Far From Being a SNAP

2 Bean & Yam Turkey Chili
My SNAP Challenge week has ended. True to its name, it was definitely not a snap and was most certainly a challenge.

With $63 (at $4.50 per person per day), I set out to shop for 2 people last Sunday. I typically shop at Sprouts Farmers Market and Trader Joe's and was able to get everything I needed from those 2 grocers. Before I set forth, I perused the weekly ad from Sprouts and planned my menu based on the produce on sale.

My week's total for 2 people: $61.30

Note: salt, pepper, spices, and vinegar weren't accounted for in the $63 budget.

Compromises and refusals to compromise:
  • Had to pass on the organic grape tomatoes and chose conventional ones instead: savings of $0.70. 
  • Organic chicken and grass-fed ground beef would push the budget over. So I settled for 85/15 ground turkey for the chili with the knowledge that it has the most antibiotic-resistant bacteria when compared with pork chops, ground beef, and chicken. Ugh. 
  • Apples are high on the Dirty Dozen list and contain the most pesticides of all fruits on average. Splurged on 4 apples at $1.99/lb.  
  • I've been adding chia seeds to so many breakfast items, and I "needed" the chia pudding to help stretch my yogurt and oatmeal. So I priced the amount I used (half of the $4.99 bag)... it was so worth the splurge. 
  • Chia & Oatmeal, Topped with Banana Slices
  • Organic butternut squash. It was priced at $0.88/lb- same as the conventionally-grown type! 
  • Organic low-fat plain yogurt. $2.99 per tub at TJs. All day, err'day!  
Butternut Squash & Spinach Quesadilla;
Radish & Tomato Salad
What I didn't know before the challenge:
  • That I'm very caffeine dependent. I always thought I'm not hooked on coffee and was only drinking it for flavor. Well, 3 days into my coffee abstinence, and I got a head-splitting headache. I finally gave in and poured myself 1/2 cup of free coffee at work.
  • That I snack very often. I didn't think a string cheese, apple, and a small bunch of grapes for snacks daily would add up that quickly. But apparently, they do! 
Tuna Melt with Spinach Salad
(Topped with Leftover Radish & Tomato Salad)
Most creative way to get food:
  • Donate blood, get some snacks, enough said. I stumbled upon a blood drive at work on Wednesday. I've been a blood donor for many years, but this was the first time I was so motivated to donate because of the juices and snacks I can get afterwards. I couldn't stop thinking about them the whole time I was laying there! It sounds morbid but I "traded my blood" for some Fig Newtons and OJ. 
Pasta with a Pea & Yogurt Sauce
What I missed: 
  • Adding honey to my PB. 
  • Eating snacks whenever I felt hungry. 
  • Going out to eat. 
Leftovers at the end of the week:
  • A few radishes
  • 1 cup of oats 
  • 1 cup of butternut squash 
  • 3 cups of almond milk 
Kimchi Soondubu (Korean tofu soup)
with Zucchini (but no gochujang), Served with Brown Rice
Final thoughts: 
  • Considering where I shopped, Sprouts and TJs are likely not very accessible for someone receiving SNAP benefits. In general, these grocers don't carry items as cheaply as ethnic markets and aren't located in low income neighborhoods.
  • Shopping for the week requires either lots of arm strength and strong walking legs or a car. It would've been nearly impossible for me to buy everything I needed if I was taking public transit. (And you know how bad public transportation is in Los Angeles!) 
  • I tried to look for the daily allowance for CalFresh (California's SNAP) by the number of people per household. It was so difficult to find a straight answer that I just gave up after 20 minutes. Is the system hard to navigate or was I just not looking at the right places? 
  • On the whole, I was able to manage the week on the SNAP budget because I have basic cooking skills, time, and a functional kitchen. For some low income families, those 3 things may not be available to them. 
  • I felt like I ate fairly well but just less than usual. In fact, I'd make all these recipes again because they were really tasty! The chili, tuna melt, and chia oatmeal were especially well-received. 
  • I'm grateful to have the support from fellow RDs Kristina DeMuth (For I Was Hungry) and Brooke Nissim-Sabat! We took the challenge together and tweeted back and forth our meals and hunger pains. 
  • Many words of appreciation to the HEN DPG (Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group) for setting up this challenge! I've learned so much from this group, and I'm 98.76% sure that I'm a better RD because of the knowledge I've gleaned from this group. 
Would you try to live a week on the SNAP budget? 


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