If you read my post last Monday, you know that John and I participated, along with several other Las Vegans, in the SNAP Experience to help raise awareness about food insecurity. The reason for this is that the Farm Bill, of which SNAP is a part, is up for a vote. Politicians want to cut that bill in lieu of making other tough choices. Personally, I feel that everyone has the right to EAT and if they are unable to do so, for whatever reason, they need help and education to eat wisely and healthfully.
Because I cook almost everything from scratch and we don’t eat a lot of processed foods, eating the way we normally eat wasn’t TOO big a stretch. I do realize that most people don’t have the time or desire to spend the amount of time I do in the kitchen. And we did run into some personal SNAFU’s – John is a snacker and we just didn’t build money into the budget for that.
The last day was the biggest problem for us. We did fine the first 4 days of the challenge (other than not being able to snack), but the 5th day posed some really tough circumstances that had more to do with our jobs and lives than it did the program. John had a colleague come in to town who wanted to treat him to lunch. John accepted because it was a business lunch and he didn’t pay. I was leaving Friday morning for an out of town business trip (we started the SNAP Experience on Sunday rather than Monday) so I had errands to do. Of course I forgot to pack a lunch and ended up eating out and finding the cheapest option possible (at $8). The lesson here is that if we were SNAP recipients it wouldn’t have mattered that I had a business trip or that I forgot to pack a lunch, I’d still have had to eat and I would still have needed the funds to do it and I maybe wouldn’t have had them.
Here is what I learned this past week on the SNAP Experience:
• John and I are incredibly spoiled and very fortunate to have enough to eat each day
• If it weren’t for store loyalty programs (saved me $16.50) and coupons (saved me $5.00) we wouldn’t have made it thru the week. Smart shopping is not enough
• Planning is key! Even though I didn’t plan for the week, like some participants did, I planned each day because that is the way I shop.
• Protein and Produce are major expenses. We chose protein over produce because for both of us, the protein keeps us fuller longer. Not necessarily the BEST way to eat.
• For 2 adults it was doable, but I can’t imagine having to tell my kid that there was nothing else to eat. Really young kids can’t grasp that if their belly is yelling, “Fill me up!”
• We both lost weight because we weren’t snacking – a good thing.
I received a little grief from someone at the start of this. I was told that participating to raise awareness was noble, but not realistic. Basically this person said that trying to do this for a week was fine and all, but try doing it for a MONTH, or FOREVER. THAT is a real challenge. At the end of the week I was able to go back to my “normal” life. People every day are living with food insecurity and so many people are completely oblivious to the plight. This past week really opened our eyes to things we have begun to take for granted. Yes, our “Experience” ended after 5 days, but I do think I am going to be more aware of what I actually spend on food. And let’s not forget that SNAP monies can’t be used to buy laundry soap, toothpaste, diapers or anything else needed to run a home that is NOT a food product!
Not having to worry about food insecurity is a blessing for my household. I grew up in need and this just reminded me how fortunate I am and strengthened my resolve to keep working with agencies like Three Square and Feeding America to do as much as I can to educate, inspire and motivate people to get involved!
Here is a cheap recipe for you to try. I am quite sure that it isn’t authentic, but it still tastes good and even if you can’t get everything on sale, it’s still “cheap eats”. It serves 4 generously (lots of rice for me thank you very much!) for about $1.25/serving. You can add more veggies if you have them and sub firm tofu for the chicken if you are vegetarian or vegan. You can cook the rice while you are making the curry, and all together it should take you about 30 minutes.
2 cups rice – cooked according to pkg directions ($0.80)
1 small onion – chopped ($0.16)
1 Tbsp vegetable or Olive oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast – ($1.99 on sale)
2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste (found in Asian markets – about $0.50) use less if you want mild, this amount is for mild – medium.
1 – 14 oz can coconut milk ($0.89)
1 pkg – 12 oz- fresh mixed veggies – broccoli, snow peas and carrots ($0.75 on sale)
In a non stick skillet, heat oil until it shimmers and add onion. Cook until the onions start to brown, stirring frequently. Add chicken, continue cooking and stirring until chicken is cooked almost all the way thru. Add curry paste and coconut milk, stirring until the sauce is uniform in color. Add water (or chicken stock) if desired to thin the sauce a little. Bring mixture to a boil. Toss in the veggies, reduce heat, cover the skillet and steam the veggies until desired doneness (for me, about 3 minutes).
Serve immediately over hot rice.
This week’s Food Memories are eating on the lean side for the SNAP Experience, dinner at Mohawk Bend with Dave T, Laurie M and Jen R and Dave not removing his hat (from a previous blog, you know this is my biggest pet peeve),
A really good, but over priced Italian dinner with Laurie, Jen and Erin,
Lobster Bisque from that dinner
and perfectly cooked eggs at a diner (you have no idea how rare that is!).
Until next week, go out and make your OWN Food Memories.