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Announcing the October Challenge

What we have come up with for October’s challenge is off the beaten path, but it is topical and fits well with my work as a food advocate. John & I have been talking for months about how much we enjoyed the April Food Challenge and ever since, we’ve considered options for a new challenge that was similar.

For the month of October, we will eat on an amount that equals what the average Alabama resident receives as part of the food stamp benefit program.  Based on data from this table,  the average Alabama food stamp recipient in fiscal year 2010 received $126.90 per month in assistance.  As there are two of us, we will double that amount to $253.80.

Because this is such an unusual challenge, we sat down and came up with a few rules to keep things as realistic as possible.

The Rules
  1. A Visa gift card will be purchased before the start of the challenge for the full amount of the money allotted for the challenge.  All purchases will be made with this gift card and all receipts will be kept and logged. Food purchases will be treated as though they are being made with food stamps. This means that no taxes will be counted. In order to account for the difference, 10% (local tax rate) will be added to the total Visa gift card amount, making the total starting amount $279.18.

  2. Basic pantry staples that are found in the average household such as salt, seasonings, tea, sugar, etc. will not be purchased until needed.

  3. The menu for the month will include only those items available from grocers in the local area and only items that may be purchased using food stamps.

  4. Menus and recipes will be posted for all meals eaten during the challenge.

  5. Coupons may be used, but as per tax laws, we will pay taxes on the amount of the coupon.

  • While the majority of meals will be made at home, we want to acknowledge and illustrate that it is possible to dine out even on a fixed income. For that reason we are not ruling out an occasional meal outside the home.

  • Food already on hand may be used and will be charged to the monthly budget based on the amount actually paid for the item (s). When the amount paid for an item is not known, the current price at a local market will be applied.

  • In the event of an invitation to eat at someone’s home, a dish will be prepared at home that will be taken along. The cost of the prepared dish will be counted toward the month’s total.  Additionally, any houseguests will be fed without increasing the budget amount.

  • As John works outside the home, his lunch meals and snacks will be brought from home for the duration of the challenge.

  • EDITED TO ADD: We will not rely primarily on our homegrown and home canned goods during this challenge. When any home canned products are used they will be charged at market value.


Because of my work bringing to light the ongoing food insecurity problems that so many suffer from in this country, I hope that this challenge will cause people to look more closely at both the quality and amount of what they eat as well as what we waste, often without a thought.

We also want to illustrate that it is entirely possible to eat and eat well on a small amount of money. That’s why our shopping lists and receipts will be displayed for the world to see during the challenge.  By following along, even those with severely limited kitchen or budgeting skills will be better able to feed themselves great food without breaking the bank.

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