Food Stamps to Financial Freedom

martinis and your money

Food Stamps to Financial Freedom

On this episode of Martinis and Your Money, I am talking to founder of Adaptive Nourishment, entrepreneur, and side hustler, Shanah Bell, about her journey from feeding her family of 3 on $800 a month and food stamps to fulfilling her dream of traveling the world. I found Shanah’s story especially inspiring given a few of my friends and I have hit some tough times recently.

It’s times like these that makes me think of the quote from General Custer – “It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.” I hope Shanah’s story inspires you as much as it inspired me! She also shares a new cocktail recipe with us! Cheers!

As a side note: the first Financial Gym location has opened in New York City at 226 5th Avenue, 5th Floor. Please stop by and have a drink with us if you are in the area or check out The Financial Gym online for its tools and resources to help you break free from your financial challenges and live a financially healthier life! We’ll kick your assets into shape!

What are we drinking?

The Shitty Week (or Blushing Bride) which Shanah created while she was bartending and having a shitty week. Here’s the ingredients:

  • Tanqueray Rangpur Gin (regular gin works too)
  • Malibu Rum
  • Triple Sec
  • Lime juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Blood Orange Soda
  • Pineapple sage (optional)

Podcast Notes

  • Shanah separated from her ex-husband almost 7 years ago and had to stay home with her two small children.
  • Her ex was so angry when she left him that he refused to provide them any financial assistance.
  • He refused to move out of the home Shanah owned before she met him, so she took the kids and her dog and moved in with her parents.
  • After a few months, he finally moved out and they were able to move back in to their home meaning Shanah had to take back over the mortgage of $512/month with her escrow accounts.
  • Shanah luckily purchased a home she could still afford incase she ever got laid off instead of purchasing a home for the full amount she was approved for.
  • Shannon and Shanah agree you shouldn’t be living to pay your mortgage.
  • After moving back into the home, Shanah was only working one day a week when her mom could watch the kids and earned $800/month.
  • There was only about $25 left for gas and food after paying the mortgage and utilities.
  • She started asking friends what they thought she should do and one friend who worked for Health and Human Services suggested food stamps.
  • Shanah explains the difference between food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and why she ultimately chose food stamps.
  • She says applying for food stamps was an incredibly humbling experience that took all day to complete.
  • A case worker provided them with emergency food stamps, and Shanah took the card to Whole Foods where she got weird looks.
  • She eventually found if you went to the local farmer’s market at the end of the day they would fire-sell any produce left.
  • Her food stamps monthly allowance was $526/month.
  • Shanah managed to feed her family a healthy diet with that allowance, but she admits some months were very tough.
  • She describes a significant moment that she considers the lowest point of her tough experience.
  • During her marriage, Shanah and her ex-husband accumulated $35,000 of debt.
  • When her daughter went to preschool, she was able to start working two days a week to earn more to put towards their debt.
  • She also received a medical payout from a car crash she was in and used that to payoff the rest of her marital debt.
  • After all of that, she started working full-time at Microsoft and was able to completely pull her family out of the situation they were in.
  • Shannon says when you’re down you need to work hard and get out of it and be an example for your children or your friends or whoever.
  • It is so important to get real with yourself even though it’s not enjoyable.
  • Shanah and Shannon agree you need to check in with your finances monthly to know exactly where you are.
  • Now, Shanah works from home as a nutritionist and blogs at Adaptive Nourishment about nutrition and food.
  • She also blogs about personal finance at Debt RoundUp, the blog her brother runs!
  • She loves to travel and try new food when she travels.
  • Shannon and Shanah agree you can live a healthy lifestyle on a budget, you just have to be smart about it.
  • Shanah says she works with her clients about creating fast, easy meals that are cost-effective.
  • Her current food budget for her family of 7 is $600/month.
  • They discuss the cost of living in North Carolina compared to New York – a martini is $8-$10 in NC and close to $15 in NY!
  • TAKEAWAY: Tough times are usually only temporary although at the time they may seem like an eternity. You may be knocked down now, but you’re still in the ring, so get back up and keep fighting!

Random Three Questions

  1. What is your most productive time of day?
  2. What is your most recent money splurge?
  3. If you were to win a million dollars, what would you do with it?

Connect with Shanah:




Have you ever used food stamps? What’s the lowest monthly budget you’ve survived on?

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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.


  1. I’ve read some of Shanah’s blog posts over at her brother’s blog, but didn’t know she went through such a rough time. I’m glad to hear her tough situation helped her become a stronger and wiser woman!

    We’ve never used food stamps, but we did have to learn to save like crazy when we were living on a low income and had debt to pay. It wasn’t easy, but with a few tweaks and lots of improvisation in the kitchen, we managed to handle our food budget just right.

    I can’t remember the lowest monthly budget from back then, but I do remember learning how to stretch a chicken to last for 4-5 dinners! We still follow some of the tricks we learned back then, it helps us stay on track with our budget, save more AND reduce food waste.

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