Jun 092016

Living on $29/week

I thought about becoming a food taster once, but decided not to because I didn’t want to have too much on my plate. ? Most wage earners get paid either once or twice a month, but we generally have to eat food everyday. This means learning how to budget our grocery bill is an important skill to have. For some people maybe $200 a month for food is enough, but for others it might be $400 or more. Having a personalized budget that is reasonable will teach us about self control, rationing, meal planning, and will probably even save us money. 🙂 If we fail to watch our spending and plan ahead then we may run out of money before our next paycheque and find ourselves in times of scarcity. ?


Earlier this week I started a food stamp challenge inspired by a famous celebrity. The idea is to spend no more than $29 on a whole week’s worth of food. I’m about half way through the challenge so I thought I’d give a quick update on how things are going. You can see the previous post for the full list of ingredients and detailed breakdown.

So far I’ve gone through most of the vegetables, but I’ve only eaten 5 of the 14 turkey drumsticks. I’ve been making a lot of salads, sandwiches, and roasts. Overall I’m roughly half way through my food basket. Tomorrow I’ll make a quick stew out of some potatoes, radish, and fish. I have 2 squashes remaining which I’ll probably stuff and bake. I have some left-over tomatoes and green peppers which I’m going to use up tonight lest they spoil. Below are some examples of simple dishes I’ve made so far.


As mentioned in the previous post I’m only using salt and pepper for seasoning. I first thought this may become boring and repetitive after awhile, but so far the whole foods like tomatoes and bell peppers have quite a lot of natural flavor themselves, especially when cooked, and the salt actually helps to bring out their taste. Since I only eat two meals a day, plus snacks, I don’t have to cook very often. I think eating fewer meals is helping me with this challenge by eating less than other people would.

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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.


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. 😀


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.

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Nov 092011

I’ve decided to participate in 20’s Finances’ The Dollar Challenge, which is an interesting study that asks what do people spend their money on as a percentage of their income. In other words, for every 1 dollar earned, how is it spent? So here we go.

On an average month, my take home pay is used up in the following ways.

1. Housing: 31.8%
Mortgage isn’t cheap in a city like Vancouver, and the additional costs of electricity, strata, and property tax doesn’t help. But it’s still better than renting IMO.

2. Transportation: 3.6%
Gas, tickets, auto insurance, all inclusive. I have a pretty fuel efficient car and live really close to work. I do take public transit sometimes to go downtown.

3. Food: 5.0%
Includes groceries, eating out, snacks, restaurants, and other costs associated with food. My employer offers us free breakfast once a week so that saves me a bundle right there. Food is cheap if you know where to buy it.

4. Insurance: 0.9%
This insurance is for personal items at home in case of fire/damage. Apartment building insurance is covered by my strata, and car insurance has already been included with transportation above.

5. Personal Care: 0.1%
Tooth paste, soap, tissue paper, deodorant, etc. I’m not a financial services representative who work with clients, or do anything like that so I don’t try to look good unless there’s a special occasion. I haven’t bought any new clothes for over 6 months because all my current clothes fit just fine.

6. Entertainment: 2.7%
Games, movies, etc. I don’t usually go out to party, attend sporting events, or go on vacations. Last time I left this city was 2008.

7. Savings: 52.2%
Everything that doesn’t get used elsewhere goes here, which usually ends up going directly into my investment accounts. My savings rate use to be under 50% when I wrote about my 50/50 balanced budget. But since then, I’ve gotten a promotion at work so most of the extra money I’m making now goes towards strong, dividend paying stocks which will naturally increase my income in the future, which will increase my savings, and the cycle continues…

8. Others: 3.7%
This is internet, cell phone, debt payments, and other minor expenses.

Total:  100%