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    SNAP Challenge is Not So Challenging - Unless You're an Out of Touch Congressman

    This past week more than two dozen Democratic members of congress decided to compete in the SNAP Challenge and in their words "call attention to the necessity of the program" while also showing how difficult it is to eat on the average of $31.50 per person, per week allocated under the SNAP program.

    I read the article in Politico and looked at the receipts posted and could not stop thinking that these people either don't know how to live on a budget or that they were intentionally trying to make it look overly difficult to budget and eat healthy.  Maybe it's both.  

    I was struck by the ignorance of the statements from some members participating in the challenge. Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida said, 

    “Standing in line at the grocery store, it’s relatively few items in my cart, and calculating how much I think they’ll cost only to learn that I was off by a little bit, which necessitated putting back a couple of items and leaving with even less — it’s just really difficult to do once, I can only imagine how excruciatingly difficult it must be to that every single week.” 

    What?  You had to calculate how much you had before you spent it and you may not get everything you want? This is news? Isn't this what the majority of Americans do when they're buying groceries?  They figure out how much they have to spend and then they live within that budget.  I would love to stock my cart with lobster, ice cream and choice bacon, but I can't afford it, so I don't. Is this congressman so out of touch with reality that he doesn't realize that families, unlike the government don't spend money first and figure a way to pay for it later?  Probably. 

    Don't even get me started on Rep. Donald Payne who spent $1.08 for a single hard boiled egg.  Yes, one egg.  At the grocery store in my town you can buy an entire dozen eggs for $1.13, and for one person that's a lot of meals. 

    First, let's not forget that the SNAP program stands for "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." Supplemental.  It was never intended to be the only source of food for an individual or family, it was intended to keep people from starving.  The Democrats want you to believe that people can't possibly live on less, therefor you need to increase the amount given to the program. They don't want you to know about the waste, fraud and abuse occuring, just that shopping is really, really, hard

    Maybe instead of wasting time on publicity stunts like the SNAP Challenge, members of Congress should spend time with housewives and moms who know how to make a budget stretch.  Our family of four eats very well (follow me on twitter and instagram if you don't believe me) on less than $300 a month, or in SNAP terms, $17.50 per week, per person.  Our average weekly grocery bill is $70.  If we were living solely on the supplemental program of SNAP we would add nearly $204 a month to our budget!

    Democrats in congress want you to believe that you have to survive on merely peanut butter and tortillas, but it's simply not true.  I watched others on twitter posting their receipts and pics and figured I'd join in the fun. Eating healthy and low cost can be done. Don't believe me? For $70.64 I purchased the following:

    Honey Nut CheeriosFood

    2lbs bananas

    2lbs bacon

    3lbs Top Sirloin

    1lb ground beef

    1lb ground turkey

    1.5lbs fresh cut sharp cheddar

    1lb fresh brocolli

    4lbs fresh oranges

    3lbs frozen chicken breasts

    5lbs potatoes

    One package of roasted turkey lunch meat

    Kraft Ranch Dressing

    2 cans Santiam green beans

    3 cans Santiam corn

    1 whole 4lb chicken, fresh

    1 gallon 2% milk

    1 head of lettuce

    1 loaf sourdough bread

    3lb cantaloupe

    2lb spaghetti squash

    5 fresh tomatoes

    1 dozen eggs

    Baby carrots 

    Now, if I really wanted to show what can be done on a tight budget, I'd have used coupons, bought large amounts of meat to freeze, bought tons of pasta and rice and maybe even thrown in a canning lesson.  But, none of that is necessary to survive on SNAP.  What is necessary to live on tight means is a little common sense.  You'll notice I didn't buy processed foods, bottled water and soda which adds up fast!  I bought food that you can prepare and make healthy meals with.  

    I'll gladly go head to head with any congressman on a budgeting challenge. They want you to believe that it's difficult to spend $31.50 a week wisely, while simultaneously racking up billions of dollars of debt by the hour.  The real SNAP Challenge should be figuring out a way to get people off of government assistance and provide for themselves and their families.  Jobs are the solution, not more government assistance.

    The number of Americans on food stamps is soaring, even after trillions in stimulus and failed government intervention. Maybe, just maybe the people who can't figure out how to grocery shop shouldn't be running the country. 

    Follow me on twitter at @KristinaRibali

    17 comments
    kaebomb
    06/19/2013

    In Seattle, your list would cost me $98.50. That's if i shopped only at discount stores and Asian markets, which are a lot cheaper than Safeway or Costco. For which one needs a car to go to those places. Not sure how old your kids are, but i have a teenage son, and with the exception of the meat, that list of food would be gone in 2 days.

    Michael Keehn
    08/14/2013

    Different regions have different foods at different prices. Your mileage may vary. Feeding a teenage son is a question of calorie density, and the above list is not particularly focused on being thrifty as it comes down to $/kcal. As he stated in the article "Now, if I really wanted to show what can be done on a tight budget, I'd have used coupons, bought large amounts of meat to freeze, bought tons of pasta and rice and maybe even thrown in a canning lesson." he wasn't being being super thrifty just modest and not wasteful. Is it *really* too much to ask that those on SNAP actually try and be *thrifty* with my money?

    taylag oldfinch
    06/18/2013

    If you think Dorothy`s story is inconceivable,, won weak-ago my moms boyfriend basically got paid $7438 grafting eleven hours a week from there apartment and they're roomate's step-mother`s neighbour was doing this for 8-months and broght in over $7438 in their spare time on- line. applie the guidelines on this page, kep2.ℂom

    iteachk
    06/17/2013

    And don't forget- families with school aged children who qualify for SNAP also qualify for free meals at school. That means IN ADDITION to their per person dollar allowance, the kids get served breakfast and lunch five days a week at school. That should leave plenty of money to buy groceries!

    kaebomb
    06/19/2013

    if they can eat the food. The food served in public schools in the state of Washington is unrecognizable. When my son was in 2nd grade, he and all his friends stopped eating it and started taking sandwiches from home. Not only that, but the private contractor who manages the Washington public school meal system charges 1.25 per meal to pay for the cards and their website. The cards are the only accepted payment method, and even kids on "free" lunches have to pay that fee to get lunch. All through my son's primary schooling, i made him 2 lunches a day. One for him, and one for his friends whose parents couldn't or wouldn't make their kids a lunch or send them with the 1.25 fee.

    b townsend
    06/15/2013

    Kristina - How often do you dine out, and does that figure into the monthly budget?

    Kristina Ribali
    06/17/2013

    We dine out on average once a week, Sundays after church. We live on a very tight budget.

    Kitty Myers
    06/15/2013

    I liked your article enough to post it on my FB page. Do you write out a week's menus before you shop?
    ...
    Question: When I shop for groceries, I also buy cleaning products, various paper products, health & 'beauty' products, cat food, sometimes batteries, etc. I saw none of those things on your list. (Nor for that matter did I see any beverages, like coffee.) Does your "food" budget only apply to food? If so, do you have a separate budget for those other items?

    tamij's picture
    Tamara Jackson
    06/15/2013

    Great commentary, Kristina! I'm with you girl--it's just me and my cat and I don't buy one luxury, processed, sugary item. And yes, on my tight budget I often have scrambled eggs for dinner. I know exactly what I have to spend when I hit the store, coupons in hand. I am never surprised when I reach the check stand. Do these Dems do their own shopping ever?

    Kitty Myers
    06/15/2013

    Ooops! My comment was not meant as a reply to Tamara's.

    Kitty Myers
    06/15/2013

    I liked your article enough to post it on my FB page. Do you write out a week's menus before you shop?

    Question: When I shop for groceries, I also buy cleaning products, various paper products, health & 'beauty' products, cat food, sometimes batteries, etc. I saw none of those things on your list. (Nor for that matter did I see any beverages, like coffee.) Does your "food" budget only apply to food? If so, do you have a separate budget for those other items?

    Stacey Hanrahan
    06/14/2013

    Good article. Shared. Not only did you not get bottled water or soda but you didn't get candy or cookies, yet the cantaloupe alone is a wonderfully nutritious snack that oftentimes comes naturally sweetened.

    Barry Wincentsen
    06/14/2013

    This is a clear example of how out of touch these Washington D.C. bozos really are. Great article.

    Tom Kelley
    06/14/2013

    At $70, I'd bet you're not even playing the loss-leader game to maximum advantage. Items vary from chain to chain and city to city, but here's a local example:

    At my local grocery store, the butcher counter sells boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb, presumably to draw more business to the butcher counter. The same exact chicken breasts pre-packaged under the store's own generic brand, sitting just 30 feet away, go for $3.99/lb or more. Even the whole chickens, with a lot more waste than a boneless breast, typically go for more than $1.99/pound.

    There are similar stories in every department in the store.

    Assuming one isn't buying day by day, and can watch prices from week to week, it's not that tough to pay as little as 50% of posted prices (averaged across the entire bill). It's rare that I pay full price for anything, and that's virtually without any coupons (5-6 per month, max).

    sybilll
    06/14/2013

    Perhaps my favorite article from Kristina ever......and that's saying a lot. A SNAP recipient in front of me not long ago bought her kids $78 worth of sodas, lunchables, chips, and other assorted junk and/or processed foods that would only feed them for an afternoon. Meanwhile, I spent $71 to feed myself for a month. I think it was because I shopped smart because it was MY money.

    Kristina Ribali
    06/14/2013

    Thanks Sybilll. There is no doubt there are people struggling in America, but you're correct, there are a lot of instances of abuse of the system too. We don't buy those items because we can't afford them. Like you, we're on a budget! Thanks for the kind words and for reading the post

    Josie Elliott
    06/14/2013

    good article

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