What I buy when my foodstamps come in.
- YAYME Mar 19, 2010 06:21 AM
I was reading a thread on Chowhound here and I grew very insulted when one of the posters implied that the first of the month shopping carts are filled with sugar laden processed food. I may not speak for all people on food stamps but here is what I buy on the "first of the month"
First I hit the farmer's market and buy fresh vegetables and herbs. Fruit is usually to expensive if my tight budget allows I may buy goat cheese as a treat. Then I go to the supermarket for meats, fish, dairy tea and canned goods. There is Nary a bag of chips or can of pop in my basket. When I'm good and save, I go to an Asian supermarket and buy things like lemongrass, spices sesame oil and thai eggplant. When I'm VERY good I go to the co-op and buy gourmet cheese, organic yogurt and things like verjuice. When I have actual money I buy huger things of dried mushrooms.A thread I posted on Chow: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690248 gave me some tips like buying canned fish and whole chickens (which I found was MUCH cheaper then chicken bits).
The thing is, I have a disability so I'm on SSI and I was raised in food loving middle class family. Which I suppose is more then some people on food stamps are. I know from my co-workers here are people who write off WHOLE cuisines as inedible and wouldn't touch a veggie if they were starving. I feel sorry for those people. I feel sorry for the state of this country here Sugar laden processed food is considered cheaper then fresh fruits and vegetables. (It's true look at supermarket!) Food Ignorance, prejudice and generational poverty are factors. And there are people who consider a fast food hamburger cheaper then a homemade one.
But I am not one of those people. And the person who said that pricked my pride deeply. I think that most people need to try good food, and be enlightened.
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You know what? I wouldn't care what anyone else say about what I do when I shop. If you or anyone else want to use their food stamps on a freezer case of ice cream, it's your business. There is no "food stamp" law that says you have to buy what someone else thinks you should. People who look down their noses at those who use food stamps shouldn't judge others as they just never know if one day they'll be in the other person's shoes and who are they to say what someone should or shouldn't be buying?
Don't feel insulted or that you have to justify what you do with your stamps, it's the other person's ignorance, thus it's their problem.
Good for you, that you have the knowledge and the wherewithal to use your food assistance for its highest and best use. I'm a legal services attorney, and many of my clients receive food assistance. (And I know the range of how much a person can get and am very impressed that you can fit some of the things you've listed into your budget.) Many people live in areas with no farmer's market and in fact, no supermarket--just bodegas and quickie marts. Fresh food (meat, not just produce) has a short shelf life and is difficult to stock if a store doesn't have a lot of turnover in those items. Some people also have no cooking facilities or equipment. And some people just plain don't know what to do with ingredients rather than ready-to-eat or grab-and-go foods. And the unfortunate truth is that, because of the food politics in this country, a pound of carrots is more expensive than a two-liter bottle of soda.
I'm very supportive of food assistance because it goes into the economy immediately and stays local--no one saves it under the mattress. Because most states now use EBT (electronic benefits transfers--like debit cards), fraud is pretty much nil and in fact it's impossible to tell who's using food benefits at the store--you just swipe your card and the computer figures out what's eligible and what isn't. But not everyone has a lot of options, so their food attitudes and foodways may not be wholly volitional. I, too, grow exasperated at those who make generalizations that aren't founded in knowledge or fact (roll images of welfare queens in Cadillacs here) and try hard to not be one of those people, no matter what is the issue.
re: Erika L
It's usually 40 dollars a week. Let's see veggies and fruit come to 10 or 5 dollars It's surprisingly cheaper at the farmer's market then the super market. I just avoid buying most fruit save tiny melons there. Much of what you say is right, I'm drinking diet soda when I'd rather be drinking something else, but I detest water and it's cheap. You're very right about the areas people live in. I live in a small city, and the farmer's market is right off main drag, so It's easier and they have those lovely swiper machines you can get tokens from. I always ask how many people come with food stamps sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. But that's me.
Yayme, first off, congratulations for making such amazing choices on a limited budget. I wish I could say I do the same. I'm sure we all wish we could do better.
On the issue of diet soda, you might want to try iced tea instead. I don't do anything fancy, I just buy the box of Lipton iced tea bags and make my own. It's about $2.50 for the box, which contains 24 bags. I use two bags to make a pitcher of tea, and I drink about three to four pitchers a week, between home and work. I do not add any sweetener, and I drink almost nothing else, so my total expenditure for drinks for the week is less than 50 cents. If you want it sweetened, you can add a sweetener, and it would still cost you less than diet soda, and it is not as boring as water. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't drink diet soda, it just sounds like you would like another option.
Great idea nvcook. I actually grew tomatoes, peppers and some fresh herbs (basil, parsley, chives) in pots on my deck (my yard does not get any sun!). Was great. Just a few dollars spent on the pot/plant/soil, and lots of TLC. I couldn't of been happier. (and I have not grown anything like that since I lived in the country over 30 years ago).
I work with some individuals who receive food stamps and often take them grocery shopping as part of my job. Some recently began buying brown rice instead of white rice and have added fresh veggies to their cart! They tried red bell peppers and fresh spinach for the first time and like and continue to buy them. They've expressed interest in going to the farmer's market this summer, which they haven't done before.
Food stamps are staggered throughout the month so "first of the month" doesn't necessarily coincide with the first of a calendar month. It does frustrate me to learn that food stamps cover soft drinks.