SNAP Reflections | Hospitality Can Be Tricky {#SNAP4aWeek}

Today is Day 3 of the Snap4aWeek Challenge. So far, so good. No one has gone hungry, I’m happy to say. Although my kids have griped a bit about the lack of snack food (we have plenty of snacks, by the way – they mean “junk food”!)

The food waste thing has continued to be a thorn in my side – although I’m definitely becoming more mindful about (a) serving them vs. letting them serve themselves and (b) starting with smaller portions (especially for my three year-old who is known to change her mind as soon as she gets something.)

Another challenge I’m encountering is hospitality on a limited budget. I’m finding myself much more aware of not only what I’m feeding myself, but what I’m offering to others. I hate even thinking about this, but the truth is that when resources are limited, sharing is harder. Period.

And the emotional impact of that can be really tough – especially when our Jewish communities places such a huge value on hospitality (hachnasat orchim) – especially on Shabbat, but even during the week.

I’m not saying it can’t be done – but it’s definitely trickier. Emotionally and practically.

Hosting people for Shabbat (we’ll be having one other family for our black-bean-vegetarian-chili-over-sweet-potatoes Shabbat lunch) is a very real consideration. Not only is it a matter of having enough volume of food for your guests, but there’s also a community ‘norm’ that may need bucking in terms of the kind of food that you serve.

We aren’t traditionalists when it comes to our Shabbat table (maybe it’s my 12 years as a vegetarian, but I just can’t bring myself to serve chicken, cholent and kugel week after week. Blah.) – but is brisket or chicken even a realistic possibility every week, when you’re having guests as well? Can we serve animal protein that is a component vs. a main course without seeming “nebach” in the eyes of others?

As someone who is just doing this challenge for a week, I’m pondering the long-term impact of living with these restrictions, as well.

By the way, it’s not just Shabbat. Even snack food for kids on playdates has become a consideration. I’m definitely more aware of offering foods that fill a child’s belly – complex grains, protein, fruit – than ever before. “Fruit snacks”, for example, aren’t fruit – they’re candy. An apple, especially with a shmear of peanut butter, goes a lot longer – for about the same cost (and number of calories, by the way.)

On a related note, my stepmom’s family is in town this week and they invited us to dinner at their house tonight. We hemmed and hawed about it since we are “on the Challenge”. In the end, we’re going – it’s family! – but since I planned and purchased for this meal, I’m going to keep our budget as is. (The tofu stir fry will be served next week.)

One other thing – I caught an interesting story on our local news last night. Kansas City’s Truman Medical Centers, together with the Hospital Hill Economic Development Corp., has come up with a solution to the problem of “food deserts” (urban areas that lack access to a traditional grocery store and fresh produce).

They’ve outfitted a former public bus to be a traveling produce store called the Mobile Market.

It’s like a book mobile, but for fruits and veggies. From what I heard, the prices seem good –  they mentioned, for example, that melons were $1.25 each. The bus will be selling produce two days a week and will have licensed nutritionists and dietitians onboard to talk about making healthy choices.

You can read more about the Mobile Market here. (They didn’t mention on the piece if the produce bus will accept SNAP – I’d be curious to know!)

Photo Credit

How are the rest of my SNAP4aWeek buddies doing? I am eager to hear about your thoughts and experiences as well!


  1. All too true.

    I ran into a similar issue with a shiva visit on Monday – unexpected because the burial was in another state and I was already at work when I learned that the family would be back for the last night. The SNAP allocation for one person doesn’t leave much latitude to eke out something like this.

    Unless someone is organizing the food, I usually take a vegetable dish or salad, because I’ve seen that others rarely bring them. With a little more notice I could have made coleslaw, but on Monday I had neither time nor cabbage, and anything I could buy on the way was going to cost more.

  2. Anonymous in OP says

    This is the very reason we very rarely have shabbos guests. I can feed our family for less than $10 for the whole shabbos. But when we have guests it is more than three times that much, if not more. I would love to have shabbos guests more often, it’s just not in the budget. It’s just sad that almost every week we walk home by ourselves and our kids ask, “are we having anyone for shabbos?” and I usually say no.

    • Have you considered a potluck shabbos meal? We often do this with friends of ours, where one person makes challah, salad and another side dish and the other makes chicken or cholent and dessert (or however you’d like to divide it). That way you can spend roughly the same amount since you’re not making all the dishes and you can spend time with another family. If you want to balance it out even more, you can alternate who makes the main dish, since chicken or meat is expensive.
      Another option that my rebbetzin uses when she entertains (which is every shabbos) is to be sparing with the meat. She puts a small amount of grilled chicken in a large green salad, or only uses bones in her cholent and very little (if any) chunks of meat.

      • Tzipporah says

        This is a big issue for us every week as well. I love having guests, but these days I can’t afford it. The potluck thing works for sure! I’ve done this with a friend. Someone who you still end up using a little more cash though…
        Another thing I have found to be helpful is having people over for dessert. Dessert can be fruit, a light snack, some grapes… but the best part is that after Shabbos lunch hardly anyone wants to have a big dessert. Does that make me look cheap? Maybe. But this is also why I only invite people who “get it”.

        Of course often neither of these are options and we eat a lot of PB&J over Shabbos to make the food last.

        • We used to have folks over for just dessert all the time. It’s nice. You can chat with coffee & cake, it’s not as hard on the kids to sit (or behave) for a whole seuda, and you still see your friends a little. The potluck idea is good, too. Many people will ask me when I invite them if they can bring something. Say “yes”! It’s fun to try other people’s food; it’s often something I haven’t thought of doing for Shabbos. Maybe when we’re invited out, we should remember to ask if we can bring a dish or two.

    • Anon – Have you thought about seudah shlishit? Shabbat ends so late in the summer, it’s a great way to break up those loooong afternoons, and the expectations are a lot lower than for a regular meal. My standard involves tuna salad, egg salad, pasta salad, cabbage salad (are you noticing a theme?), whatever leftover Israeli-type salatim I have in the fridge, Stacy’s Pita chips (bought on sale of course!) and some brownies and fruit for dessert. Guests usually offer to bring something as well. I’ve never had a complaint, and I’ve fed six families for less than $25.

      • Tzipporah says

        we do this sometimes too! I love Suedah Shilishit the best anyhow (is that weird?) because I’m not very formal person and the whole “family style-buffet” feel it has makes me happy 🙂

  3. It’s definitely hard, but I’ve developed a couple of recipes that I call “frugal kugal” recipes (though, at this point, I have more than kugals).

    I save broccoli stalks, trimmed & chunked, in the freezer from when we have steamed fresh broccoli florets. When I have a full bag, I make broccoli kugel, which involves chopping the broccoli stalks with a food processor. I also save challah stubs in the freezer for challah kugels (I have a sweet recipe, and a savory one).

    All leftover chicken gets frozen to make pot pies, greek lemon-rice soup, etc. Strawberries become strawberry soup (which I prepare when they’re fresh, but almost not-so-fresh, then freeze until needed… All of this means I can actually have a multi-course meal from ‘scraps’! I’m the only one who knows they were 2nds (my kids specifically request the sweet challah kugel, & DH specifically requests pot pies).

  4. I’m a huge fan of potluck meals — and it’s not just a budget thing. It’s a time thing, too. I have never been offended to be invited for a potluck meal, and I’ve never had anyone be offended when invited to participate. Anon, I HATE not having guests for shabbat, so I’m a HUGE fan of having one or two “go-to” families. In Houston, we had friends who used to say, “The assumption is that we’re eating with the Peretses unless we make other arrangements.” 🙂 It was almost always potluck.

    Yes, I do sometimes invite people specifically to cook for them, but when you’re dealing with multiple large families, very few people will turn down a potluck. And frankly, I’m not friends with the kind of people who would say no.

    Another option is to be creative: just this week, a family invited us for coffee and cake after shul, before lunch (we’re in Israel, so shul ends at 10). Maybe an afternoon coffee and cake get together, or a seudah slishit? Really, if people are only coming for the food, I wouldn’t invite them. It’s about the company!

  5. Almost every time I issue a Shabbas invitation, the first response I hear is: “What can I bring?”, which certainly helps with the increased number of people to feed.

    I would rather serve beans & rice for Shabbas and share it with friends, than have a meat meal by ourselves.

  6. I actually ran into this problem last shabbos. We did a pot luck, but of course I felt obligated to make tons of food, including roast chicken with veggies (from two packs of chicken, not sure how much in weight). I made what I’d normally make with my family plus I made homeade lemonade (something I don’t normally do for shabbos), both homemade challahs, sauted spinach (from Chinatown) and an entire giant jug of grape juice (from Costco). When we have shabbos for my family, juice lasts for weeks and weeks and we have leftover challah. However, since I made so much and the other family brought food there was lots left over. It was a lovely evening and well worth it, but I couldn’t help noticing the extra expenditures.

    Shana, I’d love some of your recipes. Please share.

  7. I just made this salad: (love this website!)
    The 2 best things about it are the marinade for the chicken and the basil dressing. I bought fresh basil in a pot and planted it in front of my house. Now I have a ton of it (it grows pretty quickly) for an initial outlay of $1.99. You don’t have to use the specific veggies in the salad, you can mix in whatever you like (use lettuce instead of spinach, if you want). And you can put in as much or as little of the chicken as you want, but I recommend doubling the dressing recipe. If you can’t find (or don’t want to buy) white balsamic vinegar (Kedem makes one, and it’s not any more expensive than their regular balsamic), I’ve made this dressing with white wine vinegar.
    I don’t like cholent, but it can be a frugal main course for shabbos. If you don’t have a recipe, here’s what I do. Marrow bones are pretty cheap near me (DC area), and we also put in potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, onion, minced garlic, ketchup or BBQ sauce (which I got for free w/a coupon!). My husband doesn’t like it as much with beans, but you can add dried beans. If you want to spend a little extra, you could put a small amount of meat in with the marrow bones. I’ve even seen hotdogs in cholent.

  8. Your real friends won’t care if you serve more budget friendly foods. Most people you invite will be thrilled to receive the invitation (I always am) and won’t focus on whether you served steak or pasta There are so many lonely people in our communities who just want the company. So just make it tasty and enjoy!

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