applesauce, corn bread, soup

Our first week on the Food Stamp budget is almost up. So far, so good. The hardest part so far has been all the calculating to figure out how much to spend and how to count the food we already had in the house. We tried to be pretty strict with our food purchases this week, just to see how it would go. Actually I was surprised that we ate pretty comfortably. I had cravings at times, but they weren’t really “hunger pains” but rather a desire to have a dessert, a pop, a glass of wine, or a snack. Since we weren’t sure how long our food would last, we cut out all drinks but water and a glass of OJ in the morning. We also didn’t buy snacks or desserts.

Although some of you have joined us in the Food Stamp Challenge, many have said, “It’s a good idea but for various practical reasons, we’re not doing it. We’ll be satisfied to learn from you vicariously.”

So, here are some things we learned so you won’t have to go to the trouble:

  1. It helps to have a pretty well-stocked kitchen to begin with. Jim made chicken stir-fry tonight. I wouldn’t call it a gourmet meal but it certainly wasn’t mac & cheese either. He was able to do this because we already had soy sauce, Korean pepper paste, ginger, and salad dressing supplies (vinegar, oil, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed, onions, cilantro). We didn’t count these staples and spices in last week’s shopping trip.
  2. It helps to have cooking vessels like a wok, a Foley food mill (to make applesauce), large pots and a blender.
  3. It helps to have knowledge about nutrition and a computer to look up recipes for the ingredients you already have. We also get a paper with coupons in it. Many families on food stamps don’t have these resources.
  4.  Since we didn’t want to waste food, we allowed ourselves to use up the cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and other perishables that were in the refrigerator already. Jim tried to convince me that the one pop he sneaked came under the category of “Use it or lose it.” I let it pass this  time and he eventually admitted that unopened pop bottles won’t spoil. Now he’s trying to tell me that it’s OK to have a beer because you can’t buy alcohol with food stamps anyway. Tonight he’s having a snack of popcorn because “Corn is like a staple and it was in the house anyway.” Aren’t you glad you don’t have to negotiate all these little decisions? At least it’s voluntary and temporary sacrifices for us. We know there’s an end in sight.
  5. This week I almost cried over spilled OJ. It’s a pain to clean up, but since I had only allotted myself 2/3 cup a day, it made a difference.
  6. It’s easier not having kids to feed. Kids can be picky eaters and whiners. Even though we had nutrition rules when our kids were young, still they could be picky and it would be hard to enforce no cookies or snacks.
  7. So far we have been pleasantly surprised that we’ve eaten quite sufficiently on our $63 this week and even have food left over, The mac & cheese made two meals and so has the soup. The chicken stir-fry might make another meal – or at least a couple lunches.

    chicken stir fry, rice, salad

  8. Having a car and time to drive to different stores is a help both for bargains and specialty items. Today we were at a natural food store and I thought Jim was only going to get soup stock. Well, he saw these roasted edamame nuts and checked about getting them. I said it looked like a snack food. He said, “Hey, we’re doing better than we thought since two of our dinners are going to stretch into next week. Why don’t I take it out of next week’s $63.” He got them. Then we discovered they’re wasabi drenched edamame. We like spicy, but wow! Won’t be eating a lot of those.

Stay tuned.