a balanced plate with room for dessert

SNAP Challenge: Menu Planning & Grocery Shopping

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Prepping for the Week – Menu Planning and Grocery Shopping

Prompt from Feeding America – “How did your shopping cart look compared to a normal week? What choices did you have to make about the types of food you could afford, where you shopped, or the nutritional quality and variety of food?

I’ll be honest – the thought of being limited to $63 for an entire week of groceries made me anxious. I started to over-think everything. I carefully planned a menu that used similar ingredients. I’m guilty of letting things go to waste simply because the ingredients weren’t going to get used in another recipe. Or, I will have good intentions and then lose the food in my fridge. It’s disgusting, really. I was determined to not let that happen this week. I wrote down a few ideas. Scratched them out. Repeat. Repeat again.

I finally ended up with the following plan for the week:


  • Oatmeal with raisins and a bit of brown sugar
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
  • Breakfast sandwich with whole wheat bread, turkey, and an egg


  • Leftovers, leftovers, leftovers!


  • Sweet and sour chicken with steamed rice
  • Chicken fajitas heavy on the veggies with tortillas and black beans; possibly a side of rice
  • Spicy black bean soup with baked tortilla chips
  • Chili with macaroni
  • Loaded chili baked potatoes
  • Leftovers!


  • Fruit
  • Coffee

My original grocery list changed as I realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford certain things on my budget. I got rid of the English muffins that I use for my breakfast sandwiches. Whole wheat bread was cheaper and we would get more food out of it. Lactose-free cheese? No way was that going to fit into the budget! My breakfast sandwiches are now cheese-less. My beloved pink lady apples? Too expensive; I would look to see what was cheaper at the store. Greek yogurt instead of sour cream? Nope, it’s three times as much. I was ready to get rid of the sour cream and cheese since I can’t eat it anyway, but I felt bad for Mike and put it on the list.

Normally, I would buy whatever I thought looked good. If I wanted extras or snacks (rice cakes!), I’d grab them. This time, it wasn’t an option. My cart, for the first time ever, had only items on my grocery list. Anything that wasn’t on the list subbed in for something else. Example: coffee. Mike decided that he could drink tea for a week instead since it was cheaper. So, we took the coffee off the list and put tea bags on. This swap saved up $0.80. It doesn’t sound like much, but a lot of the prices on the items I was shopping for were $0.10 or $0.20 more than what I was expecting. I didn’t have much wiggle room, so every penny truly mattered. I made substitutions that I wouldn’t have normally done. I bought the cheaper, fatty ground turkey instead of the 97% lean stuff. I wanted multi-colored bell peppers to make dishes look more vibrant, but the green bell peppers were $1.40 cheaper per 3-pack. Pretty dishes weren’t really a priority any more.

Mike and I started shopping at Aldi a couple years ago and fell in love with the store. It’s small, but it carries great staples and the prices can’t be beat. In Appleton, we split our shopping between Aldi, Copp’s, and Piggly Wiggly. In Madison, we are a half mile from a Woodman’s, so we end up doing most of our shopping there. This week, I knew I had to keep food cost low-low-low, so we headed to Aldi. There, I was able to get everything on my list except for the apple cider vinegar. A quick stop at Woodman’s on the way home took care of that.

Aldi shopping trip for the SNAP Challenge! |

The Breakdown: Food Item, Size, and Cost


  • Onions: 3 pound bag, $1.49
  • Bell peppers: 2 – 3 packs of green peppers, $1.89 each
  • Garlic: 3 pack, $0.99
  • Avocado: 2, $0.89 each
  • Limes: 1 bag, $0.99
  • Carrots: 2 pound bag, $1.29
  • Grapes: 2 pounds, $1.58
  • Bananas: 3.24 pounds, $0.44/pound
  • Potatoes: 5 pounds, $2.49
  • Green onions: $0.79
  • Mushrooms: 8 ounces, $0.69
  • Tomatoes: from the garden
  • Cilantro: from the garden
  • Hot peppers: from the garden
  • Zucchini: from the garden
    Subtotal: $17.30

Dry/Canned Goods:

  • Salt: $0.39
  • Rice: 3 pound bag, $1.59
  • Canola oil: 48 ounces, $2.69
  • Black beans: 7-15 ounce cans, $0.59 each
  • Pinto beans: 30 ounce can, $1.19
  • Kidney beans: 15 ounce can, $0.59
  • Apple cider vinegar: 16 ounces, $0.69
  • Tea: 100 bags, $1.99 (Mike gave up his coffee and got tea instead because it was cheaper!)
  • Pineapple slices: 2-20 ounce cans, $0.89 each
  • Low sodium soy sauce: $1.19
  • Corn starch: $0.89
  • Lemon juice: 32 ounces, $1.79
  • Oatmeal: 42 ounces, $2.19
  • Raisins: 15 ounces, $1.79
  • Peanut butter: $1.89
  • Macaroni: 2 pounds, $1.49
  • Brown sugar: 1 pound, $1.29
  • Flour tortillas: 10 count, $0.99
  • Whole wheat bread: $1.29
    Subtotal: $29.84

Meat and Dairy

  • Chicken breast: 3 pound bag, $6.49
  • Deli turkey lunch meat: 9 ounces, $2.29
  • Ground turkey: 1 pound, $1.69
  • Light sour cream: $1.29
  • Extra sharp cheddar cheese: $1.79
  • Eggs: 1 dozen, $0.99
    Subtotal: $14.54

TOTAL: $61.68 ($1.32 left over)

Overall, I’m happy with the variety of foods that we got and the plan I have the week. My biggest fear is that we will be out of main dishes by the middle of the week and we’ll be left with oatmeal for all three meals.


Author: Jenni

Dietitian by day and Midwest food blogger by night. Lover of whiskey, running, and all things food.

One thought on “SNAP Challenge: Menu Planning & Grocery Shopping

  1. That’s such a cool challenge! I’ll have to try it next year. I’m surprised you are allowed to use produce from your garden without counting the amount it would cost from a store (I’m just thinking that most people on SNAP don’t have the luxury of a garden).

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