What’s going on?
My university is doing a SNAP challenge this week. What that means is participants spend the weekly monetary equivalent of government food benefits for our family size. The organizers admit this is only a very small glimpse into food insecurity, but the reflections and discussions that arise from the challenge can be important and rewarding.
Technically, it starts tomorrow, Monday, January 30. I’m starting as of noon today, January 29, and will finish on Sunday, February 5, at noon.
I have to say that my initial thought was to roll my eyes. The challenge reminded me of when Gwyneth Paltrow “tried” it. (see here where she pictures what she bought AND recounts how she didn’t last the week: http://goop.com/my-29-food-stamp-challenge-and-the-recipes-brouhaha-that-ensued/)
How it Works:
For my family, the approximate equivalent based on information provided to me by the university is $130, which doesn’t sound too bad. This is only for food and not for pet supplies, cleaning supplies, or anything similar. Then, I realized that I usually budget about $200/week plus $31.50 for my CSA ($25 for the produce and 6.50 for the dozen pastured eggs).
This week, I’m giving my husband $10 for lunches, in addition to leftovers from dinner; I’m not using my CSA eggs, so that’s only a $25 charge–I debated putting it on hold for a week, but I love the local organic veggies, so…; and then I’m deducting $25 for whatever leftovers, oils, spices, coffee, creamer, etc. that I’ve already bought or have. I have no idea if that last number is appropriate, but I’m certainly not wasting food or buying a ton of extra stuff just for the challenge.
That left me, the food/dinner planner, with $70.
I spent $60 today at 2 grocery stores: Von’s and Grocery Outlet.
The plan is to have a southwest chicken and rice bowl; crockpot pulled pork for sandwiches, another rice bowl, or whatever; hamburgers.
Things to note today:
- I spent much more time planning around price than I usually do. This figures into my choices during normal weeks, but I will happily spend, say, 50 cents more on an item to streamline my shopping experience and only go to 1 store. No can do today.
- I had to stop the checker at Von’s because she rang up my red onion as a Honeycrisp apple. When I saw the price was $1.50 I called her attention to it. I explained that normally the 80 cent difference is a wash for me, but it matters this week because of the challenge. Then, when I got home I realized I was overcharged by 74 cents for my 4 tuna cans purportedly on sale for 50 cents each. Hey, if I’d also saved that darn 74 cents, I’d have just about enough to purchase another box of generic Wheat Thins for snacks. Or, you know, 1 organic apple. Sigh.
- First world problem: I couldn’t purchase meats and EWG dirty dozen produce in their organic/free-range versions. The only things I splurged on were organic milk and organic yogurt. Both of these were at Grocery Outlet where the prices were comparable to or much less than conventional (50 cents for yogurt? Woo hoo!), so it wasn’t so much a “splurge” as a “phew!”
- We’ll be eating a lot more grains this week, which should make my kid happy. For the last 4 years or so, we’ve eaten grain free about 90% of the time. I replace grains with veggies-cauliflower rice, Zoodles, spaghetti squash, etc. We don’t get sick as often and we feel better in general, even though it’s costly both time- and money-wise.
I have much more to say, but I will leave some of it for the rest of the week.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed so far is that I can save a lot of money on a lot of things if I spend the time making it myself or trolling for the absolute best deal. I imagine many people on SNAP/CalFresh benefits might not have that luxury. I don’t really either, to be frank, but just for one week, sure.
à tout à l’heure!