Open Arms of Minnesota

CHRIS: Joining the SNAP Challenge

The past year we’ve been living on one wage earner’s income. Our total income is down 60% from the prior year. After some initial adjustments, I like to think we have embraced a great awareness of frugality, cost consciousness, making sacrifices, living on less. Well, this SNAP Challenge has raised the bar and is already teaching us new perspectives on our living habits. Mostly those centered around the role food plays in our lives. But creeping into our conversations are other related things like time management, public transportation and energy costs, consumerism and advertising, role of government assistance and quality of information.

So the four of us are going to live for a week on food we buy from our $11.35 per day allotment. No using things we had already in the house. We’ll see if we make it. And you’ll hear about it here. The good, the bad and the ugly, and any food cheating that goes on.

For the record – I love food, fine dining, and delicious recipes. I love reading food magazines. I appreciate food-beverage pairings, subtle spices, over the top presentations. I have been, on occasion, a hedonistic glutton, although those days are fading fast in the rear view mirror. But with all that, I do have the ability to treat food as fuel. On an emotional level, I can turn off my relationship with food. If need be, I can just shove something edible in my mouth and be done with it. We’ll see if this week puts that to the test.

We spent most of Sunday morning looking through flyers for coupons, comparing advertised prices at the different stores, and meal planning to stretch our weekly cash allotment. Not relaxing or enjoyable by any definition.

First realization: a Two For One coupon or a Half Off coupon trumps Nutrition and Brand/Store Loyalty. Every time.

Second realization: Compromise comes very quickly. Do you like butter? Think it is healthier than margarine? Well, margarine is unbelievably cheaper than butter, and with that compromise you’d have some money left over to put toward other things, like meat. No, you say, I wont do it. Ok, fine: how do you feel about canned ham instead of Boar’s Head Honey Roasted Ham from the deli sliced just the way you like it? No compromises, no food to get you through the week. Third realization: you can kiss spices, condiments and specialty items good bye. At least this week.

Since Amy and Mike took on the challenging task of shopping yesterday, I’ll let them post about their experiences. And I hope Amy writes about the menu planning choices; a talented cook and gourmand, she didn’t have a whole lot to work with which to work.

I’ll fill you in on some of the logistical elements that were remarkable to me.

It took no time at all to unload the grocery bags. There were only two.

Not counting the huge bag of potatoes, the dry goods fit on ONE shelf in our panty. That’s a 1.5 x 2 x 1.5 footprint, equal to 4.5 cubic feet. And the refrigerated items? I googled “Top 10 Refrigerators” and found stats on the cubic footage on the most popular models. Space ranged from 16 cubic feet to 27.5 cubic feet. Our food took up ONE shelf(I even put the freezer items onto the shelf temporarily to prove everything would fit). That’s a 1.5 x 2 x 1 footprint, equal to 3 cubic feet. For some perspective, college dorm refrigerators are 1.7 to 4.3 cubic feet.

We ate up most of our fresh veggies last night. And enjoyed them. Going to be a week before we see anything other than the canned or frozen vegetables that are on sale. Somebody in the food and marketing industry determined what vegetables I would be eating this week. Is it cheating if I cook up that heritage pumpkin I took off our front step last night?

Breakfast this morning was pretty easy, considering the lack of choices. No juices, just water. Choice of a single egg scrambled with a slice of ham cut up in it or a small bowl of dry cereal/milk or oatmeal (no berries, raisins, nuts, brown sugar, honey, milk or cream in it – just plain oatmeal). Buttered white toast for those that wanted it. Banana was today’s fruit. And probably tomorrow’s. Amy and Marley got a ham sandwich each for lunch. No mayo, no mustard. Barely enough butter to make the ham stick to the bread. Elena chose school lunch – she would get it for free if we were on a Food Assistance program. Marley got a little Tupperware of crushed pineapple out of a can that we hope lasts all week. Now that I think of it, I could drain off some of the syrup and add water to it to make breakfast juice once for one person.

I close with some thoughts about upcoming trials this week:

Elena may have a wheat and/or dairy sensitivity. Oh well, this week she will itch and her eczema will get worse.

Marley may be coming down with a cold. Hmm, wonder how she fend it off, given the foods we’ll be eating. I hope a limited number of apples and bananas, and those canned veggies help her.

Five pounds of potatoes could go a long way. Here you go kids, have a baked potato for a snack, with margarine on it. Oh, yeah – we bought butter instead and not a lot of it either.

I wonder how much we’ll like our popcorn without butter.

More from Open Arms

Bake Sale Graphic

Great Minnesota Bake Sale 2024

OPEN ARMS LAUNCHES INAUGURAL “GREAT MINNESOTA BAKE SALE” FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ethan Armstrong [email protected] Cell: 320-815-2351 Minneapolis, MN, [7 June 2024] – Open Arms of Minnesota is thrilled to announce the launch of the first-ever Great Minnesota Bake Sale, set to take place

Read More »
Prida cap

Pride 2024

HAPPY PRIDE FROM OPEN ARMS! June is here, ushering in Pride Month—a time of great significance for Open Arms and our entire community. Our journey began nearly 40 years ago during the HIV/AIDS crisis, and with the support of a passionate and committed community,

Read More »

Thank You Graduating Cristo Rey Student Interns

Cristo Rey Students Wrap Up Internship With Open Arms Congrats to Cristo Rey student interns, Betsabe and Kai, who will graduate from high school this spring! Cristo Rey, a Catholic coeducational high school located in the Phillips neighborhood, developed an internship program with Open

Read More »
End Of Year Giving Graphic

Your Gift Will Help Us Serve More Clients!

Together we can continue to meet the increased demand for medically tailored meals with your support! We hope you think of us as you consider your year-end giving. Your donation is a gift of care, compassion, and encouragement!