about the artist

Could You Survive on a Food Stamp Diet?

First, a postcard that I finished today. This is hand-dyed fabric with Angelina fibers and copper Tinsl with a tulle overlay.


Now, the question of the day. Mr C went to a volunteer training at the Oregon Food Bank. He came home and asked if I would be willing to take part in a program sponsored by the Food Bank, eating on the equivalent budget of those who receive Food Stamps. The program is designed to help people understand how difficult this is so that they can be more effective at fund raising for the Food Bank and lobbying the government for more help.

A very lofty goal – right? How much do we get to spend? $3 per person per day so double that for the two of us. You can’t use food you already have in the freezer and pantry. I suppose you can use some staples – like seasonings and such.

Could you do this? I have real doubts that I could do this and not turn in to a low blood sugar witch – maybe change the beginning letter to b. When I went to shop this afternoon, I started looking at the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables. A small head of cabbage was 2 pounds and cost $1.49. A can of black beans can range from 49 to 98 cents. Bananas were 49 cents a pound — I didn’t weigh them, but I suspect that would be about 1.5 bananas. Wholewheat bread was around $4.00 a loaf and would last the two of us about half a week for peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. I could cook up some brown rice. A whole chicken costs about $4.00. I could roast one and stretch it for 2 or 3 days. I would have to give up yogurt and pomegranate juice and have oatmeal and applesauce for breakfast. And coffee! What will I  have to use to make coffee?

If we do this, it will be at the end of April. Mr C says he wants to do it whether I do or not. I said, you know that means no vodka or wine! I thought we could adopt M & M for the week because that would double our funds and they don’t eat much!! So, let me know what you think. Share your ideas with me. I know I would want to clip coupons which I don’t normally do. But do most food stamp users have access to coupons and can you use them with food stamps? Come to think of it most coupons are for those fancy over-packaged and over-processed foods.

Here is the other post card I finished today. This one has hand dyed fabric with a turquoise screen print and Angelina fibers and tinsl captured under tulle. Beads have been collaged with Golden’s gel medium.


14 Responses to “Could You Survive on a Food Stamp Diet?”

  1. Susan Barker says:

    Gerrie, this is an interesting exercise! I have not had to accomplish it in the US, but suspect it might be easier to do there than up here in Canada. My family, husband and two sons did though live on a very limited income for 4 years while we worked for a church…
    It is extremely difficult to live a truely healthly lifestyle in the city on that kind of income, and in todays world to live on acreage one must have the resourse to either own or rent land which costs a whole lot more than a 2 bdrm apartment in the city…
    I recently found this blog that might help you get a handle on some of the things you need to aim for to reach down to the living standard that you are considering attempting…
    check out http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/index.htm

  2. Kristin L says:

    I think you should do the exercise. It would require planning, but I’m sure you guys could do it. It’s making me think about how much my family spends on food. I don’t think we’re big spenders because I make a lot of food from scratch with simple ingredients, and we eat out once a week at the most. But, still, I wonder how far off from the Food Stamp budget we are. This exercise is certainly more doable than the “leave to impact” one.

  3. My husband is a very good shopper and cook. We eat on approximately $4 per day per person. He bakes our bread, but a jar of yeast is $9. Our food budget has to be averaged over several months to get the $4 per day figure. He has a loaf of bread baking right now and it smells soooo good. We would have to cut out coffee and tea to get down to the $3 per day.

  4. Judy says:

    I admire Mr. C for wanting to do this. Would he do the shopping and cooking? I myself don’t think that I could do it. Our church youth group took part in the annual Hungar Walk in Atlanta last weekend and then returned to the church for a dinner. Some of the tables purposely were loaded down with food, while others had very meager amounts. The leaders did this so that the kids could get a real feel for the “haves” and “have nots” in our community, since most of our kids are pretty privileged. Apparently it was, like your study, very impressive and the kids learned a lot.
    I’ll be interested to hear what you decide.

  5. stephanie says:

    just wanted to come back and say by doable, i mean possible, not, by any means, easy nor something i would ever want to do for more than a week. also, a miscalculated when i said it was close to our old budget!

    still, you are a very creative and resourceful person and i’m sure you could make the best of it and probably emerge with a renewed outlook. just wanted to encourage you!

  6. stephanie says:

    mom, i know you can make your own bread! you have to let go of the way you’ve been eating the last twenty years and remember how you used to cook when we were kids: from scratch. buy dried beans. buy in bulk.

    this is actually not too far off from what our food budget was when mia was a baby. it’s completely doable. our family will definitely join you in this challenge, tell us when!

  7. Dale Anne says:

    Forgot to say…..we also have our own vegetable garden and freeze carrots, zuchini, parsnips, beans, peas, etc. We have about another month of carrots in the freezer….so we still have to figure out the amounts annualy!

  8. Dale Anne says:

    We don’t have food stamps here in Canada……we do have alot of food banks tho!
    We live on DH’s pension budget and have for 5 years now. $1500 a month doesn’t go very far, but we do eat very well. I do Once a Month Cooking which means I buy a large pack of hamburger, make several different meals with it and freeze. Same with a Chicken, roast it, eat for that day’s meal then freeze the meat into 2 cup portions for other recipes through-out the month. The bones are boiled for broth – sometimes we have soup that same day but more often we freeze into portions for another day.
    We usually have a grocery bill about $250 a month. We have a bread machine and make our own bread, buns, pizza blanks, etc.
    I look forward to seeing if you do this and how you do………

  9. Karoda says:

    yeah, you can do it. it would be a creative exercise and an educational one. i’m assuming the free food banks and soup kitchens are supplemental to the food stamps. Also, M & M would qualify for free breakfast and lunch at school.

  10. Kathie says:

    This would be a creative exercise of the highest order. I’m right there with the soup suggestion–I even make soup from leftover deli rotisserie chickens. And I’m a peasant at heart–beans and lentils of all kinds are great meal stretchers for me. Baked beans from scratch from my grandma’s recipe–outstanding. And cheap!

  11. Diane D. says:

    I agree with Caron’s soup comment. I buy preroasted chicken for about $6, serve it as a dinner for my family of 5, then make soup with the remainder. That means I get at least 2 meals out of it – though admittedly at least two of the kids are not huge eaters. I also buy ham on sale, use it for several meals, then use it in red beans and rice (from one of Emeril’s cookbooks – I think it’s “Real and Rustic”). The red beans and rice is not very expensive to make and makes lots of food. I think Debra’s making bread idea is also a good one. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  12. caron says:

    One word, Soup. That chicken can go a long, long way when you make it into casserole and make stock from the bones and organs. Onion and garlic are your cheap and flavorful friends. I calculated out a quick budget on what I spend monthly on food, and it’s only a liittle more than the $3 a day, I still eat yogurt everyday, but, I buy it in the big 1 lb tubs.

    Isn’t it interesting to think about what our legislators think is an appropriate amount for them to spend on food ? Didn’t the senate just recently up their per diem allotment to approximately $90 each and every day?

  13. Debra says:

    A long, long time ago I had to go on footstamps for several weeks. My former employer was refusing to file the state employment agencies paperwork for my unemployment claim. I was looking but not finding work (18% unemployment).

    I was a single individual who’s job did allow me to max out on the unemployment pay, and when I qualified for food stamps, it was more money than I had been able to spend on myself as a working woman. Yeah, that was an exception. I lived on chicken broilers ($.25/#.. I could eat for a month for under $5).

    Still, now I would find a lot harder. If you do it, buy flour and make your own bread. The cost will be less than $1 a loaf. Shop the bruised and damaged section for your fresh veggies and fruits (don’t be picky, shop often, and eat within the day). Cook your own dried beans.

    “adopting” the kids for the weekend would also qualify you for WIC points for cheaper milk, real juice and butter. Probably more.

  14. jenclair says:

    What an idea! I’m not sure I could do it, but find the idea fascinating. Whether you decide to join Mr. C or not, please keep us updated!