I did my first challenge 4 years ago as one of the founding bloggers, and a few
things have changed in the country since then…
1. The amount has gone up from $4 to $4.72/day/person (this is average for
those in California – it’s less in other
states). Likley to be reduced by Republicans in January.
2. The amount of people on food stamps has increased to 44 million nationwide –
21 million are children. The number of new recipients increases 15% each
year. I find these numbers staggering!
3. Nationwide one out of every seven Americans relies on food stamps. And
locally one out of every five children, adults and seniors living in Marin and
San Francisco counties struggle with hunger every day.
The challenge is to shop, cook and eat on a food stamp budget ($4.72 per day) and make yourself and others aware of what millions of Americans face every day. By participating in the challenge and sharing with friends and family about your experience (through blogs, facebook, twitter and actual conversations) the awareness and issues are brought to light.
Unfortuantely I wasn’t able to participate in last year’s challenge, as my dad was living with us on hospice care. I couldn’t imagine having to add that to my caretaking, and spending extra time and energy on worrying about a meal budget. I am lucky. People living on food stamps don’t get a “time out” when taking care of a sick loved one.
A few things have changed in my life since that first challenge too…
1. My kids are older (now 5 and 8). This is a big. They were too little to know about budgets and hunger. They were also too little to have many friends over, which I’d have to feed. And they couldn’t open the refrigerator themselves.
2. We eat a lot less meat in our family. This actually helps with the budget and we are more versed with beans, legumes, tofu etc.
3. We’re a bit out of practice. Lately I’ve been spending more money on groceries as there is a new Whole Foods next to my kids’ school. This is good because of the convenience, but I know I end up spending more as I run in to pick up last minute items.
Here are the rules I set up this year, which are not unlike those from 2009 (check back):
1. Stay true to my philosophy of creating healthy, fresh foods for my family. This means buying organic when possible and of course for the dirty dozen.
Kids get theirs. Like any parent – you’ll sacrifice yours (food, shelter, etc) for your child’s needs.
2. I’m shopping carefully and not at once. Just like our usual grocery shopping we don’t do it all at one store and we go more than once a week. I also wanted to have money left after my big shopping to figure in those items I’ll need to buy again before the week’s up such as bread, milk, hummus. Plus I want to always have fresh produce on hand. I’m using our usual grocery stores – Trader Joe’s, farmer’s market and Whole Foods.
3. My budget is based on $4.72 x 3 (son, daughter and self), plus 22.03 for my husband. He’s at work or meeting for lunches and out of my control, so I subtracted 33% from his share. I hope that seems fair. Thus our total for the week is $121.15.
4. Using my pantry. I also don’t spend all my money and set aside about $5. so I can factor in things that you don’t have to buy every week and use a small quantity such as pepper, salt, oil, vinegar, baking soda. I did have to buy brown sugar as I was out and needed it. Eventhough I won’t use it all in one week, it is normal to have to buy something for the pantry.
5. Hitting the “food bank” pantry. It’s great to know the Food Bank is there to help me with such items as potatoes, pasta, beans, etc if I need it during the week. With so many people relying on the food bank, and funding and budget cuts, I’ll use this as a last resort. This is really what makes the difference for many families. It is an incredible operation full of great volunteers. They even have community gardens and fresh produce available to those in need.
Stay tuned and see how my family does. Hopefully they won’t give up on the challenge or me by Saturday.