As a result, I decided living on a food stamp budget would be one of the weekly sub-challenges during my "I have never..." year. After some thought, I determined the best week to complete this sub-challenge would be the week before Thanksgiving, given I feel the modern holiday is built around the concept of gorging one day each year under the guise of giving "thanks". In my mind, doing so will help me truly understand and value the meal and comfort that will come with next week's holiday, and will hopefully help me better understand the challenges faced by people throughout the United States each day. Now, I acknowledge living on a food stamp budget for a week will only provide a glimpse into one facet of living in poverty, but I also also know the experience will give me insight unlike any other during my "I have never..." year. As a result, I intend to live on $1.30 per meal for the next week with no exceptions. I may find myself hungry and my diet may not end up being balanced, but if living that way for a week can help me understand a shred of what Americans in poverty face each day, I know I will come out a better person.
|Day one: $3.73 spent|
By the end of the day, I was surprised to find I was only moderately hungry, but I wasn't uncomfortable. As an added benefit, my pasta and sauce and my bag of carrots left me with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow, which should permit me to pick up some higher cost items without skipping a meal in the coming days. It's going to be tough going, but at this point I think I will be able to make it through the week alright. That stated, I'm already missing complete meals...
Day 1 Meals:
Breakfast - Banana
Lunch - Beef Ramen with three carrots
Dinner - Pasta with sauce and two carrots
I woke up this morning hungry. It wasn't the sudden stomach growling hunger that comes with significant gaps between regular meals, but a kind of constant, rolling hunger that felt similar to when I start to feel hungry. The only difference is it didn't get worse as I worked through the morning and it didn't go away, even after I ate a small breakfast. Accompanying it was a kind of hazy state of mind that left me forgetting a few things on and off as the day progressed. I don't know if it was just an off day or if my body was already retaliating against yesterday's less than nutritious meals. Regardless, the low, persistent hunger and the hazy feeling stuck with me the entire day, and by the end of the day I felt a headache starting to creep up on me. Again, I can't necessarily say anything but the feeling of hunger is the result of my limited diet this week, but if they remain tomorrow, I think it will be safe to say the food stamp diet in the source.
|Day 2: $3.75 spent|
After a small breakfast, a limited lunch, and a basic dinner I'm starting to see exactly how difficult living on a food stamp budget can truly be. I have been able to eat, but I can't say that I actually feel nourished. Instead, as I write this blog entry I'm only thinking about how I'm going to afford putting together full meals tomorrow. With my fruit and vegetables almost gone and basic essentials still lacking in my diet, I don't know how far my $3.90 will get me tomorrow. All I can do at this point is get to planning as the distracting feeling of that low, constant hunger returns some 90 minutes after eating dinner. I guess I'll be drinking a lot of water tonight.
Day 2 meals:
Breakfast - Banana
Lunch - Leftover pasta and two carrots
Dinner - Four slices of turkey bologna, two pieces of bread (sandwich), and a handful of discount tortilla chips
The hunger and the haze continued today. Before heading to work this morning I stopped by the grocery store in hopes I could pick up some basic foods that my limited budget had made impossible to obtain over the last few days. With my fruit and vegetables from earlier in the week gone, I concentrated on finding a way to pick up some milk, butter, fruits, and vegetables with my daily $3.90 budget and the 32 cents I had remaining from spending under my limit the last two days. Thankfully, some incredibly low prices on canned corn, potatoes, and bananas let me put together a large haul of food to get me through the next few days. However, my lack of clarity as of late led me to miscalculate the value of the goods I intended to purchase, which led to an overage of 14 cents on today's purchase. To stick with my goal for this week, I will simply have to deduct the amount from tomorrow's budget, which may just leave me priced out of some critical sources of protein. I guess I'll see what tomorrow brings in the regard.
|My overrun... Tomorrow will be tough|
|The day's haul|
Day 3 meals:
Breakfast - Banana
Lunch - Leftover pasta, a carrot, and eight tortilla chips
Dinner - Four slices of turkey bologna, two pieces of bread (sandwich), 1/3 a can of corn, and six tortilla chips
I was surprised to find I didn't wake up this morning as hungry as I have been over the last few days, but I could still feel the effects of my limited diet. I remained hazy and forgetful throughout the day, and hunger quickly followed my normal morning routine. Following another simple breakfast, I coped with the now-familiar mild hunger that has become a part of each day until it became too hard to ignore. My lunch was once again simple, but I was hopeful it would get me through the day. Unfortunately, I found myself feeling hungry once again toward the end of the day.
Although I thought I would be able to cope with the feeling until after work, a new, unexpected feeling of light-headedness crept in with a few hours left in my workday. As a result, I gathered some leftover food from a catered meal hosted by my employer earlier in the day and had the first real meal I have eaten this week. It was small, but it incredibly satisfying. Afterward, I felt guilty for accepting food outside of the scope of my food stamp budget purchases, but the fact that I obtained a full, free meal let me feeling somewhat like myself again for the first time in days. In other words, it was worth it.
During my visit to the grocery store today I was able to pick up the bags of dried beans and rice that had escaped me earlier in the week, and a few much needed price reductions left me with enough money to pick up some unbelievably cheap (and likely equally poor in quality) franks to accompany my beans. While the items I purchased were limited in quantity, I ended up feeling good about the overall outcome given the versatility and longevity of the foods I was able to pick up. Heading into the end of the week, I'm feeling a little better about the diversity of food items I now have, even though I know it will still be a tough few days leading to the end of my seven day "I have never..." event.
Day 4 meals:
Breakfast - Apple
Lunch - Leftover pasta and 1/3 can of corn
Dinner (courtesy of my employer) - A piece of turkey, a roll with butter, and a small side of potatoes
I'm not sure why, but today was a little easier. I was still hungry for most of the day, but an early morning find of some very cheap McIntosh apples and carrots left me with enough food to nibble on throughout the day. Additionally, the fact that I had some milk to drink this morning staved off the regular hunger that struck shortly after starting my day the last few mornings. I think the multiple sources of protein and vitamins in my diet as of late are definitely helping me feel more "normal" than I have the last few days, even if I still end up feeling hungry as the day progresses. Today was better, but I'm definitely looking forward to the end of this week. I'm just lucky I know when my limited food budget will end.
|A little saved today hopefully |
means more tomorrow
After trying to live the way they do everyday for a mere five days, I can already say I never want to experience this kind of struggle again. At a cost of $36 per taxpayer in the United States, the programs funded by SNAP shouldn't be seen as a problem, it should be seen as a critical program to help all of us, especially those in need, meet our basic human needs when we have nowhere else to turn. I still have two days left in my experience living on a food stamp budget, and I can say already this experience has been one of the most eye opening, transformative experiences of my life. Perhaps I was bound to ignorance or apathy before, but over the last few days I have really gained perspective on how lucky I am to have a life of comfort and stability. With less than a week before Thanksgiving, that insight is something worth recognizing, and I'm sure that feeling will last well beyond Thursday of next week.
Day 5 meals:
Breakfast - Banana, three carrots, and a glass of milk
Lunch - Macaroni and cheese, a hot dog, and a six ounce container of yogurt
Dinner - Three pieces of turkey bologna, two pieces of bread, and an apple
I was surprisingly busy today, which made it easier to ignore the fact that I felt hungry a good portion of the day. That stated, I must admit I was less hungry today than I have been other days this week. Additionally, I was was definitely more focused after I loaded up with a late breakfast and an early lunch that had me eating two meals within two hours of one another. With the ability to afford some discounted cheese and a cucumber today, I was also feeling pretty good heading into dinner tonight. While the quality and nutrition of the food I am eating leave something to be desired, I had enough to get by and I'm starting to feel a little more leveled. Maybe I'm just getting more used to my limited diet or maybe I have done well in recent days to get a more balanced diet. Whatever the case, I made it through today alright, which was a nice change of pace.
|Making the most of yesterday's carryover|
Although it was an easier day, I'm happy to know tomorrow will mark the end of my experience living on a food stamp budget. This week has helped me gain perspective on the struggle that comes with trying to feed oneself with $3.90 per day. It was harder than I expected it would be, and I don't think I would have truly understood that reality had I not made this experience a part of my "I have never..." journey. As overwhelming as it was at times, the takeaways from make me happy I had the experience. I've learned a lot and formed some new perspectives on the reality many people face, and I know that will give me pause as I make decisions on how to spend my money and where I can contribute in the future.
Day 5 meals:
Breakfast - Banana and a glass of milk
Lunch - Macaroni and cheese, 1/3 of a can of corn, and a six ounce container of yogurt
Dinner - A hotdog, a piece of bread, two cubes of cheese, and an apple.
|Game day snacks...|
Remaining blog entry coming soon...