At the Center for Civil Justice, several staff advocates (include our ED) decided it was time for us to take a SNAP Challenge. After all, we work with clients all the time that are under this program and we offer help and assistance without knowing what they actually experience from day-to-day.
Once we made the decision to participate (we are taking the 3 day challenge), we all began thinking: “What can we buy on $4.50 per day?” We have a week to prepare, so we began talking about possible menus, shopping lists, who would go shopping first…and I began to realize that this really is a full-time decision making process that families have to go through. How much money do I have left, and what can I buy that will produce a nutritious meal with some vegetables and fruits.
On Sunday, I began looking through the ads and found that the local Aldi store has a sale on celery (.49 cents), cucumbers (29 cents) and eggs at 89 cents a doz. So I figure for $2.00 I have a breakfast and some veggies for lunch and dinner. This week is 10 for $10 at Meijer’s; I plan to take advantage of some of their sale items as well. I have never worried or fretted over what to buy and eat to ensure I get 3 meals a day…can’t even imagine doing this every day.
Okay…day one begins and this is my grocery list:
1 sweet potato .51 cents
3 bananas .58 cents
1 can tuna .88 cents
1 doz. eggs .89 cents
1 bag of Dole salad 1.00 – used a coupon on this - got it free
1 bag of carrots 1.00 – used a coupon on this - got it free
1 bunch celery .49 cents
1 whole chicken 5.35 – my big item for all of my dinners and 1 lunch
2 pkgs. Top Ramen .50 cents
1 quart milk .95 (got a deal – expiration date is today, will be good for at least 2 more days)
1 box tea 1.39 (bought the no brand type got 100 tea bags)
1 loaf w/w bread 1.00
1 pepper .50 cents (Farmer’s Mkt)
Total after the $2.00 of coupons: $13.04.
I plan on having scrambled eggs and a banana for breakfast each day. Soup and tuna sandwiches for 2 lunches and a chicken sandwich for a third sandwich, along with leftover carrots, and the pepper.
I took the chicken and cut it in-half; made chicken noodle soup (carrots, celery and top Ramen noodles) with one half and will baked the other half for 2 dinners this week, which I will have with my salad and sweet potato (1/2 each night). One night will be the soup and maybe an egg salad or scrambled egg sandwich. By then I will be sick of soup and sandwiches!
All this made me realize what a family must do to prepare for shopping. Scouring for deals and coupons to make a real bang on their buck.
2 scrambled eggs and a banana…cup of tea.
Lunch consisted of a large bowl of soup, tuna fish sandwich with carrots and orange pepper slices
3:00 came and that is when I want a snack item of some sort…no go today. Heading to the gym after work on a growling stomach is not good. Made it to the gym, but it was a rough start.
Went home and made my dinner which I was starving for: ¼ baked chicken ½ a baked potato and a salad with olive oil and vinegar…a cup of tea in the evening instead of my usual glass of wine.
Same breakfast (scrambled eggs, banana and tea), lunch was a tuna sandwich, orange pepper slices (the last), carrots and water. Again, around 3:00…low blood sugar drop, but I did have some carrots left over, so I had them to tie me over, and it gave me some energy to hit the gym again. Dinner was soup, a slice of bread (no butter) and a salad, and a cup of tea in the evening. The soup is kind of bland tasting…certainly not one of my better efforts. I could put in lots veggies, and had to split the chicken up, and Top Ramen noodles are not created for soup…very mushy…yuck. I did wake up around 2:30 or so and my stomach was growling!
I did spend some time searching my desk drawers for a snack item to no avail. The 3:00 hit is the hardest for me, especially since I go and work out after work…keeping my stamina up for cardio was hard…but once I pushed through the barrier…not thinking of food….I was ok.
So tired of eggs…but had a scrambled egg sandwich and cup of tea. Lunch was the rest of the tuna fish on top of the salad and carrots stick and the last banana. Dinner was the other ¼ piece of chicken, the rest of the sweet potato and cup of tea. I then congratulate myself for making it through and had a glass of wine and some snacks! Which…thankfully, I can afford…and unfortunately…many families in Michigan cannot afford to do.
The SNAP challenge is a good way for advocates, Members of Congress, Press and others to have an opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes for a short time. I only took the challenge for 3 days, and it was hard. Prior to starting I must have spent over 4 or 5 hours looking over ads and checking coupons. I did go to 2 stores and that isn’t always an option for many SNAP recipients. While I had some good food options, I was still hungry in-between meals and no variety of fruits and veggies to choose from. The diet for me was too high in carbs although I needed it to help tied me over; not enough veggies and fruit and little protein. I also could have made some better choices…but I think the results would be the same in the end. Not enough food to completely feel full all day long, and constantly thinking of what I am going to make, and how to stretch what I have…..