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. Nickolas

    So i watched the face of hunger video, and i was a little appalled. for one that woman was at least 250lbs and im sorry but as a college student that survives on $60 a month to feed myself im sorry she is not the face of hunger in America. I have went weeks without eating more than one pack of ramen noodles a day. three to four days with nothing. Maybe if she learned not to gorge herself they would have enough food. This issues really hits home with me and i just think people need to look at the real face of hunger in this country.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Please take an english class next semester! Oh, and guess what? You're not the face of poverty either. Not by a LONG shot.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Semper Fidelis

      I knew a man once who had been starved almost to death in a POW camp during the war. HE looked about 250lbs too! When they drained off the water in his body he sudenly reduced to 150lbs. It was to do with malfunctioning kidneys.

      Don't make statements if you really don't have any medical background, OK?

      September 30, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lh

    Eating? depends on what your eat. A gallon of milk is $4, bread is about $4, so what would you spend the other $2 on?For myself, i eat shredded wheat, and oatmeal for breakfast, lunch is PBJ sandwiches, and dinner is vegetables and whole wheat pasta. A bag of vegies $1=$30 a month, box of pasta $1=$30 a month, milk for month $16, shredded wheat $12 a month, PBJ is $14 per month, =$100. My diet is high fiber, no cholestorol, low sodium, low fat, diet. But that is me, and i eat out about once a week, for pizza, to splurge, but normally it seems about $35.00 a week for me

    September 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pamela

      You may think you're eating healthily, but you're not. The lack of nutritional variation in your diet is bordering on dangerous.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lh

    By the way, i buy in bulk. A gian can of fruit, is about $5.00. Should last at least 2 weeks.
    But here is the real, how many people eat just a serving? Most people eat until they are full.
    That is what we are used to.
    That is what is the hard part to get over, eating just the serving, instead of eating to get full.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jady

    my girlfriend and I live together. We both weigh next to nothing. Even with an everyday market with cheap produce down the street. We can not feed ourselves adequately on 30 dollars a week. Even if we go to "Friendlys" or an "applebees" occasionally, for that one night out the bill is around 20-30 for one night. To me that doesn't seem to frivolous at all. We both work and the people doing these research studies and writing these articles don't have to live the reality of eating crappy processed food everyday to survive for thirty dollars a week. Ridiculous. I can go days without eating so I can make my rent money but these jerks are four star dining every night or wasting money at wholefoods everyday. So I'll pose the question. Can a person eat well and HEALTHY for under $30 a week. I have tried and only manage to do that if I maybe don't eat two days out of the week and stay shut up in my apartment eating pasta every night with salt and oil on it.

    September 26, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Josh

    Didn't even realize people would consider it a problem to eat on just $30 a week before reading this article. I eat primarily fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans, and $30/week is way more than enough.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Not true in ANY market.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kelley

    I have a family of four and spend about 130 on groceries per week. We cook full meals each day for dinner, my boyfriend and i come home for sandwiches during our lunch break at work – and my two daughters eat their lunch from the cafeteria at school. I am surprised how well everyone seems to be able to get by on so little... of-course we buy primarily organic foods – the milk alone cost twice the grocery brand. So maybe its our own fault that we buy the organics. We choose to eat healthy as oppose to just cheap.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Linh

    Ultimately when it come down to how money is spent in your budget to allow for food it up to you what you want to sacrifice in order to eat better. Things like cable bills, Internet, and phone are not a need but rather a want. I work as a nanny taking care of four kids for two families four days a week, making about 500 a week. With my budgeting I manage to spend at least 100 on food per week, pay all my bills including rent as well as paying for undergrad school upfront every semester.

    September 27, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joyce

    Noticed in the picture two cans of tuna. Maybe you'd like some mayo with that? No eggs for breakfast? So, what's going on the bread? Gonna eat dry toast? I buy almost everything on sale, but I still couldn't eat healthy i.e. veggies, fruit, lean meat and fish for 30 bucks a week!

    September 27, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Amused

    I'll give an A for effort to the fact that the writer was not used to bargain shopping. Looking at the picture of what they bought, I see name brand and expensive choices. Skinless chicken breasts? You are paying for the convenience. Buy a whole chicken or buy skin on thighs or leg quarters. 2.99 for a load of whole wheat bread? I can imagine sales were not hit either.

    $30 a person a week is totally doable, and it is way more than my current budget at $45/week for 2 adults. For a family of 4, that is $120 a week! What helps is starting off with a decently stocked pantry (yes, there are upfront costs), meal planning around loss leader sales items.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tray117

    I LOVE how some people, in this case, CNN producer Sheila Steffen, can try some stupid experiment for a lousy couple of weeks out of her high-paying corporate lifestyle and tell us poor unwashed to shut up and stop complaining. Yes, you can stretch $30/week for food but it's not good food. And with all the horror stories on this same network (and others) about the poisons and pesticides on our fruits and veggies we should all be eating organic. I swear there is some conspiracy going on in this country by those in charge to try to keep us complacent and silent about our lousy predicament so we won't kill and eat THEM. I've worked hard all my life since I'm 13 and now, at 45, am laid off and barely making ends meet. And before all you haters weigh in just shut up. We all couldn't afford going to Harvard and making the right connections and we're FINE with that. Just stop telling us bottom-rungers how to live when you have no idea.

    September 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Just shut up? You mean you're the only one who gets to rant and rave like an imbecile?

      September 28, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • tc

      Laid off? Yet still have a computer and the internet. Priorities: laughable.

      October 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. zay

    My husband and I spend about $60 on groceries per week. We buy organic milk and diary products, lots of fruits, vegetables, may be a bit of meat or shrimps or fish, natural bread, and some grains. We try to shop in such stores as Sprouts or in some discount Mexican grocery stores like Fiesta or el Ranchero. We also eat out, but if we did not, we still would be able to make it up to $60 per week or even lesser. However, I think that for one person it would be much harder to live on $30 dollars per week. When you are two or more, you share everything and you can afford variety of foods. And when you are only one, choices are limited.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Semper Fidelis

      Well put zay – and of course you are dead right. Cheers.

      September 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ed Way

    Man, I thought that I was careful in my spending for groceries, but after reading posted comments, I would have to say more power to the people who can force themselves to eat the way they do. I'd probably starve if I only spent $30/week for food.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. N

    $30? No way that is going to purchase the nutrition filled food we all need. It won't even purchase enough snack, junk food!

    September 30, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. countrylivinginohio

    I live in Ohio where I know the cost of food is reasonable. I do not exceed $30 a week for the each of us in the family and I have a pantry full of items. You can make alot of foods people buy processed homemade... hamburger helper using dry milk, noodles and tomatoes. Soups can be made for cents for a huge pot. I don't buy name brand items unless they're cheaper than generic. And we have a BIG garden. That's practically free food.

    October 3, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
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    October 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
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