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Sunday, September 21, 2014

SNAP Challenge: Day 7

Another day of eggs for breakfast. We had some toast with it this morning, finishing off the loaf of bread and Bailey had some yogurt. Lunch was cheeseburgers using the last of the ground chuck. I made 3 (1/3 lb) burgers and since we only had 2 buns left Bailey ate her burger without a bun. We had some Doritos with the burgers and Bailey got some raspberries.

Dinner was crock pot chicken taco rice bowls at Admiral's house. I added an extra can of black beans to make it go further and used the last of the chicken in it. I had to buy another bag of rice yesterday to go with dinner tonight but that's only $1.00 so I'm still within budget.

Here's where I broke the rules a little. I let Admiral and CJ provide dessert. We were tired of eating instant pudding for dessert and it's not unrealistic that someone on SNAP benefits would be treated to dessert once during the week. Not to mention that I just can't turn down Trader Joe's pumpkin loaf cake.

I'm really proud of us for sticking with the challenge through the whole week. We had a few tough moments but we did it. We even have some food left to start us off next week.

Last prompt, Day 7:
In November 2013, the government will cut SNAP benefits for all recipients. These cuts will be $36 for a family of four - dropping the average benefit per person per meal to under $1.40. How would this week have been different for you if you had even less money to spend on food?

I can't guarantee I would have made it if I'd had any less money. I was cutting it pretty close as it is. I could have changed the menu to work it out, sure, but then Aaron probably would have been hungry every night. Realistically, if I were on SNAP benefits alone or just with Bailey I could definitely make it work, but Aaron would starve. That's not because he eats more than us, actually I probably eat more, but he has more expensive tastes than I do.

I've said before, I'm perfectly happy living on peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, and soup. I like cereal and yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast. I enjoy leftovers. Aaron is nothing like me in that respect. He likes variety. He likes meat which is expensive. I have trouble making enough meat with dinner sometimes. He would really have to make some sacrifices to live on SNAP.

Total food consumed today:
1 yogurt cup
6 eggs
10 oz shredded cheddar
3 slices bread
2 hamburger buns
1 lb ground chuck
2 slices American cheese
3 oz Doritos
2 oz raspberries
4 chicken breasts
1 jar salsa
2 cans black beans
1 bag frozen corn
2 cups rice
plus dessert provided by Admiral and CJ

Food remaining:
1 bag of salad mix
1 hot dog bun
1 cup rice
1 lb spaghetti
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup cereal
4 oz Doritos
1 yogurt cup
4 slices American cheese
1 cup frozen peas

Total amount spent: $90.64
Total amount left: $3.86

My final thoughts on the challenge:
If SNAP benefits are truly supplemental they are a great help. Who wouldn't feel more comfortable with an extra $135 per person to spend on food each month? The problem is that where they're not supplemental but are actually the only money the family has to spend on groceries it could be a problem.

That being said, it would be easier to live on SNAP if you did it on a regular basis than just doing a one week challenge. I assume that no one eats every single bite of food they buy every week. There's always something leftover even if it's just half a pack of flour tortillas or pasta or a few ounces of shredded cheese there's something to start with the next week. We have enough food left to have breakfast and probably lunch tomorrow if I needed to scrape something together and if I really couldn't make it to the store we have a whole pack of spaghetti and a jar of sauce and even some salad since I forgot to use it.

Also, spices aren't too terribly expensive. I buy mostly the cheap store brand spices which generally cost $1 each and they last for at least a month. With the spices and staples I had in the pantry I could have spent considerably less this week. I wouldn't have needed the chili or taco seasoning, I could have made Yaya's spaghetti sauce which is much cheaper than a jar of sauce, and I could have used the leftover ham I had from a recipe I made last week for sandwiches this week. (I wound up freezing that ham.)

I'd say that if you want to get a real sense of what it's like to live on SNAP, start from brand new. Imagine you have nothing in the house, no condiments or spices or staples, and then spend 2 months on this budget and see what you have built up at the end of that. You'll realize that if you consistently spend your full budget and stock up on staples as you need them, by the end you won't be missing anything and you won't feel hungry.

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