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.