SNAP Challenge, Part IV – The One Where We Fail

by Alice Magdziak • December 5, 2012 • FoodComments (0)1015

Cory Booker recently had a conversation on Twitter with a lady from North Carolina about free meals at schools and food stamp programs.  A challenge came from this conversation that Booker and the North Carolina woman would try to live on a food stamp allowance for a week. The federal food stamp program is called SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Hence, the SNAP Challenge is born. So, I made up an income for Ed and myself and plugged our numbers into the NJOneApp.gov website to find out what we’d qualify for.  I knew you had to make less than $2000 a month so I said that we made $1900.  The rest of the questions I answered for real, including rent and utilities information.  After it crunched our numbers, the website said we’d qualify for about $59 a week in SNAP benefits.  We shopped for our groceries on Sunday and we’ve been doing the Challenge for two days now.

So, breakfast and lunch has been pretty easy.  Once you’re at work and you’re limited to what’s at hand, you can steel yourself to eating just what’s available.  However, once you come home, it’s much harder to just eat dinner and be done when there is other food in the house.  Despite having plenty of food to eat tonight we had dessert that was left over from before the challenge.  We also had coffee.  Perhaps we need to eat more during the day so that we’re not so hungry at night.  Also, we definitely should have removed all other food from the house.  I thought we could just ignore the leftover food but clearly we can’t. In fact tonight we packed all the non-SNAP food into a suitcase and put it in the garage.

There’s another reason that I think we cheated and I’ll get to that when I tell you what we had for dinner.

In a previous post, I showed you what made up breakfasts and lunches so here’s what we had for the first two dinners.

Tuesday night was hot dog night.

$3 for half a pack each of hot dogs and buns.  $1 beans and $1 frozen veggies.  I was actually very satisfied with this meal. It was filling and delicious.

Wednesday night was not so tasty and I think that was our downfall.  I chalk it up to disappointing Shake N Bake and a lack of green vegetables.

$5 for Shake N Bake and four leg quarters (half of this chicken will be eaten for lunch in the next few days). I guess there’s about $1 worth of the $3 bag of potatoes. First let me give the following rant about Shake N Bake.

It was on sale for $2.  It was supposed to coat 16 pieces of chicken.  I needed all the coating in the box to make these 8 pieces of chicken so I don’t know how you’re supposed to shake on half as much coating but I think it’s very clearly a scam.  I wasted $2 for this coating to last one dinner and a few lunches.  That’s not a good deal.

I chose Shake N Bake in order to avoid having to buy both bread crumbs and seasonings.  I bought Original Chicken flavor because it looked good on the box.  The coating was almost totally flavorless.  It was a crazy orange color when it came out of the bag so I thought there would be at least be a hearty artificial flavor or fake spiciness or something. No. I basically tasted plastic and there was a slight grittiness to the crumbs.  Are these crumbs even real bread? I know from experience that ShopRite bread crumbs taste better than this.

Next week, I’ll definitely be buying $1 bread crumbs and a dollar or two in pepper or parsley. Anything will be better than this Shake N Bake.

The potatoes were fine but without a green vegetable, the meal was pretty bland.  In the future, I need to buy something green for every dinner regardless of what else we’re having.  Without being able to use my pantry of spices and flavoring oils (olive, sesame, etc.), this meal was way too plain. What we’ve learned so far is that yes you can buy food cheaply. However, many of the less expensive foods can be improved with spices and sauces. Of course, these are prohibitively expensive and certainly considered a luxury on a fixed income.

I’ve already been thinking that I’d like to continue this challenge for longer than a week to see how it feels when it’s more than just a short exercise.  These slip-ups are making me think that I really do need to keep this going.

This is definitely a learning process and there will be slip-ups. We will be better tomorrow, I promise.

Follow along with us by reading all our SNAP Challenge articles here.

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