A funny thing happened on the way to Lent.
January 18, 2013 4 Comments
We were all set to start planning meals and recipes for the Lent 2013 Challenge: feed a family of five meatless meals on the same budget that the poorest of the poor in our home state would receive on SNAP, a. k. a. “food stamps.” I was all eager to get in there and experience what it would be like to have to stretch that dollar for forty days the same way another family would need to do every single day of their shared life. So, to prepare, I geared myself up for an appointment with our county assistance office, our local food bank, with whomever could help me find the information we needed to really start planning.
Well, it was far easier than that. A Google search of “food stamp benefits in [insert name of our state here]” gave a handy little table showing the maximum benefit for a household and its members.
We already live on a grocery budget that is $163/month less than the maximum food stamp benefit for a family of five in our state.
Now, before you get all indignant and cry foul on how “the poor are robbing the taxpayers!” let me make it abundantly clear to you, if it hasn’t already been made so by your reading my blog: WE COOK FROM SCRATCH. This makes an ENORMOUS impact on a family’s food budget. Let me make that even clearer: we have the luxury to cook from scratch, because we have the luxury of time. I am trying not to cry as I reread the sentence I just typed, because I’m always complaining about how little time I have, especially after the last week of all five of us being sick, my asthmatic bronchitis heading into its third month, homeschooling not getting as done as it should… and yet, I must bow my head and admit that our family has the luxury of more time, because my job is at home, and part of that job is cooking from scratch. When we were a two-income family five years ago, and I was working full-time, we ate a moderate amount of takeout, and we ate more “convenience foods” from the grocery store: granola bars, boxed cakes, bags of pre-made tortellini, and so on. Those things cost more money. So, really, if two adults are feeding five people on two minimum-wage incomes–or far less than that–while working 40 hours per week or spending all that time looking for jobs… that SNAP benefit might not go so far as our family grocery budget does, what with me making pizza from scratch and kneading homemade vegetable stock into vital wheat gluten to make our own seitan.
So the Lent 2013 Challenge has evolved: can we feed our family from-scratch meals prepared in 20 minutes? Is it possible to choose poverty in order to help those who didn’t choose it to make their own dollars stretch farther? Stay tuned to find out