Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reverse SNAP Challenge, Day 6

Six days down, one to go on our Reverse SNAP Challenge. Here's what we had to eat on Day 6:

Amy's breakfast (toast and cocoa): 27 cents
Brian's breakfast (cereal with add-ins and juice, PLUS half a cup of extra cereal): $1.16
Lunch: Leftover couscous salad, leftover pasta, and the remainder of the pint of blueberries we started yesterday. Total: 62 cents.
Amy's afternoon snack (popcorn and egg cream): 39 cents
Dinner: quesadillas and salsa. We used one can of tomatoes (69 cents at Aldi), 1 red onion (31 cents at H-Mart), a tiny bit of jalapeno pepper we had stored in the freezer (estimated value 5 cents), 4 cloves of garlic (estimated value 10 cents), home-cooked black beans equivalent to about 1/3 pound dry (33 cents), 1.5 tablespoons of lime juice (estimated value 10 cents, based on a price I found on Google Shopping), 4 ounces arugula from the garden (free), about 3/4 of a half-pound block of Monterey Jack cheese from Aldi ($1.50), and six flour tortillas ($1.19 for a package of 10 at Aldi, so that's 71.5 cents). Total: $3.80
Dessert: Ice cream soda for Amy (22 cents); for Brian, 3/4 cup of GORPCC, meaning 1/4 cup each of organic raisins from Trader Joe's ($2.99 a pound = 75 cents a cup, so about 19 cents), peanuts from Aldi ($2.39 a pound = 15 cents an ounce, which is about 1/4 cup), and chocolate chips from Aldi ($1.59 per bag and about 23 tablespoons to a bag, so about 27.5 cents). Total: 83.5 cents.
Additional snacks throughout the day: 3/4 cup Life cereal (10.5 cents) with 1/2 cup milk (10 cents); water with a splash of orange juice (about 1 ounce, or 3 cents); 1 ounce string cheese (29 cents); 2 graham crackers (11 cents). Total: 63.5 cents.
TOTAL FOR DAYS 1-6: $47.34, or $7.89 per day. One day left, $15.66 left in our budget, and plenty of leftovers in our fridge; we've totally got this. Heck, I could go out to Starbucks this afternoon and not blow the budget. (But I won't.)

We had a friend over for board games after dinner, and I told him that we were doing this challenge and why we were doing it differently from the standard way. I noted that I think the standard SNAP challenge is designed to make it as difficult as possible, because most of the people taking the challenge have a particular political agenda; they're trying to show that it's really difficult to get by on food aid and that, therefore, the benefit needs to be increased (or at the very least not cut any further). If you look at the webpage for the SNAP Challenge, you can see that the questions they ask about the challenge are all based on the assumption that getting by on this amount of food is very difficult: "What choices did you have to make about the types of food you could afford, where you shopped, or the nutritional quality and variety of food? What have you cut out of your routine to stay on budget (e.g. COFFEE)? Are you worried about your groceries running out before the end of the Challenge?"

Anyway, I expressed my concern that the people who sponsor these challenges aren't going to be interested in my experience. I even said that I feared the Democratic party might "revoke my member card" for publicly stating, and showing, that for us it was not only possible but very easy to eat a healthy diet on a food-stamp budget. The friend in question is probably somewhere to the left of the salad fork on the political place setting himself, but his response was something along the lines of, "I don't think dismissing awkward facts is a productive approach." So I'm heading into the last day of my challenge with renewed hope that my experience actually will be a useful contribution to the conversation about food aid. Perhaps instead of just wringing our hands over how difficult it is to feed a family on the amount of money SNAP provides, we can start talking more about what can be done to feed a family on this budget, and even feed them well.
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