Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Food Stamp Menu

food insecurity, food stamps, poverty,
[trigger warning: for those with ED, I will be reviewing nutrition facts for some crappy foods. If this will trigger you in any way, please to avoid the following post.]

Wallet Pop asked a family on food stamps for a week's menu. It is . . . revealing.

This is a family of four: husband, wife, 2 children. They receive $36 per person, per week. Doing This represents, btw, the maximum one can receive in food stamps. I know a family of 5 (two adults, 3 teenagers) that receives $200 per month. Not per person, per month.

Here's what I want you to keep in mind: recently, given that 1 in 8 Americans are currently receiving food stamps, there has been a spate of opinion pieces stating that (a) people should be ashamed to get food stamps, (b) people shouldn't get food stamps, they should work, and (c) obesity is a huge problem in America, there there is no reason for anyone to get food stamps. I think a look at an average week on food stamps might help clarify things.

Breakfast We woke up late and skipped breakfast.
(trust me, that's the easiest way to stretch food dollars)

My toddler had six chicken nuggets, $.75 20 grams of fat, 510 mg of sodium, 60 mg of cholesterol. but it's cheap.
I had a chicken patty on hamburger bun with cheese, $1.45
My daughter had Top Ramen noodles, $.15 12 grams fat, 1960 mg of sodium. Top Ramen is the nutritional equivalent of paste. and cheap.

Total: $2.35

Snacks/Drinks Water that I bought at Wal-Mart for $.25/gallon at a vending machine (probably drank 1 or 2 gallons)

Flavored water - $.62

Trail mix - $.75

2 bananas - $.50

Milk - $.50

Total: $2.87

Dinner Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.

2 cans of tomato soup for $.60 (bought on sale with a coupon) it's the first vegetable of the day. between this and the bananas, unless they really get grooving on the veggies later in the day, i think you can see the problem with the food stamp menu. keep in mind, we're talking about 2 children here.

6 slices of bread at a cost of 50 cents

Shredded cheese (50 cents)

Olive oil for cooking (the olive oil didn't cost me anything because i won it on RachelRay.com)

Total: $1.60 Total for day: $6.82

nope. that was it. 2 bananas and tomato soup. the rest was white bread, paste, fat and salt. you can feed 4 people on food stamps, but they're not eating well.

Breakfast:2 yogurts for a total of 80 cents

3 bananas for $1.25 Total: $2.05

Lunch: 1 can of chili for $1

2 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches made for $1.00

3 pears for $1.25

Total: $3.25

Dinner:2 boxes of Shells and Cheese for $5

2 ears corn fpr $2 Total: $7

Total for day: $12.30


Breakfast:2 yogurts for $.80

3 bananas for $1.25 Total: $2.05

Lunch: Top Ramen for 15 cents

2 hot dogs (no bun) for 40 cents 34 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 1168 mg of sodium

1 French Bread Pizza for $1.50 Total: $2.05
Drinks: 2 apple juices for $2

Dinner: 3 roast beef sandwiches Roast beef for $5.50 (the meat was on sale, leftovers available)

3 sandwich rolls $2.50

3 carrots $1.00 Total: $9.00 ending the day at the children getting 2 servings of fruit, and, being generous, 1/2 serving of vegetables.

Total for day: $15.10

Breakfast:Homemade Fruit Smoothies that included fruit, juice, and sherbert mixed in the blender for $3.50 yeah fruit!


Leftover Roast beef sandwich from last night - $0

3 ham sandwiches: $2

Dinner (we had a guest for dinner on this night) Pork chops stuffed with stuffing: $6

1 pound of green Beans for $2

Mashed potatoes $2 Total: $8

Total for day: $11.50 wow, 2 servings of vegetables, one of fruit.

Breakfast:2 yogurts for 80 cents

3 bananas $1.25

Total: $2.05

Lunch (we had an extra guest for lunch):2 pot pies for $1.50 pot pies aka death in a pastry shell, 21 grams of fat per pie, 8 grams of saturated fat per pie, 841 mg of sodium per pie.

2 hot dogs (no bun) for $.40

1 Can of chili for $1

Total: $2.90

clearly, she does what I do, which is to find something cheap you like, or can tolerate, and eat a lot of it.


3 flavored waters - $.95 flavored water. saddest snack ever.

Trail Mix - $.75
Dinner:Fish for $7

Green Beans for $1.50

Pasta: $1 Total: $9.50

Total for day: $16.15


Breakfast:2 yogurts for 80 cents Banana smoothies for $1.25 (friend gave us some of the fruit we used)Total: $2.05

Lunch: Top Ramen noodles for $.15

4 pears for $1.25

One can of soup - $1 Total: $2.40

Dinner: Pizza for $3

Total for day: $7.45

Breakfast: 4 slices of toast for $.50
that for 4 people. which says to me that the bread ran out, because i don't know too many people who eat 1 slice of toast at a time. also, i'm a little concerned that this may be dry toast, which is entirely possible. butter, jam, etc. are expensive.

2 bananas for $.45 Total: $.95

Lunch: 2 Banquet Turkey Meals for $2

1 Banquet Pizza Meal for $1

1 Banquet Chicken Nugget Meal for $1

1 Healthy Choice Microwave Meal $2.40Total: $6.40
Dinner: We made French toast and sausage with eggs

1 Package Sausage - $1.50

8 slices bread - $1 oh, i see. they needed the bread for dinner.

6 eggs - $.85

Total: $3.35

Total for the day: $10.70

Miscellaneous: 6-pack of soda for $3.35

5 Microwave meals for $13

Jones Cola Fridge pack -$4 Gallon of milk for $2.50

6 gallons water for $1.50 Total: $24.35

Approximate total for week: $105.07

So, a week on food stamps: a celebration of premade, fatty, salty crap because that's what's cheap. Very few vegetables, not enough fruits, no whole grains, very little, in other words, that could be considered healthy. This is a menu for 2 children. Is anyone surprised at all the obesity you see, especially in poor communities? Should we be shocked by rising rates of diabetes? Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to learn there is a connection between troubling educational failures and a generation of children raised without vegetables.

So ask yourself who should be ashamed- the family, for needing food stamps, or the those among us who think eating crap to avoid starvation is too good for children?


  1. And food stamps are sometimes even an improvement. Here in Germany people get money from the state (probably more than the food stamps are worth), but all too often (not always, not even most of them, but too many) parents take that money and buy alcohol.
    It's really embarrassing for a civilized country when its children don't get enough food.

  2. I bet we could save even more money as a nation by cutting out the middle man and making families just eat the food stamps, rather than actual food. It would seem to offer about the same nutritional content as the "food" they can buy anyway.

  3. Here in Germany people get money from the state (probably more than the food stamps are worth), but all too often (not always, not even most of them, but too many) parents take that money and buy alcohol.

    That's why food stamps are set up the way they are. You can't buy anything but food with them, though I think you could buy cooking wine with them, not that I imagine anyone is.

    We also have the WIC program, which only allows you to buy certain predetermined items, like 4 gallons of milk, one 16 oz package cheddar cheese, and one 10 oz jar peanut butter (here's the approved list). That program is set up for maximum nutrition (well, calcium, really) for nursing mothers and children up to age 5.

    Apparently, children over the age of 5 don't need nutrition.

  4. We used to get WIC- it is hard to use up all the milk and peanut butter. It would be nicer to have some fresh vegetables. At 5, most kids are eating their breakfasts and lunches at school. We wouldn't want them to get meals at school AND home, that's like double-dipping, and then there wouldn't be enough money leftover for Goldman Sachs to buy guns.

  5. i was on food stamps until recently [and i still qualify. i just can't, CAN'T, go sit on the fucking metal chairs in that waiting room. i can't actual SIT as it is.]

    i got $160/month - which i thought was a LOT when i first got them until i went to the store, that is.

    know what annoys me, though? you buy gum on FS - GUM, a non-food! - but not soap or toothpaste or shampoo. it bugs the hell out of me; i could sped $20 on a single steak if i wanted, but i can't get toilet paper...

  6. Are you suggesting that they had to buy those foods because they are on food stamps? I don't really get the point of your post.

    Some of the cheapest things that they could buy are dried beans, peas and lentils, as well as various kinds of fresh greens. If they "splurged" on whole grain rice and pasta, they would be able to eat very healthy for a lot less money than they are spending on all that junk. They could even spend a small amount of money to plant tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs in pots to go along with the other natural foods.

  7. We get $16 per month for three people. Why so little? Because we have student loans. So we have to borrow money to pay for food. :P It sucks. It's so little, it's hardly worth it.

    I read one blog that had healthier meals posted: $45 for dinner for the entire week. I read through their menu, interested. At the bottom, it had in bold type the cost of that menu was $45 in 2007, but the same items cost $70 now. That's nearly double in two years. No wonder so many people need food stamps. There is absolutely no way people's budgets can keep up with the rising costs of living.

  8. Renaissance Guy: Yeah, good point. We eat a LOT of rice and beans. We eat vegetarian about 5 days per week. It really helps! But it still lacks variety and fruits/veggies. I haven't bought meat in about a month (I stock up when lean meats are on sale and stick them in the freezer), but my grocery bills are still relatively high. I figured I spent about $40 on a week's worth of fruits and veggies last week. You can eat frugally, but it takes work and planning and a ton of mental energy. And if you're working and parenting and trying to figure out how to survive, it's actually very difficult. Much easier to heat up a box of mac and cheese while you're stressing out about how to pay off your student loans and medical bills!

  9. also, Ren Guy, i want to say this AGAIN. i think you missed the last round of this.

    if you are poor, and live in a neighborhood that is primarily comprised of poor people, NO THERE ARE NOT a lot of "healthy" options. the SOLE SINGLE grocery store that i can get to? sells ice burg lettice, tomatoes, potatoes, a few types of onions, celery, dried mushrooms and carrots. apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, SOMETIMES blueberries or strawberries. that IS IT on fresh fruits/veggies, and WAAAAAY over-priced. a head of lettuce at this grocery costs $2.50 and it's pretty small. tomatoes are 1 dollar each; bananas 4 for $2. apples and oranges range from about 50 cents to a dollar, depending.
    not good quality - often old, the apples often have mouldy bits, as do the tomatoes [but i'm allergic to tomatoes]; the oranges are ALWAYS squishy, the bananas are always yellow with brown dots - most of the time, if you buy a banana from this grocery, you've got about 2 days, tops, in which to eat it.

    as far as rice, beans and lentils - they have very, very, very, VERY few options. the only non-white rice that is available in this store is rice that comes in those little "rice-a-roni" type things. they have navy or black beans [never seen both at the same time] dried, but they only have TWO sizes of bags - the small bag is $4 and is enough to make bean soup for 4. the bigger is $7 and is twice as big [soup for 8]. to my knowledge, NO lentils are sold in this grocery, but TBE i hate lentils so i never looked.

    also, the milk at this grocery is $3.50. the EXACT SAME MILK - same brand, same packaging, same delivery truck even! - is sold for $2.39 at the grocery in my dad's neighborhood. same chain of grocery stores, and they are in the SAME city - but DAMN what a difference ten miles makes, ya know?

    and NO it is NOT reasonable to expect people who are barely fucking scraping by to take a huge journey to the other side of the city to get cheaper groceries. if you don't have a car, you really really can't buy enough to justify the time and effort involved in bussing it - if you DO have a car, do you really have time to spend an extra hour [half hour to the store, half hour back]? seriously?


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