Could You Eat On $125 Or Less Per Month? This Guy Did!

could you eat on 125 or less per monthLast 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 isn’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 More Bland And Variety Could Disappear

Due to the fact that you can’t use 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 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!

Photo by: avlxyz Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Interesting. Not sure I would ever be motivated enough to try it as it would take time away from the daily hustle and bustle that keeps me busy enough, but I do like the idea, and even if not implemented in full, bits and pieces could likely be applied to most peoples lives.

  2. Wow, that’s very impressive! I think, I want to take that challenge and let’s see if ever I can survive with that very tight budget.

  3. Having just moved across the country, not changed my eating habits, and seen my grocery spending increase by about 40%, I’ve now been convinced that where you live matters a lot for food prices! When I was single I used to consistently spend less than $200/month on my groceries, but I think getting to $125 would be a huge challenge. If it has to be done it has to be done, but I wouldn’t be interested in limiting myself to that amount just for kicks. Unfortunately with this kind of spending limit you are IMO setting yourself up for higher health-related expenses later in life by having to eat a lot of cheap, unhealthy foods. Since I can afford it, I’m willing to spend a bit more on food to invest in my health.

    • Location can definitely make a difference in a grocery bill. However, I wonder if you switched to some more of the popular foods of the new region if your bill would go down a bit.

  4. I don’t think this would be difficult for me. I have never been a fan of fast food so that has never been a problem for me. I don’t drink alcohol, coffee or pop (soda to some of you!) so that would also not be a problem. I tend to eat small meals for breakfast and lunch and eat a regular dinner. The largest size of generic oatmeal suits me fine. I try to think in terms of multi use for foods (milk for breakfast and as a dessert, like hot chocolate). Last year my husband had to go on a super low fat diet for several months for a medical issue. Not only did we both lose quite a bit of weight but we also learned to be very creative with shopping and cooking. Saved money as well.

  5. Many retirees eat all of their meals at home on a similar budget. We budget $40 a week for the two of us. We have meat every night but not steak. We shop at a discount grocery chain called Save-A-Lot, which sells the same USDA Choice meat as the mainstream groceries. We also take advantage of the “buy one, get one free” sales at Publix.

    I think the secret to cutting the food budget is eliminating all waste and learning how to make a variety of gravies and sauces to give different presentations. One shelf in the freezer has separate mason jars of leftovers: mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni, beef, chicken, vegetables. When there is enough, I make a casserole and top it with the mashed potatoes. Or I’ll use the mashed potatoes to thicken homemade soup. I don’t throw food in the trash.

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