Jun 062016
 

$29 Per Week for Food

In the United States most people who meet certain low income guidelines are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or the food stamp program). Last year glamorous Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow challenged herself to live on just $29 worth of food for one week. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, $127 is how much the average food stamp benefit receives each month, which works out to roughly $29 per week. Paltrow wrote on her blog, goop.com, that she was doing this challenge to raise awareness for the New York City food bank. She uploaded a photo of everything she purchased for the challenge and set out to not eat anything else for a whole week. This is what her basket looked like from one of her Tweets.

16-06-from-goop-gwyneth-basket-tweet

But unfortunately she only made it through 4 days before she gave in and ate some black licorice. I know, it’s shocking right? How could anyone like the taste of black licorice. ? After her challenge ended prematurely, Paltrow said that her “perspective has been forever altered by how difficult it was to eat wholesome, nutritious food on that budget, even for just a few days—a challenge that 47 million Americans face every day.”

The Internet Backlash 

Although she did not complete her challenge I have to give her props for trying. 🙂 But of course this is the internet. So when she wrote about her food stamp challenge there was no shortage of criticism and adverse response.

As one person aptly observed, “Gwyneth Paltrow bought scallions, onions, a clove of garlic, and fresh parsley. She is doing her poor people shopping wrong.” ?

Below are some other intriguing reactions from random denizens of the Twitterverse. 😀

16-06-replies-to-gwyneth-tweet

Yikes! Bring out the carving knife because Gwyneth Paltrow got thoroughly roasted, lol. But internet drama aside, this whole situation has inspired me to do the $29/week food stamp challenge as well. 😀 As a personal finance blogger, I want to find out if I have what it takes to live on $29 a week for food.

Liquid’s $29 Food Stamp Challenge 

So for this entire week I have budged myself $29 for food. My challenge will last 7 days, from today, Monday June 6th, to Sunday June 12, inclusive. In preparation for this week I did all of my food shopping yesterday. I went to 2 separate grocery stores. Their names are on the receipts in the picture below. Both are Canadian grocers. Here is what my basket looks like after spending $27.42. (click image to biggify)

16-06-food-stamp-challenge-liquids-basket

That’s basically what $29 buys you in Metro Vancouver, B.C. I placed my Tangerine credit card in the photo as a reference for scale. Below is a breakdown of exactly what I purchased. The green highlighted items are from Lok’s Produce, and the blue highlighted items are from PriceSmart Foods.

16-05-liquids-grocery-basket-food-challenge

Altogether I have nearly 32 pounds of food to eat for the next 7 days. That’s about 4.5 lb per day, which should be more than enough to satiate my hunger. I think the average Canadian eats about 4 lb of food a day. The calories in my food challenge basket add up to 12,600. This averages out to 1800 per day, which is a bit less than the 2000 calories I normally consume, but it should still be adequate in terms of keeping my brain and body functional. 🙂

In the real world there are lots of places to get free food which I’ve blogged about before. But to make this experiment more interesting here are some strict rules I’m going to follow for the duration of this challenge:

  • I will only eat from my food basket that I have prepared above.
  • Salt and pepper will be my only seasoning. I will not use any other spices, flavoring, or condiments of any kind.
  • I will refuse to eat any food (free or otherwise) offered to me by friends, bosses, co-workers, or family members.
  • I will not consume free samples of food or drinks at Costco, markets, parties, events, or anywhere else I may be visiting.
  • I will drink only water. I will not consume alcohol, juice, soda-pop, or any other drinks.

The Plan

As with any new challenge, it always helps to plan ahead. In this particular case I am making sure that I have all the important macro nutrients to last me for a week. I also plan to eat the most perishable food items in my basket such as the cabbage and tomatoes first, while the frozen food items can be backloaded to the later parts of this challenge. And since I didn’t buy any cooking oil I will be mostly roasting, poaching, blanching, and broiling. I already have some delicious recipes I plan to make for this week. I will give an update on my progress in a few days. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

Porn distorts sex for guys, the way romantic comedies distort relationships for girls.

16-06-relationship-goals-barbie-and-ken

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41 Comments on "Taking on the $29 Food Stamp Challenge – Part 1"

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sherry @ save. spend. splurge.
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I can guarantee you that would only last me 3 days. The only thing that I would have added instead was oatmeal or anything with a lot of fiber to keep you full. I could live on oatmeal every morning with some sugar, and then whatever for lunch.

Another way to save money is to not eat meat.. I noticed our food bill really dropped down after we went partially vegetarian/vegan during the week.

This is an interesting challenge. I will not do it nor bring it up to my partner because he will be SURE TO DO THIS and I do not want to suffer unnecessarily, knowing what it would entail. He created a “war time menu” or budget and we went through it for a week. I was so unhappy at the end, but at least I was fed.

Anon
Guest
Anon

“I could live on oatmeal every morning with some sugar”

Enjoy the diabetes.

“Another way to save money is to not eat meat.”

Or…just don’t eat everything else that’s garbage/bad for you. Like oatmeal and sugar.

Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial
Guest

I take it you’re Paleo or Atkins? While I too try to limit my carb consumption especially of simple sugars, I feel like “enjoy the diabetes” is both rude and a very reductionist statement about nutrition. High-fiber whole grains such as oatmeal have actually been shown to reduce diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increase longevity: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/more-whole-grains-linked-with-lower-mortality-risk/ Plus, you know, the basis for most diets around the world is some type of grain and somehow we’re not all diabetic.

Anon
Guest
Anon

I’m neither Atkins nor Paleo. I base my diet on chemistry and biology, y’know, that stuff called science.

Read more science, eat better food.

Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial
Guest
I consider the Harvard School of Public Health and PubMed to be pretty reliable sources for modern peer-reviewed science. What do you consider to be trustworthy sources to support your claims? As to this: “As far as ‘the basis for most diets around the world is some type of grain and somehow we’re not all diabetic’…an incredibly generalistic statement. Best bone up on the rest of their diet, what do they eat in combination with the grains and in what ratios. Then you can correlate that with the rise in obesity, diabetes and many other diseases. Thanks.” Pardon my error but I actually meant “carbohydrate-heavy staple crop” instead of “grain.” I assume this won’t change your opinion on these being “garbage” foods. While I agree this is a general statement, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 60% of the world’s food energy intake consists of rice, maize, and wheat. Therefore I don’t think it entirely off-base to infer that the majority of folks around the world are incorporating carbs into their diets. http://www.fao.org/docrep/u8480e/u8480e07.htm While I am personally not aware of a cross-cultural study on national carb-consumption vs. incidence of diabetes (though would welcome a reference to… Read more »
Anon
Guest
Anon
The source? It’s called your body. The fundamental error in your argument is that you are citing studies instead of actual science. I only care about what happens to food once it’s inside my body. Fat does not turn to sugar. Protein does not turn to sugar. ALL carbohydrates turn to sugar. It doesn’t matter if it’s a potato, a parsnip, or a bowl of oatmeal (but once you douse it with sugar it doesn’t really matter, does it?), the body will transform it into sugar. Again, proven scientific fact — not studies — say that the human body has ZERO (0) requirements for carbohydrates since there are ZERO (0) essential carbohydrates. Why would you continually consume something for which your body has no need? The difference between having a normal blood sugar and a diabetic blood sugar is about a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar. One slice of bread inside the body has the EXACT same effect as one tablespoon of sugar. Anything which turns to “fast” sugar in your system is actually bad for you in a very absolute manner. Too bad you find facts “rude” and “unnecessarily mean”. Welcome to the world. Let’s continue, shall we,… Read more »
Malcolm
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Malcolm
Sorry, Anon but just had to step in here on behalf of “science”. I have a physiology and chemistry degree. The body actually uses glucose, the bodies preferred simple sugar, in the process of cellular respiration to make ATP, which is the form of energy that fuels your body. This process occurs in the mitochondrion of your somatic (body) cells. Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy for this process. Too many carbohydrates are bad, but intake of carbohydrates is absolutely essential. Protein is not used as an energy source. Proteins are broken down in to amino acids which are used to build other proteins and complex structures in your body (i.e. muscle). Lipids are broken down in to fatty acids, which are then taken in to the lymphatic system of your body and may be stored in adipose tissues. Simple sugars are the ONLY precursor to ATP that come from diet. The full reaction is below and can be found by a simple google search of cellular respiration. C6H12O6 (glucose) + 6O2 (oxygen) -> 6CO2 (carbon dioxide) + 36ATP (energy currency of your body) + 6H2O (water). I’m not sure you are entirely clear on what “science” is,… Read more »
Anon
Guest
Anon

“the bodies preferred simple sugar”

Yup, and that’s totally fine…if that is your ONLY food intake and in LIMITED quantities.
Nintendo isn’t responsible for the worldwide rampant rise in obesity, diabetes, et al over the last 30+ years.

“intake of carbohydrates is absolutely essential.”

Had to laugh when I read ‘carbohydrates’ and ‘essential’ in the same sentence.

Sorry your training and trade are apparently misinformed.

CHEERS!

Malcolm
Guest
Malcolm

Yes, you and your google degree are obviously much more well informed! Thanks for the laughs.

Anon
Guest
Anon

I know it’s agonizing to admit that your education and career are (partially) based and constructed around wrong and fraudulent information, but that’s just your ego controlling things.

We all require tons of carbs in order to be healthy (as perscribed by our government food agencies), right?

Remember, doctors used to believe smoking was healthy for us.

The truth is rarely the status quo, but people will believe whatever they have to.

See you in Pt. 2! 😀

Anon
Guest
Anon

As far as “the basis for most diets around the world is some type of grain and somehow we’re not all diabetic”…an incredibly generalistic statement. Best bone up on the rest of their diet, what do they eat in combination with the grains and in what ratios. Then you can correlate that with the rise in obesity, diabetes and many other diseases. Thanks.

liberty
Guest
liberty

We sure eat differently and have better prices. I can feed 2 ppl on $29/week and have a lot more protein choices. Been there, done that.

P C
Guest

Hehe, my guess was pretty close to your actual #s on Twitter! I ended up spending $75 for the week for Hubs and I which included chicken breast, short ribs, salmon + fruits + veggies. So does your challenge include breakfast too?

Financial Underdog
Guest

Seven days? That’s like one day worth of food here.

I don’t understand people who try to save on food. Save on anything else – cars, luxuries, house, sex toys, gym membership, but food? Blasphemy.

Anon
Guest
Anon
Hmmm…where to start… You are eating all the wrong food and have a lot of misconceptions and wrong knowledge about food. Not your fault, I guess. “That’s about 4.5 lb per day, which should be more than enough to satiate my hunger…This averages out to 1800 [calories] per day, which is a bit less than the 2000 calories I normally consume…” If you are eating carbs of any type, your hunger will NOT be satiated long-term no matter how many calories you consume. The ONLY material which will naturally satiate you is FAT…any you have none. Thus, I can guarantee you will be hungry. What should NOT be in your basket: Potatoes French bread Cheezies Savings: $5.00 Secondly, you bought WWWAAAYYY too much protein. Your body requires about 4 ounces per day. Processed, you have about 115 ounces, or 16 ounces per day — FOUR TIMES what you metabolically require!!! Savings: $10.00 Thirdly, all your veggies are crap. Well, not all. Keep the peppers, cabbage, and tomatoes. You should have bought nutrient dense veggies, think dark leafy green. Savings: $3.70 TOTAL SAVINGS: $18.70 Basically, you blew 65% of your grocery money on food you don’t need and is bad for… Read more »
Stan
Guest
Stan

Anon, seems like you are following LCHF diet. Good on you. I will switch in few years when I am done with racing as carbs are still number one for high intesity. But agree they are not an essential nutrient.

However, despite agreeing with most what you are saying (probably we have the same sources – Jeff Volek, Gary Taubes, Tim Noakes) I have to challenge your critique/advice here as you are pushing it regardless of peoples’ backgrounds. We are more unique once you start considering race, ancestors, etc. What could make someone diabetic by 30 won’t make someone else even by 80.

Simply, the truth is, the mankind likely knows only about 10% of what is to know about nutrition. That does not mean all of the good today’s science will be garbage one day but rather it means that diet requirements can be highly individual and we are yet to underatand it fully. Also, it’s super hard to study diets since many other factors imfluence our lives/bodies and this is only compounded by time.

Anyways, good discussion, just don’t assume you have the right advice for everyone.

Anon
Guest
Anon
Yes, it could be labeled a “LCHF” diet, I merely think of it as my lifestyle — I eat non-processed foods: meat and veg, period (well, ok, some dairy and eggs, too). “I will switch in few years when I am done with racing as carbs are still number one for high intensity.” DEAD WRONG. Believe me, I used to race competitively all through my 20’s and followed the carbo-load mantra. It’s very old-school faulty mentality, bullshit, in other words. Anecdotally, I have about 50% more energy in a day than when I was eating carbs, and very consistent energy. Your body can only store about 2,000 cal at a time, it’s impossible to carbo-load. Just more science debunking long-held myth. Fat is energy. Fat does not make you fat. Use it. Drop the carbs and increase your results. “…diet requirements can be highly individual…” Wrong. All 7 billion humans living on the planet today, as well as all our dead ancestors, are all exceptionally close in terms of genetics, it’s called evolution; there is no “highly individual”. What evolution also shows us is that injecting carbohydrates (be it potato or oatmeal or rice) into diet of protein and fat… Read more »
Stan
Guest
Stan
Anon, again, not that I disagree but u r so up tight in presenting your view as the absolute truth that it’s impossible to discuss 🙂 Most things r not just black and white 😉 Couple of examples of what I believe r truths and some questions for u: 1) Whether carbo-loading or not (I never mentioned it, you assumed it) some people function/race better with 30g/day carb intake and some with 150. Even the biggest proponents of fat say that it seems so that the fastest endurance athletes for races of up to 1.5-2h are more insulin sensitive than those less successful. 2) You stated higher above that little protein is needed yet in your reply to me you list what you eat. I didn’t see much fat or carbs, mostly meat and veggies. So if u r not eating much protein then r u eating mostly veggies or stricly buy very fatty meat? 3) Despite chemically/metabolicly sugar in Coke ending up pretty much the same way as whole grain pasta one drinking that garbage in the same quantities as another one eating pasta is worse off on all accounts but there is no way to predict which exact… Read more »
Anon
Guest
Anon
“Most things r not just black and white” Except math. And the math/chem/bio does present the absolute truth. 1) Yes, you did mention carbs: “carbs are still number one for high intensity.” Be it loading or not. I know of people who can/have/do run back-to-back marathons on zero carbs. But then again, how many of the obese and diseased population is actually doing any kind of physical exercise, let alone “high intensity” or otherwise? 2) I do eat a sh!t ton of veggies; I grow my own, cheap and tastes great. I do eat full-fat meat (but not every day, meat is only one source of protein) as well as using fats such as butter and oils (olive/avocado/coconut). I don’t eat anything that comes in a package (liquids aside). 3) Yes, outliers will exist in every example. Take a look at the vast majority of people who eat a high sugar/carbs diet (or smoke 20 rockets a day). Are their bodies healthy with extended longevity? No. 4) As I mentioned, you can definitely eat a carb-only diet, or a peasant diet (like in Eastern Europe), if all you are eating is carbs, and in limited quantities. Once you up the… Read more »
Stan
Guest
Stan

You know it all dude!

Why do u send everyone to read books when they r challenging your views or somewhat disagreeing? Do u assume u r the only one reading?

Anyways… 🙂

Anon
Guest
Anon

With a GLOBAL obesity and diabetes pandemic, I’d say I’m one of the few who is reading, and reading the correct material.

CHEERS!

Stan
Guest
Stan

Anon, again, u r correct in lots of things u said here but what I am trying to point out to u is that even the scientists that brought light to “fat vs sugar” (whose research u r relying on) say that while large amounts of population (including all of diabetics) would certainly benefit from LCHF there is also large amounts for which it wont make a difference because they eat not that much carbs (whatevere their body’s/pancrease capabilities are) or simply got lucky and can eat carbage for 100 years. Of course, in the future, it may turn out that everyone should eat low carb but for now they are not certain yet.

As for sources, I provided u higher above with what I believe r 3 credible names (two scientists and one investigative journalist. U so far provided only a link to an article to investor blogger (even though the info in it seems correct, but he also didn’t list sources).

Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial
Guest

While I have complicated feelings about the Food Stamp Challenge in general (poverty tourism vs. bringing awareness to one of the many difficulties of being low income in America), I am super excited to see how you fare. Please post recipes! Like, clearly I could never do this (I can’t find $1/lb meat anywhere near me, even at small international grocers, and you can see from my own grocery round ups that I have trouble restraining myself when it comes to food), but any tips you have’ll be interesting to incorporate!

ChrisCD
Guest

I’m a bit surprised that you seemed to also miss the fact that the $ provided is a SUPPLEMENTAL amount. It isn’t the only $ they are spending. But regardless, good luck.

9 volt
Guest
9 volt

Liquid, you seam to have hit a nerve here!

beth
Guest
beth

I eat a lot of frozen veg. High nutritional value and less money than fresh. As a single person it also means I have more variety and less waste.

I would have thrown in a bag of dried beans and some sort of oil for cooking. There might have been enough money for these items left in your budget for those if you had bought some frozen veg. You have just over a dollar left. I would get some onions with that.

Anon
Guest
Anon

Agree on the frozen veg. Most people have some sort of propaganda brainwashing against frozen veggies, perhaps because they had to eat them overcooked as a child. Eat frozen in the winter when “fresh” veggie prices are sky-high (and shipped in from Ecuador).

BeSmartRich
Guest

Hm, $29 will last me probably 3 days. You should have got a big bag of cereals and 4L milk from costco that will last a week and solve all your breakfast for a week. That’s already $11 though. $29 is really tight. 🙂

Anon
Guest
Anon

Here’s a nice rundown of the entire process, for those who care enough about their health:
https://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=231419

It’s not just poor people who are ill educated on the function of food within the human body.

Now that you know the scientific facts, will you change your diet???

(Not even touching on the insurmountable strain eating wrong puts on any number of systems within society, from economic to health care et al.)

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[…] so I thought I’d give a quick update on how much I’ve consumed already. You can see the previous post for the full list of ingredients and weight […]

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[…] week I embarked on a culinary adventure where I would limit myself to eating just $29 worth of food for an entire week. It was not to determine if living on $29/week on food is “possible” […]

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