Overheard on CNN.com: $30 a week for food is plenty
CNN.com readers weigh in on whether they could get by on $30 a week for food.
September 21st, 2011
04:48 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: $30 a week for food is plenty

Comment of the day:

“I feed a family of four for about $100 a week. $30 seems like a lot of money for one person for a week. Yes, I could definitely do that!” - shandaar

Could you eat on $30 a week?

As part of a special report on hunger in America, CNN producer Sheila Steffen challenged herself to a grocery budget of 30 dollars a week—the average food stamp allotment for more than 40 million Americans. She wrote a blog about her shopping experience and asked readers: could you eat on $30 a week?

The answer from commenters was a resounding yes—and plenty of suggestions on how to do it, too.

Hungry Jack said, “I am in grad school and can eat pretty well on $30 week, and I don't mean Ramen Noodles. It is just a matter of planning, using coupons, and buying things on sale. Anyone who has even rudimentary cooking and math skills can get by just fine.”

BrendaS said, “In my household, there are three adults and two teenagers. We spend, on average about $250 a month and we don't get food stamps. All the adults work, but cost of living for utilities, gas to and from work and basic living needs, leaves us very little to buy quality, nutritious foods that are healthy for my family. We do it all the time, but it's not what everyone likes or would want if we had a little more to buy with.”

KindaSorta said, “Depending on where you live. The cost of food varies (from) state to state.”

Desy said, “The answer is obviously yes, but would I get the healthy variety I get now? Absolutely not.”

Charles said, “Here's an interesting epilogue – ask John Boehner, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin to feed themselves and their wives on food stamps amounts.”

victim of democrat hypocrisy responded, “Here's a more interesting epilogue–we're ALL going to be trying to live on $30 a week to pay for Obamacare, Medicare, and Social Security!”

Aaron said, “If you are not concerned with the origins of the food, $30 is possible, but if you wish to eat healthy, avoid processed foods and keep things natural/organic (as in no pesticides, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, etc), then $30 is a joke.”

T3chsupport said, “Here are some meals I was raised on. "Ronies": My dad's invention: tomato sauce + macaroni (Tabasco optional). Chilli Noodles: just like it sounds, chilli + macaroni (Tabasco optional). Hamburger gravy over white rice, or leftover mashed potatoes... mix all of that up with some frozen corn and nom nom. A snack was often times a flour tortilla laid directly on a stove burner, left to grill up a tiny bit, with some melted butter spread around inside. Roll up and nosh.”

Mary said, “The egg is really the world's most perfect food. And if you had to (and didn't mind the cholesterol) you could stretch a $3.00 carton to feed yourself breakfast lunch and dinner for a week. I'd rather eat scrambled eggs with salsa and toast than ramen."

Nick Frugal said, “Can of oatmeal ($3) + raisins ($4) = breakfast for a month ($7 total). Pound of dry beans ($1) + cup of barley/rice ($1) + cup of frozen chopped spinach ($.50) = lunch for a week ($2.50). That's two meals for $4.75/week. That leaves about $25 for dinner and snacks. It's doable. The key questions are number of calories and complete nutrition. That's not so easy.”

Jen said, “Trader Joe's is a great place to shop. They've got lots of healthy food and low prices.”

Yougottabekiddingme said, “OMG. $30 for a WEEK!? That's a luxury I can't afford. Try this: peanut butter sandwiches (on wheat bread) every morning for breakfast. A homemade spread (like bologna salad) on wheat for lunch. Hamburger Helper for dinner (or hot dogs.) Where are the fresh fruits and veggies? THERE AIN'T NONE – can't afford it. Consider yourself VERY lucky if you can afford more than $30.00 a week for food.”

KWDragon said, “Okay, I get what many of you are saying. I could do $30 per week when I was in college, too. So could my husband. However, we now have two teenage daughters. They have certain nutritional needs that Ramen seven days a week will not cover. Nor am I interested in mac & cheese all the time. It is not healthy. Milk is a requisite, as are fresh vegetables. We have a good supply of meat in the freezer, as we buy a whole animal or two every fall (whole pig, quarter cow). We don't eat fancy, but we do eat well. And there is no way we could feed the four of us EXCLUSIVELY on $120 per week, without hitting our freezer and the extra veggies we can each fall.”

American churches struggle

A newly released decade-long survey of American congregations shows religious health and vitality are weaker than they were 10 years ago. Fewer people are attending weekly services (a drop from 130 to 108 during the decade) and churches are facing harder times financially due to the recession.

Many CNN.com readers shared their own worship experience and thoughts about what caused the decline.

Chris said, “I know my religious attendance went down over the last ten years. I started the decade in a foreign country serving a mission for my church and I was 100 percent sure what I was doing was correct. Ten years later I still am glad I served, but my church attendance is down and I don't feel the same I used to. I think it is because I am 30 now and I see things differently.”

Ralph in Orange Park, FL said, “Maybe it is the result of people who used to think they were "obligated" to go to church finally figuring out that they are not."

DJ said, “Don't know where you are getting your info, but the Pentecostals are growing by leaps and bounds. This year, they are growing by the thousands.”

Ed Galbraith responded, “Sorry, DJ. Not so.”

Grant said, “I'm kind of glad. Never seemed to me that God needed all that earthly wealth anyway. Maybe folks will get back to praying without paying."

Believer said, “This decline must be taken in context. Certain denominations have been declining while others have been growing tremendously. And perhaps, could there be any co-relationship between our declining faith and worship, and our worsening economy – humm."

free2do said, “I think some people are turned off by some of the hypocrisy and political activism.”

Eli responded, “You are right...at least for me. The biggest issue with the church is the fallacy inside and outside of the whole organization.”

Jman said, “The fall away from the church is foretold in Revelations. 90% of what is written in Revelations has already come to pass. Maybe it is time for TakeaHike to wake up and ask for forgiveness and mercy from God.”

TheTruth72 said, “Christians are the ‘church.’ We don't need buildings to have a relationship with Jesus. I got out of Catholicism about a year ago due to tradition that didn't make sense to me and many things not even in the Bible. It’s hard telling people who are caught up in it, because they just continue to believe the man made doctrine.”

Unhappy Facebookers

Facebook has rolled out an overhaul to users’ home pages and they all thrilled. Among the changes, ‘Top Stories’ hover over recent posts in News Feeds and there is a new quick-scrolling ‘Ticker.’ Facebook says changes help people find the top news, not just the latest updates.

CNN.com readers shared their disapproval:

Anolderguy said, “’Top Stories?’ It is a top story if I think it is a top story. I don't like an algorithm deciding what is important to me. Some things just don't need to be automatic unless I ask it to be.”

ladycyanide said, “I don't care for most of the new changes, but they're tolerable. What's outright hexing me is the fact that my status updates, which are set to friends only, along with most of my profile, have become visible to anyone.”

Austinstar said, “Personally I have enjoyed using Facebook. I'm talking to people from my past that I probably wouldn't be communicating with otherwise. It also has helped me promote myself as a musician. However, I do not like the new changes. The ticker thing is way distracting. What annoys me most is that there is no way to opt out from these ‘improvements.’"

lbrunett said, “I haven't logged on to see the changes yet but I have heard plenty of complaints from my friends. I certainly do not want non-friends to see any of my posts and I hope they fix that right away.”

rpeck1971 said, “Facebook will not exist by 2016.”

Vsaxena said, “I'm getting very sick of this. I had organized my feed by hiding stuff I didn't care for, and Facebook has managed to undo all that with one stroke.”

ilstonehenj responded, “Ohhhh noooooeeesss!”

WebsterLong said, “Does Facebook think its time for me to have lunch? I'll await their answer.”

Do you feel your views align with these commenters' thoughts? Post a comment below or sound off on video

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity

soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    this is rediculous! Even 25 years ago when i was raising my 3 children as well as my neice & nephew it was tough doing it on $30 for each. & that was trying 2 have healthy food 4 them. AND no i didnt do it with food stamps! But a gettin a job now is tough

    September 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • IWANTajobnow

      notice there is no dairy there like MILK, and that bread where I live is $4-$5. and spinach rice and beans for lunch? Apples are $5 a bag and there are NO Veggies there at all – ok frozen spinach. Nope I don't buy it because now it can cost a lot in GAS to get to the store no matter how good prices might be or add in buss fair which takes this down to $26

      September 22, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. teedofftaxpayer

    I buy groceries once a month, I spend $120 and that includes detergent and all the laundry stuff. You have to plan your meals out ahead of time. I eat good and I eat healthy. It's all in the planning ahead.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      I would like to see your "healthy" menu on that budget.

      September 22, 2011 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. rc

    Ever wonder why poor people are often fat? Because the food that is filling and helps us get through the day is starch. We eat beans,potatoes and bread to feel full. Thirty bucks a week might fill us up, but as others have said here – we can't afford to buy fresh produce and organic food for those prices. We can live on thirty dollars a week, but not well. And you might have noticed. A lot of us are getting diabetes from being overweight and not eating well. That's what $30 a week will get us.

    September 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sigma

      My average grocery bill *is* $30/week for one person, and I eat a mainly organic, high fresh-produce diet. I imagine that it would vary *some* depending on where you live, I'm in the greater Seattle area, so not exactly a low cost of living area. If you plan meals, buy ingredients instead of pre-packaged and pre-made food, and keep meat to a minimum then this is a perfectly reasonable food budget.
      I buy flour, sugar, eggs, yeast and make my own bread for a lot less than 5 bucks a loaf. I buy frozen veggies for long term keeping, I buy fresh veggies and brown rice for stir fry, make home-made soup for so much less than the cans on the shelf... buy from the bulk section of the store and you save even more.
      it isn't that food costs too much, it's that so many people have forgotten how to *make* food, so instead they buy for 5-20 times the cost of making it themselves for the convenience of having someone else make it, and the packaging on top of it.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. pawsinsd

    I've gotten down to $10/day but that was nearly a decade ago and that included fresh produce. That was to feed two adults and included laundry, tampons, et al.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. justathought

    I remember when Pat Nixon (1969) said she could eat on $40/mo. She gave up in less than two weeks. She got tired of mac&cheese and pork&beans and said it couldn't be done. That was 42 years ago and inflation has more than qudrupled since then.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. ED

    I challenge all you I'M a mad taxpayer to show you bank statements most of you are well off and whiners.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. Babyboomer

    $30 a week is completely doable. People in the U.S. eat TOO MUCH FOOD in the first place. You can eat quite healthy on $30 a week – simply stay away from the fast food places. I eat a container of yogurt in the morning, with granola (about .75cents), lunch is chicken rice soup (homemade – $6 for a HUGE batch) and a light salad or fruit for dinner (about $3). Most people are clueless on how to eat properly in this country.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bode

    I do it you just do without the goodies, no soft drinks, candy, or anything unnesscary No cakes cookies , You eat it all what is left one day you again eat the next. It is not easy but it can be done.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. bobcat2u

    All these people on here saying you can't eat healthy on thirty dollars a week have never had to try. When necessity dictates, you find ways. You don't have to eat steak all the time. Veggie meals are very healthy and satisfying from time to time. You can go to produce stands and find excellent deals on fresh vegetables. Try eating a pot of beans sometimes. Chicken is another healthy meal and with a little imagination can be made into a fantastic meal. Many of us older individuals, I'm sure, remember days gone by when even a spam sandwich was a feast. You younger people on here say it can't be done. The rest of us know better.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. captain caveman

    In my opinion, most of ya sound like a bunch of helpless sheep. Ever hear of growing your own veggies? Even if you have minimal space, it can be done. People are entirely too reliant on supermarkets. How did mankind ever survive for sooo long? Get off your shiny hinies and do something constructive. Seeds and dirt do not cost very much. Here are some great suggestions. Learn to bake your own bread, and goodies. Hunting and fishing are allowed in a lot of locations. Try to be a little more creative in spending that $30 people. How about trying to pay attention to the amount of food that is thrown out. Anyone know how much money is lost on discarding food? It is a shame that people are too lazy to help themselves.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JEM

    Good grief. No wonder the Churches and food banks are doing poorly. There is so much unkindness, snarkiness and unsubstantiated opinions in these reply postings it is disheartening. I suspect that many of the postings are probably from that new military "mega-posting" where one person can pose as 50-200 and flood comment sections with trivial stuff to make it look like there is a consensus. Comment sections would be better served if what they actually wanted was considered comment not just noise.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sigma

    My average grocery bill *is* $30/week for one person, and I eat a mainly organic, high fresh-produce diet. I imagine that it would vary *some* depending on where you live, I'm in the greater Seattle area, so not exactly a low cost of living area. If you plan meals, buy ingredients instead of pre-packaged and pre-made food, and keep meat to a minimum then this is a perfectly reasonable food budget.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • sistersolja

      I am a federal gov't employee who makes pretty good annually – Also, my husband lost his job of 20 years 3 years ago that was a federal job – Chopped our income right down the middle. I did what I had to do and he did to – We worked as a team to clip coupons, shop for sales and get the clearanced items from the grocery stores before 10 am – Bacon/2.00. Oscar Meyer weiners(beef) – .50 for 8 pack – SAVINGS galore! It takes WORK to feed a family of 4 – We dress well, own our own home, pay all our bills on time and have 4 paid for vehichles – THE GRACE OF GOD has sustained us and we eat well everyday – We do NOT try and keep up with the JONES's – We live well and enjoy our lives and GIVE BACK to those community homeless family shelters in our town. It blesses them greatly! I do not wish to BLAME whoever should be in office for job loss/food insecurity, etc. I wish to reach out and help women FISH for themselves – I hold couponing classes and give tips on how to save – Especially women who actually are single mothers. I'm encouraging everyone to do their part – Reach out – one in six americans is food insecure and hungry... Very hungry. Don't talk about the problem – BE PART OF THE SOLUTION! That's the REAL american way!

      September 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Todd in DC

    I spend $30 on 1 sushi meal. Hmm, I'm not going to be getting much sympathy. Unfortunately, the single biggest reason why I can afford that is because I chose not to have kids. There are many reasons for raising a family, but affluence is not one of them.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rc

    I don't have a garden because I live in an apartment. I don't hunt my food for the same reason. However, I do buy as much organic food as I can. I can feed myself and two young kids for about a hundred dollars a week. That's with meat twice per week. That's without juice and all meals homemade.

    We do okay, but a low food budget means that nothing can go wrong. Produce has to be cooked/prepared right away. Meat has cooked or frozen asap. Wouldn't be swell if I could buy a bag of shrimp one day for the hell of it? Oh, that's right. Tuesday night is beans and tofu again.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Umair

    $30 a week on food in Chicago is not gonna happen maybe in other places but not chicago everything is over-priced and over taxed.

    September 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
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