12 March 2011

And so I begin - SNAP Challenge 2011

I realized a day or so ago that there was no reason to wait until Sunday to begin the challenge, so I started this morning. As I've previously said, I didn't want to start immediately because yesterday was my cooking club's monthly meeting, and I wasn't sure how to work that. In the Participation Guidelines for the challenge, we are told to "[a]void accepting free food or meals from family, friends or coworkers including meeting or reception drinks, snacks, and meals - since these wouldn't be available to the general public." I would guess that a potluck is OK as long as you contribute something, but waiting until today to start was just easier.

This is a picture of my basic pantry for the week:

The two items not shown are a bottle of oil, which I forgot to put into the picture, and a loaf of bread. I didn't think I could do both pasta and potatoes, but I found a few potatoes on the hurt produce rack and a dented box of pasta so it worked out. I did really want to have a real onion, and it took some looking to find a small one. I'm used to buying bags of onions, but that would mean I couldn't have something else on the table. Since this is a starter pantry, some of these items - such as the rice - will be left for the second week, so I could buy something else such as a whole bag of onions. But not this week.

I was lucky that several items were also on the hurt food rack, which is cheaper and expanded my options:

I saw some other goodies, such as a large can of diced tomatoes at 80 cents, but I already had the smaller cans (2 for $1) and decided that I couldn't do the swap.

I'd about decided to do without cereal when I found the $1 boxes at one store. Not a great selection - the Raisin Bran I got (which happens to be a favourite of mine) was the only one that didn't seem to mimic some children's treat. "Apple Rings" and "Frosted Grain Flakes" and "Multicolored Fruit Rings" and "Coco-Bits" are some of the other options. Interestingly, this was the only cereal that said it had a mere four servings per box; the others mostly offered seven. I decided that I could eat smaller portions to stretch this to at least five, because I just didn't think I could eat the sugary ones all week.

Other cereals I found were $1.66-1.79 for the cheapest ones. Yes, they offered more servings, but balancing the opening pantry need for variety, I went with the cheapest option. In some cases, it would be on sale at 2 for $3.00, but you might have to actually buy two to get the sale price and that wasn't in the budget. Or I could get something for free - with $20 additional purchase, also not part of the budget.

We are allowed to include a few items from our existing pantry: "With the exception of basic spices/condiments, eat only the food that you purchased for this program, not items that you already own." So the oil might be dicey, but I figure that I eat very few "condiments" as a rule, so it will be in place of someone else's catsup or mayonnaise. I also decided that I would use more basic spices, the ones I often buy when camping or cooking for a crowd, so that I don't lose or use up my expensive ones. I guess that someone on limited income is more likely to buy Spice Islands than Penzeys or Tavolo:

For today, I am going to be out and about a lot. I hurt my knee last weekend so I am skipping yoga class, so my day starts with a haircut, then the Maple Festival at Sweet Wind Farm. After that I will try to get to a friend's musical performance matinee, then a break before going to see "Princess Ida" at the Simsbury Light Opera with another friend. So I am packing a peanut butter sandwich (yes, no jelly - I almost never eat jelly on my PB sandwiches) and a couple of apples. If there are any snacks offered at the festival, they will be candy and syrup, and since I can't stop or simply munch on the trail mix and nuts that I keep in the car, I have to be sure to pack that I am allowed to eat. It might be a long time before I get home today. I had some of the raisin bran cereal for breakfast, and water. I usually put juice on my cereal - but that's something I can't afford on $21 per week.

If you want information about a past SNAP event, on the site I linked above they have some press information from 2008. It's worth a read.

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