A funny thing happened on the way to Lent.


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



About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to CatholicMom.com and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at erinmccolecupp.com .

4 Responses to A funny thing happened on the way to Lent.

  1. I’m looking forward to following your adventure. Please blog about it 🙂

  2. Mom says:

    I want to shhare some of this with others on my deanery high school Mom blog
    Its http://www.bctcwantsyou.com
    I think we are all gonna learn a little here 🙂

    • Thanks. I surely hope so. I’m going to see what other kinds of things we can do to make this year’s Lenten challenge more authentic: for instance, smaller income probably means smaller living space, so does that mean no bulk buying?

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