The fellows are about halfway through SNAP Challenge, and they are certainly feeling the challenge of spending no more than $4.44 per day on food. Below, the fellows weigh in on the challenges and discoveries that have come up during this year’s second simulation experience (read about the first simulation here).
When trying to spend less money on food, I’m finding that the easiest options almost always have a high carbohydrate content, which is tough for someone with diabetes. I was immediately drawn to pasta and bread in the challenge which meant my diet quickly became very carb-centric.
It took me a while to discover little "hacks" to get me through each day without going over budget. Eggs were my first big discovery to get through breakfast without also adding many carbs. Peanut butter, as always, had my back for mid-day meals and snacks. And at dinner, I realized that the right balance of frozen veggies, rice, chicken, and sauce could make a diverse array of stir-fries that would come in under budget while filling me up.
The SNAP challenge has increased my respect for what I consider the “Mom skill” of using, reusing, transforming and NEVER WASTING food. Figuring out how to make chili one night, use it to top enchiladas the next, and so on has kept my SNAP challenge diet tasty and affordable. Thanks, Mom.
When talking to friends and family about my first grocery haul of the challenge, I expressed some concern over the little money I had left. When I listed the fruit and (frozen) veggies I had purchased, the response was “Well, that was your first mistake.” When have you ever heard someone say that buying and eating fruits and vegetables is a mistake? Answer: never. But is that what our current system is telling people living on food stamps?
Going into this challenge, I was concerned about balancing the budget constraints with my current marathon training schedule. I quickly discovered, however, that the carbohydrate-intensive diet I needed was achievable within the SNAP budget. This reinforces what we learned early on in our fellowship, which is that carbs are the cheapest form of dietary energy.
Although I still managed to eat some fruits and vegetables throughout the challenge, their overall quality and quantity was significantly lower than what I was accustomed to. Halfway through my experience, I learned that there are local programs in DC which subsidize fresh produce purchases for people receiving many forms of government aid (SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, and more)--a resource that I would have sought/simulated if I had only known before the challenge.
I made the mistake of going grocery shopping a few days after Snowstorm Jonas. I had planned and budgeted a week’s worth of grocery and meals, but the grocery store was completely empty. Without being able to execute my detailed grocery list and plan, it was really challenging to figure out a back-up plan to make sure I had what I needed to make it through the week.
I also realized that normally, I could just decide to go to a restaurant or order carry out if the grocery store was empty. But, if I relied on SNAP benefits, that may not be possible and it would be a lot harder to get the nutrition that I needed.