Lesson 666 – UB SNAP Challenge – Final Thoughts

One last post on this SNAP Challenge and then it’s back to lessons learned from living with children and chickens in New Hampshire.

I’m going to start this one off with a story. When Trevor wanted some snowshoes a few years ago so that he could hike in our back woods in the winter I told him that it wasn’t in our budget but that he was a smart kid and he could probably figure out a way to get a pair.

Trevor thought about this and then he wrote a letter to our local newspaper swapping column and he explained who he was and why he wanted the snowshoes. He said that he didn’t have money to buy a pair but if someone had an extra pair not being used, he would write a book about how to identify and use ten local edible plants in exchange for the shoes.

Two people responded. Trevor wrote the book (complete with some medicinal uses) and he was able to not only get snowshoes for himself but for a friend to also go hiking with him.

That’s kind of the way we roll in our family. You figure out a way to make the best of things with what you have. Clearly my kids have internalized this very valuable lesson and way of life.

Not everyone was happy with how I approached the SNAP challenge. Apparently there was a clear political agenda where you were *not* supposed to succeed. The challenge was ultimately intended to show that SNAP benefits are not enough and if you succeeded that meant you hate poor people and that you are a conservative Republican (“who wouldn’t listen anyway.”)

I’m pretty confident in saying that that does not describe me.  I took this challenge as an opportunity to share in the hopes that it might, in the end, help teach some people how to stretch their money (whether on food stamps or not) just a bit more. That was my sole agenda.

Here are a collection of some of the comments I got around the web on my attempt along with my responses:


Saw your menus…I applaud you…I do the same for myself (for health reasons) but I’ll bet my next paycheck that deep down your kids feel somewhat deprived….to youngsters and teens those meals look like prisoners rations…sorry…


That was one menu for one person on a budget of $30.

I just completed our menu and shopping for the 6 of us at home for next week. Breakfast is toast, English muffins, Hot breakfast sandwiches, or oatmeal. Lunch (they bring it to School) Deli meat sandwiches with cheese or Peanut butter and jelly, granola bar, piece of fruit. Dinners, Breaded pork cutlets, salad, green beans with bacon/Sloppy Joes with chips and carrots/Baked ziti with Salad/Chicken vegetable curry on rice/Spaghetti with bacon, diced tomatoes and greens/Roasted chicken with potatoes, carrots and salad/Shells with vegetables and leftover chicken from the night before. Total cost for those groceries was $117 (we used a few supplies we already had on hand.)

None of my kids are complaining about what we eat.


It took so long for you to prepare the shopping list and to make all your meals. Busy people don’t have that kind of time.

It did take a little bit of time (maybe one hour total) to design the menu and do the comparison shopping BUT now that I’ve done it once, I could use the basic menu and do variations on it.

Instead of pasta with bacon, diced tomatoes, and greens – I could do pasta with olives, basil, and broccoli. I could switch it up with some flavored meat (hot dogs would even work) or add a tiny amount of flavorful cheese (you don’t need much feta to make it better.)

I could vary the vegetables, add a new flavor, use a different spice, add roasted squash, use a little canned pumpkin with cream to make an incredible sauce (if you haven’t tried that one on pasta you should.)

When I had the basics down, I could start improvising. All very thrifty, all very doable.

Once I had these under my belt (wish I could have thrown a curry in there, that’s one of our favorite meals to make with whatever is lying around) I could start expanding my menu based on what’s on sale. Turkey’s on sale? (which it is this week) I could start with a roasted turkey dinner, have a turkey and beans dinner, heck we just had a turkey soup with potatoes (the last of our Thanksgiving dinner) that when crusty bread with butter was added, was eaten and enjoyed by everyone.

I know that people are busy (we work FT and have 6 kids) BUT if you plan your food menu, then there is actually less work during the week because you know exactly what you are going to have. None of the menus I suggested take more than a few minutes to prepare (with the exception of the chicken baking but once you put it in the oven you can go do things until it’s ready.) Get to know your crockpot again.

Going back to the kitchen is not going backward for women.

I’m not sure that it’s because people don’t have time that they don’t do this, I think it’s more that they don’t have the skills to do it. We have become a society that frowns on cooking and instead of cooking food from scratch we want our food instantly. In my daughter’s home ec class they were taught how to make a ham and cheese sandwich in the microwave.

At home she’s been taught how to make Baked Ziti and on the weeks that we have that (it’s up for next week’s menu) she is the one who will be making it (and she is the one who will get the compliments when we all sit down to eat.)

What I did last week took a lot of time both to prepare and to document. I know. But I did it because I was hoping that some people might have found it useful and might start thinking a little differently about how they treat food. I’ve already heard from a few people who have tried some of these “SNAP” recipes (and really, these are just budget recipes) and are now preparing and cooking food for themselves.

My intent with all of this work was not to cast judgment on anyone or any program. My intent was to teach so that perhaps others can learn.  It’s my suggestion as a way to make a tough situation just a little bit better.

Congratulations! You’re an outlier!

You say that like it’s a bad thing. 🙂 Outliers can be beneficial, if everyone always did things the way they’ve always been done, then they’ll always be done that way.


Filed under Life Lessons, New Hampshire, SNAP

7 responses to “Lesson 666 – UB SNAP Challenge – Final Thoughts

  1. When you put stuff out there for whatever reason you get amazing challenges, some hard to wrap my brain around. Have not blogged in awhile because have not had the time or energy to defend the blog…….other than to say; my blog, my life, happy, happy. I was so disappointed when our public school required uniforms I went to a school board meeting airing publicly my unhappiness. Expressing the joy my kids took on trips to the fabric store, picking out fabric and sewing some of their own clothes…….which were then entered in the fair in August. The board sat there speechless, finally one board member waved his hands and said, but you are not normal. I laughed out loud and so did others. Then and there I learned when and where I would speak publicly about how I choose to live. I was so happy my kids were out of school and in college. This year they shut down home ec, industrial arts and art. We now have pay to play sports and kids wandering around the gas station food store after school. Makes me scratch my head. Give me my basement full of canned goods from the garden and 9 chickens. I stay in the studio and work most days, choosing not to punch a time clock and sit in a cubicle.
    Yup, a tree hugging, chicken lov’n, renegade.
    Tonight we are having butternut squash soup, rosemary roasted potates with onions, homemade crusty bread (rising right now), and tea. All prepared from a garden tended last summer…….and we are going to eat off dishes I made too. (I work as a potter). I will have high dinner satisfaction tonight.
    Thanks for the documentation of the SNAP program, I really enjoyed it and know how much work and time it takes, it’s a valuable contribution!

  2. I thought you did any amazing job with your $30. I am working on a character in my novel who is a social worker who teaches cooking/shopping classes for folks on a limited budget and also stays within the budget for her own meals. Like you, she is busy person.

    I was delighted to see it actually can be done and done so well.

    Let me know if you need me to vouch for the fact that you are NOT a conservative Republican. Still find that comment hilarious!

    Keep shinning that light into cobwebby corners!

  3. Melody

    A ham and cheese sandwich in the microwave? Oy!

  4. Wendy, I started following your blog because of your chickens & what I might learn. But I’ve learned so much more. Thank you for taking the time to plan a menu, comparison shop & stick with it. We need so much more of that in this country.


  5. Rosemarie Rung

    Wendy, I finally caught up on your SNAP challenge and it warms my heart. I actually get tremendous personal satisfaction in cooking and serving a nutritious and economical meal. It’s like I “stuck it to the man.” You are totally right about preparation. The weeks I don’t prepare a menu and shopping list is the week we eat haphazardly, more expensively, and are just more stressed.

  6. Hi Wendy, I came here from the 333 Kitchen Challenge were you mentioned this post about the SNAP Challenge. You are right about the issue of the lack of skills being the main problem with managing a food budget wisely. It isn’t even the lack of cooking skills, as much as it is with planning a menu, shopping carefully, and eating foods that are in line with one’s actual budget rather than one’s imagined budget. The things you can do with a whole chicken to stretch your budget, versus the one-time expense of a box of chicken nuggets–where’s the logic in option #2 if you are really poor?

    We’ve always lived frugally, whether it was necessary or not, and I’ve personally continued the practice even when I had to work 60 hour weeks as a professional. As a military wife, I worked with a volunteer program to help young soldier’s families learn to manage their food budget and their household budget. Your menus and thoughts on the subject are now out there and may help someone else realize how important it is to more carefully manage all their resources in life.

    • Wendy Thomas


      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you on this comment. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the 33 ingredient kitchen and while it’s important to know what to do with basic ingredients, it’s more important to know what to do with the food that you get.

      For example, if you know how to roast vegetables, you can make sides, sauces, and salads.

      If you know the basics of making a soup, you can make a pot of soup from what is in season and on sale.

      Baking? Bread isn’t really that difficult, neither are biscuits, muffins, and pancakes. You just have to be taught how.

      My take on this project? 33 ingredients doesn’t necessarily set you free, instead it restricts and doesn’t allow you to really experience life (and when you come down to it, food is a joy, not a drudgery.) When we got a Kohlrabi in our CSA pick-up this summer, I had to research how to use it, but I did and now my kids have eaten Kohlrabi pickles and slaw. We tried something new and discovered that we liked it.

      So instead of keeping to only 33 items in my shopping list, I’m going to concentrate on explaining 33 basic methods of cooking. Once you (read- my kids) have that knowledge, then food preparation and planning becomes very easy. It becomes something to look forward to and not something to dread.

      Would love to connect with you and help out in any way that I can with your project.


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