Thursday, September 7, 2017

Guest blogger: SNAP Challenge Blog #2

September is Hunger Action Month and one action we are encouraging people to take is the SNAP Challenge, where you try to live on the average SNAP food budget.  President of the GardenShare Board of Directors, Carol Pynchon, is undertaking the challenge and continues her SNAP Challenge story...

SNAP Challenge Blog #2

So it’s the end of Day #3 and I have already learned and gained a lot from this exercise.

I decided – yes, I was able to choose – to do the challenge for five days. Those happened to be mostly days that my husband and daughter weren’t going to be home. So that meant less money all together, but somewhat easier planning.

For one person for five days, my budget was $23 ($4.60/person/day). The “rules” are that I start from nothing, so I had to buy everything I was going to need for those five days. We do get a CSA share, and based on calculations for that ($12/week share for just me for five days), I figured that was $4.25 of my budget. So I had $18.75 to spend on groceries.

I did a little planning, including getting out my copy of Good and Cheap, which I had gotten when the author did a Kickstarter for her cookbook of recipes you can make on a $4/day budget. Mostly looking at her shopping list gave me some tips.

And off I went. It was late, and I was coming home from Potsdam, so I stopped at WalMart, not my usual shopping choice (Aldi was closed). Pushing my big cart, and with calculator in hand, I started in the produce section. (I knew I had kale, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and a small eggplant left from my CSA share.) I got lettuce, a cucumber, and four bananas. The bananas were priced by the pound (I couldn’t swing the organic ones), and I had to hunt for the one scale in the produce section to figure out exactly how much my four bananas would be.

I found peanut butter and jelly (luckily, the small jar of naturally sweetened fruit spread was the cheapest – not the best economy, but the cheapest), a couple cans of beans, spaghetti, a jar of pasta sauce, eggs, and milk. I held off on bread and cereal, which I could only get in a huge box that was a budget buster.

I had planned to get some chicken as a protein source. This is when things got dicey. There was a big sign that showed $1.88/pound, but that was for the big, family packs – way more than I needed and definitely more than I could afford. So I looked at the small packs of tenders and a pack of ground chicken. $4.95. $3.86. And I began to get a knot in my stomach and started to feel anxious. How was I going to fit this into my budget? I looked at the big cart with a very few things in it and felt a bit overwhelmed. I checked my list and my Good and Cheap notes. I’d have to count on the eggs and beans for protein. No chicken.

I ended up stopping at the Price Chopper to get a small box of no-name Cheerios and the cheapest loaf of wheat bread I could find. I almost had a coffee coup - a $1.98  special – but then realized they were sold out of the special. No coffee.

In the end, my total grocery bill was $17.67. Even with the cost of my CSA I was still a little under my allowance. So I could do it, with some careful planning, a couple of stops, and a few anxious moments I was within my budget. But the upshot was going to be a pretty basic, monotonous menu for the week.

At the end of the week I’ll share some reflections on this experience. It’s Hunger Action Month. Consider giving the SNAP Challenge a try as you reflect on how others manage their families’ diets and nutrition on a limited budget.

--Carol Pynchon