Completion Of The SNAP Food Budget Challenge – Living On $29 Per Week

After two weeks of spending $29 on my SNAP food challenge, this is what I still had.

This is the completion of my food stamp challenge that I embarked upon back in October of 2017. With a solo trip to Portugal and a family trip to England the day after the challenge was completed, I never told you all how I ate during the last week.

If this is the first time reading about my food stamp challenge of living on just $29 per week of food, then you can read about week 1 here and week 2 here.

The bulleted points are the self-imposed rules of my challenge.

  • I only shopped 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 started from absolute scratch – nothing but what I purchased with my weekly $29 can be used.
  • This challenge lasted for three weeks. Normally people only do this for one week. I extended it to get a full picture. I can’t do one month as I had my trip to England.

Now it’s time to go shopping!


There. Is. Nothing. On. My. EBT. Card.

I thought I would simulate a government error. I know, I know. The government never makes mistakes. But just this once let’s pretend that something went wrong and my EBT card didn’t get reloaded. I get in contact with them and they tell me they will look into it and I can expect it to take a week before it gets funded.

I have no money for food and have to survive on what I still had remaining.

What would you do? That is the money you were expecting to feed yourself. You would just have to make whatever you have work.

This is what I did.


Day 1 – $2.20

  • Banana pancakes – $0.22

  • Spaghetti w/Mexican squash + cookie – $0.96

  • Homemade Spätzle w/bacon and asparagus, avocado toast, milk & cookie – $1.02


Day 2 – $2.20

  • Banana pancakes and half a peanut butter sandwich – $0.30

  • Spätzle w/bacon and asparagus + cookie – $0.70

  • Queso tortilla with a bean and avocado dip, plus fries and a glass of milk – $1.20


Day 3 – $2.25

  • Brown rice w/two scrambled eggs – $0.34

  • Spätzle w/bacon and asparagus + cookie – $0.70

  • Spaghetti w/Mexican squash, onions, garlic, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and Braunschweiger liverwurst & Milk (+ cookie & bread w/ margarine)- $1.21


Day 4 – $1.89

  • Banana pancakes – $0.22

  • ½ spaghetti and ½ Spätzle – $0.87

  • Brown rice w/sardines in the pasta sauce, plus milk and a cookie – $0.80


Day 5 – $2.12

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich – $0.27

  • Leftover rice and sardines + cookie – $0.68

  • Spinach salad w/tuna & tomato, butter noodles, and milk – $1.17


Day 6 – $2.10

  • FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST! Two fried eggs, one scrambled, fried tomato, mushroom, bacon, beans, Braunschweiger liverwurst (blood sausage fill-in) and two pieces of toast – $1.30

  • Brown rice w/sardines in the pasta sauce, plus milk and a cookie – $0.80


Day 7 – $1.91

  • Egg and cheese sandwich – $0.38

  • Noodles w/bacon in a white cream sauce – $0.63

  • Ramen w/egg, spinach, Mexican squash, sriracha ketchup + cookie – $0.90

Week 3 total: $14.67

Week 1 total: $13.34

Week 2 total: $15.82

Total food cost for 3 weeks: $43.83

Average cost per day: $2.09

Wow, did you think I would have ended up spending just $2.09 per DAY on food? I sure didn’t. Halfway through the challenge, I discovered that there is another food budget challenge based off what Elon Musk did in his early days.

Elon wanted to see how little it would cost him to live while he coded his projects. So he decided to eat for just $1 per day. Now this was back in the early 1990’s, add in inflation and you get $2 today. So without trying to, I nearly completed this challenge as well as I was only 5% off the mark.

I am sure if I was focused on it I would have easily finished that challenge as well.

However, the entire experience was well worth it for the lessons I learned.

Like Musk I am now confident in my ability to survive should I lose my job.

I could go on the defensive budget-wise. At around $63 per adult per month, my family of two adults and two young children could live on a food expense of less than $200/month.

That is peace of mind.

I also learned that my normal portions were way too much!

Normally I would think nothing of just eating the whole banana. I mean, it is just a thing that normal people do. While on the challenge, I found myself using half of things. I wanted to stretch my resources and by using half of what I would normally eat ended up being no problem. After the first day or two, my portions were much smaller and I felt no hungrier.

It is good to have a ‘big’ meal at least once per week.

While my normal portions were too much, having a big portion once per week is amazing!

I am a pasta fiend. Love the stuff. By having a ‘large’ pasta meal once per week I felt greatly recharged.

Something sweet is nice.

Let’s face it, some of the meals were cheap and bland. Having just a little strawberry or a cookie to savor at the end was so very welcome.

Speaking of savoring.

In my ‘regular’ eating mode, I would have no problem eating half a dozen cookies. When living on this budget I had to ration my treats or they would not last long. By eating the strawberry or cookie in small bites and savoring it, I felt as if I had eaten 2 or 3 times as much!

You need storage devices.

To cut down on meal prep, you need to make a batch of a few meals at a time. To store this food until you need it requires some sort of way to keep it fresh. If I didn’t have plastic containers to save the food for later this challenge would have become much more difficult.

On food waste.

The MOST important thing is to not waste any food. You have to watch the perishables for the signs of rot setting in. Some meals were not what I was planning on eating, but had to be cooked as the ingredients were about to go bad. On such a budget, any waste is a huge hit.

Do not let anything go to waste. I am pleased to report not one thing was wasted. I can prove this by the fungus green color of the avocado toast on day 1. Who normally eats an avocado that looks like that? People, it was still good!

This is a bonus for the environment as well.

Well, there ya go.

I am pleased to have completed the challenge. Challenges make you a better person as I have recently written about.

I now know what it is like to have very little, at least from a safe distance.

What I mean is I could have, at any time, went out and spent as much as I wished on food – either at the supermarket or a restaurant. I also had no worries about my electricity or gas being cut off because I had no money to pay the bill.

But the Buddhists have a prayer that goes like this: “Grant that I may be given appropriate difficulties and sufferings on this journey so that my heart may be truly awakened and my practice of liberation and universal compassion be truly fulfilled.”

While no one needs to create more of their own problems and challenges, sometimes undertaking one can improve your life. A challenge can make you better. A challenge can give you a glimpse of life from another angle. A challenge that is overcome can be the rocket fuel for an even bigger goal.

Success breeds success.


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  1. Mr Defined Sight

    Great wrap up but now I’m hungry! That egg and cheese sandwich, mmmm. Pretty cool to know how lean a person can make the food budget if absolutely necessary.
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Tales From The Crypt: 13 Life Lessons LearnedMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      Like I said, its peace of mind. The best breakfast sandwich I make is a toasted bagel with cream cheese, fried egg with a runny yolk, and a slice of cheese. Outstanding!

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    I had been wondering about this! Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m shocked at how well you ate on a low budget. I would have blown through the whole thing with a bag of Oreos and frozen ravioli lol. I love the idea of being mindful of portions. I’m trying to watch what I eat, and it’s crazy how often we overeat without realizing it.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! January 21My Profile

    1. MrDD

      Yes, so sorry about the delayed closing – I lost my mojo there for a bit. 😀

  3. the Budget Epicurean

    Glad I came back to find out the grand ending! Amazing you had enough left after 2 weeks for one more full week. We underestimate the value of building a pantry, with bits of this and that left to add to meals in the future. You definitely did a great job, and ate quite healthily in the process!

    1. MrDD

      Thanks so much! It means a lot coming from someone as skilled in cheap eats such as yourself 😀

  4. AJ

    This is a great post. I can’t get fresh produce at my dollar store, but you’ve given me a lot to think about in terms of how much we spend on food and how much we eat and what food I can buy at the dollar store. All the variety of well balanced food you prepared for $2 a day was amazing, also something to think about. Thanks for the post, I’ll be looking at my dollar store, food purchases and food purchases differently.

    1. MrDD

      Glad I could be of any help. 😀

  5. Jean Bush

    Now that the 99ct Only Stores here in Los Angeles have added a cold case & fresh fruits & vegetables & bagged salads, it’s much easier to eat healthy on a tight budget.

    1. MrDD

      Oh, I love the 99c Only stores around me. Great deals like bunches of asparagus, loaves of bread, or pints of berries for only $1. I like to hit it before I head to the local grocery store as you can’t really do ALL your shopping there. But for the peripherals, it is great.

  6. A Mujahid

    I really enjoyed this challenge you did. I have seen so many challenges for SNAP but none that are truly based on what happens in the trench. This is a more accurate portrayal and commend you for the thought put into it. For a marvelous splurge, spices can really work the dishes into so much more.

    Thanks for the effort you put into this as I love to see how others may give this a shot. I learn new things alll the time.

  7. Jessica

    How long did it take you to make everything? As a low income student who has to work full time in order to pay bills every second counts. Most of the time we end up making loaded baked potatoes in the microwave simply because it takes so little time but fills you up. Also I’m disappointed to see no hard Boiled eggs! Those are my favorite on the go snack with a little salt and pepper or a can of pickled beets makes a great impromptu meal when things get scarce.

    1. MrDD

      Some meals took more prep than others. I remember that bringing those dried beans back to edible levels took hours! I always had to think about making enough for the next meal, often the night before.

      The tradeoff of not paying more for convenience is often your time, but you also end up trading time for money. So you have to find your balance cut-off point and that is different for each of us.

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