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Could you make do with about $4 a day on grocery money?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on November 19, 2013

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Photo of Leah Craig

“If it was just me, I think I could do that.”

Photo of Katy Wade

“Yes, I think I can. But I would get really tired of eating rice and beans.”

Photo of Andrew Mitchell

“I don’t think so. I probably spend five bucks on chicken and then you want a side.”

Photo of Matt Larsen

“I would say yes because I’ve done it and I know how tough it is.”


Leslie Swearingen 3 years ago

I would suggest trying lunch meat or fried egg sandwiches. I know Walmart has Banquet frozen dinners for a buck each and you can get an individual pizza for that much. Popcorn to snack on.

John Graham 3 years ago

As discussed on another thread this is an unfair question. This $4 amount alludes to the avg SNAP supplement in KS. Since $4 is less than the maximum benefit it indicates the recipient has a source of income. SNAP is a "supplemental" funding never meant to be the sole source of a recipient's food budget. Thus the supplement is used in addition to money from the person's source of income to buy food.

If you would look at the data from the USDA, in Sept 2013, the average weekly cost of food in the US for the "thrifty" food budget level is male $42.50 and female $37.70. One has to consider that Lawrence and KS are both below national avg for cost of living, which means recipients are getting more for their benefit compared to avg. The USDA states the "thrifty" level budget allows for three meals made at home that meet nutritional guidelines including fresh fruit and vegetables, plus a snack. The current maximum SNAP benefit is $189 per month. If one takes into account there is 4.33 weeks per month, the SNAP max allowance works out to $43.62 per week for an individual. As one can see this is more than what is needed to feed an individual the USDA "thrifty" food plan without any money from the individual.

The avg monthly SNAP benefit in KS in FY 2012 was $125.11 per person. This works out to $28.87 per week. Using above cost data of $42.50 food cost for a male "thrifty" plan, the avg SNAP benefit in KS provides 68% of the weekly food cost. Bearing in mind since this is not the maximum benefit it means the avg recipient has another source of income to help pay for food costs. Considering the avg recipient is working, the fact the "supplement" is covering 2/3 rds of the avg individual's food cost does not seem unreasonable. Again for those with no income the maximum SNAP allowance covers the entire food cost of a "thrifty" plan.

While the SNAP benefits are not exorbitant by any means the above numbers from USDA data shows the benefits are reasonable based on available data.

If you are not going to allow "the person on the street" to use any of their own money, at least allow them the maximum daily SNAP benefit which works out to $6.23 per day not the $4 per day in the question.

Andrew Dufour 3 years ago

John I think the thing that you miss is that people living on such a small amount that they only get $4 a day for food from SNAP probably don't have a lot of excess income for food. To qualify for SNAP an individual must gross only 130% of the Federal Poverty Line and net no more than 100% of the FPL. If they're right at 100% of the FPL they're not going to get the maximum SNAP benefit. The FPL for a family of four is 23,550, on that amount of money it's highly unlikely they're setting aside any money for groceries and SNAP is probably their only income to buy groceries. That's the problem with the SNAP program, it's supposed to be supplemental but it's simply not.

John Graham 3 years ago

If the family is on SNAP they most likely qualify for other forms of assistance as well. SNAP makes allowances for housing, utilities, child support, dependent support, medical care for elderly/disabled, property taxes and insurance. Thus SNAP does allow deductions from income before calculating benefit. The gov't has decided on the formula and income limits. If you have a problem with those guidelines then argue with the USDA. But to complain that a supplement program doesn't provide for the full food budget is no more fair than buying a five passenger car and then complaining it can't haul the entire family of eight. SNAP was never designed to be the sole source of a family's food budget. To complain that families are using it as the sole source not as a supplement is sad but that is not the fault of SNAP. To expect a family even with only $23k income to pay absolutely nothing towards their food budget is not reasonable in my opinion or the opinion of the gov't. That is why SNAP is a supplement program not a sole source funding program.

Jean Robart 3 years ago

I have done it---when you can't go grocery shopping but once a month(and then for not much stuff) you learn to fix pasta in many different ways.

DwardF 3 years ago

Watch the TV show Extreme Cheapskates. $4 is too much for those folks.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Lawrence is on the high end for cost of living and low end on wages. College towns are seldom on the low end for cost of living. Super inflation is what comes to mind.

Taxes in Lawrence have increased more than 100% since the early 90's so I learned on Monday.

John Graham 3 years ago

Lawrence cost of living is below the national average. Lawrence may be one of the more expensive towns in KS but it is still below national average.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Just so we know….

Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low, and fewer people are working as a percent of the population than at any time in the past 30 years. ( good luck college grads)

In addition to violating just about every conceivable ideal of community fairness and decency, this state of affairs is hurting the economy. Average Americans account for most of the spending in the country. And thanks to the refusal of rich companies like Wal-Mart to share more of their wealth with the people who create it, average Americans are broke.

When people are broke, they can't buy things. When people can't buy things, companies can't grow. And when companies can't grow, they cut costs (fire more people). And, in so doing, they make more people broke.

In the past 30 years, American business has become ever-more obsessed with "shareholder value," a concept that unfortunately has come to be defined as short-term profit maximization. And as a result, America's corporations have lost sight of the other kinds of value that great companies can create.

Great companies do not simply "maximize profits," as so many of America's companies are now doing.

Rather, great companies create value for all three of their major constituencies: customers, shareholders, and employees.

Read more:

Charles Corbett 3 years ago

I live on 99 dollars in food stamps a month I recieve 84 hundred a year in income im not .complaining but for real I spend around 200 dlls. a month and that's enough to live decent as far as food goes people should learn to budget their income more is what I have to say

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