My week on the SNAP Challenge is up.
My mind has been racing for the last week, and I’m not even sure where to begin. Pulling my thoughts together has proved to be difficult so I’m going to list them out and continue to try and make sense of it all.
- Planning is key and very different from the way I typically go about planning my meals, based on what I feel like, a new recipe to try, or something easy on a busy night.
- I never account for snacks or desserts in my meal plans (I just buy them), so it didn’t even cross my mind until last Monday afternoon when I needed a snack and realized the only thing we had was saltines and cheese.
- Shopping decisions were based on price – not healthiness, flavor or quality.
- Most meals need a cheap filler, which always ended up being carbohydrates. I mentioned that brown rice and beans at every meal would obviously be a wholesome, cheap choice, but boring!
- As much as I love cooking, I rely on prepared meals/food when things get busy, and on the SNAP Challenge I could not afford any of our favorites from Trader Joe’s or a rotisserie chicken. (Hot, prepared foods are not SNAP eligible either)
- Food and cooking was not a joyful experience as it usually is. It was boring, monotonous, and always felt like a chore.
- I was constantly afraid that we were going to run out of food and run out of money. I cannot imagine having this constant stress.
- Having two of us made things immensely easier. Cooking for two (or more) means more variety!
- There was no hope of a fun, special meal on the weekends. More of the same meals…
- I found it very difficult to get 5-7 servings of produce a day.
- It is much easier to get closer to the recommended amount of produce/day with the help of convenience vegetables (washed lettuce, baby carrots, etc.).
- I wondered if part of the reason I wasn’t satisfied after meals was because of the lack of protein and fat or because I normally choose quality over quantity and was not able to do so last week…not sure!
- Little things like a sprinkle of flavorful cheese were missed.
- Impulse buys caused feelings of guilt and an angry husband, “How could you spend $1.29 on these?”
- With the challenge coming to a close, I was so excited and then immediately guilty when I thought about the millions for which this is a constant reality.
I think what struck me most throughout the week was the amount of time and effort that goes into planning, grocery shopping and then prepping almost every meal. By Thursday night, I was exhausted and wanted nothing to do with cooking or the kitchen, which is normally something I love.
I do have to let you know that we took a hiatus from the challenge for two meals this past weekend, for reasons that both were important enough for me. I subtracted $6 from our allowance which put us over the $57 we would have had. We also drank coffee + cream on Saturday and Sunday morning, neither of which we purchased with the SNAP money.
I think we were close to our budget for these reasons:
- All of the meat we purchased was deeply discounted and on a manager special – I doubt this is possible on a regular basis
- We changed the way we ate – gone was the loads of produce, healthy fats and lean proteins – bring on the carbs (both processed and whole)!
- We didn’t really purchase anything that was used for snacks, so when I was hungry in between meals, I turned to saltine crackers
- We didn’t purchase any beverages (coffee, milk, juice)
- I always chose the cheapest option (bread, crackers, eggs, cheese)
- Tofu ($1.25)
- 2 lbs ground buffalo ($1.98)* manager special (close to use by date)
- 1.38 lb chicken drumsticks ($2.75)* manager special (close to use by date)
- 2 cans tuna ($1.98)
- 24 large eggs ($3.29)
- Natural peanut butter ($2.49)
- 1 lb dried beans ($1.69)
- 2 blocks of cheese ($4.29)
- Sour cream ($1.39)
Frozen/Canned Foods: ($8.26)
- 1 bag frozen spinach ($1.00)
- 2 bags frozen broccoli ($2.00)
- 1 bag frozen green beans ($1.00)
- 1 can diced tomatoes ($.79)
- 2 cans tomato sauce ($.98)
- 1 jar salsa ($2.49)
- Wheat bread ($.99)
- 1 lb brown rice ($1.19)
- 1 lb white pasta ($1.00)
- 12 whole wheat tortillas ($2.99)
- 2 mini ice creams ($2.50)
- Pepero cookies ($1.29)
- 1 box saltines ($.99)
- 1 box mac & cheese ($.59)
- Mushroom rice mix ($.99)
- 4 packs of ramen noodles ($1.00)
- Celery ($.99)
- 2 bunches spinach ($.99)
- 2 lbs carrot ($.99) – the receipt from the Korean market carrots says $.20, but I don’t think that is right…
- 1 zucchini ($.49)
- 1 medium sweet potato ($.83)
- 1 head cabbage ($.64)
- 2 nectarines ($.72)
- 1 bunch kale ($1.49)
- 1 bunch lettuce ($.99)
- 3 onions ($2.03)
- 2 avocados ($.98)
- 2 ears corn ($.67)
- Small bag sweet peppers ($1.99)
- 8 oz mushrooms ($1.99)
What’s next? I’ll certainly be more aware of the challenges that millions face each day and I’ll continue to fight for the hungry in America. I’ll be thinking about food security for Americans when I vote this fall and I urge you to do the same.