming in clean water? How about street lights? There is no end to it...I'd love to hear an economist on here list off a few things that the average consumer isn't aware of.

      September 29, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  44. Grad Student

    This author's experience probably isn't the best example of how to properly eat on $30/week. First, it's obvious this person has never had to try this before, so the learning curve is steep. Second, it's a lot easier to live on $30/week if you're in a family setting, and so you can share meals. The more people who eat from the same meal, the less the meal costs per person. Finally, it's best if you splurge one week to buy staples (such as large bags of rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, and your spices). Then you spend your $30/week on the extras to go with your staples, such as cheese, veggies, meat, milk, fruit, etc.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  45. Cole

    It really depends on your household size, income, and utilities when determining how much you receive in food stamps each month. I definitely see people in the grocery store using their EBT cards on more groceries than I've been able to buy with my full-time job. A lot of people will use their entire months worth of food stamps and then have extra money to spare for whatever is left/wasn't covered with food stamps. I work a full time job and continue to eat on a budget for myself. It's something we all should do.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • klander24

      Agreed. I just stand behind these people on food stamps when they're in line at the grocery store, with steam coming out of my ears when I see that 90% of what they're buying is stuff I can't afford. Lobster, crab legs, big steaks, etc. Here I am with my Ramen Noodles and mac & cheese. I work my butt off – I work full time, go to grad school full time, and work an internship, and can barely make it every month. And? I make a fairly decent living. The problem is that everything is so expensive now that most people who work are pay to pay. It would be one thing if the people on assistance weren't living high on the hog, but a lot of them are. Very, very frustrating.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
      • Me

        "A lot of them"? How do you know this? By seeing a few people in the grocery store buying items you deem to be ABOVE them?
        Yes, I'm sure the people living in boarded up crack dens a block away from me are living the high life...just not in the way you are thinking.

        September 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
      • Frugal Hausfrau

        You obviously forget to have a bunch of children.

        September 29, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  46. Amy

    If one would eat organic nutritional packed food (i.e. no high fructose, pesticides, hydrogenated fats, etc.) then I believe there would be no way to survive on 30 dollars a week. I am a vegan, by choice, and even without paying for meat, dairy, and eggs, I still cannot make it on 30 dollars a week.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jen

      Hey- Vegan can be a lot cheaper if you are willing to take the time and cook things from scratch a little more. I shop at trader joe's and whole foods and buy organics but can keep my grocery bill down when I try by staying away from the processed foods. Spending your cash on organic fruits and veggies is cheaper than you may think.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Carol S

      I am not a vegan (by choice), am not on food stamps and my family and I eat a very healthy diet for less than 30/week/person, AND we have an athletic teenager and a houseful of stepchildren every weekend. Our diet includes meat, cheese, eggs, yogurt. We also grow a lot of fresh veggies every year in box gardens or in pots, or take advantage of farmer's markets to buy in bulk and can/freeze the extra. Some of the author's choices were suspect....I mean chicken breast? You can buy a whole chicken for the price of 2 chicken breasts and it will yield dinner the first night, sandwich for lunch the next day, and with the addition of an $.89 bag of frozen mixed veggies enough soup to feed a family of 4 the next day! A little more research on these articles please...this one was ridiculous.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Matt

      Foodstamps can't support you then, don't use them. My taxpayer money is not to support lifestyle choices.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  47. Hana

    Today's young society wants everything right now and dont take the time to prepare meals from scratch or spend the time looking for the best deals and nutritional information. We lived on $30 a week for a few years when times were tough for us but the food was always healthy and good on the table. Going out was a special treat and even then we picked places that had specials on. No fast food for us. We just couldn't afford it. And you know what, even now when we can afford it, we don't want it. And we still budget to this day because we realized good food doesnt have to be expensive. do your homework, cook in bulk and pick the cheaper chickens that arent perfect looking cause they all taste good in the end!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Me

      How many people have time to cook things from scratch? I think your expectations are a little unrealistic. In an ideal world, that would be the case, but a lot of the poor are WORKING POOR...some work two or three min. wage jobs just to stay afloat. When would they have time to cook from scratch?

      September 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
      • Molly

        Put rice in pot, add water and a pinch of salt(prep 30 seconds, cooks 15 min)
        chop half an onion, add to pan with 1T oil, add meat or fish, season and cook (15 ish min)
        Total time at most 20 minutes till completion.....
        quit making excuses and grow up.

        October 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  48. Sara

    My mother spent at least one summer skipping meals so that my 2 sisters and I wouldn't realize we didn't have enough money to eat.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Rosaadriana

      So what, who cares? Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
      • Me

        Um. You cared enough to take the time to respond. Stop being rude.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
      • 12345

        Yes, why do we have to be so rude here. Have compassion instead please.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • 12345

      That is sad. I would have done the same. Anything to protect your children.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  49. Tim

    I feed 2 people very well on just about $30 a week, maybe about $35. Using a CSA, we spend $25/week on vegetables and starches (potatoes, cornmeal, grits). It has been MORE than enough for the two of us. Enough to can and pickle some veggies, or dry and seal some beans for the winter.
    Then, for meat, I buy whole chickens when on sale in the grocery store (usually less than $1 a pound), with the occassional "poor" cuts of beef or pork, and some ground meat. A whole chicken can go really far.... On the weekends then, we sometimes go fishing to get some extra meat, or hiking to forage for some nuts (pecans and hickory in season now!) or berries. (PS, we live in a big city, but this stuff is still pretty easy to come by)
    But, as a rule, we buy little processed food. And spend an extra $30/month at the grocery store to supplement our CSA
    A thing of Hamburger Helper is super expensive when you can make that same sauce yourself in the same amount of time. Why buy crackers, bread or tortillas, when I can make them myself with just a little flour and water?
    I know the number is a little bit more than the $30/week here, but not by much, and I would probably just take out the cuts of beef and pork, and live on chickens and ground meat. Still not bad.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  50. lefty avenger

    Here is Nyc, millions are people are on welfare and foodstamps. The one radical idea they never contemplate is working for a living. People in my family work 60 hours a week and pay huge taxes. We see all these section 8 people reproducing, getting more money from it and never working. Even the 20 year old men don't work. Americans need to rediscover what made this country great in the first place: WORK. If president Obama can only create welfare and unemployment and give speech after speech of dancing around then we need to get rid of him. It seems that Obama is the job destroyer.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Binky42

      The other thing they don't consider is moving to the mid-west or the south were there are more jobs and housing is MUCH cheaper. I don't know why high-price cities continue to coddle people instead of giving them a little financial help to move somewhere with a lower cost of living.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
      • Cyrus

        Mass exodus of the welfare recipient to a state with lower cost of living only shifts the problem somewhere else, and does not address the underlying symptoms of poverty. Also, many of these welfare recipients are disabled and the elderly who greatly rely on their "social/familial network" (i.e. friends and family) for other support. If they move to another state, they will no longer have this support. You assume that the welfare recipients are all able-bodied man/women who just love living in a big city. That's far from the truth.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
      • Me

        Coddling? Really? You think living off welfare is being coddled?

        September 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Cyrus

      I am a New Yorker, and you have no idea what you are talking about. "Millions of people are on welfare"? Really? HRA data shows a very small percentage of the 8 million New Yorkers who live on food stamps (about 200,000 actually). Secondly, since you are talking out of rear end, do know that unless an individual is a disabled senior citizen/mentally or physically disabled child/pregnant woman – every other welfare recipient is required to participate in work activities. Even senior citizens who receive food stamps or cash assistance are referred to the "Senior Works Center" (on 16th Street) to participate in work. Thirdly, a significant portion of welfare payments (including food stamps and housing assistance) go to families of soldiers serving abroad. Fourthly, and most importantly, you are an idiot who needs a refresher course in economics. CBO reports and at least 70 years of economic data show that social welfare boosts economy during recessionary periods. Obama may be a not-so-great president, but what do we do with the collective IQ of people like you?

      September 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
      • Bioartchick

        <3 Cyrus

        September 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
      • lefty avenger

        You obviously live in manhattan, which is 110% white now with the exception of harlem. I am looking at all the welfare people on all sides of my neighborhood. From manhattan you cannot view them and thus have your faulty bogus liberal outlook. Phony and not reality based.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
      • Cyrus

        Lefty:

        When someone gives any percentage above 100, it immediately diminishes their intelligence by 100 points. There's no such thing as 110%. I digress. No, I don't live in Manhattan. I live in Queens (the most diverse borough in the country), and fully familiar with the welfare scene in NYC. It's my profession to analyze economic and welfare trends. I don't care if you are a liberal or a conservative. You are entitled to your political opinions. You are not entitled to your facts. Nothing that you had said in your post is factual. I suggest you read and research.

        September 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
      • Cyrus

        <3 back Bioartchick!

        September 28, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Me

      Soooo you're basing your opinion on observation rather than actual facts. Are you a Faux News viewer, by any chance?
      Have you noticed that the unemployment rate is high right now? Thus...you know, people not having jobs? You ASSUME that they are lazy, etc. Maybe they can't find work? Maybe they work 3rd shift? The point is, you don't know.

      Also...cry me a river about taxes. You are paying the lowest tax rate since the 1950's, so save it.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
      • lefty avenger

        Sorry buddy, fake liberal garbage thinking. I've owned my house for years and watched these welfare people reproduce and reproduce without ever working, ever! Sorry when the republicans win in 2012, welfare will be terminated and WORKFARE will begin. I will be the happiest person in the world when that happens and you and your welfare friends are out there in fields and quarries.

        September 28, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
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