SNAP challenge

This week I am participating in the SNAP challenge, during which you limit your spending on food and drink to what can be purchased with the average food stamp budget. (The federal program that governs food stamps is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, hence SNAP.) Many folks have tried this out over the last few years, including a few dozen members of Congress. It’s a way for the relatively privileged to better understand the scope of this social program, empathize with those who rely on its support, and perhaps raise awareness about a service that has been in the spending-cut crosshairs. Last week, the US House Farm bill was voted down, in part due to outcry over its 20-billion-dollar cut and eligibility restrictions for food stamps. (A vocal chorus also argued that cuts weren’t steep enough; go Texas…)

Making sure no one is malnourished has always seemed, on its face, a pretty obvious thing we should accomplish as a society, so it’s easy for me to be appalled by efforts to reduce or dismantle this basic public service. But who knows? Maybe that’s just knee-jerk big-government liberalism from someone who has been a luxury food consumer since she started subscribing to Bon Appetit in college, and thinks access to fancy cheese may be a civil right. Taking the challenge seemed like a good way to get an inkling of the struggles many families face in eating well, and good motivation to learn more details about the program itself. Hunger concentrates the mind wonderfully. So does having no money for booze.

There are also several 100% selfish and personal reasons the challenge appealed to me. Meal-planning and cooking are among my favorite hobbies, so putting together a week of nutritious-and-delicious meals for less than $30/person was genuine good fun. It’s mid-summer, so produce is relatively cheap and abundant, and I’m executing a minor cheat by taking a few items for free out of our garden. And I’ve got one more week before I rejoin the 9-5 working world, so an ambitious project appealed while the busted wrist precludes heavy manual labor.

I prepared for the challenge as I do for most weeks: by flipping through my recipe binder for ideas. I picked out tried-and-true meals we know and enjoy, and kept an eye out for efficiencies like affordable substitution options and overlapping ingredients. My first priority was providing us sufficient calories; second was health and nutrition (basically including as much produce as possible); and third was tastiness and variety.

Here are seven days of groceries for the two of us:

week of groceries

And for anyone interested in getting way down in the weeds, here is an itemized list with the prices I paid at our local grocery store. Highest ticket items were grated parmesan, 12 oz of bacon, and a bag of brussel sprouts; surprising best bargains included $1.57 for more than 2 pounds of organic bananas, $1 for 5 ears of corn, and 36 cents for all the iced tea we could possibly drink.

Over the next few days I’ll share recipes, the inevitable pictures, and some policy fun facts.

3 thoughts on “SNAP challenge

  1. When the kids get a little older I would love to include them in this! But I must admit, I’d rather wait until I can enlist their help in planning. Major sacrifices here!

  2. Pingback: lululu » Blog Archive » awww SNAP

  3. Lisa, I’ve though several times how much easier it is to do when you don’t have kids clamoring for treats! Not that your angels would, any more than Bryan does anyway. ;)

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