Sunday, November 17th, was the beginning of the Food Stamp Challenge. I’m joining other Presbyterians across the country in living within a food budget of about $4 per day per household member. It is a way to be mindful of what it would be like to be limited to this kind of food budget (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and to encourage reflection and action as Congress debates cutting food benefits for the poor.
Towards the end of Sunday, these are the things I’m thinking:
1) It made me self conscious to obviously be doing math before taking objects off the shelves, as others waltzed by and dumped things in their cart (and I had even pre-planned what I thought we could afford)
2) I was stressed and focused enough at the store that it would have been a nightmare to have children in tow. The math took a long time, and my anxiety was huge as the account dwindled. It would have been hard for those reasons alone, but especially it would have been hard for me to have my children there, begging for things we couldn’t afford.
3) I opted for the healthier organic version of mac&cheese and ‘ramen’ noodles, because I have kids with kid tastes and yet don’t want the cheapest versions of these foods. Not sure how long I’d hold out though, considering price differences. I could have bought 10 traditional ramen for the price of 2 natural.
4) My kids are picky eaters and they need calories (the doctor has said so). This means I cannot plan on rice and beans all week, which I would if I were by myself, because my kids (even if hungry) will not eat enough calories of foods they don’t like.
5) I had a bad dream last night about stirring neon orange Mac and cheese and feeling like a bad mom.
6) Next time, I may be humbler about what I can bring to potlucks, so I buy myself coffee instead of curry powder and other seasonings for a nice dish to share with others.
7) I have a church that is open, that I’ve been embraced in all my life, and frequently has hot coffee, after church meals, and Sunday School snacks for kids, no questions asked… Not sure what we would do without a community (other than be hungrier, and lonelier.)
8) Even though I haven’t given permission for us to dip into the basket, I’m realizing the beauty of trick-or-treating for the free happiness of kids (even knowing it is not something I love my children to have– it’s free! they like it! it’s free! it’s tasty! it’s free! that kind of “dessert” could last months, if I rationalized it properly)
9) I would quickly be tempted to turn to canned vegetables, even as I’m enjoying the fresh. The price difference, again, is pretty big and I needed the budget to spread more. While the many fresh vegetables are healthy and plentiful and beautiful, the truth is that. in terms of basic fat and carb calories that my growing kids need, I’m not sure I would buy quite so many fresh vegetables, when what I need is some other food calories just to plain fill them up.
10) It hit me, after coming home from the store, that I couldn’t have afforded pet food, or basic toiletries, if they had happened to be on the shopping list this week.