Thank you to all who shared your stories with me. You’ve given me – and all of us – much to think about!
For those that missed the earlier post, my husband and I will be participating in Mazon’s SNAP Food Stamp Challenge to live for one week on the typical food stamp budget of $31.50 per person. Our goals are two-fold:
- To build awareness and engender empathy for those among us living in poverty and receiving food stamps, who have no choice but to spend only $31.50 per person per week on food.
- To demonstrate that with a little effort and strategizing, one can eat well and healthily, while still being frugal.
Reflections of Privilege and Gratitude
Over the past 48 hours, I’ve been focusing on how I want to structure my family’s meal plan for the week – and how I plan to shop for this Challenge.
Here are some of the things I’ve been pondering:
- Whether we should use coupons and price match
- Whether we should limit our shopping to only one store
- Whether it’s “fair” that my kids are at camp next week and will therefore have lunch provided for them Monday through Friday
- Whether we should invite guests for Shabbat – or if accepting a meal invite would be in the spirit of the challenge
Here’s what I’ve concluded: I can only participate in this challenge through the paradigm of my own life experiences.
I recognize – now more than ever – that even as a staunchly middle class earning family, my husband and I enjoy many luxuries that we may not be able to afford if we were SNAP recipients.
We have not one, but two cars – not to mention the money to pay for gas (and maintenance and repairs) on those cars. So while I try to combine trips and don’t schlep to one store for just one thing, I do have the luxury of being to afford to shop at multiple stores if I want to one week.
We have a fully equipped kitchen. Sure, I complain about the lack of counter space – but I also recognize that we enjoy many luxuries (a KitchenAid, a BlendTec, a microwave, a food processor, an ice maker, etc. etc.), which make it so much easier for me to cook from scratch for my family.
I work part-time from home; and my husband works from home. We have zero commute time. We each have one job, and only one job – so time is another luxury we have. It may not feel like it some days, but the truth is we have time to shop, time to coupon, time to prepare meals, and time to obsess over our budget.
It’s amazing how much just preparing to participate in this challenge has caused me to zero in on my gratitude for the many blessings in my life. Blessings which I might otherwise have overlooked and taken for granted.
My SNAP Challenge Game Plan
My top priority for living within our $157.50 allotment for the week is to menu plan. As I said to my friend Susie, “I’m going to menu plan the heck out of this challenge!” Our Challenge starts on
Sunday Monday, so on Sunday, I will share our one week, 21-meal plan with all of you.
Most of you know that I’m a big proponent of menu planning, but I don’t usually make a plan for breakfasts and lunches. We just wing those. Given the structure of this challenge, I think winging it is ill-advised, so I’ll be planning for all 21 meals plus snacks.
I will be price-matching. I just can’t bear to overpay for something that I don’t have to – what can I tell you?! If you are new to price-matching, I do it primarily (almost exclusively) at our Neighborhood Walmart. Here’s more on price-matching at Walmart.
Those receiving SNAP benefits are not allowed to use their card to pay for personal care items, diapers, household cleaners, or prepared foods. (Cigarettes and alcohol are likewise off-limits.) So, I won’t be counting any non-food purchases toward my $157.50 budget, even though you all know that normally, I do include them in the same category for my regular budgeting.
The rules set out by Mazon don’t allow you to rely on food you already have in your fridge – so, by extension, I have decided not to use food in my stockpile either. Obviously, shopping at home is a HUGE money-saver, but for this one week, I will forego that. I do like a challenge!
Regarding my kids’ lunches at camp – I’ve thought about this and here’s what I’ve decided: I could send my kids with lunch instead of having them eat lunch at camp – but part of the tuition we pay for camp is intended to cover their meals. Not to mention that there is a social component to being able to eat what all their friends are eating, and barring food allergies, I don’t feel that I can ask my kids to give that up. So, just know that my kiddos’ lunches Monday thru Friday won’t be eaten out of this budget.
In addition to sharing our menu plan with you, I plan to document all of our shopping trips, share some budget-friendly recipes, and let you in on a few money-stretching-without-coupons tricks, too.
Just three more days! I’m getting excited and am so pleased that a number of you will be joining me!