Kate’s groceries for the week.
This week, as part of Hunger Action Month, Greater Chicago Food Depository Executive Director and CEO Kate Maehr is taking the SNAP Challenge. She is eating on just $35 worth of food for seven days – the average weekly benefit for an individual using SNAP in Illinois. Kate will share her thoughts and experiences as she continues through the Challenge.

On Saturday, I went grocery shopping for my SNAP Challenge week, armed with my menu plan and a shopping list. I’ve learned from past SNAP Challenges that you need to buy your necessities first.  If you have money to spare, you can swing back to the fresh produce, deli and other perishables that many of us take for granted. 

I spent almost double the amount of time I usually do in the store.  Between the back tracking and checking the shelves closely for the best price and then tallying the price, it takes extra time. I was at a store that uses a shopper “preferred” card.  I was able to use that card to take advantage of sales, but you quickly realize that sales or “best buys” can be out of reach because of their size.  For instance, I saw a bulk pack of chicken thighs on sale for $9. The package was double the size of the one I ultimately bought for $6.  I didn’t have the $3 to spare.

At the checkout counter, the strawberry jelly I had purchased as my last “splurge” item didn’t ring up for the sale price I was certain it was supposed to be.  And because of that, my total was $35.40.  I asked the checkout clerk about the sale price and she explained the sign on the shelf might have been wrong.  So, I had to have her take the jelly off. Total bill = $32.24.  I’m hoping today I can stop by a store and find a small jar of jelly for less than $2.76.

I took my food home and I was already wondering how it was going to last me the entire week. I felt worn out just from the process of grocery shopping on such a tight budget, and I hadn’t even started the Challenge yet!
On Sunday, the Challenge began. I had toast with peanut butter and a glass of water for breakfast. By the time I had a can of soup and hardboiled egg for lunch, I was already feeling hungry and fatigued. It could be the lack of caffeine – I couldn’t afford coffee. For dinner, I had two chicken thighs, frozen broccoli and white rice for dinner.
I know this week isn’t going to be easy, but this is something that the 860,670 food insecure individuals in our community struggle with on a daily basis. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and experiences with you as the Challenge continues.

-Kate