Friday, April 27, 2012

Food Stamp Budget

Have you heard about the Food Stamp Challenge?  It goes on around the country at various times of the year and sometimes just individuals give it a go independently.  Their objective is to raise awareness of the millions in America who are feeding their families on $35 a week per person.  That’s the average a person receives from SNAP, also known as food stamps.
I’ll start by saying I have a couple of issues with the Food Stamp Challenge.  Number one, I doubt it’s really influencing policy.  The policy makers who take the challenge already don’t want to cut funding.  People who want to reduce the program aren’t out trying to prove it needs more money.  Which leads me to my second problem, the challenge is designed to fail.  The entire point is to prove it can’t be done.  Those taking the challenge want to demonstrate that it is not possible to eat a healthy diet on a food stamp budget.  Well it is.  I regularly spend less than half of the $140 per month per person this challenge allows. I don’t think this challenge actually benefits anyone.  It makes its participants feel good about themselves for feeling bad for others.  People in poverty don’t need pity.  They need real employable solutions! I’ve discussed and debated this many times with many people and I’m not debating it here.  Without addressing the many other difficulties a person living in poverty faces when trying to put food on the table, I want to offer what help I can for people needing or simply wishing to eat healthy on a low budget.  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned over the years from my mother and grandmothers as well as my own endeavors of trying to feed a family on a very low budget. 
So Fridays are now Food Stamp Fridays.  Stop by each week for my tips and to read the helpful comments of others as well as share your own ideas.
My first tip is not about shopping or eating.  It’s about thinking.  For many people the biggest change needs to come in the form of what they know to be true versus what is true. 
1.      Get a good handle on nutrition information.  Since you’re reading this I’ll assume you have some kind of internet access somewhere.  Use it to study nutrition information and become an informed eater.  There is lots of info out there.  Read about the different types of diets; organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, raw foods, ect.  Decide for yourself what you think and what works best for you, your family, and your budget.
      2.      Learn how to cook!  Probably the biggest money saver ever.  Cooking from scratch not only allows you to control what goes in and create a healthier meal, it allows you to stretch your ingredients.  Adding some more beans, veggies, or grain can expand a meal for very little additional money.  It’s easy to learn a few basic recipes and with proper planning doesn’t need to take hours.  I work a full time job and never cook a boxed.

      3.      Learn to live without meat.  I know for some of you that’s hard, for others not so much.  I’m not a vegetarian by any means.  If I can catch it, I’ll eat it.  Unfortunately right now the budget doesn’t allow for it.  I purchase very little meat because of price.  There are plenty of other sources of protein. 

      4.      Adopt the mentality of “mend and make do.”  You have what you have.  You may be able to eventually find additional resources, but immediate needs must be met.  There is always a way.  Human beings are remarkably capable and resourceful creatures when left with no other option. 

    What do you think are the big mental hurdles to making do with less grocery money?  Leave your ideas and struggles in the comments.   
    Visit the link for that quesadilla pictures for the super easy and really cheap recipe!  It's fantastic and one of my go-to recipes for a great meal when I'm short on time. 
Links for nutrition information

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