The Receipt: A Medical Student’s Journey on SNAP Benefits in San Francisco

Exploring the Food Budget of a 24-Year-Old Medical Student Navigating San Francisco’s Rising Food Costs

In a time of skyrocketing food prices and economic uncertainty, it is essential to understand how individuals from different backgrounds and income levels manage their food budgets. In this edition of The Receipt, we delve into the life of a 24-year-old medical student living in San Francisco, who relies on SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to meet her grocery needs. Through her week-long food diary, we gain insights into her financial challenges, dietary choices, and creative strategies for making ends meet.

Navigating SNAP Benefits in San Francisco

Living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, our anonymous medical student faces the daunting task of managing her food budget on a limited income. With an annual salary of $0 and no regular paycheck, she relies on SNAP benefits to supplement her grocery expenses. Each month, she receives $291 from the program, which helps her navigate the high costs of living in San Francisco.

The Financial Reality

Beyond her food expenses, our medical student also shares her fixed monthly expenses. Rent takes up a significant portion of her budget, with $1,550 going towards her share of a three-bedroom apartment she shares with roommates. Additional expenses include utilities, which amount to approximately $40, and subscriptions like Amazon Prime and Spotify, which cost her $7.63 and $3.06 respectively. Despite her limited income, she has managed to save several thousand dollars in a Roth IRA, demonstrating her commitment to financial planning.

The “Dirty Pescetarian” Diet

Our medical student describes her dietary preferences as “dirty pescetarian.” While she mainly follows a pescetarian diet, occasionally indulging in meat when traveling or encountering notable culinary experiences. Her grocery staples include bread, pasta, rice, nut butter, eggs, mayo, and various forms of cheese. These versatile ingredients allow her to create a variety of meals while staying within her budget.

Finessing Free Food as a Medical Student

As a resourceful medical student, our subject embraces the challenge of finding free food whenever possible. She takes advantage of events, conferences, and networking opportunities to enjoy complimentary meals. This not only helps stretch her budget but also adds an element of excitement to her culinary experiences. From sampling new dishes at medical conferences to savoring local delicacies during her travels, she finds joy in the pursuit of free food.

Celebrating the End of Exams

After a grueling week of exams, our medical student treats herself to a well-deserved celebration. She heads out with friends to a local bar, where they enjoy drinks and unwind. While this outing is an exception to her usual frugal lifestyle, she recognizes the importance of occasional indulgences and social experiences.


The life of a medical student on SNAP benefits in San Francisco presents a unique set of challenges. Through careful budgeting, creative meal planning, and a resourceful approach to finding free food, our subject demonstrates resilience and adaptability. Her story sheds light on the realities faced by individuals navigating high living costs while pursuing their dreams. As we continue to explore the diverse experiences of Bon Appétit readers, The Receipt serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and empathizing with different financial situations, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and compassionate society.






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