Food is an expensive necessity that consumes a large portion of many people’s monthly budget. With the increase in families staying at home, individuals working from home, and the uptick in unemployment in the wake of COVID-19, it makes sense that cooking at home has been on the rise. While ordering takeout or delivery has also likely been on the rise, home-cooked meals remain the best way for budgeting your food expenses. Not only can cooking help you save money; it can also be a fun activity to do with your family. However, tighter budgets can sometimes mean less variety and having to get creative to keep you and your family’s taste buds happy. Enter the SNAP Challenge. 

Created to help raise awareness of hunger and food insecurity in America, the SNAP Challenge encourages participants to spend no more than $4.46 per person per day—the average benefits in food assistance program allotment—on food for the duration of the Challenge. While $4.46 may or may not be your reality, we followed the hashtag to turn up some great resources and SNAP Challenge recipe strategies for anyone that is trying to stretch a dollar. 

Good and Cheap

Leanne Brown decided to write the Good and Cheap cookbook because she believes that everyone, regardless of their budget, deserves to eat well every day. Brown designed each recipe specifically for people eating on the $4.46 per day SNAP budget. From breakfast to dessert, and everything in between, this cookbook not only provides a variety of recipes, but Brown offers tips and tricks for making the most out of budgeting your food. As yes, it really is 100% free and can be downloaded right onto your device. The book is available for PDF download completely FREE

Budget Bytes

Beth Moncel of Budget Bytes created her blog to help people make satisfying meals on small budgets. To stand by her mission, Moncel participated in the SNAP Challenge, documenting her experience, shopping lists, and reflections. You can read her insights here and see exactly what she bought each day. Moncel discusses the challenges of eating on such a small budget from the time-consuming planning to the lack of “dietary variety” when budgeting and shopping for food. While her insights are honest and eye-opening, her shopping lists can be used as a great resource. The best part for those of you on a budget? Every Budget Bytes recipe includes a cost estimation, making planning within your budget that much easier and saving you some time. 

Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

 Spend Smart. Eat Smart. is a project of Iowa State University. The platform offers a wide range of resources for people to eat well without compromising their budget. They even offer a free app so you can take their resources on the go! Not only do they provide a variety of delicious recipes and the cost per serving, but they also offer resources that help you plan and shop so you can stay within your means. From the Grocery Budget Calculator to identifying pantry essentials, Spend Smart. Eat Smart. is a one-stop shop for every step of the budgeting process. While this is a great resource for anyone cooking on a budget, it is a particularly good choice for those of you who need a little more guidance in the best approaches to budgeting food and bringing budget-friendly variety to your table.

Eat Fresh

In turning to the SNAP Challenge to cook on a budget, Eat Fresh provides a great resource. Theirs is a California-based initiative offering a digital nutrition database designed specifically with people who are SNAP-eligible in mind. The most useful feature? Recipes can be sorted to accommodate specific allergies and dietary needs. Looking to save time? Eat Fresh offers meal plan recipe bundles that include anywhere from 3 to 5 recipes. The site also offers tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To help build a sense of community around the struggles so many can identify with, the site offers an “Ask a Dietitian” forum in which people can receive free advice from a certified dietitian.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

 Eating Healthy on a Budget is an interactive course and database designed by the New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. What’s unique about this food-budgeting resource is that it is designed as an educational experience aimed at helping people plan, purchase, and prepare healthy meals no matter their budget. A cool feature of this resource can be found under the “Prepare” module. You can find several ideas for reusing leftovers, helping you make the most of your SNAP challenge budget and avoid wasting food. Talk about a win-win! While this platform provides an educational course to help people better tackle the reality of eating on a budget, it also offers some great resources ranging from specific SNAP challenge-friendly recipes to a budget tip sheet.

 While it can be time-consuming to budget and plan every meal, we hope these resources can help you save time, shop smarter, and satisfy your taste buds without stretching your wallet.