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SNAP Challenge: Part 2

September 18, 2014

Ok, we still haven’t started. I guess I don’t feel ready. How ridiculous is that? I’m still not “ready” to feed my family on $4.50 a day per person. For real people this isn’t a game and it’s not a choice. I realize how privileged I sound, but I want to take this seriously and there is too much food in my fridge. One of the rules of the SNAP Challenge is that you can’t eat food that you already have and we have a lot. So, the truth is, we haven’t started the challenge yet because we have TOO MUCH FOOD. That’s messed up. Another problem is that my parents are coming for a visit this weekend and, well, SNAP benefits don’t increase when you have company or when it’s your kid’s birthday. You just have to make it work. But, we’re not going there this time.

However, I did go to the store to do some initial shopping for when we do get started on Monday. I was worried about the food going bad before we were ready to start eating it and then I realized that nearly everything on my shopping list was non-perishable. And, there it is folks. When you’re eating on $4.50 a day per person–or the average amount of SNAP benefits–you aren’t going to get a lot of fresh food.  It’s just that simple. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality faced by millions of Americans who rely on these benefits to feed their families.  This is why is so important! More on that later…

Normally, when I go the store I walk straight to the produce section.  Out of habit I did that again and realized there was nothing there that I was going to be able to get today. That made me sad. I did check out the prices to see what items seemed to be the most food for the least amount of money. The large heads of lettuce and cabbage were big, and cheap. A one pound bag of whole carrots was only 79 cents. Duly noted.

I strolled through the “natural” and “organic” section and saw the free-range eggs we usually buy with their big fat price tag, and gasped at the almost $4 organic yogurt that is a staple at our house. I was in the wrong place. I stood in the middle of an aisle like a big dummy just trying to get my bearings.

While I stood there a commercial came on the store-wide speaker. It was an announcement about September being Hunger Action Month, I KID YOU NOT! “1 in 6 Americans is food insecure” it said, and this was the month to take action to help our neighbors in need. I was pleased to hear it and hope others did as well, but the timing was kind of freaky.

This was sort of a test run for me–a chance to do some research on the price of food–and I ended up only buying about half of what we need. I got a big bag of rice ($1), a bag of dried beans ($2.19), several cans of condensed soup (2 for $3), several cans of tuna (.89 each), spaghetti ($1 a box), a big can of oatmeal ($1.57), a huge block of cheddar cheese for sandwiches and snacks ($3.49), a loaf of generic sliced whole-wheat sandwich bread ($1.25), and one box of granola bars for my little snack king which cost $2.19 for a box of 5.  At the check out I saved $2.40 for using the store’s free rewards card, and I ended up paying $26.52 total.  Not too bad. I’ve still got to get eggs, stuff to make sandwiches, side items for my son’s lunches, snacks, and fresh produce. I’ll finish it up this weekend and we’ll really start Monday.

You may have noticed a few things missing from my list and cart. The big one? Meat. We don’t eat meat at my house, except for the occasional filet of fish/can of tuna/fish sticks. That has helped keep the price down. We’re also not planning to drink anything but the delicious Memphis water straight from the tap, and milk. If there is any way on God’s green earth that we can afford coffee, we might just survive this. Y’all cross your fingers.

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