Imagine if your entire daily food budget was less than the cost of a large Starbucks drink. For many people in Sacramento, that’s the reality they face each and every day. By using creative techniques, and planning head, many families make do with this limitation of food stamp assistance.
To raise awareness about hunger in our community, the Sacramento Hunger Coalition, a project of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, is currently taking part in the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge. They’re asking people to commit to eating just $4.90 for at least one day from now through November 15; exactly one week before Thanksgiving.
Participants are encouraged to share their stories, recipes, photos and videos on the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge Facebook event page and join in on the conversation. It’s hoped that this act will build year-round support for food banks, who often serve food stamp clients when they cannot make ends meet.
- Spend no more than $4.90 per day, per person. This includes both food and beverage.
- Try to only eat food you purchase for the project. Do not eat food you already own (this does not include spices or condiments) unless you factor the cost of that food into your daily budget.
- Avoid accepting free food or beverages from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions, briefings, or other events where food is served.
- Most importantly, be sure to share your stories, recipes, photos and videos!
Your humble ranSACked author is taking part in the challenge as well, and I’m shooting to participate for the whole seven days. When I signed up for the event, many people came forward to offer suggestions on what to buy and recipes to try. Since I’m ignorant about how to feed myself on less than five bucks a day, and because I wanted this to be a true challenge and learning experience, I shunned all of that advice and went to the grocery store yesterday without giving this whole proposition the time and thought it probably deserves.
Since I’m doing the whole week, my total food budget was $34.30. The first thing I looked for in the store was coffee, but I soon realized that any option would break my bank and take up too much cash. I opted instead for 20 green tea bags; a bargain at $2.50. Then I walked over to the tortilla end cap, and pulled out a pack of a dozen soft taco tortillas for $1.99. Lucky for me, Save Mart is having a special where you get a dozen eggs for free if you buy 24 tortillas for $3.49; a combined savings of 30 cents. Since every penny counts, and because it meant I would get twice as many tortillas, I opted for this deal instead.
I got lucky on bread, as a loaf of wheat sliced was only 99¢. I bought spreadable butter for $1.99, and 8 oz. of cheddar and monterey jack cheese for $1.99 apiece. They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, so I picked up seven red apples for 99¢ a pound, or a total of $2.43. Two heads of red leaf lettuce seemed like a good deal at a $1.49, and when I got home I was quick to divide the two into separate ziploc bags to maintain freshness. I knew that potatoes would be a cheap source of protein, but I was blown away at the price of a ten pound bag; just $1.99. I see a lot of hash browns in my future. Instead of fresh fruit I bought one can of sliced pears and another of sliced peaches, each in heavy syrup. I figure each with have to satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner for the next week.
A sandwich meat pack that boasts enough turkey and ham for ten lunches was on sale for just $5.99, leaving me less than eight dollars to spend on dinner for the rest of the challenge. Walking down the frozen meat aisle I found a “Manager’s Special” of frozen chicken thighs and legs, ten pounds, for just $6.90. Since I still had a few cents left over I bought one can of tomato sauce for reasons unknown at this time.
I was a little apprehensive as I approached the cashier, hoping beyond hope that my math was correct and that I would come in under budget. Nothing in my cart looked expendable, minus the tomato sauce, and I crossed my fingers as the clerk began to ring up my order. Thankfully, my addition skills didn’t fail me, and my grand total came in at $34.17, or a whole 13 cents under my cap.
As I’m writing this, I have just finished the first days breakfast; hash browns, two eggs, tortillas, a little cheese, one slice of ham, and a cup of green tea. I can already imagine the things I’ll miss over the next 6 and a half days. Pasta. Juice. Coffee. BEER. I still don’t know what I’ll eat for dinner tonight. The chicken, which is full of fat, bones, and skin, is currently thawing in my refrigerator. Slow cooker? Bake? BBQ? Probably at least one of each throughout the week. With potatoes I’m sure.
I don’t have any doubt that I can’t finish the challenge, but what I realize right away is how much I DON’T think about what I eat every day. Hopefully some of that sticks in my brain for the long term, but no promises.
Keep on coming back to ranSACkedmedia.com for updates on my 7-day challenge, and check out the Facebook page for more updates from others, who admitting probably gave this much more thought than I.
Wish me luck!