Monday, September 29, 2014

Hello again and the SNAP Challenge

by slightlyblurred via Flickr
I hope you all had a lovely summer. Mine was rather full with mostly positive things. I traveled a good amount, met someone new, discovered some health issues, became an aunt again, began a long distant relationship, and ran my first 5K.

Periods of a lot of change have always caused me to grow reflective and, predictably, I've been in a rather pensive mood lately due to the shift in the nature of my new relationship. His move has got me thinking about what, if anything, is keeping me on the west coast and if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. I have these desires to promote my dad's artwork and to write, but I've done very little of either one and perhaps now is the time to devote attention to them. If I never really try, I'll never really now if they will give me the sense of fulfillment I think or at least hope they will. So, here I am, writing.

I discovered that keeping up with this blog has been easier if I challenge myself to do something and write about the experience, giving me that extra boost of motivation that I usually need to get through the life projects that speak to me. With that in mind, I came across the SNAP Challenge on one of the food blogs I follow, Budget Bytes.

What is the SNAP Challenge, you ask? It's a challenge to eat on $4.50 a day (or $31.50 a week), which is the allotment Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants receive. The challenge raises awareness for the cost of food and how difficult it can be to provide enough food for yourself (and potentially a family) to combat hunger. Why am I interested in participating in this challenge? A few reasons:
  • First, a rather selfish one. I tend to keep a pretty close eye on my finances in general, but I have a few extra expenses to pay for (plane tickets, vet bills) that require some extra budgeting on my part. Doing a challenge like this will help to ensure I keep my food expenses low. 
  • While my mother did not receive food stamps while I was a child, she did everything she could to spend very little on food. This was partially due to her low income, but also because her hoarding tendencies made her and continues to make her a rather cheap person. Additionally, my mother hoarded food and so we always had a full fridge, but one that was full of rotten food. There's little worse than looking through a fridge full of rotten food when you're hungry and trying to find something suitable to eat. 
  • I thought this challenge would give me an opportunity to talk about some of the few positive things I was able to glean from living in my mother's hoard. Because of my experiences, I hate to see food go to waste and so I have developed some good methods to use up all of the food I buy. Some of my mom's frugality rubbed off on me and so I have also gotten rather good at keeping my food expenses low (within reason- I am adamant about staying well out of the realm of my mother's cheapness). I think it'll be nice to balance out a lot of the negativity written about my mother and my childhood experiences with some of the positive I got out of it all.

Like Beth at Budget Bytes, I will also do the challenge for a month instead of just a week. One of the "rules" is to not use what you already have, but I think that is unrealistic and would be wasteful on my part (why would I buy a dozen eggs and let the eggs I have go bad?). Using what you have is a big part of eating on a budget, so I'm throwing that rule out. Additionally, I previously agreed to take two of my neighbors out to dinner as a thank you for them cat sitting for me while I was out of town. I'm not going to shirk that gesture because of this challenge. I very rarely eat out by myself (and as part of this challenge, will not eat out by myself at all for this month), but do go out to eat with friends every once in awhile. I'm going to look at these invitations on a case by case basis. Because I tend to think of these types of interactions as an investment in the friendships I have and less of a ding to my food budget, I expect I will eat out a few times during the next month. 

I tend to spend in the range of $30-40 a week on groceries, so I'm curious to see if I will find this challenge difficult. Stay tuned for my post on how I did during my first grocery shopping trip and the meals I have planned for week one.

Check out how I did:
Week 1 report
Week 2 report
Week 3 report
Week 4 report

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