Food Stamp Challenge

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

This whole idea came about because I can’t resist poking stupid people.  The Coffee Party posted this article on their Facebook page ( and the comments turned into a discussion about how it’s impossible to feed yourself, let alone feed yourself well, using food stamps.  I refrained from saying flat-out you people are stupid; instead, I came up with yes, you can eat healthy food on a food stamp budget.  Don’t believe me?  Watch me. (Really not much of an improvement from just telling people they’re dumb.)

According to the article, nine congressional Democrats are attempting to eat on $32.59 a week to protest cuts to the food stamp program.  We have simultaneous obesity and hunger problems in this country, and when we discuss one, the other tends to follow, at least within my extended circle.  (I’m very aware that lots of people in this country do not link food and health, for reasons I cannot comprehend.)  The argument is that we’ve set up a system in which you can’t eat healthy food if you’re poor; essentially, that we’ve created a class division in which we feed garbage to the less fortunate.

My take?  That’s bullshit. I opened my mouth and said I bet I can feed myself well on $32.59 a week. So here I go.

Some guidelines and clarifications:

1. I don’t eat according to federal guidelines.  You know, the ones that gave us the four food groups, and then the food pyramid, and then the OTHER food pyramid, and now “My Plate” (, which looks like it’s meant for preschoolers, and not the sharp preschoolers.  It looks like it was designed by a preschool teacher stuck in a classroom full of kids eating crayons and misunderstanding simple directions (sit, stay, nap).  Anyway…I’m not eating according to what the USDA says I should be eating.  They’re pushing way too many grains, too many fruits, and dairy isn’t a food group, dumbasses.  Eating the way the USDA says I should eat would make me depressed, then fat, then sick.

2. I’ll be eating the same things I usually eat, with the same ratios.  Lots of protein, a good amount of fat, (skim milk is disgusting and also of the devil), vegetables, then fruits and grains.  I don’t eat a lot of processed food, and I eat drive-through-type food a handful of times a year.  The last time I ate drive-through was July or August, and I had a shake from In-and-Out.

3. I rarely eat out.  Once or twice a week, tops.  It’s expensive, and you don’t have much control over how they make your food.  I’m sure servers hate me…last week, I was at Claim Jumper ordering this: the tomato flatbread with no butter, no margarine, no oil, no alfredo.  And the salad with no dressing, no cheese, no croutons.  I’m annoying, I realize.  (I also live in this weird Suburban Bermuda Triangle, in which there are no independent restaurants.  Go 5 miles in any direction and I can find things I want to eat, but I think that any indie restaurants within that radius morph into Olive Gardens and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf(s) and Paneras.  Good food goes in, but it doesn’t come out).

4. Also…and this is a big thing…I don’t eat meat.  Haven’t since I was 11.  That is going to make this challenge WAY easier, but the fact that you won’t see any meat on my menus isn’t an aberration.

5. Did I mention I don’t cook?  Anything I can’t make in under 10 minutes or throw in the crock pot, I don’t really want to eat.

6. I don’t like having to put a lot of thought into food.  I tend to plan out my meals a week at a time, and then buy whatever I need to make that happen.  I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, I usually eat some variation of the same thing for lunch, and it’s normal for me to make a big pot of something that I can eat for dinner that week.  That won’t be specific to this week, and it’s not some kind of sacrifice in order to come in under budget.  I’m just not that interested in having to think about what I’m going to eat three times a day, seven days a week.

7. I’ll be making damn sure I get adequate nutrition.  1200-1600 calories a day, and about 40 grams of protein.  Again, that’s how I normally eat, and it works for my body.

8. I’m going to buy most of the food I need this week, but everyone has butter and olive oil and ketchup, things that you don’t buy every week.  I’m using that kind of stuff that I already have, but I’ll estimate what they would cost and add those things to my total.  I’m not going to worry about salt, pepper, and other spices, because I’m not quite that OCD yet.  I’m also not going to start shopping at Wal-Mart (also of the devil) so I can get things cheaper.  I buy the bulk of what I eat at Trader Joe’s, and anything I can’t get there I get at Target or Von’s.  If I can do this eating from regular grocery stores in Orange County (one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.), it should be possible anywhere.

9. Another thing I don’t do…I don’t drink soda on any kind of regular basis.  I had a Diet Coke in September because I found out at 4:45 that things were blowing up at work and I wasn’t going anywhere.  Not seeing soda on my menus isn’t unusual for me, either.  I do have a wicked caffeine habit, though.  By next Monday, I bet you I’ll be willing to sell my soul for a Lo-Carb Monster.

10. Any food I usually get for free, I’m going to continue to eat for free.  My department has breakfast on Friday mornings, for example.  (Leaving out the assumption that the majority of people using food stamps probably don’t work in places that celebrate casual Fridays with communal breakfasts).  And coffee.  We have fairly decent free coffee at work, and I drink gallons of it.  I’m going to continue to do so, mostly because I think the withdrawal headaches would put me in a coma or cause me to kill a lot of people.

So, those are the rules of the game.  Let’s play.




  1. Wendy T. says:

    It blows me away how many people bypass the produce section in the grocery store. I see it all the time… carts full of boxed meals packed with sodium, sugar, chemicals and so-forth.
    These are the types of diets those “Extreme Couponing” cater to. My husband and I cut coupons for things we buy regularly, almond or coconut milk (because I can’t drink milk anymore), dog food and toilet paper. That’s it… why? Because our cart is mostly full of fresh produce and they don’t print coupons for that.
    Our grocery bill per week for our family of four averages about $100.
    That includes the extra for milk for the rest of the family and the more expensive non-milk substitute for me, and buying meat, which you don’t do, so I have no doubt you can pull this off without a problem.

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