How I Ate All Week For Just $13.34 By Living On a Food Stamp Budget

Premier High Yield Savings

Well, I survived the first week of the SNAP food stamp challenge on a food budget of just $29!

Rather nicely actually as I do have a decent amount leftover.

This surplus will roll over into next week as I purchase another $29 worth of food.

To recap, this is what I bought for $28.16 a week ago. If you missed my initial post on this challenge, take a look here.

For this challenge, I have additional rules to more closely simulate living on a food stamp budget.

  • I will only shop once per week, and only at the 99 Cents Only (not a full grocer, just dollar store type stuff) store – to simulate being in a ‘food desert’.
  • No using the oven or microwave to cook – a deeply impoverished family might not have a working oven or microwave.
  • I will start from absolute scratch – nothing but what I purchase with my weekly $29 can be used.
  • This challenge will last for three weeks. Normally people only do this for one week. I will extend it to get a full picture. I can’t do one month as I am going on a trip soon.

This picture is all the food I purchased for the first week.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission – at no additional cost to yourself – if you end up buying the product or service offered.)



The first day I was full from eating all my perishables the night before, so I ended up only eating dinner that night.

  • Dinner Night 1: Tuna Pasta w/squash – $1.06
  • Breakfast Day 2: Oatmeal, 2 eggs, and 2 strawberries – $0.50
  • Lunch: Tuna sandwich – $0.63
  • Dinner: Beans and rice w/extras – $0.80
  • Late night snack (not pictured): Half a pack of ramen – $0.10

DAY 3 – $1.75

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal w/half a banana, 2 eggs, and a piece of toast – $0.53
  • Lunch/Dinner: Beans and rice w/ half a tuna sandwich – $0.61 (x2)


DAY 4 – $3.12

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal w/half a banana, two strawberries, and an egg & bacon sandwich – $0.65
  • Lunch: Spinach pasta w/ salmon and asparagus – $1.19
  • Dinner: Same, but with 2 strawberries – $1.28

DAY 5 – $1.65

  • Breakfast: Oat pancakes w/ half a banana and a slice of bacon – $0.55
  • Lunch: Rice and beans w/ 2 strawberries – $0.50
  • Dinner: Half-portion of the salmon spinach pasta leftovers – $0.60

DAY 6 – $1.88

  • Breakfast: Oat pancakes w/ half a banana, 2 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, and a piece of toast – $0.94
  • Lunch: The other half of the leftover salmon spinach pasta – $0.60
  • Dinner: Butter penne, 2 strawberries, and a glass of milk – $0.34

You can see my morning reading here. I got this book from Thrift Books, they are cheaper than Amazon on about 95% of the books I checked. Free shipping on orders over $10, and you can get a 15% discount on your first order using this link. Save 15% off your first order

DAY 7 – $1.85

  • Brunch: 2 bacon and egg sandwiches, 3 strawberries, and a banana – $1.10
  • Dinner: Bacon carbonara pasta and 3 strawberries – $0.75


I ate the entire week for just $13.34! Incredible.

To put this into perspective, today a guy at work spent $13 on lunch. In ONE MEAL he spent as much as I did all week!

If you can eat like this by choice, instead of necessity, could really be an accelerator towards saving loads of money.

Ya know, if you can eat simply without sacrificing your happiness.

This is what I have leftover from the first week. Going forward is looking to get easier and easier.


The first week I spent $28.16, which left me with an additional 84 cents to spend. This week I went over my $29/week budget by 27 cents, leaving a surplus of 57 cents. When you have such a tight food stamp budget, every cent counts.

I also notice that I use half of things MUCH more now. Never before would I use just half a banana. Nope, I would just gobble the whole thing up. Now I carefully guard that half banana so I can finish it off the next day.

It took a little bit of adjusting at first, but I believe I am catching on now.

I’ve learned so much about myself and my eating habits from just this past week. I challenge anyone who is looking to reduce their spending to live off of just $29 for a week. I will write everything I discovered about food habits at the end of the challenge, so check back in. This week has certainly given me a food epiphany.

Have you ever lived off a tight food budget? How much did you have to spend on food each week?

What is your food budget currently? Too high? Do you want to lower it any?

Do you think you would try this $29 per week SNAP food stamp challenge?  It might just be the catalyst you need to lower your food costs. 

Leave a comment below.

SNAP Challenge Initial Purchases

Week 2 of the SNAP Challenge

Week 3 of the SNAP Challenge (Completion)


Skip to comment form

  1. Mike H

    That’s seriously impressive.

    My only savings feats worth mentioning are buying “War and Peace” on the Kindle for $0.60 and the Brothers Karamazov for $0.49. That’s like 60 hours of entertainment (reading) for just over $1 or $0.02 per hour.


    1. MrDD

      Mike, that’s some dedicated reading time there. I will have to save those books for after I FIRE. Right now, I am attacking a stack of finance books.

    2. Blastmaster

      Project Gutenburg has “Brothers” for free. Ouch, Never get that .40 cents back

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Dang, this is intense! Thanks for showing what you’re eating and the breakdown. I’m surprised at how healthy you’re making many of these meals. It’s rough because so many cheap staples are grain-based, but I love that you’re adding veggies or fruits where you can.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…The Life-Changing Benefits of MovementMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      Yeah, intense savings! Pasta and rice are certainly cheap, but they are a normal part of my regular meals before I undertook this challenge. I am the type of guy that can eat pasta every day without any problem. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. The One In Debt

    Nice job staying in budget. I had a feeling things might be in repetition. There by possibly wearing out its luster after eating every day. Although my aunt religiously eats her oatmeal every morning. 😉

    You might like this cookbook. Seems to be a popular one: https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf

    I had though about incorporating more bean & rice into my meals as to reduce costs. One of my friends did this and her diabetes was exacerbated by the rice! Who knew?!
    Being diabetes runs in my family I would need to try and do beans & veggies.

    Looking forward to your continued challenge.

    1. MrDD

      Oh, wow, I didn’t know rice could do that. My family has a history of diabetes too.

      Thanks for the book, I think I can finagle a few meals with the ingredients and limitations I have self-imposed (Can’t use the oven).

      I never had much success with dried beans before, but last night I boiled then simmered them for about 6+ hours and they were finally nice and soft! This morning I made two breakfast burritos with them.

    2. tracy

      Another great thing about that cookbook is the publisher donates a copy to a “in-need family” via a local charity for every copy sold. Which will help that family eat healthier on that same budget due to need not choice. It is a really good deal!

  4. Mr Defined Sight

    Well now I’m hungry! Great job man. Reminds me of when I was back in college. I could make $20 last all week for groceries. And yes, Ramen Noodles were involved too.

    Now days I can’t get out of the store for under $100. Granted the wife and our son are in the picture now. We could definitely trim some stuff out though.
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Saving Money: We Saved $420 Today!My Profile

    1. MrDD

      Try this challenge, I have realized so much of what I normally eat is basically a waste. You don’t have to live like this forever, but I think it will change my grocery outlook (and budget) going forward.

  5. Graham @ Reverse the Crush

    Very motivating post! It’s awesome to see what’s possible when you’re willing to make sacrifices. Sometimes you just need a reminder to realize how much money can be saved. I am definitely going to focus on keeping my grocery bill lower after reading this.

    The lowest food budget I’ve ever lived on was $20 per week while in school lol. I pretty much ran out of money and had to find away to make $20 per week work. I ate a lot of eggs, bananas, and pasta.

    Thanks for sharing! Have a great week man!
    Graham @ Reverse the Crush recently posted…Annual Dividend Income Projections – Q3 UpdateMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      Hah, you and MrDS both said you lived off of $20 per week in school – must be a thing. 😀

      Try out the challenge for a week – you might have a food epiphany like me.

  6. Steve

    Before reading the entire article I was imagining a lot of non healthy food.
    Boy was I surprised. I am really amazed on how healthy you ate for the bucks spent.
    Depending on your weight and what deals you find,you should include more eggs. They pack a lot of proteins and they should be really cheap when markets restock.
    Steve recently posted…Best Headphones For Running OutsideMy Profile

  7. Mrs. Adventure Rich

    Wow, the food looks delicious! I have not done a SNAP challenge, but it sounds like a great way to realize where we are overspending on food.
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…Emergency Preparation Up NorthMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      If you really want to see how you overspend, do this challenge! At least for a week – and no cheating either. Get the full experience. It has been eye-opening for me, but I will save that and write a full post when I am done with my three-week challenge.

  8. Ms99to1percent

    That’s pretty courageous . How did you come up with the idea? How long are you going to do the challenge?

    Yes, Once upon a time, I used to be on a tight food budget. You did feature me actually in one of your blog posts and I was talking about how back in the days when I was in college, I had like $40/month food budget. So I had to be a little bit resourceful, I did surveys at the mall to get free snacks. I roamed around in Costco or the local farmer’s market to get as many food samples I can get (still do that now, can’t shake the habit). I also bought food at the Dollar store.
    Ms99to1percent recently posted…Our Biggest Money Fight and 9 Lessons LearnedMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      I’ve always been curious to see how little it costs to eat while still being decently healthy (not just scarfing down ramen for a week or something). With the wife and kids gone to her parent’s house on vacation, now was the time. I will do the challenge for three weeks, can’t do a month since I’ll be headed over to her parents at that time.

  9. Elsie

    I sort of did this this year. I decided I’d spend $50 a week which sounds generous compared to your budget. A few things differ about my diet though, which makes it more expensive. To keep meals cheap a lot of the time you fill in with carbs: noodles, rice, bread. I tend to eat mostly fruit and protein so my meals were a bit more expensive. I found an article about the cheapest proteins per gram, which are milk, eggs, and yogurt. So I would do my best to get my protein from those sources. I also buy olive oil instead of the rapeseed. My bread costs $5 because I buy the one with flax seed. So I’ve got a mostly organic, health nut diet for $200 a month not too bad. I also quit eating out entirely which has forced me to learn to cook. Grocery hacking is one of my favorite passtimes if you couldn’t tell. Thanks for the tips Justin!

    1. MrDD

      For that type of food, yeah $50 per week is good! Here is a question for you: If your budget was just $29, what would you buy? Would you change your diet? Would you ditch the $5 bread? Let me know.

  10. The FIRE Engine

    Haha, I’ve been concerned my food spending has crept up in the last year (since leaving university and having a regular salary). That said, my average monthly food spend in 2017 has been £97 per month (I’m in the UK), which works out to $29.68 a week in USD! As a student, it would’ve been more like $14 a week. Home cooked food, nutritious, often huge portion sizes, and I did that for five years!


    1. MrDD

      Spot on the money! You are a natural at this. 😀

  11. Dyana

    Food is my budget’s enemy! One week’s worth of food under $14 is intense I salute you!
    Dyana recently posted…How to Save Money as a Single ParentMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      If your food budget is your enemy – do this challenge! Seriously, it will open your eyes to what you really need. You will discover things, I did.

  12. Lily @ The Frugal Gene

    Dang!!! I haven’t even heard of a SNAP challenge! I so want to do this O_O

    1. MrDD

      Then do it (and blog it so I can read)! 😀

  13. the Budget Epicurean

    I did a SNAP challenge for a month once, it is challenging! You can see how that went down here (http://www.budgetepicurean.com/finances/snap-challenge-week-lessons/) if you want. I found lentils to be a huge help in keeping costs low but protein intake pretty high. Maybe I should try this again! Very impressive to keep costs SO low, I had $4 per day but you made <$2 work.

    1. MrDD

      Ahh, a fellow stoic – welcome! Thank you for the tips. I checked out your article, I feel much of the same things that you did.

      I had read of a few concerns with this challenge, so I tried to simulate them. Can only shop at the 99 cents only store once a week – to simulate lack of choices in poverty-stricken areas. I can’t use my microwave or oven to cook anything – to simulate not having a fully functioning kitchen. Etc.

      My attempt at seeing what it would really be like living on SNAP only.

      1. the Budget Epicurean

        Thanks for reading it! Yes I also liked your cooking and shopping restrictions, many people, especially those most in need of the SNAP program, are in food deserts with limited cooking ability. I think you did an admirable job simulating that type of situation. I’m giving serious thought to another go with same restrictions, see what I’d have to change. Thanks for bringing visibility to the issue! You’ve got a new reader now. 🙂
        the Budget Epicurean recently posted…My Favorite One Dollar LunchMy Profile

  14. FIbythecommonguy

    Impressive and all the dishes look good, healthy-ish and filling. I am kind of doing this now that I am 50% working remote. The weeks that I travel, I stop and pick up 4 days worth of groceries. I have been around the $25-$35 mark. I might try a couple of the meals you have tried out already.
    FIbythecommonguy recently posted…Net Worth #7 – Oct ’17My Profile

    1. MrDD

      Not too bad on your end there. While some of my meals were a bit more to the cheapskate side, I really didn’t mind. I’m not the type to care too much about organic this or that. I’m plenty happy eating buttered and salted egg noodles.

      For this challenge though, I tried to keep things better than that.

  15. Jean Bush

    Very good menu, easy to copy, I will say, however, that even the poorest on assistance have some basic staples already in their pantry, like spices, flour & pasta.

    I am only living on social security but I go to my church food pantry once a month & stock up. I do a lot of shopping at the 99cnt Only store before I go to Ralphs or Food4less here in Hollywood. I usually buy the marked down meats & fish. I see you use Imperial Margarine. Butter is my main indulgence.

    1. MrDD

      Thanks, Jean.

      I purposely made this experiment harder than it had to be. I had read all the comments that said that other people that tried this had it easy and wanted to “shut them up.”

      I had wanted to get butter, but it wasn’t in the budget.

  16. Stefan

    Hey I want to lose some weight do you think your $14 menu will be good for me? And plus it’s always good to save some money on food :).

    1. MrDD

      Well, I never did weigh myself before and after but I do think I lost a few pounds (I’m a bit chunky). The lack of snacks and all that. But maybe it would be better to have a few more fresh vegetables. You can eat healthy for cheap. So yeah, grab some skinless chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli.

      I was limited in my choices as I said I would only go to the 99 Cents Only store and they don’t have a full variety of items.

  17. Jean Bush

    Would you mind giving us a couple of recipes for your beans & rice and pasta dishes? Thanks

  18. Nancy

    If you can purchase velveeta, Tomatoes soup, chili powder, small jar of green olives and canned chicken you can have a delicious meal of: Chicken casserole. You can bake it or not. Serves around 12 people, with salad and bread to round out meal. A diabetic can have brown rice, wheat bread and wheat pasta in moderation. It is digested slower in your body so fills you up more and does not turn straight to sugar. You can also make pancakes out of just eggs and bananas. You can cook your strawberries down with sugar and use as a syrup. You can soak beans over night, then cook with a link of sausage in crock pot or on stove with garlic, celery, onion and little bit of bell pepper. Serve as a soup over small amount of rice or cook more to develop a gravy like consistency and serve over rice. Portion should be only half cup of rice and half cup of beans for one serving. Then add a salad of tomatoes, onions, cucumber and let marinade in red or white vinegar. Will cut richness. If you can go to a bakery by some corn muffins to go with these meals. Then you could use rest of muffins with some canned chicken to make cornbread dressing with chicken. Serve with fresh veggies. You can always buy a couple of bell peppers and stuff them, using rice, veggies and top with cheese and little bit of bacon. Have BLT. Hungry for fruit. Stretch it by making fruit salad, from mixing canned with fresh. Hungry for something sweet? Make Rice Krispy treats( margarine, bags of marshmallows and cereal). Make peanut butter chewy drops( peanut butter, corn flakes, white corn syrup) makes gobs. You can also add some maple flavoring to corn syrup to make pancake syrup. I can go on and on. I was raised to make and cook everything from scratch! The best thing though is to have a small garden, even if in containers. Nothing beats the taste of greasy veggies you raised your self. Good luck.

    1. MrDD

      Hey Nancy, thanks for the tips! It helps me and anyone reading. 😀

  19. Terry

    Thank you for your article, I stumbled upon it as I was attempting to learn how I can make my $45 a month in SNAP benefits stretch for the month. I purchase my groceries at The Dollar Tree, which sometimes gets tricky because I am trying my best to eat Keto friendly. I am on disability, so those benefits are VERY fixed, not much wiggle room, it’s taught me how to be very frugal with all that I have. Thank you for your time ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge