More on Food Stamps

by Andy Hough on July 15, 2008

After I posted about “My Experience with Food Stamps” and commented on a CNN article that featured a woman who found it difficult to feed her and her baby on $280 a month in food stamps.  I received a couple of long comments on that post that I want to spend more time on.  The first was from B, a homeless man who detailed how hard it was for him to eat on food stamps and states that the woman in the article shouldn’t be criticized because she can’t get by on her food stamps.  In response Skye shares her experience feeding her family of three, which included a baby, on less than $250 a month.

My response to B would be basically along the same line as Skye’s response.  I’m not guessing that the woman should be able to make the $280 a month in food stamps last all month.  I’m speaking from experience.  I regularly spend about $100 a month on food.  It shouldn’t cost a $180 more to feed a baby also.  I don’t doubt that the woman was having difficulty getting by on the food stamps but that is more likely from her making poor choices on food purchases than the amount be insufficient.  B does make a good point that his food costs are increased because he doesn’t have access to a refrigerator or a microwave.  Reading through his comment though it appears some of his problem stem from making poor food purchases.  First, he states that he drinks bottled water because he thinks tap water is unsafe.  That is unlikely.  Most bottled water actually comes from municipal water supplies.  I seriously doubt that bottled water is much better for you than tap water.  I normally drink tap water and only buy bottled water when I’m in a situation where I’m “forced” to buy it.  If you’re homeless than you probably should forgo any marginal health benefits you would get from drinking only bottled water.  Second, he states his alternative for cheap food is to buy food at the dollar store that is full of additives and preservatives.  There are better choices at your local grocery store.  Check out “20 Healthy Foods that Cost Less than a Buck” for some examples.  With a little planning of your food purchases you should be able to eat on $100 a month without too much problem. People that are interested in helping to make a difference in people’s lives, and help those that are benefiting from food stamps, may also consider looking into online social work programs.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ms. No Single Mama Drama July 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

I agree! Currently, I work full-time and spend less than $200 a month for me and my teenaged son (who eats like a horse and his friends who are over often). I’ve also used foodstamps in the past and ALWAYS had more than enough for me and my son.

It is about making choices. I work full-time, shop at http://www.Aldi.com (where I bag my own grocercies) but rarely do I buy steak or bottled water.

Why?

Bottom line: I can’t afford it.

We need to remember that we need to live WITHIN our means.

2 Summer Fey Foovay July 16, 2008 at 10:37 am

There are many people who have an income well below poverty level who for whatever reasons do not qualify for food stamps. We get to try and pay our bills and buy food without any government assistance at all. Usually, it is the penalty you pay for working at a low paying job and choosing not to have children you cannot afford to raise, or like TFM pursuing an education. Not to get started on a rant about that – ahem – but yes, in fact, I fed myself and my husband (who has health problems and needs a special diet) often on less than $100 a month from about 2000 to 2006. It helps that we are vegetarian, and like Skye we make ample use of local farmers markets. I really believe there are a lot of us out here in the real world who manage to survive on a lot less than higher income people would think is possible. I cook and even bake our own bread. Raw ingredients generally cost much less than prepared foods and can be used in a variety of ways to make things stretch. In the long run, I think we eat better! Yes, I work from home – and being home allows me to cook from scratch. I sat down and worked it out, and the savings on food & other expenses (such as gas, a 2nd car, etc.) pretty much comes to what I’d make at some minimum wage job – and I’m sure that is even more true for someone who would have to pay for daycare if they worked. What I’m trying to say is that it can be more financially sensible for one person to stay home than work. Not true for everyone (single parents obvious have no such choices), but something to think about.

3 pidgeon92 July 16, 2008 at 9:43 pm

I spend a boatload more than that on groceries, but I can afford it. However, a lot of the meals I make for myself and my husband are less than $5 for the both of us for the day. Oatmeal and other grains are inexpensive and very filling. Chicken breast can still be had for less than $2 a pound on sale, and other chicken parts much less than that. Eggs can cost $.20-.30 cents each, but where else will you get that much protein for so little?

Being homeless is a whole different can of worms, but there are many agencies that can help.

4 Jerry July 17, 2008 at 6:05 pm

People refuse to tailor their eating habits to their budget, and it’s ridiculous. If you are not working, you might need to suffer through drinking tap water for a while until you are back on your feet, and you might even need to cut out steak for a while. Somehow, you will survive. And, in the event that this new diet doesn’t lead you to find gainful employment of some kind, at least you will have some insurance that you can continue to survive on the dole.
Jerry

5 John Merritt July 22, 2008 at 7:17 am

As a single father with four kids (1/2 time) and having just completed a degree in nursing where I had very little income, I fed us all for about $250 a month. My plan was pretty simple: What was for dinner was whatever was on sale that week. Period. I have a large pantry and top loading freezer so that I could really stock up when items were on deep discount. When fresh foods were on sale, I often bought tons and froze them in small quantities for future use. With very few exceptions I always cook from scratch (though I seldom bake my own bread…yet) and most of my main dishes for dinner are from dried legumes that are inexpensive at my local Indian dry goods store. For trips to the beach or parks I reuse plastic drink containers filled with Koolade. A well stocked pantry also gives me a wonderful sense of security.

6 Liz July 22, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Before you judge, remember that not everyone even has municipal water! Many, many people still get their water from wells with pumps — I know because that’s how it was when I was growing up and many people in my family still have wells. In those cases, it sometimes is better to get bottled water.

7 Kathy July 25, 2008 at 8:18 am

Feeding a family on a limited budget can be done but it does require alot of time, pre-planning, and energy. I am now cooking from scratch and while it assures a minimal of toxins getting through, it can be pricey to.
Everything that is good for you seems to be more expensive and alot of work. I don’t know how easy it would be for working people to do; multi taskers would be in their element!
I find alot of research is required and the quest to find the recipes with minimal ingredients is interesting but again time comsuming. Asking older people, friends, internet and vintage cookbooks are great sources. I aim for 5-6 ingredients max. There are alot of old cookbooks at book sales. Depression era and up to the 1950’s are great.The older cookbooks are not totally marketting manuals promoting use of excessive ingredients and specific brands.
We live in a society not geared for homemade meals,what a portion is, or what nutrients are really important. Most younger people don’t know how to make much from scratch having been raised in the pre-mixed,cooked and packaged era. Time to get back to basics, re-learn what our grandparents knew and refuse to be sucked in by manufacturers who know most additives are toxic to us and charge us dearly in the guise of “helping” us.

8 Mom to 4 July 25, 2008 at 11:21 am

Kudos to Kathy! We DO need to get back to the good ol’ days. I am only 35 and a single mom of 4. I love when we visit my grandparents. They cook nearly everything from scratch AND it tastes better than pretty much anything you could buy pre-packaged. Not to mention how much healthier it has to be too. With 3 growing teenage boys who all are very active and eat constantly, my food bill averages $700-800 a month. And we rarely eat steak or seafood. We eat smart, I shop smart, and still can’t manage to lower the bill. And to those of you who think there are “agencies” out there to help….those “agencies” don’t help those of us who are stuck in between. We make too much to qualify for assistance, but still not enough to really make it.

9 carrie July 25, 2008 at 11:23 am

I lived across the road from my parents for several years. We had well water growing up, but my parents bought in to the rural water cooperative, my neighbor (whose house I lived in) hadn’t. I would get water from my parents house, but my dad would get water from me, he loved the taste of my well water! The guy who lived in my house before me lived into his 90s, so the well water must not be that bad, despite that it was orange from rusty pipes, and living in Iowa, surrounded by farms covered with herbicides. And, I have to say, if you’re homeless, you’ve got a hell of a lot more to worry about than the quality of your water, like going to rehab or getting a job

10 Tonya July 25, 2008 at 5:49 pm

I don’t understand how someone with one child can’t make it on that much a month. Cut out all the junk food or most of it anyway. That is a big part of it. Look for the bargains. I do use coupons and don’t have to hardly pay for any shampoo, deoderant, toothpaste, razors, pasta, spaghetti sauce, and some others. If a person needs to make ends meet, they can make adjustments such as that. I have spent every two weeks down to $100 on groceries. I am a single mom with two kids also.

11 ghoulie July 27, 2008 at 8:06 am

Tap water IS bad for you! Ever hear of FLUORIDE? Everyone thinks its so good for them and beneficial for their teeth. The reality is that it is a byproduct left over from bomb-making, and before it was introduced to water supplies, it was just stockpiled with the government scratching their heads wondering how to dispose of it. Fluoride was also used by Nazi scientists as a form of mind control because their studies showed that it made the jewish populace in the concentration camps more mentally docile. Less than five ppb in water can cause severe defects and death in frogs, death and cancer in rats, and white spots and pitting of human teeth. In large doses, it severely disfigures the skeletal structure, known as skeletal fluorosis. The only way to get fluoride out of the water system is through reverse osmosis, and home systems can cost several hundred dollars. The best way is to get purified bottled water that has been processed using reverse osmosis. Save getting your minerals and vitamins from organic vegetables, grains, fruits and meat.

(by the way: don’t believe me? Arm yourself with knowledge and look the info up!)

But then again, tap water is safe, right?

12 gwynn roberts July 27, 2008 at 2:21 pm

before we judge people using food stamps let’s first realise there are MANY resons to get such help. I myself lost my job because I have cancer and couldn’t work for 4 months. I needed help just to survive. Not everyone who asks for that help gets it and way more people only use this to supplement what they can manage on their own. We should also consider that with the American population having a growning weight concern, how healthy are all thoses starches used in the article’s menu?

13 Tight Fisted Miser July 28, 2008 at 11:58 am

gwynn- I’m not sure that anyone is judging people for being on food stamps. As I stated in my previous post I’ve been on food stamps myself. I certainly understand why people would need to be on food stamps. My point is that people should make better use of their food stamps and make better choices when making food purchases.

14 Mom of 7 August 9, 2008 at 4:05 am

Im a stay at home Mom of 7 ages 2-12yrs old plus I support My youger brother 19yrs old who has disability. I was a homeless teenager for 1yr at age 16 due to an abusive family. Im 32yrs old now in total of My adult life I have depended on FS as means for support 22mo’s..1yr during My 1st childs birth as I was left to raise him alone.6mos in 2002 due to severe medical condition.2mos 2006 unemployed over winter having no car living in town the buisness district size of 4 city blocks next town being 25miles away. 2007 5mo. Currently just applied for assistance as I am suffering from liver failure related to medical condition from 2002 in which blood was cut off from several organs 3 am now feeling the long term affects.. No I do NOT drink never will grew up in an alcoholic house took 3 yrs of therapist to over come the damage mentally it caused me.. hence why I dont touch the stuff.I married at 21 seperated at 24.I have now been in same relationship for 7yrs going strong many women are not as lucky as me.I receive child support from my ex as well we get along which is great for our children I also supplement income with quilt making sales.. My better half bless him is 5yrs younger then I is employed as a forklift driver makin just over $16 a hr but now gets less then 23hrs a wk due to down sizing he is currently in middle of becoming a corrections officer with 6mo goal of becoming a deputy sheriff. While I am happy to hear many have takin this FS Challenge We must keep in mind it is just that a challenge for many ppl this is life not a game and each person has there own back round story..raising..education many factors that makes this challenge just a unique individual expeirence I wouldnt say it proves anything for or against ppl who in real life must always shop on limited income. As for the bottle water excuse me but when your homeless where is it that you expect to drink tap water? fontains in parks are shut off for winter and restaurants wont allow u in there washroom ..which by the way do you want to stick your mouth under a mc donalds bathrm faucet? you could carry a cup but how often could you wash it much less where would you store it? My time being homeless I stood in line for soup kitchen on a good week I ate 1x a day being a teen FS were not an option infact my only option was to go to a teen center in which after 30 days voluntary staying would make you a ward of the state.I stayed off an on Mostly off as a warm cot an food was not worth the risk of being beatin by not only peers but by STAFF.. Many kids were Raped and beatin by staff and being considered a runaway a teen must decide tell and go to a worser evil or stay and keep quite Most stayed quite. I personally prefered sleeping in hallways of apartment buildings..laundry rooms and catching meals at pantry leaving teen shelter center strictly for coldest nights or when I became sick with the flu and couldnt stop coughing running risk of apartment dwellers calling the cops on me for sleeping on the stairs. Im only sharing some of My personal life to show My INIVIDUAL life.. not pity I have left out much of My hardships as they are to painful shameful to share. “Do unto others as you would have done onto you” I live by these words. I spend $1100 a mo on food less then 1/2 is FS income but I also cook much from scratch something many may not have time or knowledge to do…Why not educate ppl on FS as to how to best stretch there allotment? If your interested in really getting a challenge go to your local aid and go through the application process. If your lucky you will not wait 3hrs to only be told more documents are needed maybe you’ll get real lucky and still be able to hold your head up on your way out..Dont let me spoil it plz go..u’ll see what I mean. also check out a free box of food pantry food..check the dates before you eat as average out dated food distributed is 1/3 the box maybe more but rice oats beans etc are often bagged in ziplocks with no date and dont expect meat unless you have more then 4 children in your unit. ahh so much..but for now im tired of typing Im off to make amish muffins healthy cheap to make.. lucky I know how to bake and can read.. many cannot.

15 Tight Fisted Miser August 9, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Mom of 7- Thanks for sharing. If you read my post that I refer to in the first sentence of this post you’ll see that I’ve been on food stamps. From what others have shared I guess I was lucky that my application process was a fairly quick and pleasant experience.

16 Mom of 7 August 10, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Im sorry if I came off to strong in previous post honestly I guess I was just overwhelemed with all the blogs I googled last night. See I never even heard of the FS challenge till yesterday.. I googled with hopes of finding a meat wholesaler that woul except FS back when I had My 1st son in chicago there was a great priced one currently Im in rockford IL and driving around I cant find one so thought maybe a farm in area? We lived up north Wi for a few yrs anf the farmers had special forms to except them. Anyways googling just handed me blog after blog of this challenge I guess I can see how doing so would teach ppl 1 kids to do best they can in life to avoid FS and yes can open eyes of political memebers but then I kept ready wk1 yippee hard at 1st but it can be done yadayada and Im sorry yes it can be done but its not easy.. I think of it like this I can win at monopoly but it just means I played good that game doesnt mean im an expert at finanace or real estate..just means I had a good game. I have accounting backround I have been doing taxes for 10yrs now, I managed an H&R for a few yrs till I got sick back in 2002 now I do mostly family and friends Feb-April from home I also have a few long term clients as I dont charge an arm an leg for what takes me less then 15min to do. In wi I socialized with many amish folk I learned much from them on how to live good for less. When I tell somebody (like the cashier at aldi or walmart or nosey customer behind me in line lol) how much I spend in food a mo I always get the jaw drop response.. $1100 is alot but not when your feeding 10ppl. We dont get take out much and when I mc donald it well its the $1 menu but we actually eat very good but it is not easy.. My trick is that I Plan Our meals for the week; breakfast..am snack(toddlers) lunch..PM snack (after school munchies) an dinner & desert. doing this an combining all wks sales ads saves money allowing for good meals.. many young moms & uneducated ppl on FS have no clue how to do this. wk after wk 1st of the mo I see heapin grocery carts filled with prepacked meals snacks bakery cupcakes all unneccsary items that these uneducated ppl are buying that most surly will eat up there FS allotment leaving them with no food before the end of the month.. also it doesnt help that there in this cycle of bad choices so come 1st of the next month there mouths water for food having been without due to overspending the previous mo..on an on.. why doesnt the GOV see this? help them learn how to make better choices. back when I 1st got on them at 19 I was clueless I also did the oncor dinners hostess etc..leaving me running to a food pantry by the 3rd wk of the mo. back then I recieved $210 and I breast feed so besides baby cereal an juice it went to me. I look back now at that silly girl every 1st of the mo when I see one shopping an shake my head cuz I understand her thinkin.. just now I know better! typical we use 1-2 loafs of bread 1 gallon of juice (i never buy koolaid only 100 percent) and 2 gallons of milk daily. most meals are scratch cept cereal My kids can eat a box a day so I buy the family size bags much cheaper and much more for the buck! heres a sample what we eat in a day.. Breakfast: bowl of cereal 2pc toast 1 cup juice. snack1: gram crackers with pb and sliced bananas and raisen- I call them pbbr boats (raisens are the ppl banana slices r sails crackers the boat pb hold it together fills the belly) Lunch: chicken salad sand (I make this using nite befores left over chicken or 3 skinless breast average bag cost $6 for 7 breasts you can get 2-3 meals out a bag if you play your cards right!)I use the rest of the bananas up from snack 1 for on the side then offer a glass of milk or juice. snack 2: homemade rice pudding (using left over rice from the chicken an rice dinner nite before an raisens from snack1)plus milk or juice. Dinner chili mac I use about 2lbs ground beef $4, 2 cans spicy diced tomatoes .80 (aldi) 1 can tomato paste .39, 2 green peppers 1.24 (walmart)1 onion .15 4cans kidney beans 1.60 1 box elbow noodles .99 then I make sweet corm bread by adding 1/2 cup sugar to 2 boxs corn bread mix .50 at aldi cheaper then jiffy. this makes 12 big adult servings so kids can invite a friend. So yes you can live on a budget an eat good I just wish I could teach every unaware mom I meet but this is the real world if that means increasing the allotment to ensure all kids it then I have to agree but I just think if the gov spent time educating everyone would be better.

17 Delores September 3, 2008 at 2:19 pm

People who use food stamps are usually people who have exausted all other means of buying food. I know this because I have worked since I was 14 and never thought about not working. MY tax dollars have helped other people so I have no problems accepting help when I need it. I worked at AT&T for 10 Years and when we trained people from Ga. I thought we were helping them so they could ALSO have a job. Wrong!! We were training them so that our Managers could down size and close our Plant. Thanks A lot AT&T.
Now we have all of us struggled to get good jobs and actually just keep getting jobs that keep down sizing, laying off,closing doors because all of our American Jobs are being OUTSOURCED. So of
course you’ll see more of us American Middle Class become Low Income and using food stamps.
If the United States would penalize large corporations for OUT Sourcing good jobs would we be in a recession? Also. If we moved to those countries would we be treated as well as the people who flock to the United States? I know those other countries would not treat you to there peoples jobs and give you cart blanc for housing and Food Stamps. Try to get on a list for low income housing here the list is forever and until your children grow up, let some one come from another country they will move to the Front of the list. I want other people to live well but why is it that Americans have to give Blood,Sweat and Tears for that to happen for every one else and when one American Sees another American using Food Stamps they have a problem? Why? Aren’t we after all the ones who pay the taxes that take care of every one else?

18 Melanie Simms December 7, 2008 at 11:48 am

Has anyone noticed? Why dont they speak out against it? The food at these distribution sites are OUTDATED and have lost alot of their nutritional value… how can they pass that out and say they’re “helping” the poor and hungry??????

19 CC February 4, 2009 at 12:00 am

THANK YOU DELORES, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU!!! My thing is why is it so bad for someone to be in need? To want help with feeding themselves and their children? What may be easy for one person to do, may not be for another person to do. I myself have a BA degree and plan on going to get my MBA but because of the economy and being in overcrowded GA, I do not work. I grew up very well and wanted for nothing, yet for the first time as a single parent of a growing 10yr old I do need assistance and do get foodstamps. I felt ashamed at first but hey times are hard and I need it and haven’t always depended on it. I’ve always worked fulltime and went to school fulltime. I do agree that if someone gives you a set amount of money to spend on food you must use it wisely and make the most out of it. Yet I do understand it’s hard to when you have a child and no job or other income. You have to consider there is myself and a growing young man in the home. He alone eats about 4 or 5 times everyday of the week (breakfast,lunch,snack,dinner,snack) and then I eat as well. For just him alone that about 1050 times a month. yes food does go out very fast and yes you do have to go to the store more than once a month so it’s understandable some mother’s with children can’t make it on $200 or less a month. At first I was getting on $150 a month in benefits, I made it work the best I could and it did help out yet before the end of the month I still had to go back to the store again and come out the pocket for more food. I am fortunate to have loved ones in my life to help with lil money here and there but some people don’t. So when she runs out of food and has no more stamps left, what does she do?? Alot of you on here sound like a married (maybe older) couple with no kids in the house, this is a big difference from a single mom with a growing child or children. Also everyone eats differently and has different lifestyles. I do agree that if you only have so much to spend you shouldn’t be buying steaks, bottled water, etc. but buy what is needed most. I also agree that if you can avoid being on assistance then do so by all means. I know people who need the assistance but cant get it and then those you lie to get it and can afford to buy groceries….JUST PLAIN WRONG!!! But for those that don’t agree with government assistance and think less of people who need it then maybe one day when something unfortunate happens in your life or one of your loved ones lives and you need it, will you then understand and see how it feels. We are in America, we have programs and government money meant for this very thing….TO HELP OUR PEOPLE!!! Instead of spending billions to bail out huge companies and other things, why cant money go towards low-income families, communities, those facing forclosures, the homeless, shelters, schools, etc??? So please stop complaining and judging when you don’t know what a person may be going through. We are all different and handle things differently. It is not hurting you (yea you pay taxes but dont we all at some point? yet when you pay taxes the governmtent takes it, police forces and government and ferderal agencies take it and use it for their own benefits, why not want your taxes to go to someone who needs it instead?) so why stress what another person’s downfalls, stresses, or finances may be??!!!

20 Gumby April 26, 2009 at 12:00 am

I refuse to be cheap on my daily diet. I enjoy feasting on fun food , etc.. I chose instead to cut down on my utility bill, water bill, gasoline expenses, and the likes to finance my usual daily fun feasting ! There is many things that poor or homeless dudes can do to keep warm, clean, and happy fed .. it is no fun skimping on grocery shopping… It sucks!! check out my website to get yourselves an idea of how I cut back my utility bill. It works… Homeless dudes can set them up on the streets as a display for all people to see and say “Gee, why didint I think of that myself, duh? ” All you need is aluminium foil, exterior Elmer’s glue, a few boards and you will be warm as long as the sun shines..

21 Gumby April 26, 2009 at 12:09 am

I never use clothes dryer because I can hang my washed clothes to dry indoor… take advantage of the warm air indoors to dry them… Get as many hooks and hangers for hanging washed clothes to dry… you can hang several clothes line across your room as well. you can hand wash your clothes in your bath tub.. wash cycles are exaggarated .. you dont need to spend too much time handwashing your clothes… A few shakes and a rinse will do it!! then twist and hang up to dry indoors. you will save money and time making trips to the laundromat!

22 Andy Hough April 26, 2009 at 8:01 am

Gumby- Thanks for the comments. Interesting video.

23 FugalGal April 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Before you pass judgment on the lady with the baby; has anyone seen the cost of a small can of formula? Similac Neosure Powder – 12.9 oz can – $16.49 X 9 = $164.90. My grandson (9 months old) goes thru 10 of those a month ($16.49 X 10 = $164.90)!! So $280 in food stamps leaves you with? $115. So, if he also eats baby food, roughly 3 times a day, you will need to add an average of $2-$3 per day to that, given that a jar of baby food costs about $0.75 …. you do the math!!

24 JoSe March 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm

A woman should marry a man that would be proud to support a family and not expect the tax payers to his family. This is something most men don’t care to do, so they marry obese women ( no one ) else wants and live like a King using our tax money.

25 JoSe March 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm

( Correction ) Not expect the tax payers to support his family.

26 kathryn February 2, 2013 at 12:29 am

Mom of 7,
Thank you for showing us some of the examples you use for meals.I’d like to offer some suggesting on how to cut down your budget evern more(even though your post is old).
Eating cold cereal is expensive. Try buying a large bag of oatmeal or cream of wheat instead.Not the instant packages, but the stuff you cook, it tastes much better. For my oatmeal, I like to change flavours by adding raw chopped apples, raisins, apricots etc while I am cooking it.If you rather use canned fruit, add it at the end. Frozen fruit can also be stirred in. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, if desired. Yummy! Mix it up with homemade muffins, danishes, bicuits, french toast, and omelets.
Making homemade pancakes and waffles are delicious and cheap too. You can make your own pancake syrup, or sprinkle them with sugar and lemon juice. Served with stewed fruit is good too..and whipped cream.
Make your own laundry detergent & cleaning supplies.Use the seeds from the vegetables you buy at the store. Dry them on a piece of paper, then plant them. I’ve read if you plant the bottem part of a green onion (the part with sprouts) it will start to grow again.

27 Regina February 5, 2013 at 2:10 am

It can be done. I love using coupons.

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