Monday, November 5, 2012

Vegan on a Food Stamp Budget

During the month of October, I participated in the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, trying out some of the wonderful vegan dishes prepared by chefs in local restaurants.

In a few days, I'm going to participate in a different kind of challenge: the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge. For seven days, I will eat food that costs only as much as the average food stamp recipient receives in Sacramento County, which is $34.30 per week.

The 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge is a project of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, which has posted the following guidelines:

1. Spend no more than $4.90 per day, per person. This includes both food and beverage.

2. During the Challenge, try to only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food you already own (this does not include spices and condiments) unless you factor the cost of that food into your daily budget.

3. Avoid accepting free food or beverages from friends, family, or at work, including at receptions, briefings, or other events where food is served.

Why am I participating in this challenge? There are three reasons:

1. Solidarity with people who are living in poverty. This challenge will help draw attention to the difficulties faced by people whose current financial circumstances have caused them to seek government assistance to provide food for themselves and their families.

2. To prove to those who think it costs a lot of money to go vegan that adopting a vegan diet doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking.

3. To prove to myself that I can do it.

The dates of the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge are November 9th through 15th. However, I have a prior dinner commitment on the night of November 15th, so I have scheduled my personal challenge to take place between November 8th and 14th instead.

Over the weekend, I created my meal plan and went shopping for the groceries I'll be eating for this challenge. Here's what I bought:

At Dollar Tree, I spent $16 on the following items:

• A 16 oz. carton of quick oats
• A 26.5 oz. can of mushroom pasta sauce
• A box of 80 tea bags
• A package of 6 packs of raisins
• A pound of spaghetti
• A pound of small pasta shells
• A 24 oz. package of white rice
• 2 10-oz. cans of diced tomatoes and green chilies
• An 8.5 oz. bottle of a soybean/olive oil blend
• A 12 oz. package of dried pinto beans
• A 10-oz. jar of peanut butter
• A salt and pepper set
• A 3 oz. jar of chili powder
• A 1.76 oz. jar of crushed red pepper
• An 8 oz. jar of cinnamon sugar

At the farmer's market under the freeway at 8th and W, I spent $11 on the following items:

• 4 apples
• 4 potatoes
• 3 yams
• 2 zucchini
• 2 tomatoes
• 1 onion
• 1 garlic bulb
• 1 green bell pepper

At Sprouts, I spent $6.52 on the following items:

• A package of celery
• 2 lemons
• 3 oranges
• A head of green cabbage
• 4 carrots
• A 32-oz. carton of vanilla rice milk

I have 78 cents left from my $34.30.

I plan to blog about this experience every day during the week that I'm participating in this challenge, so be sure to check back beginning November 8th to find out what I'm eating. I'll also share any observations and insights that I may have as a result of this experience. If you're interested in participating in the 7-Day Food Stamp Challenge, you can sign up at!/events/327970127302175/.


qrops said...

nice pics

Pam said...

Thanks! I'm glad you like them.

toadstool said...

Being a father of six children, I was seriously worried about going vegan as a family. It was a nice surprise that we (8 people total) went from having an $800 per month grocery bill to $400 a month just by cutting animal products and replacing them with fresh veggies and whole grain foods. Yes, we are on food assistance, and yes, you can be vegan on a shoestring budget.

Pam said...

Thanks for your feedback. I'm glad to know that going vegan made such a big difference in your food budget! $400 a month in food costs for a family of eight is quite impressive. I hope going vegan helps to keep your family's health care costs down too.

Unknown said...

Help me learn how. Send me your shoppi n g lists

Pam said...

My shopping list for the week I took the challenge is actually in this article. I bought most of my staples at the Dollar Tree, some of my produce at the farmers market, and the rest at a regular grocery store. For me, the key was planning out all my meals ahead of time, and I did a lot of cooking from scratch. I assume many people on food stamps don't have the time or facilities to do a lot of cooking, or the transportation to go to different stores to buy their food, so this challenge was likely much easier for me than it would be for a person who really needs food stamps.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but this "challenge" is based on false assumptions. Food stamps are by definition intended to supplement a family's food budget, not be the sole source. The Housing Alliance routinely plays to "guilt" instead of reason, and this is just one instance. Food stamps are about helping people until they get back on their feet, not creating yet another generation of welfare slaves.

Anonymous said...

More here: the whole thing's bogus slacktivism.