Friday, February 28, 2014


As part of a requirement for my Community Nutrition class, I am partaking in the SNAP challenge, also known as food stamps more info here, eating on a budget of $32 for 1 week.  The purpose of the SNAP challenge is to experience what it feels like to eat on the tight budget, as a person relying on SNAP benefits does. As a student already on a tight budget I feel ready for the challenge, however; I am quickly realizing the constraints I will face.

Day 1 of SNAP Challenge:



My morning routine of brewing a pot of organic fair trade $10 coffee was put to a halt as I started the SNAP challenge.  My expensive organic products would stay in the cabinets until the challenge is finished in 7 days. Although I am on a tight budget working part-time and in debt working towards a Masters degree in Nutrition, eating wholesome fresh foods has always been a priority of mine, even if it meens spending a little extra on organic foods.  All of my spending money goes to grocery shopping and I don't spend much money elsewhere.I realized as I started the SNAP challenge today, there were many things I would be sacrificing.  Organic food, was the first thing I would be giving up.

All my food has to be purchased at a store that accepts SNAP benefits so I won't be able to purchase already prepared foods, unless I find processed snacks or frozen meals at the supermarket.  Since all of my meals have to be prepared at home, I carefully thought out my SNAP budget of $32. I realized what an inconvenience this week would pose as I am strapped for time with papers to write and tests to study for.  As I wrote my grocery list, one thing I decided I would absolutely not give up was coffee.  I rely on it to get my day started and my brain focused for schoolwork.  One thing was for sure, I would not be drinking my fancy $10 organic fair trade coffee when I only had $32 to spend.

I started my grocery shopping at La Placita Mini Market, a local central american market in Ossining.  I was able to get 2 bags of dried beans, 6 plantains, 2 avocados, and a bag of bananas for $9.68.  I continued on to C Town for more choices and bought bread, peanut butter, rice, oats, milk and coffee for $14.88.  I spent  over an hour between the 2 stores, trying to find the best prices and figure out what would nourish me best throughout the week.  One thing I decided I would not eat unless it was organic was eggs or milk. Since I couldn't afford both the milk and the eggs, I settled on the organic milk.  It was on sale for $4 and I could use it to make yogurt which would give me a hearty breakfast all week.  Yogurt it also much quicker than cooking eggs each morning and I can pick it if I am in a rush.  As a busy college student, I was also thinking about maximizing time.

The next hard choice for me was buying bread. I figured peanut butter sandwiches would be a filling choice and easy to pack for school and work.  I usually buy my bread at Mrs. Greens or the farmers market for $5 a loaf.  The bread I choose is a whole wheat organic bread made with only the basic ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, salt and yeast.  When I scanned the isle at Ctown, I noticed my choices were limited for my budget.  My choices were various white breads for $1-$2 or whole wheat bread's for $3.  My problem with the whole wheat breads in my price range was, they were not made with all whole wheat flour and they were loaded with sugar.  I didn't see the point in buying whole wheat bread if it had more sugar than white bread!  I must've switched between choices 5x because Ian, my boyfriend was complaining that he wanted to get home already.  After 20 minutes I finally settled on a sliced Italian white bread baked on Arthur Avenue with no added sugar  and minimal ingredients, $2.50.  I never realized how hard it would be to find something affordable that didn't have tons of ingredients and added sugar.

I went home and made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich and thought about my choices.   I  had $7 left to spare and I figured I would go to the farmers market on Saturday to get the lowest price vegetables I could find.  New York City offers SNAP card holders are offered health buck coupons worth $2 when they spend $5 at the farmers market.  Our teacher was giving us the option to utilize this incentive program.  WIth the health bucks incentive program, My $7 becomes $9.  I plan to buy cabbage, carrots, apples and some sort of dark leafy green.  Let's see what I can afford tomorrow...

I have a pot of beans boiling now that I will eat for dinner in a few hours.  I don't have fresh garlic or onion to add to the pot, and I dont have any vegetables to eat with the rice and beans.  I will have to make due with what I have for the evening.  I am relying on a 100% vegetarian diet, which works for me because I am a vegetarian.  I'm going to be eating much of the same foods every day because that is what I could afford.   I won't be snacking and I won't be eating between meals.  I'm already feeling stressed about my limitations and I am further understanding the life of many people struggling in our country.    It isn't until you experience it, that you can truly understand.

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