Sunday, July 22, 2012

SNAP Challenge: Closing Time

Well, I'll admit it: I didn't blog nearly as much as I wanted to about the SNAP Challenge. But the truth of the matter is that you can only say so many times "I had leftover Lentil Taco Meat" or "I had leftover gluten-free pasta with homemade sauce" or, oh, for breakfast "I had more of that delicious Quinoa Breakfast Cereal."

Yes, I made four things this week and ate those four things for every meal. Those four things were Quinoa Breakfast Cereal, Sweet Potato & Black Bean Soup, Lentil Taco "Meat," and Trader Joe's Gluten-Free, Organic Pasta with homemade sauce. I got sick of them, for what it's worth. Really sick of them.

I know that doesn't seem like much, but when you make things en masse, they last forever.

What surprised me was that I have leftovers in the food department. I still have an entire portion (and then some) of the soup left, I never made the other soup I wanted to make, and I have enough lentils for probably two more portions. I didn't use all of the black beans that I bought, and the same goes for the raisins.

So by my estimates, this is how everything came out in the end:

  • TJ's Gluten-Free Pasta $1.99
  • Raisins $1.50 (of a $1.99 box)
  • Corn Tortillas $1.48
  • Green Lentils $.75 (of a $1.08 bag)
  • Produce $8.39 (less the $3 for the produce I never used)
  • Bagged Dry Black Beans $0.50 (of a $.70 bag)
  • Carrots $.10 (of a $1.00 bag -- seriously, I ate like two carrots)
  • Canned Diced Tomatoes $0.68
  • Canned Tomato Sauce $0.33
  • Quinoa $4.16
  • Daiya Pepper Jack Cheese $3.15 (on sale with a $.50 coupon)
  • TJ's Maple Syrup $2.34 (of a $13.00 bottle)
  • Coffee $2.45

That comes out to about $3.20 spare, which I'm going to write off for what I probably spent on two cups of instant coffee with almond milk I made myself on Shabbos. Seriously, I couldn't help it.

Now, I will admit to a few things. I did get a Starbucks coffee (at the price of $2 and some change) using a free coffee drink I'd acquired. I also had lunch one day this week on the office, as it was our monthly staff meeting.

I'll also admit to the fact that I suck at eating when I can't just make things on the fly, so there were a few days -- Wednesday in particular -- where I seriously didn't eat much if anything at all. I drank a lot more water this week than normal, and I also seriously took advantage of the free coffee at work (something I rarely, if ever, do).

A few days I woke up famished, and by Thursday the Quinoa Breakfast Cereal wasn't cutting it. Today is another one of those days.

The truth of the matter is that to live on this kind of a budget you have to have a few things per week and just eat them on-and-off for every meal. I honestly can't see another way around it -- unless, of course, your diet is more open and you can buy boxed mac n'cheese and other low-budget, low-health options, which is something I didn't have the ability to do over the week of this challenge.

Ultimately, I wish I had spent more time planning out my snacks. I didn't get into the carrots, and that 2 pound bag for $1 went to complete waste. They're still good, and they'll come in handy during my adventures to Nebraska this week (especially with some hummus), but when it comes to snacking I'm more chips-and-salsa than carrot sticks.

So folks, that's the run of it. Would I do the challenge again? No dice. I missed out on some social opportunities this week because of the challenge, and I found myself staring at the cereal I had and the almond milk when I was too hungry to cook and being frustrated that I couldn't just eat it. But that $6.99 bag of gluten-free cereal and $2.66 carton of almond milk weren't figured into my budget. I suppose I could have divvied it up by servings and made it work, but it was too much work for my meager brain. I also wish that we could have had access to the food bank system (in theory) -- people living on limited budgets have a lot of options in the community with food banks.

Hunger is no laughing matter. People who live in the world of SNAP aren't walking around with easy money to buy gourmet chocolate and Starbucks coffee.

So find a Food Bank and give a little. Or, better yet, donate to Mazon -- the Jewish response to hunger.