Unintended Consequences of Focusing on Food

Our week started off well enough… however, I’m learning that my attempts to make meals palatable and interesting may have cost us our food security. 

What remained of my pad thai

What remained of my pad thai

In an effort to “beat” the doldrums associated with eating on a tight budget, I created a varied meal plan, one that would keep my partner and I both satisfied and interested in the food we are eating.  A part of me did this in solidarity with budget meal planners and preparers, usually women, across the nation who are tasked with creating something “delicious” and cheap.  The other part of me wanted to see if the “you can eat gourmet on a budget” recipes that litter Pintrest and Mommy blogs across the nation actually held up. 

The verdict: I can cook amazingish meals (aka Pad Thai inspired rice, chicken and egg) on a CalFresh budget, BUT it takes 3-4 hours per day. 

Some quick background: at the beginning of the week, I created a meal plan that would only repeat the same meal once- yes- you heard me, we would only eat rice and beans twice in a row.  I worked off of staples of rice, quinoa, and potatoes and added egg, bean and chicken for protein.  Mix a different staple with a different protein and a few veggies and spices, and voilà you’ve got a new meal!    **Disclaimer, I have not been able to test these meals for nutritional content.  We’re most likely getting the protein and carbs we need, but we’re definitely light on fat and key vitamins/nutrients. **

In addition to meal planning and shopping, I am literally spending 3+ hours each night to cook and prepare meals.  Last night, I spent hours boiling and shredding chicken, cooking and crumbling egg, and cooking and seasoning rice for our Pad Thai lunches.  There’s no way that I could do this and hold down a full time job long term, especially if I had kids. 

As a result of spending so much time on food, other parts of our lives have suffered.  I no longer have time for connecting with friends, going to the gym, or doing other things that I enjoy.  Cooking, preparing meals, washing dishes and planning for the rest of the week (ie bean counting) has taken over. Spending 3-4 hours per day is not a realistic solution for most Americans.  While the USDA claims that SNAP recipients spend an additional ~90 minute per week on meal planning and prep, I call “Fact Check” on that one.  

Also as a result of focusing on food, I forgot and missed a deadline today for paying a parking ticket- costing me an extra $50.  There are so many things that could be said about the larger context of living in poverty and the impact that stress has on our lives.