How to Live On a Food Stamps Food Budget

To highlight the situation of those living on low incomes in America, various groups and individuals have issued the challenge to live on a food budget of what someone using food stamps is expected to have.

Determine the amount of money you would be expected to live on if you received food stamps. Note that the oft quoted figure of $25 per person per week is incorrect. That is the average food stamp benefit. One must remember that many people receiving food stamps make a moderate income and are expected to contribute some of their own income for buying food.

For October 2008 to September 2009, the amounts are as follows.
1 person household - $176/month
2 person household - $323/month
3 person household - $463/month
4 person household - $588/month
5 person household - $698/month
6 person household - $838/month
7 person household - $926/month
8 person household - $1058/month
Each additional person above 8 adds an additional $132
At the beginning of the month, withdraw the entire household allotment in cash. Put the cash in an envelope labeled "Food" and place it somewhere for safe keeping.
When you go grocery shopping or eat out, bring along the food envelope (or a portion of the money, if you are uncomfortable carrying the amount of cash in the envelope.) Buy all your food from that envelope and buy nothing but food from that envelope.
About every week, check on the envelope to see if you are on track. You should not spend more than 1/4th of the money in the envelope in any given week, unless you are stocking up on foods that should last you more than a week.
If you find yourself falling behind, start practicing frugal grocery shopping habits. Here are some examples:
* Stop eating out
* Buy fewer prepared foods. For example, make your own bread instead of buying bread
* Buy meat only when it is on sale. Buy only whatever produce is on sale.
* Write a shopping list before you go and only buy what's on your list or a less expensive equivalent.

  • It is doable! My household has 3 members, which would mean the food stamps program would expect us to use $463/month on food. Our monthly food budget is just $300.
  • Consider getting on a budget in all categories. Getting on a budget doesn't necessarily mean being stingy - it's just a plan for where you want your money to go before your money runs away.

Copyright 2009 by Michael Nehring