Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Mixture of Success and Failure

Three days into the SNAP Hunger Challenge my attempt to eat on five dollars a day crashed and burned.  A simple invitation to taco night at the local bar (with good friends that we don't hardly ever get to see so I wasn't going to turn it down!) ate through almost two days worth of my food budget.  Prior to that dinner I had been managing, but just.  

So if making it through the entire week determines the success or failure, failure it was.  However, if the point is to gain a better understanding of the challenges of eating on a very tight budget, it was a huge success. 

I approached the week thinking that being careful and making good choices would be all that was needed.  But it was much harder than that.  I was mildly hungry a good part of the first day but the newness of the challenge carried me through.  I ate dinner v e r y  s l o w l y so I'd feel full at the end of it. Even with a half cup of ice cream the day ended with a surplus of fifty cents and I thought "winning!" 

The second day breakfast and a mid-morning snack cost more than the same for the previous day.  I finished my lunch of salad and a scrambled egg and it should have been enough, but a leftover from before the challenge of half a bacon cheesburger practically screamed my name.  Rationalizing that it wouldn't be right to throw it in the garbage, and really how much could it have cost?  I ate it.  And two cookies (it was only two little sandwich cookies, and generic ones at that!)  Then I figured the cost.  $0.99  Geez.  That meant only tea ($0.04) for an afternoon snack.  I finished the day with a penny left over.  And hungry.

The third day went okay until dinner.  Done.

This lunch of one piece of whole wheat bread with PB&J, half an apple, plus two little cookies cost $1.02 and is sure to leave a person looking for a snack sometime in the mid to late afternoon. 

The knowledge that healthy food is more expensive than nutrionally deficient food became reality.  A piece of whole wheat bread cost $0.30. I could have eaten bargain white bread and had two slices for less than that.  Eating enough fruits and vegetables seems nearly impossible.  At $0.80 an apple, just half had to suffice.  Bananas proved to be a better choice at $0.25.  But I want both!  At who wouldn't want and need both?

I learned:
Creating an inexpensive, diverse, healthy menu is hard.
Beans would need to appear often on the menu. 
Cooking from scratch is a necessity, not an option.
One serving is all you get. Seconds? What's that?
Prepared foods are a costly treat.
DQ? Forget it.

Writing that check to the local food bank got a whole lot easier.  And the check got bigger.


Jean said...

I would think it would be difficult to stay in budget. Interesting insights... I think you did well considering the challenge.


Karen said...

Nice job,aunt. Even tho you didn't get to the end of the 5 days, it turned out to be a great experiment. I'm sad that folks have to be hungry in such a rich country like ours....