Friday, November 20, 2015

Money Crashers: Two SNAPpy pieces

A little over a year ago, I took the Reverse SNAP Challenge. This was an inverted form of the regular SNAP (Food Stamp) Challenge that I designed because I thought the original version - just give yourself a $30 budget to buy all the food you eat for a week - had too many unreasonable and unrealistic constraints. I complained in my original post about the SNAP Challenge that most of the strategies we use to keep our food budget low—buying in bulk, shopping sales, gardening—would actually be impossible to use on a one-week basis. Even if we succeeded in staying within the SNAP budget for the week, I argued, we'd inevitably be paying more to eat during that week than we would by sticking to our usual shopping habits.

To get around these problems, I came up with the idea of taking the challenge in reverse. Instead of setting aside all the food in our pantry and eating only what I could buy with $30 per person, I'd eat from our pantry, and then take money out of the budget for what we'd actually spent on the ingredients when we bought them. As I noted in my wrap-up for the challenge, taking the challenge this way made bookkeeping a bigger hassle, but we didn't struggle at all to stay within our budget, and we didn't feel the least bit deprived—unlike most of the politicians, bloggers, and other notables who wrote about their experiences on the standard SNAP Challenge.

This contrast between my experience and the usual one inspired me to write a post for Money Crashers about the SNAP Challenge. In it, I go into the rules of the challenge and the experiences different public figures, from Corey Booker to Gwyneth Paltrow, had when they tried it. After that, I outline some of the problems I (and others) identified with the structure of the challenge and the steps I took to correct them in my Reverse SNAP Challenge. You can read the whole story here: The SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge – Could You Eat on $4.15 a Day?

As a companion to this piece, I also wrote an article about the SNAP itself. I discuss how the first Food Stamp program came to be and how it evolved into its present form, and I provide some details about who participates in the program today and how benefits are calculated. Lastly, I go into details about how to apply for and use the program, and I offer some tips about getting the most from SNAP benefits—with a nod to the Good and Cheap cookbook I've written about here before. To learn all you ever wanted to know about Food Stamps but were afraid to ask, read the full article: How to Get EBT Food Stamps – SNAP Program Eligibility & Application.

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