Last week I read a story about a person who took the SNAP challenge of spending $125 or less on food in a month.
In addition to spending less than $125, the participant could only eat food purchased during the month.
That means no stocking up your pantry the month before.
The participant was supposed to avoid free food since not everyone has the same opportunities to access free food.
For instance, if your workplace offers free lunch, not everyone has that same benefit so you couldn’t accept the free lunch.
Finally, the challenge says you should eat as healthy as possible.
Could You Eat On Less Than $125 For A Month?
The answer is yes! The person in the original story easily accomplished the goal with a few dollars to spare and I feel almost anyone without dietary restrictions could do the same.
Would the challenge be fun? No. Would you be eating like royalty? Not a chance. Will it be easy and convenient to complete the challenge? Definitely not. However, it can be done.
Things You Must Sacrifice When On A Tight Food Budget
When you’re on a tight food budget, you can’t eat like you normally would. In fact, you may have to drastically alter your eating habits.
You Simply Cannot Eat Out
If you normally eat out, whether it be once a day or once a week, you won’t be able to afford the luxury of having someone else serve you prepared food on this challenge.
Is not dining out really a sacrifice though? Many of the meals you would eat at restaurants or prepared food delis probably aren’t super healthy for you.
Shopping At Just One Store? Not Happening
If you normally shop for everything at one time in one store, that may not be possible on this challenge. You will probably have to shop at multiple stores. You’ll have to know what is on sale or cheap at one store versus the next if you want to maximize your $125.
Don’t Use Coupons? You Do Now!
You may even have to use coupons to make food as affordable as possible. While I am not a huge coupon fan, if I had to live on a food budget of $125 a month, I would seriously consider using coupons because every single dollar saved would count.
Your Diet Will Change
Your diet won’t likely be the diet you’re used to. Meat is expensive, but there are other cheaper ways to get protein in your diet. Fresh vegetables that are out of season will be outrageously expensive compared to the small food budget and won’t be an option.
You’ll have to stick with in-season produce to get the biggest bang for your buck. If you love a fancy or expensive version of produce, chances are you’ll have to downgrade to the common version. Organic foods probably won’t be an option, either.
Food May Be Blander And Variety Could Disappear
Due to the fact that you can’t use the foods you already had, you probably won’t be able to buy a lot of spices and flavorings. That could easily lead to much blander food than you’re used to eating.
In addition, because of the cost restraint, you may have to end up eating a lot of the same foods over and over because food waste will have to be kept to a minimum.
Convenience Foods No Longer Make Sense
Remember all of those foods you just simply pick up from your local deli? They’re hot, ready to serve and likely won’t fit in your monthly food budget. Same thing goes for those prepackaged pizzas you have to simply pop in the oven.
Instead of buying canned beans, if you even bought beans, you’ll likely now have to purchase dry beans because you get so much more food for your money. Yes, you’ll have to plan ahead and soak the dry beans overnight, but they’re the same thing at a much lower price.
Food may take longer to prepare. You’ll have to plan out your meals in advance to make sure you can stick to your budget. You will have to spend extra time to do all of this, but it can be done.
The Internet Offers Tons Of Resources
Living on only $125 per month for your food isn’t all doom and gloom. As I mentioned above, it can definitely be done with some planning. Luckily, we have the internet as an amazing resource that didn’t really exist at the same level 20 years ago.
Blogs And Other Websites Help Save Money
There are many free blogs and websites that will tell you how to find the best deals on your groceries. There are similar blogs that will allow you to find super cheap recipes that are healthy.
Use these free resources in order to make your small $125 food budget stretch as far as possible.
Coupons Are More Accessible Than Ever
You can even find coupons online that you can print out. There are even some you can use on your phone if you don’t have access to a printer. You don’t even have to buy a newspaper anymore.
Just make sure you aren’t spending more on a brand name item, even with a coupon, when a generic is cheaper overall.
Real People Deal With This Every Month
Sadly, for many people, the $125 a month food budget isn’t a challenge. It is a reality every single month. Let that sink in for a minute. If you’ve never had to worry about how you’re going to afford your next meal, consider yourself very fortunate.
Luckily, there are many ways you can help people out. You can donate food to food banks. You can volunteer your time at a food-based charity such as a soup kitchen or meals on wheels.
You can pay for someone’s groceries when they realize they don’t have enough money to cover what the register rang up in the checkout line. Pay it forward!
Would I Ever Try The $125 Challenge?
I might try the challenge at some point, but I imagine it would be pretty difficult to get my wife on board. In addition, things change completely when you go from cooking for one person to cooking for two people.
I’d have to do some research to see what would be an equivalent challenge for a couple.
Don’t rule it out though. You may see a future post from us about this challenge.
Would you ever try the $125 challenge? Have you ever had to live on a $125 food budget or less due to financial problems? Let me know what you think about this and if you can think you can pull it off?
Also, let me know how you made it work if you’ve had to do it just to survive financially. Leave a comment below!