Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Food Stamps Challenge Corrections

I apologize.  I was wrong on two things.

1. You can only buy food with food stamps.  Toiletries/household supplies/paper products are all on your own dime according to the SNAP website.

2. Many people have mentioned that it is intended to supplement your income.  I assumed that many people on food stamps probably would if they had a job or some extra income, but most people on the program only had food stamps to buy food.  However, according to some USDA statistics, 75% of SNAP participants use a combination of food stamps and their own money and only 20% of SNAP participants have no income (including government assistance).  So some people rely solely on food stamps to eat, but most have other incomes.  

A quote from the Washington Post article: "[T]he maximum monthly benefits can quickly climb as the size of the household grows. A family of four, for instance, could receive as much as $668 a month for food."

So apparently it is not as bad as I thought.  I will still donate to a food bank, but that is quite a bit of food for thought...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Food Stamps Challenge, Canadian Edition: Day

I'm finally finished! (And I beat Gwyneth!)

Weight: 145 (down 3 pounds)

Breakfast: Piece of frozen pizza, 2 pieces of toast (with butter and peanut butter) and a banana
Lunch: 3 little cracker samples (free), granola bar
Snack: Cookie
Dinner: Vegetable soup, toast with peanut butter

I had quite the day.  I was asked to stay and work 3.5 hours of overtime at work when I was originally going to work a 5 hour shift; 8.5 hours altogether.  However, I only packed a granola bar and a cookie in my lunch which would then have to last me 8.5 hours.  I really wanted more hours, so I took it, but I was unsure of how well I would do on that amount of food, deciding that I would have one snack on my first break and the other snack on my next break.  I ended up sort of cheating and going to the free sample stand which amounted to 3 little crackers but I'll take what I can get.  I don't know if it's cheating since it's free and it wasn't very much food.

Later, the store got extremely busy, the supervisor got sick and couldn't continue her shift and it was a stressful shift with the store sorely understaffed.  With all the chaos and the need to focus on being as efficient as possible, I must have had an adrenaline rush because I did not feel hungry at all throughout my shift but I ate because I felt that I needed to.  All in all, it was a weird day and I relaxed with dinner and reading in the bath.

And now for the moment of truth.  What is left over?  Well, obviously you already know because you probably skimmed the text to look at the picture.

My leftovers:

For $35 in one week, I'd say that I did pretty well.  But now, let's think: could this feed another person?  My brothers or my dad, all around 6 feet tall and 2 of them overweight?  My guess is that this food would provide 11 very modest meals and a lot of milk and cookie snacks.  That would last a person 4 days at the most.  So, no, I do not think SNAP is feasible for more than one person and even then it is definitely a tight budget.  Maybe I didn't budget correctly and maybe with some adjustments I could have fed two, but I find it unlikely that it would feed 3 or more people.  I won't rule it out; there are very cheap cuts of meat and packages of produce out there, but, to me, it doesn't seem possible.  I believe that it's possible that I could still survive on this budget for one person if I were also buying toiletries and toilet paper but it wouldn't be easy.

What did I learn from this? 
- Living on a food budget requires very careful planning; no impulse buying or giving in to cravings. 
- I have a better understanding of food budgeting.
- If I want to do overtime at work while under a tight budget like this, I need to pack extra food just in case.  
- From an overweight person's perspective, I am eating too much.  You don't need that much food to feel full.  
- PC Spinach pizza is awful and I will not buy it again.
- It is possible for one person to live on $35/week, $140 a month of food but it requires discipline and planning.  It is extremely difficult for 2 or more people to live on $35/week, $140/month.
- Coffee is addictive and the withdrawal is not fun but it's over in a couple days.
- And, most importantly, SNAP (Food Stamps) desperately needs more funding...

Now that the challenge is over, since it's past midnight and I've had all my meals, I feel like I'm stepping into a fantasy world with so many flavours that includes coffee, beer, wine, Parmesan, sour cream... (and I wonder why I'm still fat)

But I'm being melodramatic.  Thousands, maybe millions of Americans (and Canadians and other nationalities that do not have the SNAP program) do this for a good portion of their lives.  I will be donating to a local food bank in my community now that the challenge is done.  Since I'm on the internet, I'm not sure whether I should say that I donated or not since I am tooting my own horn if I tell people, but I'm just doing this for attention if I did the challenge without people knowing that I donated.  Maybe I'll leave it at this: Don't worry.  I'm terrible.  I realize that donating to a food bank or a charitable organization benefiting the homeless or the poor does not make me any more special or moral than anyone else. 

And with that, I will say thank you for reading (if anyone bothered to)!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Food Stamps Challenge, Canadian Edition: Day 6

Good evening and welcome to the penultimate day of this interesting experiment.

Weight: 146 (down 2 pounds)

Breakfast: Banana, 3 scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of toast with butter
Work Snack: Cookie, granola bar
Lunch: None
Dinner: 1/2 can vegetable soup

Today I did not have a big appetite.  The breakfast was extremely filling and when I came home from work I wasn't hungry for a meal like I usually am.  It could have something to do with today being a shorter day because I slept in or maybe my appetite is getting smaller from the challenge.  I must add that, unlike the pizza, the vegetable soup I had today was delicious.

I think I finally got used to the lack of coffee!  I had a good amount of energy and even had an hour-long bike ride and I felt more focused at work.  It's incredible how much of an effect a lack of coffee can have on you when you are used to having coffee every day; it really is a drug.  I miss coffee much more than alcohol.  

I ran out of eggs today but I still have a lot of food left over for my final day.  I still have pasta, cookies, bread, 1 bowl of soup, several pizza slices, some milk, lots of peanut butter, 1 granola bar and 1 hypothetical egg (since I accidentally bought a pack with one broken egg).  I am 100% certain I will not run out of food.  I think it's fair to say, at this point, that the food stamps budget is not horrible for one person, but it does not seem feasible for 2 or more people.  Tomorrow, I'll see if my leftovers post-challenge could feed a second person for a week.

Goodnight and see you tomorrow.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Food Stamps Challenge, Canadian Edition: Day 5

Day 5 it is.  I've been up 17 hours or so, so far (up at 5:30 for work...) and I am absolutely exhausted so I'll try to make this one quick.

Weight: Plateauing at 147

Snack: Medium bowl of Mini Wheats
Breakfast:  Pasta with tomato sauce, cookie
Lunch: 1/2 box mac and cheese, 1/2 can tomato soup
Snack: Small bowl of Mini Wheats
Dinner: 3 small pieces of frozen pizza, cookie

 (My frozen pizza; much smaller than the box)

I ate a lot of food today.  I chalk it up to the fact that I was awake longer than usual but there was a lot of snacking...  I think that's because I didn't have any protein today.  Yes, that would make sense.  Those two factors probably made me waste a lot of calories.  I was hungry for all of this, too.  It wasn't just eating because I was bored.  

Today after work, I thought I deserved a reward (I know, right?  A reward for doing what too many people have to do their entire lives), so I went to a wine shop that offers samples and tried their Strawberry Margarita.  It was so sweet and delicious.  I wanted to savor it but I also didn't want to hold up the woman at the shop too long as she awkwardly watched me sip the sample.  Internal dilemmas...

I'm starting to run out of certain foods.  I am now out of Mini Wheats and Kraft Dinner.  I'm still confident that I'll be fed decently the next two days but there might not be a lot left over at the end.

Final comment for today: the PC Spinach frozen pizza was not very good... :(