My Taster and I took two versions of a SNAP or food-stamp challenge in 2013. (Learn about SNAP: the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.) We did the challenges to update our understanding of what it is really like to live on food stamps and to draw attention to the suffering that would be caused by the cut. We’d taken variations on these challenges in 2010, which led to my book Wildly Affordable Organic. But although inflation continued to nibble away at people’s buying power, SNAP benefits were cut for all recipients on November 1st, 2013, when the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost expired.
On this page, find my menus and shopping lists for the challenges, plus information on how the benefits were reduced and what they are now. We did this challenge twice, once where we usually shop (Whole Foods and farmers’ markets) and then again at Walmart.
The SNAPcut Challenge
- Week 1: cook on the current SNAP (food stamp) benefit in your state. My Taster and I will be eating on $84.46 that week.
- Week 2: cook on the reduced SNAP benefit in your state. Our budget for two in North Carolina will drop to $79.86.
How Much Was the SNAP Benefit Reduced?
Even now as I write this in September 2017, the SNAP benefits have not recovered from this drop. Here’s a list that shows what the SNAP benefits were in 2013 before and after the drop. The current amount is about half-way between, despite overall food prices at home going up 4.6% between 2013 and 2016 according to the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Here are the changes in NC SNAP benefits in 2013 and the current amount (see updates here):
- For one person, it dropped from $200 to $189 per month or from $6.57 to $6.21 a day. It’s now $194.
- For two people, it dropped from $367 to $347 for 2 people per month or from $6.03 to $5.70 a day. It’s now $357.
- For three people, it dropped from $526 to $497 for 3 people per month or from $5.76 to $5.45 a day. It’s now $511.
- For four people, it dropped from $668 to $632 for 4 people per month or from $5.49 to $5.19 a day. It’s now $649.
* There are many variations, including bonuses for families that include elderly or disabled people, but these are the usual amounts if you have no other income and very little in savings.
My SNAPcut Shopping Lists and Menus
Use these to get you started on your own challenge or to get a taste of what I experienced.
- SNAPcut Challenge Budget Worksheet. Download this Excel worksheet to make it easy to calculate your budget for weeks one and two of the SNAPcut Challenge. You just provide your family size and the maximum budget for your family size in your state. You can also see what the changes will be like in North Carolina, the example I used.
- Thrifty SNAP meals for 2 weeks. Download and edit this Word document to meet your budget and tastes.
- SNAPcut Challenge Grocery List 1 (at Whole Foods and farmers’ markets). Use this spreadsheet as a basis for creating your own grocery list. Start by filling in the columns with the orange headings to match what you buy. Putting a “y” in the question columns will split and copy prices as needed. Add rows if you buy items not on my list.
- SNAPcut Challenge Grocery List 2 (at WalMart). This Excel spreadsheet shows purchases for both weeks, with any changes in unit price, plus totals and percent local and organic. It’s like the list above except that it also shows the unit price to help you compare prices in your store or market.