Guest blog: Shopping, cooking and living on $31.92 for one week (SNAP Challenge)

In college, I learned right away that I knew little about cooking and I could hardly afford to buy the needed food when I found a recipe I wanted to try. Recently a coworker posted a photo of the food she purchased during the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge posed by Hunger Free Colorado to Leadership Denver. My thoughts went back to those years in college, and I wondered how I would make out under those kinds of constraints again.

I was challenged to eat on a budget of $31.92 for a week. One of my primary concerns was avoiding hunger so that I wouldn’t be ornery around others. I went shopping at the local Walmart, purchasing fruits and vegetables first and then proteins. I finished up my shopping list with carbs making sure I had plenty of food to eat.  At checkout I had $3.84 left to spend.

I had oatmeal with brown sugar or an omelet with spinach each morning. I had a banana every day and I ate an apple late in the week.  I broke down a chicken and roasted the carcass, using it and the crispy skin to simmer with carrots, onions and garlic for chicken stock. I used some chicken stock with tomato sauce and reduced it with garlic, onion and meat from the chicken wings to make marinara sauce.  My favorite dish was roasted acorn squash that I stuffed with rice and beans that were cooked with chicken stock and mixed with wilted spinach. I topped it with some marinara sauce for some delightful flavor.  I was able to bake four loaves of my own bread, topped with an egg wash and coated with brown sugar oatmeal.

I learned there are a lot of possibilities regarding meal options. The real challenges that I faced were related to a lack in economies of scale because of marketing and package sizes. Unable to afford preferences, I struggled with many of my personal eating habits and cravings. I used my remaining funds to buy a quart of chocolate ice cream late in the week.

Most importantly, people starting asking me questions and this opportunity created greater awareness in my life and those around me.

What would you eat with only $4.56 per day? Try the SNAP Challenge, and then share your experience with Hunger Free Colorado and others. Tell us your thoughts here, tweet about it with the hashtag #SNAPChallenge or comment on our Facebook page.


Guest blog by Jeremy Goodman, general manager for Hilton Garden Inn Denver South in Englewood, Colo. Hunger Free Colorado posed the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge to Leadership Denver in November. Learn more about initiatives to end hunger in Colorado at


About Michelle Ray

Michelle is the Director of Communications for Hunger Free Colorado.


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2 Responses to “Guest blog: Shopping, cooking and living on $31.92 for one week (SNAP Challenge)”

  1. Les Elam December 20, 2012 4:31 pm

    could we have grocery list, menus and recipes please?

    • Regan Byrd December 28, 2012 3:16 pm

      Hello Les! Sorry for the delay in responding. Cooking Matters, a program of Share Our Strength, has some wonderful resources regarding this. The following link has some tips and recipes. I hope that is useful, and thank you for your interest!