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SNAP Challenge: Getting Started

September 15, 2014

For Hunger Action Month, my family and I are taking Feeding America’s SNAP Challenge. We’re going to try to experience what it’s like to eat on just $4.50 a day per person like many of our fellow citizens who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to feed their families.  We’re using this as an opportunity to teach our son (and ourselves) about hunger in America, to help him (and ourselves) remember how fortunate we are to have so much, and to renew our commitment to helping our neighbors in need.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve agonized about this.  We have a 4 year old son who can clean out a fridge and pantry faster than any grown man. I mean, I was warned about teenage boys and how much they will eat, but I was hoping we had a good 10 years or so before that was going to happen. No, my active (some say “wild”), healthy, and fit 4 year old boy eats constantly.  He will eat his entire dinner, and 10 minutes later he’ll want a snack. By bedtime he’s hungry again. After all the books, and the tucking in, and all the stalling tactics, he hollers out to us that he needs “bed food”.  Yes, this is a new category of snacks that are just consumed in bed. With a four year old food-vacuum like my son in the house, you can understand why I’m nervous. How in the world could we possibly keep him full on $4.50 a day? Since we try to give him healthy, low-sugar, and organic snacks (when we can), we’d use up $4.50 before his “second breakfast”.  This is going to be tough.

The first thing I did to get this challenge started was to sit down and figure out the rules.  We are a family of four, but one of us is only a baby and is completely breastfed, so really we’re only talking about feeding three. SNAP benefits are equal to about $4.50 per person per day. So that’s $13.50 we can spend each day to cover three meals for three people. And snacks. We’re going to need snacks.

Thanks to Wholesome Wave’s Double Value Coupon Program, SNAP dollars are doubled at my local farmer’s market. Though it’s not part of the official SNAP challenge rules, I’m going to take advantage of this program, and integrate it into my challenge. I will use whatever money is left after the grocery store (if there is any), and I’m going to double it myself and head to the farmers market. I hope I can get some fresh food to plug in the gaps in my menu. More on this in my next post.

I know I can’t just go to the store and hope it works out to be less than $100. I need a plan. So I sat down and tried to come up with meals that don’t require many ingredients, and that I thought would be inexpensive. Even though my son is a big eater, he can also be pretty picky so I tried to think of things that I knew he would eat. Nutrition is, of course, a top priority. How can I get enough food and make sure it’s healthy food? This is the real challenge.

So here’s my list. I’m going to head to the store soon and see if it works out. I have NO IDEA how much this is going to cost me, but I’ll have to make my modifications at the store and let you know how it goes.

Breakfast ideas:
cereal and milk
oatmeal and raisins
frozen waffles

canned tuna
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
fried egg sandwiches

Dinner ideas:
Black beans and rice
Spaghetti and marinara sauce
Soup and sandwiches (maybe grilled cheese?)

Dinner sides:
Broccoli (frozen or fresh?)
Steamed carrots (frozen or fresh?)

And snacks–seriously, this is going to be tough.
A bag of clementines
cheese sticks

How does this list took to you? Do you think I can get all of this for less than $100?  Will it be enough for all three of us?  What would you change? Leave a comment for me and stayed tuned to the blog for more updates!

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