What I Didn't Expect – Amanda's Start to the CalFresh Challenge

My First Road Block

Even with the best planning, I couldn’t have accounted for a transportation breakdown. As a result, I found myself beginning to prepare lunches for this week at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night.

I thought about how challenging it is for families who juggle competing priorities to find the time to plan, purchase and prepare. The USDA found that SNAP recipients spend at least 60 minutes more each week, planning, purchasing and preparing their food, than those who do not need or use SNAP. 

My guess is that 60 additional minutes is an incredibly conservative estimate. Stretching this tiny budget in a way that provides nutrition has taken a lot longer than normal, and has definitely left me wishing I had purchased even stronger coffee.

More Bumps in the Road

The most exciting thing happened to me yesterday: I got a $5 off $10 worth of purchase at Target that can be applied to groceries. Luckily, I hadn't purchased all of my week’s food yet and still had enough money left to take advantage of this coupon.

I headed straight to Target to make use of my $5 off $10. I painstakingly picked the best produce to fill me up and supplement my meals (by supplement, I mean that night’s dinner was veggie stirfry.) After putting my items on the conveyer belt, I pulled out the coupon. I stopped when I read the details: valid 10/2/16 - 10/15/16. This week’s coupon was $5 off $15. 

As the cashier rung me up, I realized that:

  1. I don’t have $15 worth of food to use the current coupon
  2. I couldn't afford to spend $10.44 on the food I had picked out

I was so embarrassed. I tried to explain to the cashier I was confused and misread the dates, asking if I could use the other coupon now.  She responded by asking if I “just wanted to buy some gum or something to bring the total up to $15.” It made me realize how privileged so many of us are to be able to flippantly spend $5. 

I could feel my face start to warm as I said I would not like to buy the items and asked if she’d like me to put them away. I could tell she was embarrassed too, as a line had formed behind me. She said not to worry about it and I slinked away. I left the store embarrassed, deflated, and still in need of veggies for that night’s dinner. Luckily, the next store I went to had much better deals than Target, but I was only able to get there because I had a car and extra gas. 

After All That... This Was My Monday Menu:


2 cups instant coffee (also an appetite suppressant!)

Oatmeal w/ 1 small banana


Big bowl of chili w/ ground turkey, red beans, hominy, and canned tomatoes

½ cucumber sliced


Egg & Veggie Stirfry