Can I live on $4.17 per day for 7 days? I went to Texas Motor Speedway for NASCAR and Indy Car racing. While I was at the Lodge I stay at when I go over for these weekends, I usually shop at the Brookshire’s grocery in the next town over bay.
I just spent $86 on a week’s groceries–my normal average. I normally eat “high on the hog,” as the old timers used to say. Eating unprocessed foods cooked in my own kitchen is healthier for my pre diabetic body than foods manufactured with too many salts and added sugars. These boxed preparations also have the fibers ground out of them for some reason. Maybe they’ve been between too many steel plates or under too high heat during the processing. Or, it could be the difference between a food cooked to an al dente texture versus mush.
I did buy things I didn’t need:
- $ 4 Stacy’s Pita Chips (2 bags for price)
- $10 olive oil (I didn’t remember if I had any)
- $ 5 Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate baking cocoa
- $10 beer (for medicinal purposes, you understand…)
- $29 Extra food items.
This is still $57 total or about $28 over my total SNAP budget of $29.17
Obviously, I joined the SNAP challenge after shopping and while on vacation. In hindsight, this isn’t the best way to go! An interesting aspect of food insecurity in America today is how the economy is affecting younger seniors, aged 50-59, who typically don’t have small children at home and who are often the first to be laid off since they often have the highest pay.
“Good nutrition is important to help keep the body’s immune system healthy and to prevent chronic diseases. Research has shown that access to enough food is necessary for a healthy life.20 However, we know that in America not everyone has access to nutritionally balanced meals at all times. As a result, millions of Americans feel the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of hunger and our nation feels the negative economic effects. Those who are food insecure experience significantly poorer health, are more likely to suffer from depression, and are more likely to see a psychologist.21 ” http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/aarp_foundation/2014-pdfs/SNAP-Access-Barriers-Faced-By-Low-Income-50-59-Year-olds-AARP%20Foundation….pdf (page 3)
This is the dinner I call Spinach Taco Salad. I don’t use lettuce because it has almost zero nutritional value, so it’s a waste of the food dollar. It has a tomato, a bell pepper, onion and garlic, and 4 ounces of 85/15 drained ground beef. It also has about one cup of baked sweet potato and one serving of Stacey’s jalapeño chips. This is 510 calories, 29 grams carbs, 29 grams protein, and 16 grams of fat. This is acceptable nutrition for someone with prediabetes who has their blood sugar under control with diet and exercise.
Maybe we don’t shop with our eyes open because we’re worn out just trying to make it from day to day. How much emotional energy do you spend just trying to get home in one piece from your job? Some people spend that same amount of energy trying to hold their lives together while they look for meaningful work or any work at all. When you get home, your day got “valued” with a pay check, but their day was devalued because they received no remuneration. Unfortunately, we tend to devalue them as people also. This is wrong, but we do it. No wonder they become depressed–we would go there too, most likely. Maybe we need to rethink how we view those who struggle with hunger and unemployment.
Seniors in Arkansas rank first in food insecurity in the USA, with nearly 40% of Arkansas seniors affected. That is a huge number! For resources see:
Families have difficulty meeting the calorie needs of growing children, but WIC/Women, Infants & Children food subsidies can help. For a complete listing of acceptable foods see this link:
An interesting note: the only WIC acceptable potato is the sweet potato, never the white or baking potato, whether fresh or frozen. This is because the sweet potato has more nutrients and fewer calories than the ordinary potato. I almost never eat the white kind anymore. Just don’t sugar and cinnamon the baked goods up to equal the calories of the old white ones!
Some folks object to the WIC program’s restrictions on choosing the least priced item in the store (these are marked with WIC labels). As a frugal shopper, I shop the sales, what’s in season, and determine my menus from what’s available. There are months in the year when I don’t eat fresh tomatoes: too expensive, too little value, as well as too little taste. I will wait until a “real” tomato comes back into the store.
I have a life of privilege. I’m on vacation. I was able to go to my doctor’s office to get treatment for a lingering sinus infection. I was self treating because I try to avoid use of needless antibiotics. When I began to over use nonprescription analgesics, lose my appetite, and snarl at all comers, I knew I needed real medicine. However, more than 4 out of 5 families unable to afford basic necessities are also classified as food insecure, illustrating that struggling families have difficulty not only meeting their basic needs, but also their need for food as well. People will brush their teeth without toothpaste, or use a toothbrush which has outlived its usefulness. Other ways to deal with food insecurity are skipping bills, delaying payments, putting off needed medical or dental care, or not changing diapers on babies as frequently.
The middle class calls these activities “slow pay,” or “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” but some of the efforts are the same. I used to cry when I couldn’t pay my bills by the due date. I felt like a failure. One of my clients told me, “You’re no different than most of my customers. I can’t pay my bills till they pay me. This is how America works. You pay when you get the money. Just don’t go crazy spending what you don’t have!”
In a recent survey, in January, 2016, 56.3% of Americans admitted to having less than $1,000 combined in their checking and savings account. Over half the country is living “paycheck to paycheck.” In an emergency, 56.3% of Americans would need to borrow in order to survive. Rather than focusing on building wealth, the primary focus of a majority of American families is to get through the month. http://www.forbes.com/sites
While I was shopping, I noticed a small carton of six eggs was $1.78 with the second second carton only a penny more. Normally a whole dozen eggs at $3.29 is a bargain over two regular priced half dozens, but not if the small size is on sale. Usually you pay less if you buy in bulk, but not if they are selling the small stuff out. If you pay attention to the pennies, you can come up with the dimes later on.
The same went with the salad I bought. I had the choice of a bag or a cellophane box, but I chose the bag for the $1 saving. This also means I’ll have to eat it quicker, for the box keeps it fresher. I did bring a keeper box with me, for I plan to take a meal out to the track each night. Yes, I brought those pieces of chicken pre cooked & ready to eat along with avocados and tomatoes from last week.
One of the good aspects of the WIC program is it covers whole grains: whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, tortillas and cereals. Both dry and canned beans are covered, but not flavored beans (baked beans, most likely exceed the sugar content). Likewise, mixed beans with flavors aren’t covered (high salt content, I suspect). Frozen and fresh vegetables and fruit are covered, but not if they are sugared or spiced up in any way. Cooking and prep work is encouraged.
This might be the most difficult aspect of the SNAP challenge for modern families: cooking a meal nightly and sharing it. Many young people don’t have the experience of being at the table each night with the whole family. Dinner began early, after homework and play was done. My brothers and I would begin hovering nearer the kitchen steps, anticipating the smells coming from the oven and the stovetop, soon to be floating out over the Camilla blossoms and mixing with their scent
“Wash your hands!” My mother would shout at us, as the screen door slammed behind the last whirling dervish to bolt into the cut through to the hallway.
More slowly we returned, chastened by the scrubbing of the soil and sweat from our hands and arms. Most of the time we even washed our faces too, for once we were arm and hand clean, our faces looked and felt as if they belonged to someone else’s body. Looking into the bathroom mirror, we could tell we weren’t all that clean. Afterwards, we felt renewed, even if we didn’t have fresh clothes. By this age, we knew better than to get that dirty right before dinner!
Arriving in the kitchen, we lined up for tasks. My youngest brother got the simplest tasks, as was right. Later, after he mastered placing metal, he would move onto others. My next brother was onto the breakables: he was placing dishes and glasses in place. I was in charge of drinks and other service before hand. As the oldest, I was trusted not to spill. Tonight we all hoped daddy wouldn’t have late rounds, so he make dinner on time. I remember most of these meals as times of learning how to share about life, telling about heartache and triumph, and receiving encouragement and sometimes reprimand for my day. Other times, we regressed into silliness, telling jokes we’d heard at school, and playing I spy games.
My family tolerated my sculpting my food into shapes when I was a child or my playing games while I told stories about it as I ate it. I tolerated my daughter’s preoccupation with white foods. I knew she would eat a colored food when she got hungry. Every day she got a vitamin. My parents told me, “people are starving in China. You need to clean your plate.” I told my daughter, “I’m not cooking in between meals. Eat what’s on your plate or make it yourself. ”
I’m not sure either of these messages are good, but we don’t battle over food in my family. Parents aren’t short order cooks at a restaurant to meet a child’s whim of the moment. Parents know what a child needs because they are the grownup in the relationship, they have the experience, they have the training, and because, as my folks used to say, ” Because I said so, that’s why!”
After dinner, the cleanup goes apace: the brothers did their same chores quickly and daddy took them back for their baths before bed. Mother and I washed and dried the dishes. This was back in the 1950’s, when we were glad to have a clothes washing machine and an outdoor clothesline, but we still washed dishes in the kitchen sink. There’s a lovely rhythm of this routine if two hearts beat as one and four hands work together as if they belong to one body and one mind. Mothers and daughters can find this rhythm easier than sons and fathers or sons and mothers, I think, for we’ve not only heard the maternal heart, but we are connected to all the mothers’ hearts all the way back through our line.
The sink fills with hot soapy water. A large hand washes the dish, passes it under the flowing stream of clear water in the empty sink, and passes it off to the small hand who drys it and lays it aside. If the washing, rinsing, passing, and drying work correctly, the laying down happens as the next dish comes up for drying. This can be done in silence, as is it were a meditative dance, or it’s an activity full of chatter and sharing. Sometimes it’s one, the other, and at other times some of both. One or both partners can get out of sync so easily, if only by following a stray thought too far.
“A penny for your thoughts,” my mom would say to me. She was interested and valued my daydreams. Once upon a time, a penny was worth something. Then again, if you take care of your pennies, you’ll come up with your dimes when you need them.