A couple of years ago, two U.S. lawmakers made headlines by participating in a social experiment that had them living solely on $21 worth of federal food stamps in a week. These lawmakers, Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, concluded that it is not possible to maintain a healthy diet using the food stamps that the federal government gives.
However, with the current economic crisis, many unemployed Americans are left with no choice but to survive on food stamps. Indeed, this is a difficult thing to do, but it can be done if you make wise buying decisions. Following are tips on how to survive on food stamps alone.
- Do not buy junk food. While they are inexpensive, junk foods provide little nourishment and curb hunger for only a short of period of time. Instead of buying junk food, choose inexpensive food products that will stay fresh for a while yet are healthier than junk food. Examples are pasta, frozen chicken and beef, peanut butter, oatmeal, frozen and canned vegetables. Just store them in the refrigerator, and they are bound to last until your next food stamps are due.
- Watch out for sales in grocery stores and supermarkets. This is a great way to get fruits and vegetables at significantly cheaper prices. Also look out for clearance sales of meat. Keep in mind, though, that meat bought during a clearance sale has to be consumed immediately, since they are near to the "sell by date."
- Use coupons when shopping. Food manufacturers give away coupons when they want consumers to try out new products, or they want sales of products to increase. Coupons are given away at supermarkets and grocery stores. There are also coupons in newspapers. You can also print out coupons from the Internet. Check out the following websites for coupons: coolsavings, valpak, and smartsource.
- Get a store card. Grocery stores and supermarkets reward loyal shoppers with special discounts every time they shop. Those discounts really matter a lot if you are on a food stamp budget. You have to get savings anyway you can get them.
- Master the art of comparison shopping. When shopping for food products, compare different brands of the same item. Check out the price and the nutritional content. If there is no better choice, do not feel guilty about going for the cheapest priced brand.
- Discover bargains at farmer's markets. Like so many Americans, you are probably used to shopping in groceries and supermarkets. The few that shop in farmer's markets know that you can get fresh produce at cheaper prices there. County fairs and shows are also a good place to look for low-priced fresh fruits and vegetables.
Surviving on food stamps is difficult but doable. Use the experience to become a wiser and more money-conscious consumer.