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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Eating On A Food Stamp Budget

Amy Rogers

Think you could manage on $31.50 a week for groceries? That’s the amount you’d get to spend if you had to rely solely on food stamps.

From July 9 through July 15, I’m taking the SNAP* Challenge. Its purpose is to give well-fed Americans a chance to experience the struggle an estimated 1 in 7 are facing every day in the U.S.

I’m a creative cook so I’m not planning menus or making lists. My only advance strategy is to stop at CVS Sunday night where my 25% off store coupon cuts the price on Café Bustelo from $4.19 to $3.15. Monday morning coffee? Check.

What to buy today with the remaining $28.25? My first – and probably best – decision is to avoid my local grocery store and visit Super G Mart on Independence Blvd. Known for its extensive ethnic offerings, here the produce is bountiful and inexpensive. A pound of bok choy is 98 cents. A giant bunch of parsley, headed for tabouli, is 99 cents. A fat lump of ginger is only 20 cents. Extra firm tofu is 99 cents; I don’t recognize the brand but its advertisement for DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” on its label is oddly reassuring. A big bag of Asian noodles rolled into nests is $1.79. I’m thinking this won’t be so hard after all.

Confidently, I bag two red bell peppers. Yes, this is a bit extravagant. Normally $4 a pound at other stores, I can’t resist them here at only $1.49. They’re irregularly shaped but firm and fresh, so I get two and they ring up at for $1.31. I indulge in a small block of black sesame candy for $1.79.

Quaker Oats are more than $3; the no-name brand is $1.79 so that’s what I get. Cabbage, an onion, a small bottle of soy sauce.

I’ve still got nearly half of my $31.50 left. Then I remember: You can’t use anything already in your kitchen, other than condiments. I’ll have to add in the cost of the tortilla shells, bulgur, lime, cheese, milk and yogurt I bought a couple of days ago.

This creates two possible problems: One is math. The other is that even if I haven’t over-spent, I may have under-shopped.

I’ll let you know more tomorrow…

*SNAP is the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. And for many low-income individuals and families, it’s not a supplement; it’s their only means of buying food.

Amy is documenting her experiences with the SNAP Challenge all this week. Check back daily for updates.