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Today is Thursday, day four of the five day SNAP challenge. It’s been cold and dreary and I’ve been eating oatmeal and fruit every morning and feeling really good about it. Lunch has been boiled eggs or soup and fruit. I’ve had an assortment of chicken and vegetables, beans and rice for dinner each night – not the most elaborate meals, but tasty and nutritious. And while I didn’t purchase the yogurt that was to be my splurge and the only fruit was bananas, I have managed to eat within budget.
I realize that I’ve never had to give so much thought and preparation to eating, even when adhering to my fitness meal plan. On that plan if I don’t prepare a lunch I can buy a salad with grilled chicken from a fast food restaurant and not run afoul of guidelines. During the SNAP challenge, my budget will not allow it.
So that brings me to lunch today. I don’t have a clue what I’ll eat as I left my soup and fruit on the counter at home. This morning I wasn’t so thrilled about the banana I was including in my lunch. While the bunch I purchased was wonderful for the first few days, the last one is now a little brown and softer than I like them. However, I’m hungry and would eat it for sure, if only I had it here at work with me.
Let’s face it, sometimes mornings are hectic or we get absent minded and do things such as leave our lunch behind. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be too big of a deal. Unfortunately, the dollar I had left over in my budget found its way to the vending machine during Tuesday’s 2 p.m. craving for something sweet, so an item off some restaurant’s dollar menu isn’t even available to me.
I also skipped my monthly after work gathering of nonprofit executives this week as I couldn’t afford the cocktails or appetizers that accompany the great conversation and camaraderie that I look so forward to each month. Certainly I could have shown up, and they certainly would have been supportive of my participation in the SNAP challenge. However, since I was putting myself in the shoes of someone who wasn’t limiting her food expenses voluntarily, but out of scarcity, I know in that situation I would not show up at a restaurant without the means to purchase something.
What the SNAP challenge really highlights for me is that the things I do and take for granted, such as frequent dinners out, buying salad with grilled chicken for lunch and meeting friends at a restaurant are generally out of reach for many people who just don’t have the means and are getting by on food expenditures that average $4.50 each day. In that situation, there really are no “extras” and just managing to provide wholesome meals that aren’t overrun with monotony takes lots of skill and time.
I have one day left of this voluntary experience. Unfortunately, for many families this level of scarcity is not voluntary.
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