Hunger Sweats

Did you know that hunger sweating is a really thing? Google it. Jeremiah learned this on Thursday morning. Although more common in diabetics when their blood sugar is low, it can also happen to non-diabetics. If I were to guess, it might also be a reaction to our diet with the medicines Jeremiah takes. Of course, this is making me nervous for the week to be over. I don’t want anything to happy to my love.

Of course, it is also a reminder of the chronic health conditions so many people who receive food from Harvesters. Twenty-nine (29%) percent of the households who receive food from Harvesters have at least one person in their household who is in poor health.  Thirty-seven (37%) percent of households have at least one member with diabetes, and 62 percent report at least one member with high blood pressure. Can you imagine having to choose between purchasing food and paying for medicine? As you can see, cheap unhealthy food or lack of food can also be bad for your health.

After experiencing hunger sweats in the morning, Jeremiah ate his banana. Of course, that means he did not have one to eat at lunch time. I guess it is a good thing we packed the leftover Chicken Penne Pasta for lunch. It was made with whole wheat pasta which helped get him by until dinner.

Bless his heart, Jeremiah waited for me to eat dinner. I was late because I had a hair cut after work. We ate Red Beans and Rice, corn bread, and five saltine crackers. For dessert, two cookies each plus a cup of coffee for Jeremiah. That was the last of the extra cookies so we won’t be able to have any for dessert tomorrow night.

Check-out the cookie recipe we prepared on Sunday for the week. The recipe comes from Harvesters’ Nutrition Services Department. The cookies cost $3.06 to make or $.09 per cookie. They don’t taste very different than the homemade chocolate chip cookies my mother made growing up.

cookiesWhole-Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies by Harvesters’ Nutrition Department
3/4 c. oats
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. canola oil
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
t tsp. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind oats in a blender or food processor until texture of flour. Pour in a medium bowl with flour, baking soda, and salt. In another medium bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add oil, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Beta until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on low. Once combined, stir in chocolate chips. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet, approximately two inches apart. Bake 9-12 minutes. Makes approximately 24 cookies.

Nutritional information: Calories – 131, Fat 7 g., Protein – 2 g., Carbs – 17 g. , Fiber 2 g., and Sodium 79 mg.

Bananas for Dinner?

Wednesday was hump day in the SNAP Challenge. Each day seems to get a little easier when it comes to thinking about food. However, the side effects of lack of food are starting to set in. Jeremiah and I don’t feel as focus at work as we should be. While folding laundry, we noticed I put a number of articles in the dryer I normal wouldn’t have. Clearly, I was so focused on my hunger on Monday that I wasn’t paying attention. We are also so tired in the evenings.

SandwichFor breakfast, we each ate our pancakes. They seems to hold until 11 – 11:30 AM. For lunch, I sprinkled a little Italian Seasoning in both our hummus containers. Jeremiah is begging to add oil to his dish for Thursday.

For lunch, I continued to eat a tuna sandwich. We had enough leftovers so Jeremiah took a serving of red beans and rice to go with his sides.

photo 8_compressedDuring the day, I got to go to an open house in the SNAP Department. They had samples of recipes others can make on a SNAP budget during next week’s challenge. Since I am doing the SNAP Challenge this week, I couldn’t sample any of them. They aren’t in my SNAP budget. They also asked clients to share their stories. The stories are documented and displayed on paper plates. I was touched by so many of them. Pregnancy, a workplace injury, cancer, and minimum wage jobs are just a few of the reasons these people are turning to Harvesters for help. I feel guilty that at the end of this week I know my budget will increase for food.

When I come home, Jeremiah is eating some crackers. I asked if the lunch had held. He said it did until he got to my house. I understand the cravings you typically get while cooking dinner. Normally, I would eat a few crackers or M&Ms myself. While eating Chicken Penne Pasta with Salsa con Queso and corn bread leftovers, Jeremiah’s eye catches the bananas hanging on the counter. He say, “I will skip a banana for lunch if you want to split on tonight.” He immediately realizes how hungry he is and that he has never done this before. I tell Jeremiah about a banana, brown sugar, and butter recipe I saw in the SNAP cookbook that I want to try. I show him a picture on my cell phone and realize it takes two bananas. Sure, we could half the recipe but what if it is terrible? Then, we just wasted a banana and extra ingredients not originally in our budget. I convenience Jeremiah to wait until after our Financial Peace University class. If we are still hungry, we can eat it then. With eight cookies left, I tell Jeremiah we have enough for two each tonight. What a splurge!

While driving to class, we discuss the foods we are craving. I told Jeremiah that I wanted a hot chocolate. Jeremiah mentions just how much he is craving his grande Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. He also wants French fries. Now suddenly, I am craving these from the McDonald’s across the street from my apartment. Jeremiah says, “They are on the dollar menu.” That’s when I have to remind him that McDonald’s doesn’t take SNAP so we can get any before Saturday.

When we get to class, two of the groups had brought snacks. There is hummus from the Holy Land Cafe that looks so much better than ours with fresh veggie and crackers. Someone else has brought cookies. We skip the table to sip on the water bottles we bought because it isn’t in our SNAP budget. Throughout class, their is discussion about the food for our last class next week. Our mouths are watering at the pork loin description.

The class this week is on home buying. This is something we would both like to have in the future. In some of the examples Dave shares, they save all of one spouses income to buy a home with cash. That’s funny because Jeremiah and I have talked about just living off his income and saving mine. We are dreaming of the days in retirement where we can travel and not have to worry about money to pay off debt. We think this is doable. Even in doing so, we know we won’t have to live on a SNAP budget for food.

I also share with Jeremiah that I think we are spending too much money eating out. We agree that one week we can do a nice sit down and one week we can do fast casual (Chipotle, Smashburger, pizza, etc.) Jeremiah also throws out that if one of us suggest going out to eat more than once a week, they have to put $45 into a saving jar. Sadly, this is the average cost of us going out to eat one meal. But this week, it’s all the money we have for 30 meals. We haven’t determined yet what we are going to do with the money.

While driving home, I comment on how I haven’t been enjoying the pasta dish as much as I usually do. I think it taste weird. Jeremiah says he is thinking the same thing. I asked it the salsa con queso was expired and Jeremiah says no. He ask it is the pasta. I said that it is the pasta I normally use. But then I realized, we had regular pasta on Sunday night and barely any sugar since. I bet whole wheat pasta is more noticeable then.

We retreat to my apartment. It’s only 9:15 PM and we are so tired so it’s time for bed.

Bean Paste Day 2

I was very nervous about day two. In theory, work should get my mind of the hunger. However, I work in a 217,000 sq. ft. warehouse full of food. If you read my post yesterday, you know how much I was thinking about food.

Luckily, my second day went better. I ate breakfast at 7:30 AM after working out. This kept my stomach from growling until just after 11 AM. Jeremiah took his to work and ate it. That helped him stay full until lunch time.

hummusLunch seemed to hold for me. I added a little Italian Seasoning to my hummus or what Jeremiah affectionately refers to as “Bean Paste”. It seemed to taste a little better. Jeremiah reported had a very difficult day at work. He wasn’t sure if it was just an issue with his update or a combination of also being hungry.

Unfortunately, I got a headache during my drive home. This is what my sister warned me about – the sugar headache. Stephanie got one when she gave up sugar and caffeine for two weeks on the Mayo Clinic diet. I know mine wasn’t from caffeine because I drink decaf half the time. I don’t drink soda very but I remember who painful it was when I gave it up. I told Jeremiah that this was probably the least amount of sugar my body has had in years. He agreed.

We had two very difficult social engagements last night. I opted not to attend a work function called Taste of Elegance. It’s an event where some of the best chefs in town cook pork dishes. As foodies, Jeremiah and I would have been in heaven at this event had it not been SNAP Challenge Week for us. Could you image going to mingle with your volunteers at a social function and not being able to eat or drink anything?

The second event was making our March meals at Social Suppers. I love this event and it helps us knock out preparing most of our meals for the month in about 30-45 minutes. Plus, the owners Jen and Jill are just so darn sweet. We decided to go and just not cook any of it until after the challenge. It’s amazing how quickly six entrees and one side dish add up to over $100. Yikes in comparison this week’s budget. We survived the experience of being temped by food.

When we got back to Jeremiah’s house, we ate a dish we had cooked on Sunday. Thank goodness we had since it was 6:45 PM. Normally, we are doing dishes by then. In fact, we usually go out to eat after we make Social Supper. Not in the budget this month.

The dish we made was Dave Ramsey’s Simple Red Bean and Rice recipe. I have to admit, Jeremiah and I got the recipe from a former coworker Chef Hild. He prepared for our Financial Peace University class a few weeks ago. He cooked enough to feed 80 people on just $30. Jeremiah and I weren’t able to get the price per serving that low. Then again, we can’t buy food directly from companies or shop at Restaurant Depot.

red beansSimple Red Beans & Rice by Financial Peace University & Chef Gary Hild
2 c. water
1 c. uncooked rice
1 – 16 oz. turkey sausage, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove of chopped garlic
2 – 15 oz. cans of kidney beans, drained
1/2 c. water
1 – 16 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Options to add at the table (not in our budget): Worcestershire sauce, salsa, Sriracha sauce, Tabasco sauce, or dried basil

In a sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

In a large skillet, cook sausage over a low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in onion, green pepper, and garlic. Saute until tender. Pour in 1/2 c. water, beans, and tomatoes with juice. Season with oregano, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Stir and then serve over rice.

Notes:

  • The cost of the entire dish was $5.75 or just $.82 per serving.
  • Jeremiah and I found the cheapest place to buy bulk rice is at Sprouts. Plus, you can mix white and brown together to make it healthier.
  • Jeremiah and I over cooked our rice so we mixed the ingredients together. It was fine.
  • We also purchased all the fresh veggies on sale at Sprouts.
  • We brought two sausages in the fresh meat case at HyVee. We got between 5-6 slices of meat per serving.
  • We brought diced canned tomatoes to save time in prep.
  • We served this dish with a slice of corn bread and a whole wheat chocolate chip cookie.
  • The recipe wasn’t too bad – though not as taste as when Chef made it. Both our stomachs were growling around 9 PM. Jeremiah supplemented with a few crackers. 

 

Let the SNAP Challenge Begin

Since I am going to be out of town next week, my boyfriend and I started the Harvesters SNAP Challenge on Monday. I have to say, I hope the first day was the hardest.

6:10 AM – I’m up early on my day off. I’m making Jeremiah’s coffee, breakfast, and packing lunch. This gives him a few extra minutes to get ready. I run his K-cup through the Keurig twice – once at 6 oz. and once at 10 oz. This gives him two full cups, all be it watered down, coffee.

6:50 AM – Breakfast is over. I’m disappointed that the ingredients to make 12-16  inch pancakes has resulted in 11 – three inch pancakes. We ate six of them. I’m wondering if this will keep us full until lunch. We normally eat an English muffin for breakfast with 8 grams of fiber. I usually combine mine with a bowl of cereal or an egg.

7:47 AM – As I’m leaving the post office, all I can think about is food. I’m thinking about that little girl in the documentary “A Plate at the Table” who said she couldn’t concentrate  in class because all she could think of when she looked at her teacher’s head was a giant hamburger. I’m nervous about my day off being in an apartment full of food. I normally cook a lot of recipes on my day off. Will being surrounded by food all day entice me?

8:30 AM – Doing laundry. This should help keep me busy.

8:52 AM – I walked into the club house at my apartment complex to put money on my laundry card. I am immediately tempted by a bowl of candy. I know I can’t take any because it isn’t in my budget. Not everyone on SNAP has a bowl of free candy accessible to them.

9:20 AM –  I found a coupon for a free Sobe flavored water at HyVee. I’m so excited because Jeremiah loves these and they are off limit this week. Even buying them at Sam’s Club for about $.90 each we still can’t afford them in our budget. I told Jeremiah I needed a box of saltine crackers ($1.34 for 154 crackers) to get me through hunger pains. He didn’t pick his guilty pleasure item yet.

9:38 AM – This may be the cleanest my kitchen has ever been. All food and cookbooks have been put away. (This includes the three boxes of Thin Mint cookies is just got from a Girl Scout last week). Out of site, out of mind.

M&M9:45 AM – I almost reach for a few M&Ms as I walk into my apartment from doing laundry. I immediately cover the bowl with Saran wrap. (These are my real guilt pleasure.)

10:10 AM – Those noises my stomach has been making all morning are starting to feel like real hunger. I’m wondering if I can get four pancakes per serving out the mix for the next four days.

10:15 AM – I just took out recycling. Suddenly, those empty food containers are very noticeable. As soon as I come back in, I notice this week’s ads starring at me.

10:38 AM – Downing a glass of water. Will this help fill me up?

10:40 AM – I’m finding myself contemplating pulling out my yoga mat. It will be good for me. Perhaps I can meditate and “drop the story line”. Or maybe I should pray to God. Perhaps he can help me with these hungry feelings. But wait, what if he wants me to feel hungry? Maybe I need to feel this to better explain food insecurity to others. Jeremiah and I are like so many of the people we serve at Harvesters – hard working. According to the last hunger study, 49% of people served by Harvesters have at least one person in their household working. Additionally nearly 50% of the people who receive food are children, seniors, or disabled.

10:55 AM – I’m taking myself back to my days as a volunteer with an addictions group at the Jackson County Jail. We all have addictions and mine is food. I remember an Addiction Therapist Valencia saying when you have a craving it takes only about 45 seconds to figure out how you are going to feed that craving. But if you can distract your mind in that time by doing something, you can get your mind off it. I find myself now watching the dryer count down from five minutes singing the words to “Pump up the Jam” while marching in place. Seriously, I might be losing my mind!

11 AM – I’m debating about turning on the TV. I don’t have DVR which means I’ll either have to watch TV or put in a DVD. Rachel Ray is out today. I can’t watch a food show when I’m hungry and can’t eat. I decided to watch How I Met Your Mother. Do you know how many commercials there are during this show for Olive Garden, Chili’s and Red Robin? I’ve never been so excited to see a commercial for Dance Moms or Little Women: LA in all my life. I decided to mute the commercial breaks.

11:23 AM – I find myself laughing. It takes my mind off food for a few minutes.

11:30 AM – It’s Jeremiah’s lunch time. Normally, he would be eating out with his coworker Dan. They eat out every Monday and Friday. I’ve thought about texting him a million times this morning. I don’t want to bring up how much I’ve been thinking about food though if he isn’t.

11:37 AM – Laundry is done. Debating about going to the gym since I’m worried about working off too many calories.

11:42 AM – Drink my third glass of water. It’s free and will hopefully fill me up.

11:55 AM – I break down and eat five crackers and drink a fourth glass of water.

Noon – While driving to the gym, I notice every fast food restaurant on my block. I have to keep focused looking straight ahead so I don’t think about it. My gym shares a parking lot with Margarita’s which isn’t helping. It’s sunny but cold outside so I try to focus on this instead. Maybe I’ll drive home through a residential neighborhood.

12:20 PM – I stop feeling sorry for myself by reading the closed captioning on the news. It’s so depressing watching stories about how people in Tennessee are without power from an ice storm and terrorist are plotting attacks on malls.

12:50 PM – Ran to HyVee to get another can of chickpeas. Jeremiah was right, the hummus recipe wasn’t enough for 10 servings. I pretend I have on the goggles on that Ted wears on How I Met Your Mother so we don’t see the score of the Super Bowl game before they watch it on DVR. I’m laser focused on the aisle with the canned veggies.

1:15 PM – Lunch is ready. I’m now regretting my decision to buy no salt added garbanzo beans or to not make more chips. I’m also wishing we had sampled the food we were cooking on Sunday night.

5:15 PM – The afternoon has gone smoother. I took a shower, ran to Target, balanced my checkbook, paid bills, and worked on my blog. Jeremiah has just called to let me know he is leaving work a little late. That’s good because I haven’t left for his place yet.

pasta5:55 PM – Jeremiah and I start cooking dinner. Jeremiah focuses on grilling the chicken while I get the noodles boiling for Chicken Penne Pasta with Salsa con Queso. This wasn’t on our first menu. The recipe makes a lot, doesn’t contain very many ingredients, and fills us up. Thanks to whole wheat pasta being on sale for $.88, we can afford to make this recipe. Our cost is $6.19 but it makes six servings. That’s $1.03 per serving, very friendly on our $4.50 per day budget. I also made Jiffy corn bread for our dinner on Tuesday and Thursday. We had enough we decided to have a slice for dinner Monday through Thursday.

7:34 PM – After dishes, we finished off the night with a cookie (and a cup of coffee for Jeremiah).

I asked Jeremiah how his day went. He said the pancakes wore off around 10:30 AM. He agreed that the hummus needed some seasoning. He was also a little surprised at how little tuna was in his sandwich. He was wishing we had budgeted more for tuna. I promised him that I would double check our budget to see if he could have some of the leftover servings from dinner for lunch.

The Gift of Bacon

After work on Saturday, I went to Jeremiah’s house. We finalized our meal plan for the week. I’m happy to report, we came in under budget. Enough so, we can have Papa Murphy’s pizza on Friday night. You have no idea how excited this made us. Papa Murphy’s sells a take ‘n bake FAV pizza (a large cheese, pepperoni, or sausage) for just $5 every day. And since the pizza isn’t baked, it’s eligible for SNAP benefits. (Thank you to my co-workers for this little tip.) I checked their website and it says that you can use SNAP at almost every location. Score!

breadThe last couple ingredients we needed for our menu were sausage, chickpeas, and bread. You should have seen us. Since we came in so far under budget, we opted to buy two sausages at the HyVee meat counter ($1.25 each = $2.50). The chickpeas were included in the beans sales so we got them for $.66 a can. (Yes, I had budgeted $1.50). We decided to splurge and buy a box of Jiffy corn bread. It was $.55 and the HyVee brand was $.50. Jeremiah wanted Jiffy. I didn’t realize it but we now had to budget in another $.17 for an egg and $.08 for milk to make the mix. The bread was a real challenge. The $1.50 wheat bread wasn’t on sale at HyVee. We looked around and compared bread. We ended up with a HyVee loaf of $.99 white bread. All the other breads either didn’t have enough slices, were less health, or significantly more expensive.

When we got to the checkout, the cashier made a joke about how our evening was based on the ingredients, I said “we were trying to live on a SNAP budget.” She said, “every penny counts.” I gave her my Fuel Saver card and used my debit card on the machine. I think she thought I was paying with SNAP because she said, “it went through”. I was really offended when we got to the car. Jeremiah asked, “why?” I said, “I used my debit card. I just got paid yesterday so of course it went through, I have a whole paycheck in my account. I think that cashier thought I was using a Vision card (how SNAP recipients purchase their food). ” I felt for all the SNAP recipients whole have ever been made to feel that way when they purchased their food.

After buying our groceries, we went to dinner. We both decided to get an adult beverage since we wouldn’t be able to have one for the next week. I’m not sure if I would have had I known I wouldn’t be able to do so this week.

Saturday night, Jeremiah mentioned that his parents had left us the gift of bacon. He thought we could have it with pancakes during the SNAP Challenge. I had to share with him the bad news, that we couldn’t do that because we can’t accept free food during the SNAP Challenge. The reason is because not everyone receiving SNAP benefits is lucky enough to have people who leave bacon in their fridge. I suggested we have it for breakfast on Sunday morning. I’m glad I did because it was the really good bacon – Farmland full fat, thick cut.

I asked Jeremiah if we were making less healthy food decisions knowing that we were going into a week of such a restrictive diet. He agreed we probably were. On Sunday, we started our day with two eggs, two & half slices of bacon, and a donut. After church, I weren’t feeling hungry yet so we stopped by my house to pick-up some of the items we needed to prepare our food for the week. By the time we made it back up north, it was 1:30PM. We stopped by Chipotle for lunch. Jeremiah debated not eating the whole bowl. I reminded him, he wouldn’t be able to eat it this week so he finished it.

We spent three and half hours cooking recipes for the week. I made a point to portion everything out to ensure we had enough and didn’t run out. It was a good thing we did because we needed to make another batch of hummus. I was so excited that our cookie recipe made 12 extra cookies. I started discussing how we could eat them based on what we were having for dinner. Jeremiah said to me, “Are you rationing out cookies?” Indeed, I was.

cheesecakeWhile Jeremiah was cooking our dinner, I ran to HyVee in pursuit of our last Starbucks. (We are both Gold Members so this is going to be hard. Especially for me, since I’m giving up coffee entirely this week. I need creamers/syrup to drink it & that isn’t in the budget. Plus, it allows Jeremiah to have one in the morning and one at night.) The Starbucks’ app said that location was open until 9PM. Unfortunately, they were closed when I arrived at 8:05PM. I called Jeremiah and asked for the next closest location. He sent me to a free standing one we had been to together before. After dinner, we finished off the cherry chocolate cheesecake Jeremiah had baked for Valentine’s Day with our grande lattes.

We are ready for the Harvesters SNAP Challenge to start on Monday!

Please note: We are doing the Harvesters’ SNAP Challenge a week early because I will be out of town at a training next week. That means their is still time for you to sign up & participate. To learn more, click here

Cha-Ching

Harvesters SNAP Challenge – Day 4

I’m very lucky. I can afford the gas to shop the best deals in town. I know so many others can’t. I’m often reminded how many people rely on public transportation or need to walk to get places. I know this gives me an advantage in the SNAP Challenge. Even though many stores are in close proximity to me, the only one directly across the street from me is HyVee. I could probably walk to Hen House or Sprouts but I would be limited in how much I could purchase based on what I could carry.

I’m also very fortunate to be a part of my family’s Sam’s Club membership. This allows me to purchase food sometimes at cheaper prices buying in bulk.

Skinny cowI was very excited to learn yesterday that I can just use the actual cost per serving of what we used in the SNAP Challenge. This is great because one of the items Jeremiah and I cut from our budget was Canola Oil. At $2.18 for the smallest bottle the sell, we couldn’t justify the purchase for two recipes using less than a 1/3 cup. One recipe, we would have been able to substitute applesauce (Whole-Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies). Applesauce cost just $1.50 per six pack. The other recipe (Extra Easy Hummus Dip), we would not have been able to. This valuable piece of information means we might actually be able to make both recipes.

Although Sam’s Club has hands down the best price on items like bananas and Skinny Cow snacks, some of their prices are comparable to weekly discounts in area grocery ads. For example, we couldn’t buy whole wheat bread or chicken any cheaper last night.

I’m a pretty savvy discount shopper so I thought I would share a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years.

  • Hen House doubles coupons of $.50 or less. This means you can sometimes get better prices on name brand items than store brands.
  • Target allows you to stack coupons. That means you can use a Target coupon plus a manufacturer coupon. For example: If you wanted to buy Ziploc bags and you had $1.00 off Target coupon and a $1.00 off SC Johnson Company coupon, you could save $2.00 on one box of Ziploc bags. Awesome!!
  • Wal-Mart will match any advertised price at a competitor. Take your ads with you in case you need to show the cheaper price. Please note though, they don’t honor things like “Buy One Get One Free”.
  • Pick up a Sunday Kansas City Star. The coupons inside are usually for items currently on sale or about to go on sale. I used to be an avid clipper. I’d often share coupons with my sister for items I didn’t need but I knew she might use.
  • I used to also print off online coupons. Penny Pinching Mom and Target are great sites to get them. I used to save about a third on my grocery bill by watching for sales and clipping coupons.
  • If you have two coupons for the same product, you can use both of them when you buy two of the products during the same shopping trip.
  • If you head to Dollar Tree on Sunday mornings, you can sometimes get the Kansas City Star for $1 instead of $2.00. It’s limited to if the delivery drivers have extra. You better be there early though because they get picked up fast.
  • Ask a friend who gets the paper if they use the coupons. If not, ask if you can have them. One of my sister’s friends does this for her.
  • Compare ads and save. The big picture on the top of the front page is always the best deal. This price is often half the normal price. Jeremiah and I like to buy our veggies at Sprouts. We compared ads and walked about with two bags of fresh produce for $7.
  • Stock up and save. If you know it is something you will use, buy more of it when it is on sale. For example, I always take advantage of Target deals with free $5.00 gift cards when K-Cups, toilet paper, or cleaning supplies are on sale. (Even better if you clip & stack your coupons.) Not only do you get a better price but you also get $5 off the next time you shop. Be careful to watch when it is ringing up though, I have had to go to customer service more than once because I was overcharged.
  • Buy gift cards for things you use at HyVee. You can often earn $.10 off per gallon in Fuel Saver for every $25 gift card you buy. I did this just the other day for Jiffy Lube. I have to pay to have my oil changed. Why not save some money on gas later? Plus, this can really help you with your month budgeting. My sister often buys gift cards instead of caring around cash. It also limits her spending at particular stores.
  • Sprouts honors both ads sales on Wednesday. Totally shop then! Plus, they have ads for monthly deals.
  • HyVee’s meat counter sometimes has the best unit price. This is how Jeremiah buys meat and it always taste good.
  • Check out the price on frozen chicken breast versus fresh chicken breast. Usually one of them is on sale. Jeremiah and I usually buy it at Sam’s Club for $1.98. If you see it cheaper in an ad, it will usually be above the fold on the front cover. This week, HyVee has boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $4.99 per 2.5 lb. bag. That’s a $1.99 per pound.
  • If a store is out of an item, ask for a rain check. I did this about a month ago to get Cutie oranges for $3.99 at Price Chopper the next time they had them.
  • Sprouts sells things like flour, sugar, rice, and seasonings in bulk. This is often a great way to buy the exact amount you need for a recipe. Jeremiah and I are using it to mix white and wheat rice together for healthier versions of recipes.
  • Did you know that area Farmers Markets will double your SNAP benefits. That means if you have $14 in SNAP benefits you can get $28 in food when you buy it at the Farmers Market.
  • Did you know that Papa Murphy’s takes SNAP? It is uncooked pizza so you can use your SNAP benefits for it. They also sell a large cheese, sausage, or pepperoni pizza for $5. The price per serving is very SNAP budget friendly. Jeremiah and I are considering doing this and pairing it with a salad. (In the words of one of my eight year old volunteers, everybody deserves fun food sometimes.)

Even if you don’t participate in the SNAP Challenge, I hope you learn something new that will save you money.

 

 

Food Stamps Don’t Buy Diapers

Harvesters SNAP Challenge Day 3 – While driving to work yesterday, I heard Eminem’s Eight Mile theme song “Lose Yourself.” The lyrics, “Food stamps don’t buy diapers” resonated in my head. There are so many things Jeremiah and I use every day that you can’t buy with SNAP benefits. For example, here are just a few items I used this morning:

  • Soap_in_blue_dishToilet paper
  • Paper towels/napkins
  • Foil
  • Storage containers
  • Baggies
  • Paper plates
  • Soap
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Shaving cream
  • Deodorant

The list goes on and on. I hope you will think of these things and donate them to Harvesters when you can. Barrels are available throughout the year at area Price Chopper stores. If you would like to learn more about hosting a food drive, please contact Harvesters at 816-929-3055 or fooddrive@harvesters.org.

Yesterday, Jeremiah asked me why if it is so difficult to spend only $4.50 per person per day on food that SNAP benefits haven’t increased. Unfortunately, many of the people making decisions about our national budget have never experienced living on food stamps. If you participate in the Harvesters SNAP Challenge or are a recipient of SNAP, I hope you will use your voice to educate your elected officials about the challenges of living on $4.50 per day for food. Based on the challenges Jeremiah and I had with our menu, I completely understand why many SNAP recipients run out of benefits three weeks into the month. Each month over 141,000 people in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri rely on Harvesters to help feed their families. I complete understand why so many of the pantries who receive food from Harvesters are reporting increases in the numbers of people they are serving as the economy appears to be healthier than it was just a few years ago.

Jeremiah and I are very lucky. We are both college educated people. We have careers that pay us a living wage. We are fortunate enough to be at a place in our lives where we can go to concerts and dinner without too much thought to the cost doing so. Unfortunately, like so many people, we have debt. The vast majority of our debt is student loans. For the last seven weeks, we have been participating in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. This week’s lesson was about investing to build wealth. I’m very proud to say that we are both doing a good job saving for our retirement. I asked Jeremiah the other night why if we can save as much as we do for our retirement that we can’t figure out how to live on a $45 food budget for a week? Jeremiah reminded me, it’s always easier to save money when you have it than to try to save it when you don’t. I know we will make this work though.

 

I Can’t Sleep

HJ Pancake

Creative Common Flickr photo by: rob_rob2001

It’s 5AM and I can’t sleep. I woke up worrying about how Jeremiah and I are going to eat on the Harvesters’ SNAP Challenge budget for the next week.

Our original plan sounded great. After dinner last night, we started working the numbers. Our original estimate was $93. Yikes! After taxes, we have about $41 to spend on food. It may sound like a lot – but I promise you it isn’t. We decided to go to Sprouts & HyVee and spent over two hours getting actual prices. Sadly, that was about $60. Then, we stayed up until 10:30 (way past our bed time) trying to figure this out. We made tough decisions like to buy the full sodium chicken stock to save $.38 per can. This was really tough for me since I am trying to watch my sodium intake for blood pressure reasons. We cut out meat. We cut cheese. And before going to bed, we cut our $3.99 Hy-Vee brand K-cups.

Day 2 – Back to the drawing board. We have two days to try to figure this out.

Breakfast was one of my biggest concerns. I work out in the mornings and burn 300 calories before breakfast. Plus, Jeremiah needs to eat something with his medicine. Our original plan was to make Harvesters’ Breakfast Burritos. My breakfast epiphany this morning was to buy the $1.25 Hungry Jack pancake mix and syrup (on sale at HyVee) for the week. (Bonus note – you earn $0.01 per item in Fuel Saver Rewards.) You only have to add water to the Hungry Jack mix to make pancakes. Water is free – not really but at least as far as our SNAP budget goes. We can each eat three pancakes every morning and will still have mix left. That means our price per serving is less than $0.09 per pancake (with butter and syrup). Take that SNAP budget! I couldn’t make basic French toast,  Oatmeal Cottage Cheese Banana Pancakes, Cinnamon Applesauce Pancakes, or the Whole Wheat Pancakes for less than that price per pancake.

 

Loving support

Jeremiah & AmberThe thing I love about my boyfriend Jeremiah is that he always says yes when I come to him with a wacky idea. This month, I asked him to join me in Harvesters’ SNAP Challenge.

For those of you unfamiliar with SNAP, it is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that used to be called food stamps. SNAP helps millions of food insecure low-income Americans put food on the table by providing benefits that are temporary. According to Feeding America, nearly half of all SNAP participants are children. Additionally, 82 percent of all SNAP benefits go to vulnerable households that include a child, senior, or disabled person. For every $1 invested in SNAP, it generates $1.73 in economic activity. SNAP not only helps low-income people buy groceries at local stores and farmers’ markets, but it also frees up cash for other expenses, such as medical care, utilities, transportation and child care.

Although I have never received SNAP, I can think back to many times when budgets were tight. Food is that one thing you can cut. Could you imagine what my apartment complex would say if I didn’t pay the amount I’m contracted to pay for rent? Or would I still have heat if I couldn’t pay my utility bill? You can buy cheaper, less nutritious food to get you by. I remember things my mother did when I was a kid to stretch our budget like buying bags of apples and oranges because they were cheaper. We ate things like Kool-aid, “cheap ham”(store brand very thinly sliced lunch meat), and three packs generic potato chips featuring green and brown spots. I also remember a time in college when I didn’t have credit cards and I couldn’t spend more than $10 on food. I bought things like Bisquick because breakfast for dinner is a cheap and filling. And at a time in my life when I lost my full-time job, I remember worrying about how I was going to pay all my bills – including groceries.

In December, I had an opportunity to volunteer at a community center. The director gave $10 Wal-Mart gift cards to several volunteers. He asked us to go shopping for food and see what we could get. We also had just one hour to complete the task. I can’t tell you how many times, I went back and forth between the aisles recalculating my total. I bought things like uncooked black beans, apples, oatmeal, and pasta. It was so interesting to see what the others purchased. We had everything from eggs to frozen veggies. The volunteers even had a debate if we could pool our money together to get more bang for our buck. In the end, I returned with $.06 on the gift card and a bag full of healthy ingredients that could be combined to cook meals.

When Harvesters Nutrition Services Manager suggested we do a SNAP Challenge for National Nutrition Month in March, I knew I wanted to do it. Could I live on $4.50 per day for a week? Not only could I do it, but would I be able to make healthy choices?

I’m a stockpiler of food. I like to buy stuff I know I’ll use when it is on sale. Then, I just supplement on a weekly/bi-weekly basis with the fresh stuff. But this week, I can’t use any of it. That includes my seasonings.

For one week, I have $22.50 to spend. I asked Jeremiah to do the challenge with me for a number of reasons. 1) We have $45 to spend. I feel like we can eat healthier with more money. We are also hoping to get some meat. That probably wouldn’t have been possible with my smaller budget. 2) We eat together every night. Could you imagine how hard it would be watch him eating something different? 3) We are trying to eat healthier and budget our money better. This helps us achieve both. 4) We were both Harvesters financial donors long before I worked at Harvesters. Although we hope to will never be in a position where we need SNAP, we do in honor of the 1 in 7 food insecure people in our community receiving food through Harvesters’ network of over 620 agency partners.

What will we be giving up? No Starbucks for one week. My grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte is more than I have to spend on food for the entire day. We won’t be able to eat out either. This is something Jeremiah does twice a week with his coworkers and at least once a week with me.

What are we most worried about doing the SNAP Challenge? I’m worried about not being able to buy all the ingredients for the menu we are planning. I’m also worried about buying coffee and meat on our budget. I’m worried about getting hungry between meals. I work in a warehouse full of food. Trust me, not a place you want to walk out into when you are hungry. That’s when you spot donated items you are craving like Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies.

How are we planning for the SNAP Challenge? We have come up with a nutritious menu that we think will fill us up. We’ve also been scouting stores, reviewing all the grocery ads, and clipping coupons to find the absolute best prices on the items we need. Our plan is to cook some of the items on the Sunday before we start to make the whole process a little easier.

What are we excited about? Jeremiah and I both love to cook. I’m excited to be doing this challenge with someone who will be my equal partner in it.

If you are interested in learning more about the Harvesters’ SNAP Challenge (March 2-6), please click here for details or to register as a participant. If you have children who need service hours for school and want to participate, please contact Volunteer Services at volunteer@harvesters.org or 816-929-3090 to learn more.

Turkey Tacos

Recently, a group was using our kitchen at work to teach a nutritious cooking class for daycare providers. The group leader invited me to sample some of their recipes. I really liked this tasty taco. It wasn’t too spicy and extra healthy with beans and sweet potatoes. Jeremiah and I used tortillas high in fiber so one taco really filled us up. We also served it with fresh guacamole and homemade tortilla chips.

Creative Commons photo by: John Liu

Creative Commons photo by: John Liu

Turkey Tacos by John Haddock
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 can white beans, drained
1 sweet potato, zucchini, or carrot grated
1 can low sodium diced tomatoes
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

Cook ground turkey over a medium heat. Add beans, veggies, and seasoning. Cook on medium for 20 minutes. Serve in a tortilla shell. Top with shredded cheese and any desired toppings (tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, salsa, or sour cream).