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SNAP Challenge: The Four Cs

cash, coupons, club card and calculator

I approached my shopping trip to prepare for the SNAP Challenge armed with the 4 Cs: coupons, calculator, club card, and cash. With a budget of only $20, I wanted to make sure I was ready for the bargains.

Generally, when I go into any grocery store I know exactly what I need/want, and don’t dilly-dally around, except perhaps to inspect the produce department. This time, however, I was stymied—I spent nearly an hour walking up and down each and every aisle, looking at special saver items, comparing them with what I saw on sale in the previous aisle. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a household with little free time to shop on such a restrictive budget.

In the end, here’s what I came away with:

Food bought
  • 4 Light & Fit yogurts
  • 1 package turkey bacon
  • 1 package Nestle instant coffee
  • 2 cans of soup
  • 1 package tortellini
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce
  • 2 cans of pineapple
  • 2 packages of frozen rice and vegetables
  • 2 packages of frozen vegetables
  • 1 package molasses cookies

The total cost: $17.83. I was pretty impressed, however, with the amount of savings accrued; thanks to store specials and coupons, I saved $13 on my order.

Notice anything missing? That’s right—not a single fresh item. My plans for making meals from scratch went out the window once I tallied all the ingredients. My initial idea was to make a quiche and vegetable soup from scratch, but the quiche ingredients (eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables) would have cost half of my budget. Homemade soup would have been cheaper than quiche, but I fortunately found two cans of discontinued organic soup on sale for $1.19 per can, with a $1 off coupon for buying two.

About a week before the challenge, I was in line behind an elderly man at Safeway, who paid for his purchase with a SNAP EBT card. His basket was filled with canned soups and vegetables, and at the time I believed he chose those items over fresh or frozen options simply as a matter of preference. Now I’m beginning to understand it may have been one of necessity.

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