Thirty dollars per week doesn't offer consumers the most exciting and healthy shopping cart. But that's the maximum amount that food stamps can provide.

Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ

Several lawmakers and celebrities have taken the Food Stamp Challenge, limiting themselves to food purchases of about $4.20 per day. However, countless New Jerseyans are dealing with the real life challenge every day.

We took a trip to the ShopRite in Neptune to calculate what $30 can get the average shopper.

Any natural, and most fresh, items had to immediately be scratched from the shopping list in order to stick to the budget. Store brand items, for the most part, offered the best value.

Essentials:

  • ½ gallon of milk - $2.29
  • Dozen large eggs - $2.50
  • Loaf of bread - $1
  • Butter - $1.99

 Breakfast:

  • Box of cereal - $2.50
  • Orange juice - $1.88
  • 7 bananas - $2.00

Lunch/dinner:

  • Cheese singles - $2.39
  • Box of pasta - $1.00
  • Pasta sauce - $1.49
  • Four bags of fresh vegetables: $4.00
  • 5 lb. uncooked chicken breast: $7.00

Total: $30.04

Other items, such as potato chips and peanut butter and jelly, had to be removed from the equation as well due to budget constraints.

Serena Rice, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, said food stamp benefits are based on "minimally-adequate nutrition for three months time," so it's a program that works well in the short-term, but not if people are struggling for more than just 25 percent of the year.

"The reality is the economic recovery is so slow in New Jersey," Rice said. "People are really needing help for much longer than a three-month time period."

According to Rice, more than 400,000 children in New Jersey live on food stamps each year.

"We tend to think more about dependence or need, and I think instead the reality for the families who are living on food stamps is that they're coping with a challenge," she said. "They are using all the resources available to them to make it through each day, and that's incredibly heroic."