Please note: The EBT formula expects 30% of a person’s resources (net income) to go towards food. Therefore, I did not eat solely on EBT but rather the budget of someone who uses EBT.
PROFILE: On the SNAP Statistics page I highlight two categories of recipients that are most similar to my situation. My profile throughout my experiment was a childless, non-disabled adult living in a one person household. Using the average benefits from the second SNAP category sized down to a household of one, I most accurately simulated the situation of a person on food stamps. My monthly food budget added up to $196.42, of which $27.23 was out-of-pocket.
GROCERY STORE: To further assist in creating a likely scenario, I opted out of shopping at my tax-free military grocery store and instead bought groceries at ALDI, a nation-wide discount grocery store. Although ALDI is an inconvenient 20 minute drive without traffic, owning a car still gave me a grocery shopping advantage. Many people using EBT must rely on public transportation, limiting the amount of groceries they can buy at one time.
TIME FACTOR: Because many food stamp recipients must work and raise children simultaneously, they do not have much time to spend cooking food. With this in mind, I decided to time the entire cooking process – from grocery shopping to washing dishes. Part of my goal was to make this lifestyle manageable for struggling Americans.
MONITORING: The main goal of the food stamp challenge was to maintain a healthy diet without exceeding budget. While tracking health can be quite scientific, I simply used my morning weight and my subjective overall feeling of wellness to monitor the project’s effects. As a 5′ 4″, fairly active, 22 year old female, my ideal morning weight hovers around 123.5 lbs (yet as small as I am, I can out-eat all my friends). I intended to maintain this weight, give or take a few pounds, throughout the project.
RESOURCES: I allowed myself to use any resources for which my profile qualified, including food pantries, church dinners, and other community events.
HERB CALCULATIONS: I consider many herbs to be a one-time buy, because they are very simple plants to grow and maintain in small spaces both indoors and out. I conducted a quick Ebay search of herb seeds. For $14.37, shipping included, I found a set of these seeds: caraway, catnip, chamomile, chives, coriander, curled cress, dill, fennel, oregano, curled parsley, flat Italian parsley, sage, savory, basil, marjoram, and thyme. While EBT covers seeds for food, it cannot be used on EBAY. Unfortunately, I had to use my out-of-pocket portion to cover these herbs. That left me with $12.88 to spend on whatever food I wanted and $169.19 to spend on food stamp-approved items (basically any food that is not vitamins, alcohol, or already prepared). After purchasing these seeds, I found equally cheap seeds at ALDI, as well as a whole set of herbs and spices in large containers for only $1.
Check out daily updates found under the 30 Days On Stamps category to read about my experience.