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Eating well on a food stamp budget

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Up until a few days ago(literally) I was a poor , broke college student. Since graduating in late May, not much has changed actually and only now I’m a poor, broke college graduate.  But that’s neither here nor there is it now? Between talks with friends, family members, and reading the news, I know I’m not the only one feeling the economic pinch.

If there is anything that I’ve learned it’s that now more than ever before it’s so important for me to have a handle on my finances and expenses. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to get a handle on finances is to start with the food budget. Eating frugal is the key and there is no better way to practice this than to eat and buy food on a food stamp budget. Yes, a food stamp budget. In New York City the normal allotment for a single person is $200 per month, or $50 per week. To some, it may sound like not a lot but in actuality it’s more than do-able-if your smart about it. I’ve listed a few ways that help me eat well on this type of budget.

– Pick your supermarket-or variety of supermarkets.

Being the big city gal that I am my grocery of choice is Trader Joes. It’s a great place for staples like pasta, meat, bread, and even breakfast food. Be careful though, as much as they are known for affordable prices, they are just as much known for packaged convenience foods. The ease of just being able to pop open a package and have a ready-made meal might be tempting but they can also be hazardous to the pocketbook.

Instead of buying greasy, marked up products, try making your own version. You know, the way these used to do in the old days before microwaves?

-Utilize the farmers market

If you have a farmers market in your area, use it! I can not stress this enough. The Farmers Market is a great place to buy fresh produce, and even hand-made specialty foods. Farmer’s markets are great, especially in the summer when the fruits are especially popping.

-Skip the extras

Do you really need almond butter over plain old peanut butter? Me thinks not, and you should too. A good indicator that I might be wasting my money on an item is if it’s specially flavored some how. A perfect example would be those stuffed chicken cutlets or pre-made hamburger patties. At that point, your just sacrificing dollars for laziness.


If there is anything I’ve learned from eating on a budget it’s the importance of creation. Instead of buying pre-made or hot meals, create them instead.

-Don’t buy duplicates

If I have half a box of spaghetti noodles I’m not going to be buying penne anytime soon. I’ll use what I have first before buying something new.

-Shop around a bargain

When grocery shopping it’s great to have a list, but I always make sure to have an open mind. If there’s a bargain that doesn’t fit with what’s on the list, I might buy it and change-up the food list to accommodate.

From what you’re buying to where you’re buying it, feeding yourself on a budget is all about being being flexible and keeping an open mind.



About Niesha Davis

Niesha Davis is an internationally based writer and editor. She has written for: Sixth Tone, Women's Health, Everyday Health, Bust, Bitch, Narratively, The Awl, and other publications. Follow her travels on youtube at brown and abroad.

5 responses »

  1. onewithbooks

    I stumbled across your blog and I think this is a great topic. I would be interested in seeing a few recipes. Have a great day!

  2. Bambo Leo_Santa Domingo_DR

    WOW.WOW.WOW. This is amazing. What great advice, baby girl! Did you ever try Food Bazaar in Bushwick off of the J-Train…try this Mami.

  3. I shop on a budget to for me and my husband. But I disagree with some of your advice. I use coupons and even though you say don’t buy duplicates, I can’t tell you how much money it saves us if I buy something I know I’m going to need again eventually when it’s on sale that way eliminating the need to pay full price for something ever again. It’s called having a stockpile. That way, with my non-perishables, I can buy the stuff we eat all the time when it’s cheap instead of when I have to have it.

    • Hey Miss Lissy,
      You make a great point actually. A stock pile is a really benefical thing to have actually especially if there’s a lot of people. I guess for me, since I’m just one person, I like to buy as I go instead of stocking up.


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