There has been some “Food Stamp Challenge” floating around on the news and the web the last few days. Some congress critters signed up for this challenge to eat on a food stamp budget of $30 a week. I decided to take a closer look as I was SURE it was nothing more than an agenda promoting publicity stunt. (Update. I was right- it is a publicity stunt- and a fundraiser to boot! Why oh why am I not surprised? Beware this page- do NOT click on the participant handbook- it locked my computer up twice. This is a link to their FAQ page where you can see the
begging fundraising instructions.)
First I went and looked up the actual amount a recipient could be expected to receive and found that info easily enough.
I could not find a government statistic link for the average family size of food stamp recipients but did see a few mentions of a 2.3 people per family. For a family of two the allotment is $367 a month. Over ten dollars a day. Hmmm. Yup- I could do that. Years and years ago I fed my boys and self on food stamps- at the time my benefit for the 3 of us was $205 a month. And I did it. Was it easy? No. Some strategies were necessary. Starting with- NO JUNK. No sugary cereal. No store-bought cookies. No soda pop or chips or candy. No prepared foods like spaghetti in a can or canned soups. Absolutely NO brand name things- unless you have a coupon that brings the price below the store brand. Snacks were perhaps carrot sticks, an apple, celery with PB. Raisins. A big treat was plain nacho chips with block cheese grated over the top and popped in the oven. Gee- my house was THE go to home for good eats for my boys friends- they LOVED those nachos lol. Tuna casserole. Eggs- cheap and nutritious protein. Home made oatmeal cookies. Oatmeal – NOT instant in individual packages. Very nutritious and filling. Chili. A chicken would make AT LEAST three meals. Who needs Bisquick? Make your own and save a LOT of money. Keep a good basic pantry with flour, baking powder and baking soda. Yeast. Make your own bread. Purchase seasonal items. Potatoes and rice- always filling and potatoes are chock full of vitamins and minerals. Try to get yourself and your family in the habit of eating the skins too. Waste nothing. Watch for sales and buy in bulk when possible. For example- if chicken is on sale- buy extra and freeze it. Do not pay extra for cut up chicken-check the price. If whole chicken is cheaper- buy whole and cut it up yourself. Same with pork and beef. Buy big and cut it down. Save the ends of celery and carrots in a bag in the freezer for stock. DO NOT take children with you to the grocery store. Shop only twice a month. (I had a milkman back then so it made it easier.) When apples are cheap in the fall- buy a lot and make your own applesauce and apple butter. Make up apple pie filling and freeze it. Same with pears. Same with peaches. Get it while it is cheap and learn how to preserve it. Most vegetables freeze very well. Buy vegetables in season and learn how to blanch and freeze. Watch price differences on fresh vs frozen vs canned. Not a big fan of canned vegetables- too much salt- but if it is the cheapest per pound go for it. Many times frozen vegetables price per pound is cheaper than fresh and just as nutritious. On the subject of frozen- milk can be frozen too. How about powdered or canned milk? Is it cheaper per gallon?
Popcorn. Regular old plain popcorn. NOT microwaveable in a bag portions of popcorn. Why pay extra for convenience and packaging? (That lawmaker taking the “food stamp challenge” who got pre-portioned microwave popcorn? What a joke. That crap should not even be allowed on a food stamp budget.)
Does it suck that so many Americans are in need of assistance? Yes it does. But the question is can you have a decent diet on that assistance? Could I do it today? I would say I probably could. I still shop only twice a month and average $48 per trip. Husband shops at the alternate stores weekly and spends about $35 a trip. We have the luxury of having an Aldi’s and a bent and dent store in the area. When I go to the store I head first for the marked down produce. I can often get oh luxury of luxury! Mushrooms at half off. Last shopping trip there were five packages of bananas marked down from 59 cents a pound to 39 cents a pound. I bought four packages. We ate one, I made a big batch of banana bread mini loaves- we ate one loaf and froze the rest for holiday giving. I froze the rest of the bananas for later baking and smoothies.
We save all year to buy a whole hog or lamb at the 4-H market auction in August. This year we got a whole hog for $2 a pound. That was $440 for the animal and then .45 a pound for the local processor to get it ready for the freezer. After processing and loss from the processing we paid about $3.66 a pound for pork. Pork enough for us for one year and some to give to church.
A CNN producer took the food stamp challenge– and bought chicken breasts? Lady are you kidding me? Chicken breasts? See the above- you buy a WHOLE chicken. Unless the chicken breasts were marked down to less than the cost of a whole chicken or less than legs and thighs.
Quit with the boo hoo bs before you start on me about food deserts and all that BS. Every city I know of has a farmer’s market and most all accept food stamps. Why not pitch in together on gas and get to a grocery store? God Forbid I should suggest that perhaps churches and other organizations could maybe run a van out to the grocery stores a couple of times a month? When I was on hard times my friends and I would chip in together to buy big bulk packs and split them up at home. Can the current recipients get together and do the same?
And let us not forget the OTHER government run food programs- WIC and the Surplus Food distributions. What is surplus food distribution? It is now called the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
The types of foods USDA purchases for TEFAP distribution vary depending on the preferences of States and agricultural market conditions. More than 60 products are available for Fiscal Year 2011, including:
dried egg mix
This page is a list of the items available for distribution.
Go HERE and scroll down to page 5 and beyond to see the monthly distribution PER PERSON by age of infant formula, cereal, juices, cheese, milk, tuna, chicken, salmon, powdered eggs, beef, peanut butter, beans, potatoes, pasta, rice and canned fruit and vegetables. This is all ON TOP of food stamps mind you.
So the premise of the “Food Stamp Challenge” is incorrect. $31 dollars a week. From food stamps. Food Stamps or SNAP as it is now known- is only ONE resource for those in need. Add in the Surplus Commodities distribution AND what should be in any pantry- flour, rice, oils, leavening agents and it is very doable. Also understand another flaw in their experiment- they allotted $30 for the week- but the entire month’s food stamp benefit goes on the card at once. This means that recipients CAN buy things like flour, ten pound bags of potatoes, big bags of rice and beans and use them throughout the month.
Stop making people feel sorry for themselves and pointing out how life sucks for them. Teach them how to succeed with what they have and how to strive to make it better. Stop trying to make people who CAN afford a more varied diet feel guilty. Stop trying to frighten people.
And quit with the BS of Congress people and “journalists” doing publicity stunts and not giving the whole picture. It serves nothing but to promote an agenda.
I challenge ANY journalist or Congress critter to come here and I will show them how it is done and done well. I challenge the “journalists” to state FACTS- ALL of them- not just the sensationalized agenda promoting ones.
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