Monday, December 02, 2013

Family SNAP Hunger Challenge: Day 1

The Monsters' Lunches and Snacks - Day 1
This week, the kids and I will be participating in the Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge in order to bring awareness to the challenges faced by so many families just like ours all over the country who, for whatever reason, have found themselves in the situation where they must attempt to nourish themselves on the current government allotment of $4.56 a day.

Although we could never truly understand the circumstances and the full weight of living day to day in that situation in just seven days, this challenge is really meant to help stir discussion and shed some light on the fact that this is a reality for many -- and, as I explained to the monsters this morning, that may very well include some of their friends and they don't even know it.

Shockingly, this meager daily allotment for food stamps is actually decreasing in 2014. And this is something that, no matter your position on the politics of it, needs to be considered. These are our neighbors, our friends and family, our community, our countrymen.

Could you sustain yourself, your family, and attempt to also eat nutritiously, spending just $4.56 per person, per day?

That's $13.68 per day for my family of 3 -- breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert, and all beverages.
So, this week, we have a total of $95.76 to spend, including condiments, oils, baking goods, and spices, which, when you add it up like that, actually sounds pretty reasonable. Until you think about what you spent the last time you went out for dinner. And all of our beautiful Thanksgiving leftovers have gone into hybernation in the freezer for a week. (But the fact that I can even complain about any that makes me immediately recoil with embarassment at our exorbitance.)


Using the whites and saving
the yolks for another meal
  Breakfast for the Monsters: French Toast

- 4 slices wheat bread (white is cheaper, but 100% whole wheat is more nutritious for us)
- 2 scrambled egg whites (saved the yolks for dinner) and added a splash of milk
- small glass of OJ (frozen generic brand and watered down a little to last longer)
- sprinkle of cinnamon (ground from sticks, which are cheapest in the ethnic spices section, but also taste better)
- 1 tbsp margarine to cook the toast
- 1 tsp drizzled honey (cheaper than our usual agave nectar, but better for us than syrup)

- half a banana for me and, of course, water

Total cost of breakfast for 3: $1.63

Lunch for the Monsters: PBJ

- 4 slices wheat bread for 2 sandwiches (thinking I may need to try and bake a couple of loaves this week instead)
- 2 tbsp peanut butter (low sodium is a little more expensive, but needed)
- strawberry jelly -- thinned with a little water to make it stretch (low sugar is a little more expensive, but needed)
- sliced 1/4 of a banana to bulk up both PBJ sandwiches
- sliced 1/4 of an apple for each with a sprinkle of cinnamon
- 4 graham crackers each
- large refillable water bottle for each (we typically don't send juices, so this is a standard)

- remaining half of the apple and 4 graham crackers, and of course, water for me

Total cost of lunch for 3: $2.11

Snack for Kids (mid-morning and after school)

- 1 string cheese each (but he didn't want his, so she had both)
- 1 ziploc snack bag of chex cereal each (which they both finished)
- 1 bag of goldfish crackers for him once he got to his Mommy's after school
- 1 honey yogurt for her once she got to her Mommy's after school
- no snack for me (which was a HUGE mistake)

Total cost of all snacks: $2.99

Refried pinto bean chalupas

Dinner for All of Us: Chalupas

- refried pinto beans (pot of beans will make for a few meals this week)
- 6 corn tortillas (bag of 30 will help with multiple meals this week)
- 2 tbsp canola oil for frying the corn tortillas, and then reused to refry the beans (other oils are cheaper, but canola is better for us)
- 2 tsp freshly ground comino seed
- 4 fresh garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp chopped large yellow onion
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
- shredded kale (more expensive than iceberg lettuce, lasts longer than spinach, more nutritious and multi-purpose, and also picked up at the farmer's market)
- shredded cheddar cheese (cheapest generic block I could find)
- 1 diced vine ripe tomato (cheapest at the farmer's market, but romas are cheapest at the grocery store)

- ended up not using the 2 yolks from breakfast, so I'll save those for tomorrow

Total cost of dinner for 3: $4.68

Dessert (because, please, they're 10 and they'll never let me get away with it otherwise)

- 2 small scoops each of least expensive generic brand of vanilla ice cream

Total cost of dessert: $0.28

Flinstones Vitamins (1 each): $0.20


NOTE: Our budget is only $13.68. That only gives me a savings of $1.79, which wasn't really a savings at all considering I didn't eat more than a half a banana for breakfast and a half an apple for lunch. Will need to make adjustments accordingly or Mama may hit road rage status by Tuesday afternoon...

- Found I was actually hungry first thing in the morning even though I never usually am, and am wondering if it's just because I'm suddenly hyper food conscious
- Found that I took smaller bites of my food and chewed slowly to try to make it last longer
- Realized the morning rush to prep for work and school makes it that much harder to pack smart lunches for all of us. Planning is really critical.
- Realized school snacks are actually going to be the hardest part for us; partly because the monsters are so picky and partly because it's harder to be creative with something that needs to be super quick, portable, and a dash of fast energy
- Recognize that much of what I did today and have tentatively planned for the rest of the week assumes that I have a working stove, oven, refrigerator, and freezer at my disposal. This revelation was a bit of a jolt.
- Found myself looking at the clock more often. When could I have another graham cracker? How long before I could eat my apple?
- Recognized around 1pm that I did a terrible job planning my own meals because I was so concerned about ensuring the kids got the lion's share of the $13.68. Hoping to plan a little better for tomorrow.
- Acknowledge that totalling up a cost per serving is not really necessarily the same thing as having to go out and spend per meal unless you're truly able to purchase, prepare, and store the majority of your items for re-use.
- Thinking that a glass of wine would be really, really great right about now...
To hear from the monsters' mouths exactly what they thought about their Day 1 experience, click HERE.

For more details, to join the challenge, or to follow other participants' posts, please visit Project Open Hand SNAP Hunger Challenge.


Karl said...

Thank you for taking the time to share this experience and thank you to Saia and Chago for joining in and sharing their thoughts. I look forward to reading day two!

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