Never been someone who is above leftovers and I like to think of myself as someone who can get by on a budget. The checking account has taken the dips on days when its not close enough to pay day & I get through. Dealing with being a college student and not working regularly, certainly has honed my skills at stretching a dollar and viewing essentials differently. So when I saw a challenge to get by on the amount that is expected for people on Food Stamps, I thought No Problem!
Evidently I am not as cost aware as I had thought!
What was formerly know as Food Stamps is now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Gone are the “stamps”, in are the electronic debit like cards, but the concept stays the same. Help provide healthy food for those who can not afford to buy food right now. The program isn’t for just anyone who wants it. You must show that you qualify and legitimately have a need and have to apply before being granted the benefits. Also there are rules to using the funds. Can’t go buy beer or treat yourself to a plate of wings at the bar. You can however get food to make meals. Just don’t plan on getting pet food, soap, paper products or basically anything other than food.
One of my favorite organizations, the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, set forth a challenge to try to play by the SNAP rules for a work week. Just 5 days. The rules are simple. You have to take into account the cost of everything you eat and keep it at or below the amount that would be granted for the time period with the SNAP benefits.
I had played along before with challenges presented by the Food Bank. Like where you skip a meal for a day & donate the money that you would have spent to the Food Bank. Helps you be aware of what a blessing it is so be able to afford the meals you eat & you are helping others to eat – without spending any more money than you would have.
This challenge wouldn’t involve me not eating so had to be easier, right? WRONG!
The average amount provided thru “food stamps” (I may never think of them as anything but) ends up being around $4.15 PER DAY. Not per meal. PER DAY. Total 24 hours, 3 meals, snacks, drinks, whatever all combined. In 2012. Not so easy after all. (Average PER MONTH is just under $125 in NC.)
At least with the former skip a meal challenge I could enjoy a bigger meal afterward & balance out the hunger. Not with this one. Sure I guess I could have used the time to detox & do a cleanse, but that still cost money. Plus the idea is that people have to eat like this long term, not just a few days.
Day one I was SHOCKED at how quickly the money added up. I went grocery shopping to avoid eating out (since the SNAP funds are not accepted dining out). Bought some basics to make simple foods. Still after all was said & done, I was over my budget!
Day two wasn’t much better. I did slightly cheat since I had a preplanned date scheduled that night. Ended up free meal & beer with leftovers. Sadly even with this Over Budget for the day.
The rest of the week wasn’t much better. Yesterday was the last of the 5 days striving to stay on the $4.15 per day limit, but with assisting a friend find furniture for his new place, the budget was blown with coffee & breakfast on the road. Even his treat to a milkshake didn’t keep me in my budget.
It REALLY tough. Certainly takes a lot more planning than I did. Don’t know how people are expected to do it on a daily basis. Honestly if I had kids involved there would be no way. Kids are growing & seem to be hungry lil beasts! They need to eat & need to eat good stuff.
With the cost of everything rising, I don’t see it getting easier to do, especially and stay healthy. Eating long term like this would NOT make me a happy girl. Thankfully, through the efforts of organizations like the Food Bank of CENC and those who support them, people find ways to make it all work.
So do you think you can do it?
Can you make it work with $4.15 per day?