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What Gwyneth Paltrow's Food Stamps Failure Taught Us

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After four days, Gwyneth Paltrow, hungry and craving black licorice, quit the #FoodBankNYCChallenge. The social media challenge tasks participants to live off $29 a week to experience what it's like for a family to be entirely reliant on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps). Paltrow, along with Mario Batali, Daily News journalists, and other volunteers found it's actually pretty dang hard to do that—especially while trying to stick to a healthy diet. This is not news to many people in this country, including the 1.7 million people in New York City who rely on food stamps. Paltrow posted her $29 grocery spree of brown rice, eggs, avocados, and frozen peas, which we have to admit looks pretty delicious, but is definitely not enough food to last all week. We did learn a few things from her healthy haul, though.

1. Eggs are the perfect healthy budget food. Eggs are cheap, versatile, and filling—basically the money-conscious healthy eater's trifecta. You can make them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and spread them out over a few meals. Try these 20 Quick and Easy Ways to Cook Eggs.

2. Sometimes you can't have homemade. Cilantro, limes, tomato, garlic, and green onion are the great makings for a killer salsa from scratch, but aren't necessarily efficient if you want to stay within a tight budget. The jarred variety of your favorite dips like hummus and tabbouli are a perfectly acceptable way to go to save a few bucks.

3. Dried food delivers a great bang for your buck. Yes, dried beans take work (they soak for eight hours!). But you get four cups once cooked for under one dollar, and you skip the sodium that comes in the canning process. Same goes for brown rice.

4. Cheap healthy eating is really hard. All the participants in the challenge got a different variety of food, but they all said the same thing: They were hungry. Unfortunately, $29 doesn't provide a lot of food for one person—let alone a whole family—to eat for an entire week and feel satiated. 

Here at Shape, we understand healthy eating isn't always budget friendly, and we try our best to make it easier with healthy meal plans and shopping lists (like Shop Once, Eat for a Week!). But the good news is that if money is tight and you need to stock up, packaged stuff isn't always bad. In fact, here are 10 Packaged Foods That Are Surprisingly Healthy.

And even if Paltrow's choices didn't get her through the week, it certainly opened our eyes to how difficult eating is for those who rely on food stamps. Want to help them? You can donate to The Food Bank for New York City, which will help offset the cost of feeding those who have to turn to soup kitchens and food banks when they can't make their $29 stretch the whole week either.

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