I’m experimenting with food stamps – well not really. I am using my own money to prove a point.
Allow me to explain. Lately there has been a lot of talk by what I label as the “limousine liberal” class that people on food stamps – now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP – are going hungry because they don’t have enough money to buy food or they live in “food deserts” where they have very few shopping options.
I called (you-know-what) on that and decided to do a little experiment on my own.
I decided to hit a local grocery store in Indianapolis and do some “shopping.” I used the Meijer store on west 38th Street near I-465. It is a major store and on a major bus line in Indy.
I was given grief for using my own car to get to the store instead of public transportation; however, not everyone who uses food stamps takes the bus. I was also given grief for not having children. Newsflash: Not everyone on food stamps has kids.
I decided to use $160 as monthly budget. I chose $160 because while the average person, as some have estimated may get $132 in benefits, a single person at the poverty level can get up to $200 a month. So my $160 split the difference.
To be honest, the $160 figure didn’t really matter because I never got that far because I know how to do two things: Shop and cook.
I managed to pick up, for me, the equivalent of at least three weeks worth of food for about $90.
How did I do it? Like this: For my meat I got four sirloin steaks (on sale) for $16 and 10 chicken breasts (on sale) for $12. That is 16 pieces of meat and chicken for $28. I don’t eat meat everyday so that was enough to get me through the month.
I also got lettuce, broccoli, celery, five pounds of potatoes, four ears of corn, and a pound of green beans for a total of $10.65. I got them all fresh – no frozen or canned foods. And for those of you who say it won’t keep, you will be amazed at what you can do when you clean your vegetables and put them in the freezer.
I also picked up some ground beef and tomato sauce, $6, which would get me a couple of meals. And I also bought spaghetti, farfalle (the bow-tie pasta) and penne pasta for $4.72; add the two jars of alfredo sauce which, I got two for $4, and parmesan cheese at $3.39.
Breakfast was easy: Two boxes of Frosted Mini-Wheats for $5 and two loaves of Brownberry bread for $6.
Lunch was a little more difficult. The turkey and roast beef for sandwiches, a half-pound each, ran me about $7 and two 2-liters of Diet Pepsi was $2. I also got popcorn (unpopped and the non-microwave kind) for $3.99. And I did buy five Lean Cuisine meals for $10.
My total food bill at that point was $90.75. Now because I had a Meijer’s coupon I got 5 percent off so it was actually closer to $86. That meant I still had $73 leftover and another week’s worth of food I could purchase.
And please note, I haven’t even broken out my coupons.
Unfortunately, my wife told me I was not allowed to bring any of this stuff back to the house because there was no room in the refrigerator for me to prove a point. But I did.
If you don’t know how to shop or cook and all you get are unhealthy processed foods, your food stamp budget won’t last long.
But if you are a responsible consumer and are willing to pick up a culinary skill or two, you will be amazed at how far those dollars can go. Maybe that is where we should focus our energy and attention – providing folks with more skills as opposed to more dollars on their food stamp cards.
I think society will be well served and those in need can be well fed.