How Diane Planned Her CalFresh Challenge on Crutches

Our Hunger Advocacy Network Manager Diane Wilkinson is documenting the highs and lows of her CalFresh Challenge on her own blog – and we want to share her experience with you.

Planning Days: September 17 & 18, 2016

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”- Robert Burns

What I knew: I had to buy enough food for all my meals for seven days on a budget of $29.89. This was going to take some planning and a lot of work. My intention was to sit down on Saturday and look through all the “sale” flyers for Vons, Ralph’s, and Food 4 Less. I would make a preliminary list of items that were on sale at each and map out a plan of attack on the most efficient way to hit all the stores on Sunday. I intended to start out a Sprouts for produce comparison and then a nearby store called Smart and Final – a bulk/wholesale/discount place.

This planning is important for a few reasons, first and foremost, that’s not a lot of money to stretch and I certainly didn’t want to end up short at the end of the week. I needed to think through portions and whatnot. Reason two is that I’m not really what anyone would consider a cook. When you are single and not restricted to a very limited budget with your food, you can afford to be somewhat lazy and rely on more prepared foods. I am guilty of this in a big way. You can’t do that on $4.27 a day.

As the quote at the beginning of this blog alludes to, things did not go as planned. Early Saturday morning, my recurring knee problem decided to recur. My left knee dislocated while I was trying to move some furniture. After I was able to pop it back into place, I was only capable of lying on the floor for close to an hour until the pain subsided enough for me to crawl over and find my crutches in the closet. I did not plan. I put ice on my knee. Elevated. Consumed ibuprofen and laid in bed for the rest of the day sleeping.

Sunday wasn’t much better. As I laid in bed, I made a new plan. I knew I would be able to walk with my brace and a crutch. This would at least allow me to go grocery shopping, but I would definitely not be able to master the bargain hunt that I originally planned out so meticulously. Instead, I had to think about ease and convenience. I ended up in an Uber to Ralph’s.

This is a big cheat. If I were truly limited to the income needed to qualify for Calfresh and wasn’t fortunate enough to have a car to drive, I would have been restricted to bus travel. Let’s just keep that in mind as I finish my post.

On the fly, I decided to pick up a few staples that would hit the sweet spot of simple to prepare, cheap, and plentiful portions to get me through as many days as possible without spending too much time on my feet in the store (Shopping with a crutch and a cart is difficult to say the least).

What I bought:

16oz package of Penne Pasta – $1.49 On Sale!
24oz jar of pasta sauce – $2.49 On Sale!
12 package box of instant oatmeal – $1.89
1 gallon of Skim Milk – $2.19
3.38 lbs of boneless/skinless chicken breast (at $1.99/lb) – $6.73 On Sale!
12 large grade A eggs – $1.99
4 red delicious apples (at .99/lb) – $1.63
 4.54 lbs of watermelan (.99/lb) – $4.49

Grand total: $22.90

That leaves me $6.99 to work with should other unexpected circumstances arise.  I’m not comfortable with that slim of a buffer.