Guest Post: Eating Healthy on Food Stamps/$200 a Month

This post was written by my brother, a little over a year and a half ago (when we were still living in Indiana), and posted to the Reddit Eat Cheap and Healthy subreddit (forum). The thread is here, if you want to to read my brother’s responses to the comments. He no longer has that account anymore so he won’t respond to to any more comments on this thread. I finally convinced him to let me repost it here as a Guest Post, since prepping and making your food money stretch as far as possible is a very important subject for homesteaders (and a LOT of other people). Enjoy!

~000~

SNAP/Food Stamps challenge! My sister and I live together, and we eat healthy food on just 100 dollars per month per person, a little more than a dollar per meal. This is how we do it.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles on people trying to live on food stamps to show how its nearly impossible to eat healthy food using only food stamps, so I figured that I would share how my sister and I manage to do it. We live in a large city in Indiana.

My sister and I are both disabled, we live together, and we get $200 in food stamps per month. This is what we buy each month for about 200 bucks. Everything pictured here is only $157.88 – The remaining 42 dollars will be spent at the farmer’s market for additional fruits and vegetables as needed throughout the month.

most of Food.jpg

Majority of everything above

dried beans

Dried Beans

bread

Bread, we have 5 move loaves, not pictured, kept in the freezer (my note: we had a chest freezer at the time, so when there was a really good sale on something, we could stock up while it was cheap. That alone saved us a lot of money in the long run, and I highly recommend it! We weren’t able to take it with us when we moved, unfortunately, and I’ll need to buy a new one as soon as we can.)

We try to waste nothing. We store everything very well and it easily lasts the month.

All of our vegetable scraps and any vegetable waste is fed to our worms, which fertilize our herb and container garden that we made out of 5 gallon buckets. We just harvested the last tomatoes and peppers, and recently started our fall/winter crop of carrots, kale, swiss chard, green onions, cilantro, peas, radishes, beets, spinach and lettuce. We’ll be harvesting the last of our basil this month before the temperatures drop to make pesto for pastas. Pesto keeps well frozen in ziplock freezer bags.

We grow the majority of our own greens. We’ve never bought fertilizer (my note: that was because we lived in Indiana at the time, which is part of the “Black Belt” of really, really good soil in America. We have to amend our soil now). As an added fertilizer, we like to top dress the veggie containers with coffee grounds that we get for free from local coffee shops.

Our garden has virtually no cost. We plant in compost that we make from leaves and other organic matter, which would otherwise just go in the garbage. We also get compost from our local municipality that provides it for free. Its made out of all of the ground up leaves and branches that the city collects.

We buy our vegetable seeds towards the end of the traditional growing season, the first week of September or late August. We just purchased about 100 seed packets for 3 cents each, they dollar store was selling them for 90 percent off. They kept fine in an airtight container in a dark area. They don’t go bad just because they’re a year or two old. Check out the Dollar Generals in your area for seeds.Here is the haul we got this week:seeds in mason jars

For extra greens, we go to a community garden that grows kale, lettuce and chard and allows anyone to harvest for free. Although this probably makes up less than 5% of our diet, but it is a nice addition.

We also like to buy food that is in season. We buy a lot of vegetables and fruit at the local farmers market, which gladly accepts food stamps.

We buy our bread for around $1 dollar per loaf, usually pretty high quality stuff. We buy it at a bakery outlet. You might have one in your area. Usually 50-75% off bakery items.

The majority of the meat we buy is from Aldi and Meijer. We only buy what is on sale. If it isn’t on sale, we don’t buy it. The vast majority of the packaged items are from Aldi, which always has very low prices.

We don’t do any couponing really. If we see one in an ad we might use it, but we don’t go nuts.

It can be done. It has taken us a little while to get to this level of balancing our budget and our desire to eat healthy food. We used to spend the exact same amount of food on ramen noodles, soda, and other “cheap” food, and we’d always run out in the middle of the month and feel like shit.

A few thing we are going to stop doing is buying bread and making it ourselves.

The one negative about all of this healthy eating, I suppose, is that it takes while to cook most meals. I like to make a lot of meat on the weekends and use the leftovers in recipes throughout the week. That usually helps cut down on time.

We like to buy whole chickens because we use the wings, extra bones and the carcass for stock, which makes wonderful soups with our leftover vegetables and beans. We usually use drippings to make a gravy, so that nothing from the bird is wasted.

Here is the breakdown of everything you see in the pictures:

Pork Shoulder 15 pounds @ 1.18 per pound $17.70 – This was extremely cheap. If it was not on sale, I would buy whole chickens instead, which are usually around the same price per pound.

Ground Chuck 4.45 pounds @ 2.38 per pound $11.90 – Also on sale, if this wasn’t on sale, I would substitute with ground turkey @ 1.77 per pound.

Ground Turkey 4 pounds @ 1.77 per pound $7.08

Chicken Whole 10 pounds @ 0.88 per pound $8.80

Apples, Paula Red, 5 pounds $2.95

Bananas 3.14 pounds $1.63

Limes 1.5 pounds $1.00

Oranges 3 pounds $2.99

Peaches 1.1 pounds $1.32

Cantaloupe 3 pounds $1.49

Watermelon 15 pounds $2.99

Tomatoes, Roma, 1.4 pounds $1.11

Cucumbers 1 pound $1.00

Cabbage 4.43 pounds $2.12

Radishes 1 pound $0.59

Carrots 2 pounds $1.58

Eggplant 1.18 pounds $1.40

Parsley with root 1.29 pounds $1.66

Celery 1.5 pounds $1.69

Onions Red 3 pounds $1.99

Pumpkins 7 pounds $4

Peas 3 pounds $3.00

Mixed vegetables 4 pounds $4.00

Acorn Squash 2 pounds $2.50

Buttercup Squash 3 pounds $2.50

Butternut Squash 4 pounds $2.50

Butternut Squash 4 pounds $2.50

Onions Sweet 6 pounds $3.00

Onions Yellow 3 pounds $1.59

Lentils 1 pound $1.00

Split Peas 1 pound $1.00

Split Peas 1 pound $1.00

Split Peas 1 pound $1.00

Kidney Beans 1 pound $1.00

Kidney Beans 1 pound $1.00

Garbanzo Beans 1 pound $1.00

Black Beans 1 pound $1.00

Black Beans 1 pound $1.00

Pinto Beans 1 pound $1.00

Rice 5 pounds $2.59

Bread, whole grain 8 loaves @ 1.25 each $10

Olive Oil $2.99

Mayo, Olive Oil Reduced Fat $1.89

Marmalade, Orange $1.78

Pasta Macaroni 2 pounds $1.49

Pasta 3 color rotini 1 pound $1.00

Pasta 3 color rotini 1 pound $1.00

Pasta bow ties 1 pound $1.00

Marinara $1.89

BBQ Sauce $1.25

BBQ Sauce $1.25

Drink Mix(Crystal Lite off brand) $1.69

Drink Mix(Crystal Lite off brand) $1.69

Grill Seasoning $1.25

Grill Seasoning $1.25

Steak Seasoning $1.00

Steak Seasoning $1.00

Salsa Mild $1.25

Salsa Corn and Black Bean $1.25

Instant Oatmeal $1.79

Milk, whole, 1 gallon $2.25

Milk, skim, 1 gallon $2.25

Butter 1 pound $1.50

Butter 1 pound $1.50

Butter 1 pound $1.50

Total Meat 33.45 pounds @ $45.48 – 0.55 pounds of meat per person per day

Total Fruit 31.74 pounds @ $14.37 – 0.52 pounds of fruit per person per day

Total Vegetables 52.8 pounds @ $38.73 – 0.88 pounds of vegetables per person per day

Total Dried beans/rice 15 pounds @ $12.59 – 0.25 pounds of dried beans/rice per person per day

Total Bread: $10 – 2 slices per person per day

Total Other $36.71

Total Cost: $157.88

Remaining $42.12 – Will be used for additional fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers market throughout the month. And maybe some local honey.

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