The other day, an NBCNews.com article reported that users of food stamps could see a reduction in benefits due to the sequester should congress not act. I was somewhat surprised by the amounts of SNAP benefits people were receiving mentioned in the article.
Personally, our family lives in the Chicagoland area where food prices can be fairly high, and we spend nowhere near the maximum SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotment for a family of four. In fact, we don’t even spend the average per household. Here’s how we made due with our limited food budget.
According to the NBC News article, “The approximately 47 million Americans who rely on the modern food stamp program could see their monthly assistance cut this year because a recession-era benefits boost is set to expire.”
It goes on to say, “The maximum allotment for a family of four is currently $668, but benefits levels can vary greatly. The average monthly benefit in November was $135.72 per person, or $281.21 per household, according to the Department of Agriculture.”
So, if you’re wondering how our numbers compare, let me provide some background and then the number themselves.
We do almost all our shopping at Aldi. Aldi doesn’t offer name brands. We bag our own groceries at Aldi, and we have to bring our own bags, or buy them when we’re there. It’s a no-frills type shopping environment, where awesome prices and efficiency are the name of the game. We typically pair this weekly outing with a bi-weekly trip to Wal-mart where we pick up things like toiletries, baby products like diapers and wipes, and a few items that either aren’t available or we don’t prefer buying at Aldi.
Our weekly Aldi bill typically ranges around $40-$50 a week, and the Wal-mart bill runs about $35 every two weeks. This leaves us with a monthly shopping bill of about $250 a month.
An Average Week
So what does our weekly shopping list and associated bill look like? Well, here is a typical week’s grocery list based upon actual products and amounts from our receipts:
- Boxes of Cereal (2) – $3.58
- Grade A Large Eggs – $1.49
- Pretzel Sticks – $1.29
- 1 lb Sliced Lunchmeat – $3.49
- Shredded Mozzarella 1 lb. – $3.29
- Yogurts (6) – $2.34
- White Bread – $.85
- Iceberg Lettuce – $.89
- Tropical Fruit Salad (2) – $1.78
- Tropical Juice – $.99
- Orange Juice w/ Calcium – $1.89
- Red Peppers (3) – $1.47
- 85% Lean Beef – $2.79
- 16″ Cheese Deli Pizza – $4.99
- Grapefruit (4) – $1.56
- 2% Milk 1 gallon – $1.88
- Boneless Chicken Breasts (3 lbs.) – $6.49
- Animal Crackers – $1.29
These items taxed at a 2.25 percent rate come to a total of just over $43 and give us a pretty good variety of milk, dairy, fruits (fresh and canned) and veggies. Of course our menu items vary from week to week, but over the last three weeks, our bills have been $40.47, $41.66, and $48.14 for a weekly average of $43.42 or a monthly average of $173.68. Added to our two monthly Wal-mart bills and we’re looking at a total average of right around $240. Were we receiving the average SNAP benefits of $135 per person a month, our family of four would be getting $540 a month or more than double our average expenditure in this area.
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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.
Linn, Allison. NBCNews.com. “Food stamp users could see a benefits cut, if Congress doesn’t act”. February 13, 2013. http://www.nbcnews.com/business/economywatch/food-stamp-users-could-see-benefits-cut-if-congress-doesnt-1B8329858. February 15, 2013.