Whole Foods Market Food Stamp Challenge: Did We Succeed? Or Didn’t We?

| October 4, 2013 | 2 Comments

So there I was, standing at the Whole Foods checkout counter with my third and last batch of groceries for our month’s Food Stamp Challenge. Here’s how the month had gone:

Monthly SNAP Benefits:   $367.00

Shopping trip #1 8/31/13:       $177.00-
Shopping trip #2  9/11/13:    $ 92.49-
Shopping trip #3 9/22/13:     BUDGET: $97.51

In the store, I’d carefully measured and weighed everything, adding it up on my phone, to be sure I would come in under our remaining benefits of $97.51.  I was confident.  I was…smug.

And then the final number came up:  $98.33.

After the initial shock – bear in mind I’d made sure we’d be well under our target — I paid the nice lady, resisting the urge to send back the sack of beans or the poblano peppers, and left.  How could that have happened?

Well, here’s how.  Examining my receipt at home for the glaring error I KNEW must be there somewhere, I noticed the totals:  Food total $95.45.   PIF: $2.39.  County tax: $0.49.   PIF?  What in the hell is a PIF?  As it turns out, it’s a Public Improvement Fee, a fee collected by certain Colorado retail districts to help pay for their sidewalks, streetlights, etc.  I’d shopped at a different Whole Foods this time (Belmar, for those of you keeping score at home) and they are in an area that levies a PIF.

What to do about this, in terms of our calculations?  Well, technically, SNAP/food stamp purchases are supposed to be free of any sales tax (so I’d back out that $0.49 anyway, because with a REAL EBT card, it wouldn’t have shown up).  But a PIF isn’t technically a tax.  I’ve been unable to learn whether a PIF can be levied on food stamp purchases. But I am curious.

So here’s what I’ve decided:  Based on that odd PIF situation, and based on the fact that my pantry is still pretty full of foods we haven’t yet consumed, I’m going to label this month, and its challenge, a success.  We actually spent $364.94 on food plus that fee, which is close enough for me.  But if you are a number cruncher and don’t agree that it was — I’m certainly not going to argue with you.

For one thing, the benefits have been huge huge huge, all the way across the board, and I’ll write more about that tomorrow.  For another, I have to get busy in the kitchen!  I have a batch of White Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup to whip up for dinner…..



Category: Cooking, Food, Money Saving, Whole Foods Challenge

Comments (2)

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  1. Holly says:

    Great job! I think you met the challenge. Can you share this experience with ignorant morons (Food Stamp Critics in Congress or Talking Heads on Fox News) that you can eat healthy on a budget?

    • greenhedonist says:

      You really can! And I think I wanted to see it for myself, as much as show others. Obviously, the underlying issue is that people on the SNAP program are all branded as slackers and hangers-on by certain political factions. I have no problem with efforts to make sure that only the folks who need it, get it — but HOW that’s done is the important part. And this demonizing of the whole SNAP program is just stupid and counterproductive. (hops down off soapbox )

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