Bargaineering contributor Claes Bell recently explored this question in a post called Your Take: Could You Live On Food Stamps?
Claes linked to a report at CBS News which stated that benefits were being reduced:
[On Friday, November 1st, ] “…Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits are set to fall for more than 47 million lower-income people — 1 in 7 Americans — most of whom live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. Barring congressional intervention, the maximum payment for a family of four will shrink from $668 a month to $632, or $432 over the course of a year. That amounts to 21 meals per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cuts will leave participants in the program, better known as food stamps, with an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal.”
Pay close attention to the way that last sentence is written. “…with an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal.” I agree that $1.40 is not enough money for a meal. But realize that the entire meal is not costing $1.40. There are four in this family so the allotted cost for each meal is actually $5.60.
And I do realize this is the “maximum” amount that a family of four might receive. Depending on the amount of income coming into the household, this might be a lot less. This is also “supplemental” assistance, so if a family is receiving the maximum, they may not have much money coming in otherwise.
Let’s break those numbers down.
$632 per month. If there are 31 days in a month, that’s $20.39 per day. There are four people eating three meals per day. 12 meals per day multiplied by 31 days is 372 meals.
Hold on a minute. How are they figuring only $1.40 per meal? I’m getting $1.69 per meal. There would need to be 451 meals each month in order for the meal allotment per person to be that low.
Here are my numbers again:
4 people x 3 meals each day = 12 meals
12 meals each day x 31 days in the month = 372 meals
$632 divided by 372 meals = $1.6989 so let’s just round up to $1.70.
Somehow they have 79 more meals each month. Hmmm… is it common to have 5.26 meals each day? Are they counting two “snack” meals per day?
All right. Moving on with my number, $1.70 or $6.80 per meal, I still think that is a small amount for a meal. Depending on the meal. Breakfast typically will cost less than dinner. And very often when a family is receiving food stamps, the school aged children are eligible for free breakfast and lunch on the days they attend. If there are 20 school days in the month, that’s 40 less meals for the month.
Now there are actually 332 meals. Dividing $632 by 332, there is $1.90 per person or $7.60 per meal. Or $22.80 for meals for the day.
That is actually doable. And once again I’m reminded of why it’s a struggle for me to keep food on the table at our current budget. I allot $175 each week for groceries, and basically anything from the grocery store like toilet paper, aluminum foil, sandwich bags, etc. Basically, you could say we are getting by on $23 a day for groceries.
So yes, it can be done.
There are ways to get by on small amounts of food, and it doesn’t mean eating only beans and rice.
I’ll share how we eat, and how we manage on this amount in another post.
How much money does your family spend on food each month? How does that equate into cost per person?
This post was included at:
Yakezie Carnival at One Cent at a Time
Financial Carnival for Young Adults at Financial Nerd
Carnival of Financial Planning at Planting Our Pennies
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie at Hurricanes, Panties
Carn of MoneyPros at Money Pros
Lifestyle Carnival at Drop the Cookies