UPDATED 7/15/12: Now that I've done some actual shopping for the SNAP Challenge, I can start dealing with real numbers and not estimates.
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 #1: |
With certain exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 years of age must register for work, accept an offer of suitable work, and take part in an employment and training program to which they will be referred by the SNAP office in order to qualify for SNAP assistance. Generally, able-bodied adults aged 18 to 50 who do not have children and are not pregnant can only get SNAP benefits for 3 months in a 3-year period unless they are working or participating in a work or workfare program. There are a few exceptions.
Source: USDA website
Joshua and I are not going to start our Mazon SNAP Challenge of eating only $63 worth of food until next week (7/16/12-7/22/12), but it's already put me in such a new mindset in thinking about poverty and food stamps. I've been following along actor Joshua Malina's Challenge, talking to friends and my co-bloggers Mara and Chaviva, reading the comments on their blogs and Facebook pages. If I walk away from this Challenge with one thing and one thing only, it will be this.
I'm extraordinarily grateful that in spite of many economic ups and downs that we've gone through these past few years, I've never been forced to turn to any sort of public assistance program. I say this with a full heart, because I am truly, truly grateful and appreciative. We are fortunate and we are blessed. There are millions (literally, millions) of people out there who are suffering and struggling through one of the worst economic downturns in our nation's history. I take so many things for granted and tend to see only the things we don't have, when I should be appreciating the many things that we do have. A home. Jobs. A full refrigerator, a full pantry, a full closet. Cars that run (most of the time). Nice furniture. Each other. I'm grateful to God, truly grateful.
Ok, back to planning the Challenge.
I haven't shopped for next week yet, but I've been doing a lot of thinking about how to spend our $63. Here's what we won't be doing. We will not be eating out, though with one kosher restaurant in Denver, that's not exactly much of a stretch for us. We won't be buying any Starbucks either (again, not much of stretch) or prepared foods. And we won't be having guests on Shabbat; that actually is kind of an effort to us and also made me realize this: people who live off of food stamps don't have much of a budget for socializing in their own homes. That must be difficult and isolating.
So that's what we won't be spending. What will we be spending our $63 on?
I'd like to spend 30% of our total budget, or $18.90, on protein. I think the protein part of our menus will be the most difficult part of meeting our Challenge budget, so I'd like to plan for it first, since I'll be building our meal menus around the protein portion.
According to the rules of the Challenge, we can use something that we've bought previously, as long as we know the price and can add that to our limit. Earlier this month, one of the Denver Targets had a great sale on grass-fed Empire poultry, along with a bunch of "peelie" coupons that lowered the price to about $1.35 per lb. which is an excellent price for kosher, grass-fed poultry. I stocked my freezer.
If you click on the image above, you'll be able to make out the prices. These three packages of chicken come to $13.61 for 5.62 lbs. of chicken, less the three $2 coupons, which lowers the total to $7.61 . I'm going to make a chicken soup out of two chicken bottoms, which will be our main dish for Friday night Shabbat dinner. I'll grill and shred two pieces for a cold chicken and romaine lettuce salad for Shabbat lunch. The rest of the chicken will be our dinner on Monday through Wednesday.
Thursday night kicks off the Nine Days, which is part of the Three Weeks of national Jewish mourning that takes place before Tisha B'Av, the anniversary of the destruction of both ancient Jewish Temples in Jerusalem. The Nine Days before and including Tisha B'Av are an intensified period of mourning, and we do not eat meat or poultry during that week, except on Shabbat. So starting with Thursday evening, our dinners will be meat-free. For the purposes of the challenge, that affects Thursday night and Sunday night dinner.
Luckily for us, Costco has just come out with a new coupon for their frozen salmon (thanks to DC reader Caroline B. for alerting me to it). A three lb. bag of salmon normally costs $19.99, but they are discounting it by $4 per bag, which drops the price to $15.99. There are 7 individual portions in each 3 lb. bag, so each portion costs $2.29. Joshua and I will have one portion each on Thursday night, so that's another $4.58.
Tuna fish is a staple in our home. We tend to have it for lunch, pretty much every single day. I
Costco has got a great deal on Tofu,
Costco also has a great price on Kirkland "egg beaters." (By this, I mean that pure-egg-white concoction that actually tastes good.) It's what we have for breakfast each morning.
UPDATE: now that I've done my actual shopping, here's my protein summary:
- 5.62 lbs. of grass-fed Empire chicken, $7.62 (purchased from Target)
- 14 oz. Costco salmon (2 portions), $4.59 (purchased from Costco)
- 6 cans of Bumble chunk light tuna in water, $3.54 (purchased from King Soopers)
- 19 oz. Kirkland tofu, $1.15 (purchased from Costco)
- Kirkland egg beaters, 16 oz., $1.55 (purchased from Costco)
Next up is produce. I'd like to allocate 20% of our $63 or $12.60 to fruits and vegetables. Can we still buy some organic veggies on a food stamp budget? I think we can. Stay tuned.