Well, I did it. $29.32 for a week of food. I managed to squeeze a reasonably nutritious diet out of that $29, with a lot of planning and cooking. Lots of beans and vegetables; about ten ounces of meat for the whole week.
I also lost a pound in a week without trying. I’m coming away from this experience convinced that, for tall (I’m 5 foot 1), growing, or active people, living on a food stamp budget means having to choose between enough quantity and enough quality.
I actually plan to try to continue eating like this for at least a month to get a more realistic sort of long-term picture. Meanwhile, I published a wrap-up post for the week on my blog, A Number of Things.
Like some others who’ve been sharing on this blog, I also spent a lot of time this week thinking about the past. My grandmother raised four of her children on public assistance during the Depression; her daughter (my mom) was frugal all her life, I believe as a result. My mom always told stories of how my her mother “got by.” I’ve often heard how they ate “every part of the chicken but the head.”
Many of the foods I still cook today are the “peasant foods” I learned from my mother and grandmother: the tomato sauce I shared earlier this week; pasta y fagioli; escarole and cannellini beans; broccoli and pasta with anchovies; and many more too numerous to list. The common thread among these dishes is frugal nutrition.
Saturday started out great. We made a couple nice omelets with 4 eggs, some of the ham and a few sliced of sweet pepper and diced onion. Total cost about $1.25. Then we went crazy and drove out to Atlantic City. Not exactly a food stamp friendly move, eh? (I did hit my first ever royal flush on video poker at Revel so maybe it was meant to be.)
If we had stayed home, we would have eaten the last two servings of leftovers, the frittata and eggplant pasta, for lunch and a potato curry with rice for dinner. So now we’ll have the last of the leftovers for Sunday “late lunch” and depending on how hungry we are the potato curry for a late supper. Because we skipped Saturday’s food stamp lunch, we still have two apples one of which might turn into some sort of chutney for the curry.
This has been quite a process and we made quite a few mistakes. What I thought was good planning carried an unconscious assumption that I could run out and buy whatever I happened to need if I forgot something. Including a variety of foods, especially protein, was far more difficult than I imagined and although I though I’d done pretty well at that the leftovers did indeed prove boring.
Read more on my blog: Saper Aude, Incipe!
Emily Coplon (Chester, PA)
Well I was able to feed eleven people a multicourse meal for $68.50. We have plenty of leftovers so I think we will be fine as we have $31.30 left for the rest of the challenge.
I am very tired of tracking everything but the kids are very good at marking all the fruit they eat. I have had to hide some cause they would go through $20 worth of oranges if they were available. I’m glad it got everyone to think about what he is eating and if it is because it is really something he wants or just something he is eating.
Eileen S. Sklaroff, President Female Hebrew Benevolent Society
Early in my married life I made a pledge to myself that I would never compromise when it came to the purchase of food. It was so seminal a moment that I can still remember where I was and what I was doing-–standing in a ShopRite in Kearny, New Jersey mulling over a pound of fresh flounder priced at 79 cents. I am laughing even as I type this but that was a lot of money for fish some 44-years ago. In a split second I decided not only to purchase the fish but always to give priority to the quality of the food on my table. And I wasn’t even thinking about having children at the time.
Not surprising that I made this commitment because I was raised by a father who believed in organic farming, pesticide free foods, alternative medicine, naturally derived vitamin supplements and many other things that are accepted today but were hardly the norm when I was growing up in the 50s in suburban Philadelphia.
Benefits Data Trust’s James Mather talks about his decision to forego the challenge.
I made it two days into the Food Stamp challenge before becoming too angry with the limitations and the memories that it brought forth before ultimately deciding to withdraw. Like Sara S., there was no need for me to imagine what it would be like to survive on a Food Stamp budget; I was a long-time recipient, after all.
My siblings and I were raised solely by our mother, who has Multiple Sclerosis. Due to frequent hospitalization, she went out on disability before I hit my teenage years and never returned to the workforce.
Our family desperately relied on Food Stamps to supplement her meager Disability income. I remember her coming home from the county assistance office weeping because she didn’t understand the application process and found it to be incredibly difficult to navigate. She would always say “It takes the strength of a healthy person to be sick.”