I tried to do the SNAP challenge for three days – September 16, 17 and 18th.
First, I relied on my colleague Marybeth Laisure to give me a draft shopping list as I didn’t have time to look at all of the sale flyers in order to maximize the $13.50 I could spend. I changed a few things from Marybeth’s list. I passed on milk because I would not be eating my usual breakfast of expensive but healthy bran cereal. Although the rules of the SNAP Challenge state that you cannot eat any food that you already have in your house, I cheated and used frozen chicken breast that my shopper husband buys when it goes on sale at rock-bottom prices a few times a year. He stocks up and freezes large quantities. Whole chicken was on sale but, as I am not the chef in the family, I wanted to avoid having to cook a whole chicken.
I shopped at Meijer, Aldi, Dollar Tree, and Kroger to stretch the $13.50 for three days. These stores are not close to each other. I’m fortunate enough to have a vehicle at my disposal. Not figured in the SNAP Challenge is the expense of gas necessary to travel around to take advantage of the best sales.
After my breakfast of eggs, toast and tea on September 16th, I didn’t feel well. Lunch was cold chicken breast with broccoli. Broccoli was on sale this week so I stocked up. I continued to feel sick and dinner was reheated chicken breast, rice and leftover broccoli. I had a community advisory group meeting where great snacks are always served and . . . I cheated. I didn’t eat as many snacks as I usually do, but I did eat a big (expensive, I’m sure) brownie.
I usually drink home-brewed ice tea which I have blended from black, green and specialty teas. This is a pretty inexpensive drink. However, in order to stay in budget, the tea I drank during the challenge was brewed from cheap “green” tea bags from Dollar Tree. The amount of tea in each teabag was, upon visual inspection, less than half the amount in national brand teabags. And, although green tea was listed as the ingredient, the quality of the tea it produced was very low.
On September 17th I had the flu. I forced down my egg and toast breakfast and skipped lunch. Dinner was tuna noodle casserole. I would not have been able to afford this if I did not cut the cost of it in half. My husband was not on the SNAP challenge and he wasn’t particularly happy with the menu choice. But the cost of the ingredients including canned soup, egg noodles and frozen peas (if not divided in half) would have put me over my spending limit.
On September 18th I still had the flu so I skipped breakfast. Honestly, I wondered if the eggs contributed to my physical condition. Lunch was cold chicken breast and broccoli AGAIN, not because it was best for my unsettled stomach, but because it was what I had planned and bought. Dinner was chicken, rice and, you guessed it, broccoli. After dinner, I went to a fundraiser where I cheated AGAIN and had a piece of homemade pumpkin pie.
Even though I didn’t follow the rules precisely, this effort consumed a lot of my attention and energy. I can greatly empathize with people who rely on food assistance to feed themselves and their families all the time.