UPDATE: I forgot the bananas! (Don'tcha hate when that happens?)
My husband and I are going to take the Mazon SNAP Challenge from 7/16/12-7/22/12. That means that during that week, we will eat no more than $63 worth of food, which is the same budget allotment as two individuals receiving food-stamps (now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP).
|SNAP/Food-Stamp Factoid That I'll Bet You Didn't Know #2: |
Think it's easy to maintain a diet of lean, healthy foods when on a food-stamp budget? Think again.
Jay Zagorsky, a scientist at Ohio State University, in a study that spanned 14 years, has calculated that, controlling for socioeconomic status, women who received food stamps were more likely to be overweight than non-recipients. They also gained weight faster while receiving assistance than when not and their BMI increased more the longer they were in the food-stamps program.
Source: Ohio State University Research
Calorie-dense, high-fat, processed foods tend to be less expensive than pricier healthy choices. But with a little planning and strategic shopping, you can still buy healthy, nutritional foods on a SNAP budget.
I'll admit, this factoid surprised me. I would think that people with a very limited food budget would be both undernourished and underweight. But the two don't always go hand in hand, and one doesn't need to be on a food-stamp budget to realize this. How many times in my own non-SNAP experience have I bought unhealthy prepared food because it was cheap, quick to prepare at the end of a long day at work, and tasted good? (Sadly, lots of times.)
I think this Challenge week will be good for me on multiple levels. Not only am I going to try to slip into the shoes of a SNAP recipient, I'm also thinking long and hard about my own buying patterns and purchases. Do I ever sacrifice quality in food for convenience and cost? You betcha. But not this week.
So now, I've got a little bit of inspiration to make our SNAP Challenge menus a little healthier.
I've been reading (and enjoying) what actor Joshua Malina has been experiencing in his Challenge. One of his concerns is that he's not getting the necessary healthy amount of fruits and vegetables on his SNAP budget (see his 7/11/12 entry). I want to make sure that we get ours. Yesterday I laid out my plans to spend 30% of our $63 Challenge budget ($18.90) on protein foods. Originally, I had planned on spending 20% or $12.60 on produce. I changed my mind: I'm going to raise our produce budget to 25% or $15.75. Joshua and I do eat one large salad a day and we rarely skip it. We also snack heavily on fruits and veggies, especially during the summer. How much of our regular produce will we have to sacrifice because we can't afford them on the SNAP budget? Let's see.
I bought my usual six-pack of romaine hearts at Costco for $3.29. While I usually use one head of romaine per salad, I'm going to have to stretch these 6 heads into 7 salads.
While cherries are often a pricier luxury fruit, Sprouts has got cherries on sale for $1.49 per lb. this week. I bought 2.29 lbs. for $3.41.
They've also got Hass avocadoes for $0.77 each; I bought 3 for $2.31. Roma tomatoes are $0.77 per lb.; I bought 4 tomatoes for $0.26.
Sprouts has also got yellow onions for $0.50/lb. I bought 3 large onions, which came to 1.82 lbs., or $0.91.
Two weeks ago, King Soopers (Denver's Kroger affiliate store) had Del Monte pineapples on sale for 4 for $5 or $1.25 each. I printed two copies of this $0.50 coupon which King Soopers doubled to $1, so I was able to get two pineapples for $0.25 each or $0.50 for both. I cored, sliced and froze the pineapples (thanks to these uber-helpful instructions from Whole Foods), so we'll have them for our SNAP Challenge week. I think I'm going to grill some of the pineapple and toss it in our chicken and romaine salad for Shabbat lunch. Yummers.
Target has 1/2 lb. of mushrooms for $1.79 (a so-so price, but ok). With my Target RedCard, I got 5% off, so these cost me $1.70.
UPDATE: I also bought 3 lbs. of bananas at Target for $1.39. (Please forgive the crummy iPhone picture.)
UPDATE: I bought 4 potatoes at Walmart at $0.88/lb. for $1.36.
Summary of my produce purchases so far:
- 4 lbs. of organic carrots, $1.29 (purchased at Target)
- 6-pack romaine hearts, $3.29 (purchased at Costco)
- 2.29 lbs. of cherries, $3.41 (purchased at Sprouts)
- 3 Hass avocados, $2.31 (purchased at Sprouts)
- 0.34 lbs of roma tomatoes, $0.26 (purchased at Sprouts)
- 2 pineapples, $0.50 (purchased at King Soopers)
- 1.82 lbs. yellow onions, $0.91 (purchased at Sprouts)
- 8 oz. mushrooms, $1.79 (purchased at Target)
- 3 lbs. bananas, $1.39 (purchased at Costco)
- 1.55 lbs. potatoes $1.36 (purchased at Walmart)
$13.76 or 22% of my $63 budget $15.15 or 24% of my $63 budget, $16.51 or 26% of my budget. I exceeded my $15.75 produce budget by $0.76. That's ok.
We usually eat apples and oranges as snacks, and it looks like this week, we'll have to do without them. My salads are going to have to do without my usual sprinkling of cashews or pine nuts. I'm thinking about turning some of those carrots into a ginger/carrot/onion soup to extend them a bit. I've been thinking a lot about soups and stews, because water is free and a great extender. I might just dust off the crock pot, which I've put away for the summer. Stay tuned.
Without question, if I had just gone out there and bought fruits and vegetables without coupons, sales or comparison shopping, my tab would have been double or more. As I do before any shopping trip, I spent about 20 minutes strategizing my purchases (going through circulars and my coupons) before I set foot in any store, and I consider it time well spent.
I've gotten some emails questioning whether it's fair that I'm using Costco items for the SNAP Challenge week. My response is: absolutely. If there were any figures out there about Costco membership and income levels, I'd have some numbers to fall back on, but unfortunately, there are none. But here is my rationale: a basic Costco membership is $55 per year. That comes to roughly a dollar a week. It's open and available to everyone. You can also shop without a paid membership by going shopping with a friend who is a member. So as far as I'm concerned, Costco is fair game.
More coming up.