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. 

 

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.