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      Shopping on a tight budget isn't always a SNAP

      I know Iâ??ve done it a million times â?? walk into the grocery store to buy a few things and then end up walking out with a basket full of food I donâ??t really need.

      But more than 47 million Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps, to put food on their tables donâ??t have that luxury.

      According to the USDA, the average person using Missouri's SNAP program receives $130 in benefits each month. Divide that amount by 30 days, and it comes to about $4.50 per day for food.

      Thatâ??s not much when you consider the price of food today, but itâ??s a reality many Americans are facing.

      In an effort to be more conscious of that, over the next three weeks Iâ??m taking on the SNAP Challenge.

      Starting Sunday I am limiting myself to spending $31.50 for a weekâ??s worth of groceries, and since I canâ??t use any food I already have at home, for day one of the challenge I needed to hit the grocery store after a little bit of planning.

      I spent several hours looking up recipes trying to get ready for this challenge, but Iâ??m certainly no master chef and the cost of all those ingredients adds up fast. So for this first week Iâ??ve decided to keep things simple.

      My plan for week one is to eat a lot of sandwiches; grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwiches to be exact, along with some baked chicken here and there.

      My shopping list ended up looking pretty short, but I didnâ??t have a very good idea about how much everything would cost.

      As I went through the store and started adding items to my cart I made sure to keep a running total. For each of the items on my list I looked for the cheapest brand, and at checkout it proved to be worth it.

      My grand total came to $27.08, a whole $4.42 under budget! I did NOT expect that. That means Iâ??ll have a little more money to spend on next weekâ??s shopping trip!

      Looking at everything I bought I can tell itâ??s a lot less than I usually buy, but Iâ??m going to make it work.

      As a reporter Iâ??m usually on the go, so Sunday I spent some preparing my meals for the week ahead, that way I can just grab them and go whenever I need and the temptation for fast food will be much easier to ignore. Iâ??m pre-cooking my pasta and broccoli and baking a few of my chicken breasts now so I can just heat them up when Iâ??m ready for a meal.

      After only a day I can tell itâ??s going to be a challenge, but if I can stick to my menu I think Iâ??ll be just fine.

      Stay tuned for more updates, and if you have suggestions feel free to send me an email.