Sometimes you have to go against tradition in order to make things work. In some of our Challenger's cases, this meant making an AM meal in the PM. It's a creative use of limited resources and a healthy one at that!
When I agreed to attempt to live on a food stamp budget for a week, I knew it would be tough. But, I didn’t realize that one of the toughest challenges would be time. In order to maximize my $34.31 budget for the week, I had grand ideas of going to a farmers market and two or three different stores to capitalize on weekly specials. In my first lesson of the working poor, I was reminded that the Saturday Farmers Market would be impossible to get to if I was scheduled to work, which I was. So, I woke up this morning on a budget with no food. My kids had breakfast at the hotel I had to speak at this morning. The total bill was more than my allowance for the week, so I just watched. However, when I went to speak at the Teamsters Union political meeting, there was a full buffet of breakfast. I declined to eat, joking with the server that I only eat bacon and there was only sausage out. When the server, who is also one of our union members, went and brought me a small plate of four pieces of bacon, I was embarrassed and shocked. In order to not be rude and because I was incredibly hungry, I ate the bacon. So, I started the challenge on a bad note: eating stolen bacon. Oops.
I finally did make it to the grocery store around noon, armed with coupons and a throbbing headache thanks to my lack of caffeine. I am not a patient person and hate grocery shopping on the natural. But, I never imagined how demoralizing it would be to walk through the produce section searching for some type of fruit and vegetables that wouldn’t break the bank. I quickly walked past the berries and peaches, my favorite fruits, because of the price. I had flashbacks of myself as a child asking my mom “Whhhhhhyyyyyyy?” couldn’t I have one of those pretty white peaches. Now I know why she would rush through the produce section. I settled in on a few oranges, a couple of ears of corn and a pound of broccoli – combined, that would be $3.50.
I spent a lot of time in the coffee aisle, but I just couldn’t justify the cost. So, I decided I would buy some green tea in order to deal with the caffeine withdrawal. $2.79 for 20 tea bags and I knew I could steal some splenda from 7-eleven if I just bought a single cup of coffee on Monday.
I realized quickly that noodles, soup and pasta would be the most cost effective staples of my diet this week. So much for my low-card diet. I also bought cheap white bread and peanut butter. I found a great deal in the frozen section, individually wrapped pieces of chicken, salmon & scallops - $1.00 per serving. Finally, I decided I needed something kind of healthy, so I bought yogurt for more than I would have liked to spend.
In all, I spent $24.76 – leaving myself almost $10.00 for the week. I’ve never thought so much about food as when I have to think about how much everything cost. I took my kids to pizza tonight, hopeful that I could grab a slice for $2.00. But, the cheese slice was $2.50, so I decided I would make dinner at home. I won’t starve this week, but I certainly will lack in creative meals and vitamins.
Breakfast: Stolen bacon
Lunch: Cup O’ Noodles soup ($.25), cup of Green Tea
Dinner: one orange ($.50), one egg ($.25), two pieces of bread ($.25), a cup of Green Tea (reusing the tea bag from lunch)
-Submitted by: CalFresh Challenger
So, I hit the store and did some shopping for the challenge. Wal-Mart is a good place to get groceries at a good price and shopping sales is always good. I also went to Sprouts for my produce. Produce that is in season is also often on sale, so I picked up some things on sale and that was a good plan. I will have to shop again later in the week, as I have not spent my full stipend. But here is what is in the cupboard right now to work with:
Peanut Butter 3.28
grapes (3.5 lbs) 2.46
broccoli (2.11 lbs) 1.86
Total so far: 26.35 Left to spend: 8:55
From my stock this was what I ate today-
Breakfast: Bagel with Peanut Butter
Lunch: Broccoli wrap with salsa and grapes
Dinner: Eggs and toast and a banana
What did I not have that I might usually? My morning tea. It is the one expensive habit that I decided to forgo for the challenge, otherwise this is a pretty average day for me. I looked at my grocery receipts from previous weeks to see if I thought I could do this. I shop and cook for a family of five and we are usually within the dollar range of the challenge. I am just doing this myself, the rest of the family is not involved. So, since the rest of my family is not doing it I am losing the "economies of scale" advantage in my shopping. I still think it is doable and will report throughout the week.