July 25, 2012
Final thoughts on the SNAP Challenge

Let me tell you a story about a young girl who had a piggy bank filled with change that her father gave her every day. She loved her piggy bank so much and often shook it to hear the coins jingle. One afternoon her mother came into her room and announced that they would have to break the piggy bank because money was needed for food. The girl will never forget the look on her mother’s face when she broke the bank and counted the change. The sadness and shame on her mother’s face broke the little girl’s heart. As you may have guessed I was the child in the story and I will never forget that memory. In fact, that memory was the driving force behind my signing up for the SNAP Challenge.

I grew up in a home that experienced “food insecurity” on a regular basis — lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs. It has literally been over two decades since those days and I needed to be reminded what it means to “not take food for granted”. I needed to feel what it’s like for the millions of families who, like my mother, have hard choices to make. I’ve spent the last two days looking at my journal, trying to decide what thoughts to share with friends and complete strangers alike. I discovered that with each entry what started as a technical report repeatedly turned emotional. I’ve noticed that we as a society tend to connect with facts when they are coupled with emotions. So please bear with my post and me.

From the planning process through the last day of the challenge, I dealt with such guilt that at times felt unbearable. My moods swung between being agitated when planning what I was going to eat to being angry that I couldn’t stop to buy some coffee. I did become angry and it made me feel selfish. I had to keep reminding myself of the bigger picture. I don’t have children so I’m accustomed to purchasing whatever I want, whenever I want it. The abrupt change of having to watch EVERY dollar spent and analyzing what I was going to eat, and overanalyzing when I was going to eat it was mind numbing. The guilt would eat at me whenever I reminded myself that I was only doing this for one week.

This experience was not what I originally expected it to be. I expected to have moments where I wished I could have a coffee or grab a sandwich from my favorite restaurant. I didn’t expect to have what some people would call “a religious experience” but I had something close involving a true moment of clarity. I could see on a microscopic level why we as a society have so many issues like poverty and hunger. We spend our lives in a country so abundant and wonderful but one that also breaks hearts. We wake up every day living our lives often taking for granted the surplus, and blinded to the very real pain and struggle that goes on in our communities. The fact that millions are not afforded the same luxuries as me in such a wealthy nation; who wake up fearful and stressed about feeding themselves and their families, weighed heavy on me. I felt the weight with each meal and each passing day. I felt intense guilt as I thought of the times I’ve stood in line at the grocery store watching someone use their Lonestar Card (State of TX SNAP benefit) and evaluated their clothing and judging what was in their cart. For those that know me, admitting this is extremely difficult. As a Liberal Democrat I support assistance programs. However, I too became prejudiced against those using the very benefits I support. My eyes have been fully opened and I am so glad that I took this challenge.

What I have gained from this experience is simple — perspective. I gained perspective about a life that I didn’t even realize I was part of while growing up. I was able to see, even for a short time, what so many experience on the daily. I learned that week in and week out I am extremely wasteful with food. I spend carelessly on food only to throw much of it away because I let the expiration date pass. This and so many things that I do regularly have to change as I face the fact that I am wasteful. 

What would I like the reader to take away from my experience? Originally my goal was simply to bring awareness to Hunger in America. That goal was too simple. I would like to not only bring awareness but also inspiration to become involved in the fight against hunger. If you decide to take the #SNAP4aWeek challenge I will consider that an accomplishment. However, if you decide to reach out to your local food bank and donate food, money, or more importantly volunteer hours, that’s a double bonus. If you walk away from reading my journey and you have more empathy for the millions that struggle with hunger I am humbled.

The most important thing I learned was that programs like SNAP can lead to positive generational changes in families. My mother’s family grew up participating in welfare on every level that was provided in the 60’s. By many stereotypes I should be on welfare living off the cycle of the system, but the fact is, it only took one generation for our family to live the “American Dream.” My mother grew up with a deeper sense of poverty than I can fathom. So as I was growing up she never felt we were at the point financially where she needed to ask for help, because she had known worse and she knew others who had it worse. Who am I to say families that need financial help should not receive it, when my family is where it is now because of the help my grandmother received. I want the social stigma that many face to go away. I know this is pie in the sky thinking but if more of us worked together to change these prejudices about SNAP, and assistance in general, we could make a huge difference.

So moving forward I plan to incorporate many of the things I used during the challenge in my everyday life. I will live on a food budget, I will eat more home cooked meals, and I will donate monthly to my local food bank. I plan to become more involved with my local community as a way to say thank you for my community helping my family over the years. I hope that you chose to do some of these things and I hope you will share your experiences with me.

Sincerely, Monica 

Spread Hunger Awareness

July 22, 2012
My last meal

I am getting ready to prepare my last meal on the #SNAP4aWeek challenge.As of right now I have the following food items left over from my grocery shopping:

  • -          1lb of ground turkey meat
  • -          Slow cooked oatmeal
  • -          Frozen Corn
  • -          Frozen Green Beans
  • -          Milk
  • -          4 eggs
  • -          3 carrots
  • -          1 bag of pasta
  • -          2 dill pickles
  • -          1 8oz can of tomato sauce 

I was surprised that I had any food at all left over. With that said it truly ended up being a mix of food that I have no idea what to do with.Tonight I am making sopa, which is ground meat with a cumin/tomato gravy.I ruined the rice I was supposed to use for two meals last night so I am stuck with no starch to go with my meal.

Before I recap my feelings on the overall challenge, I wanted to recap a few meals that I was able to make over the past seven days.

Dinner

Lemon Pepper and basil dusted chick over spinach & tomato pasta

Left over pasta mixed with summer squash, tomatoes, and spinach

Chicken breasts sauteed with italian diced tomatoes & corn with french cut green beans

I am showing these three meals because they only required a maximum four main ingredients.  The original pasta dish provided me with a starch for three meals. I will dive into the process of meal planning and budget stretching in my next post.  The thing I really liked was that I made some delicious meals these past seven days.

I am humbled. 

July 18, 2012
Breakfast today consisted of 
Banana French Toast. Cost roughly 55cents. Great meal and was easy to do.

Lunch and dinner were left overs.

Breakfast today consisted of
Banana French Toast. Cost roughly 55cents. Great meal and was easy to do.

Lunch and dinner were left overs.

July 17, 2012
Day Two ..

I have so much that I want to talk about but I am a little too tired to type and edit anything tonight.  I will keep it short and simple.  Today had high and low points for me.  The high point was the fact that I cooked and prepared three meals today.  The low points mainly had to deal with no Starbucks or soda at one of my work stops.    Did I mention I work in the restaurant industry?  Well I do which makes this challenge well more challenging. 

Breakfast was slow cooked Oatmeal with fresh blueberries.  This breakfast actually was amazing and made me quite happy.  Lunch was leftover pasta – booooring!

 

Dinner was a sentimental meal for me.  My mother gave me her recipe for one of my favorite childhood recipes.  I call it cumin chicken…even though she cooked it with pork chops.  This meal was one of my favorites growing up and still is to this day.

Cumin Chicken

  • Two chicken breasts
  • One summer squash
  • One 8oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Cut chicken breast into 1-2 inch pieces (salt and pepper)
  • Slice summer squash into four bits
  • Heat skillet with olive oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Heat chicken and squash until chicken has browned
  • Add can of tomato sauce, cumin, garlic powder, and cup of water
  • In side bowl mix two ¼ cup of flour with water until a thin mix is created.
  • Add the flour mix to the skillet and mix well.Adjust to your thickness preference

Cover skillet and summer for 15 -20 minutes. Once completed you can serve over a bed of white rice. 



July 16, 2012
Day one completed!

I had a tuna fish sandwich, potato chips, and fresh carrots for lunch today.  While it was uneventful and colorless, it was delicious.   The bad thing about today was I had a raging headache.  This headache has clouded my mind all day and all I wanted was a nonfat latte.  I pushed past the cravings and enjoyed my meals.

My dinner was a simple meal consisting of pasta (.69 cents), ground turkey meat (.99 cents), pasta sauce (.98 cents), and broccoli (.88 cents).  This meal alone will stretch over two days, which had me excited.  I wish I could have made a healthier meal but, it was still home cooked. 

What I learned in just one day is that I take a full pantry/fridge full of food for granted.  When you have to plan each meal out, food will stress you out.  The stress I felt today is felt by over 3 million Texans daily. For 18 more meals, I can make this sacrifice.   

Hungry Texans:

  • Texas is the second most food insecure state in the country (second to Mississippi) 
  • 18.8% of Texans experience food insecurity (1 in 5 ppl)
  • As of May 2012, 3,613, 426 Texans received SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance)benefits

These are facts every person should know about their state.  You can make a difference simply by donating or volunteering at your local food bank.

July 16, 2012
Breakfast is Served….

Last night I could not sleep at all, I had a headache all day that was killing me.  I was worried that it would cause issues with planning my meals, etc, and me, today.  When I woke up at 7am, I was ready to start my day!  I have not made breakfast at home in almost a month.   This change has caused me to skip this meal all together several times.  It was with great excitement I made my breakfast to kick start the #SNAP4AWEEK challenge:

Two Poached Eggs over Wheat Toast and tomatoes

I forgot to buy coffee so no coffee for me all week!! This will be a huge challenge for me. 

Back to work for me.  I will post lunch and dinner pictures tonight.

July 16, 2012
"If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

— Mother Teresa

July 14, 2012
The shopping is complete!

I survived the shopping trip even if it were barely.  This was an emotional experience to plan, shop, and budget for a full seven days.  I met my mother to discuss our shopping lists and meal plans for the upcoming week.  I stayed up late last night obsessing over what I would eat and how much all of it would cost.  I seriously had to take a Xanax to help with the anxiety that I was feeling.  Yet, somehow, I was able to get my thoughts together and made my list.  The funny thing through all of this is how cool my mom was with everything.  As I mentioned before my mother lived this life daily for so many years, and here I was having a panic attack.  We made our separate lists and headed out to our first trip.  After our first store visit, I was on the verge of tears so much, so my mom made me sit in the car for a bit.  It was at this time I remembered shopping with my mom as a kid, and the times we had to put items back that we could not afford.  This is the EXACT reason I am doing this challenge.  This is the exact reason EVERYONE should attempt this challenge.

I walked away with all the food I made on my list by the end of our day.  When I have a little more time, I will post the details of how I reached my goal within my budget.  I am so exhausted from this experience and I have my parent’s anniversary tonight. 

My Groceries: Total Cost $31.03

  • Frozen Chicken Breasts
  • 2lb Ground Turkey Meat
  • Frozen Broccoli
  • Frozen Corn
  • Frozen Green Beans
  • Plain Greek Yogurt (2)
  • 1lb Pinto Beans
  • 1 pint Blue Berries
  • Summer Squash
  • Roma Tomatoes 
  • Tomato Sauce (2 cans)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Thin Spaghetti
  • Rotini Pasta
  • Elbow Macaroni
  • Crystal Light (not pictured)
  • Tuna Fish 
  • Loaf of bread
  • Nectarines (4)
  • Lemons (2)
  • Dozen eggs
  • Gallon Milk
  • Oatmeal (not pictured)  
  • Dill pickles 
  • Potato chips 

July 13, 2012

I have completed my preliminary meal and shopping list for the #snap4aweek challenge.  I am right at $31 and it is freaking me out.  I have decided to share with you my list.  It is not by any means a great list of food to eat, but hey I have only $31 to spend.

July 13, 2012
Meal and Grocery Planning

Short post. I am exhausted. I just spent the last hour completing my meal planner and grocery list. It was stressful!

I will post both plans later tonight. I need a glass of wine now.

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