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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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  1. Cherylptw RE: YAYME Mar 19, 2010 08:11 PM

    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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw
      nofunlatte RE: Cherylptw Mar 20, 2010 05:19 PM

      Well said.

    2. e
      Erika L RE: YAYME Mar 19, 2010 09:13 PM

      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.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Erika L
        YAYME RE: Erika L Mar 19, 2010 09:59 PM

        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.

        1. re: YAYME
          Jennalynn RE: YAYME Mar 20, 2010 03:56 PM

          I'm thrilled to hear you can use your stamps at a farmers market! That's just wonderful.

          1. re: YAYME
            lisavf RE: YAYME Mar 23, 2010 12:30 PM

            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.

            1. re: lisavf
              Kajikit RE: lisavf Apr 8, 2010 09:40 AM

              DH won't drink nearly enough plain water, so I make him iced tea too... It's a lot cheaper than buying him sodas all the time, and the only real investment I had to make was a cheap kettle to boil the water (much safer than a saucepan) and a big plastic jug to store it in.

        2. n
          nvcook RE: YAYME Mar 20, 2010 01:55 PM

          Unless the rules have changed since I retired from the Welfare Division, you can also buy seeds if you are so inclined to grow some goodies in your yard or pots.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nvcook
            boyzoma RE: nvcook Mar 27, 2010 12:32 PM

            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).

          2. l
            lgss RE: YAYME Mar 20, 2010 03:17 PM

            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.

            1. marietinn RE: YAYME Mar 22, 2010 10:00 AM

              I totally agree with you. I dislike that people assume that because someone is on food stamps means they don't know anything about nutrition. I understand that this is true for some people, but it is not always the case. I was reading an article about food stamp use among hipsters. People were complaining about them buying organic fish, fresh herbs, and other "gourmet" food items. I suppose people think if you receive food stamps, you should be spending them on cheap convenience food, but if this is the fact then don't complain when people with lower incomes have a higher rate of obesity.

              4 Replies
              1. re: marietinn
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                nvcook RE: marietinn Mar 22, 2010 01:23 PM

                +1

                1. re: marietinn
                  cosmogrrl RE: marietinn Mar 23, 2010 02:27 AM

                  My disabled roommate was on food stamps. I always did the grocery shopping. You would not believe the looks I got because I spent the money (and mine too fwiw) on healthy veggies, meats, poultry and the like. Apparently you're not supposed to eat nice foods when on food stamps. Snotty, Berkeley hippy types, jeez!

                  As far as I know, you can't use food stamps here for the farmer's markets here in SF. But maybe it's changed. I would have liked that!

                  1. re: cosmogrrl
                    Melanie Wong RE: cosmogrrl Mar 23, 2010 10:50 PM

                    The City and County of San Francisco has an ordinance the requires farmers markets to accept food stamps (aka SNAP or EBT). Markets have a period of time to comply with this, so it's possible that not all of them are on board yet. I can tell you that the three biggies: Ferry Plaza, Alemany and Civic Center Heart of the City markets all do currently.

                    1. re: cosmogrrl
                      flourgirl RE: cosmogrrl Apr 5, 2010 09:41 AM

                      I have to agree with you. That IS snotty. It is absolutely a positive, life-affirming thing for people using foodstamps to be able to buy good quality wholesome food and being able to prepare it.

                  2. Davwud RE: YAYME Mar 23, 2010 04:35 AM

                    Hey Yayme.

                    I'm not gonna defend the person who said that and I'm not gonna say they're wrong. I live in Canada (no food stamps) and I generally could care less what people buy. So I literally have no idea.

                    But here's the thing. Let's just suppose that poster was right. That the vast majority of carts at the beginning of the month are full of sugary food stuffs.
                    This should be a source of pride for you. You are miles ahead nutritionally than they are. You manage your food stamps better. You manage your health better. Take pride in that.

                    DT

                    1. jfood RE: YAYME Mar 23, 2010 11:39 AM

                      Thank You...Jfood wishes more people did what you did. Unfortunately this was not what jfood saw when he was a poor student with many people in his area using FS. What he saw was his basket with hamburger and day old bread. No complaints, it was his hard earned money and he had a budget. On the other hand the people around him with FS had beer, steak and cigarettes. That is not what the intent of FS was. Jfood hopes you the best and that many people use FS as you do.

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: jfood
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                        nvcook RE: jfood Mar 23, 2010 12:09 PM

                        30 years with the FS program as an eligibility worker and supervisor- cannot and have never been able to, buy tobacco or alcohol. Can, unfortunately, buy crappy food. Good on you for eating healthy foods. With the electronic EBT cards that you swipe things are hopefully better as it's difficult for busybodies to know what you are paying with.

                        1. re: nvcook
                          jfood RE: nvcook Mar 23, 2010 12:46 PM

                          What's an "eligibility worker and supervisor"?

                          1. re: jfood
                            l
                            lgss RE: jfood Mar 23, 2010 03:51 PM

                            Someone who decides if those who apply for food stamps qualify to receive them.

                            1. re: lgss
                              cookieluvntasha RE: lgss Apr 5, 2010 06:33 AM

                              we don't decide. the state regulations decide. we calculate, maintain proper case records, answer questions, take applications, reach out to community members in need...

                          2. re: nvcook
                            c oliver RE: nvcook Mar 23, 2010 12:54 PM

                            I do wish they'd program the computers to "guide" people. For instance, no to the snack bags of Lays chips but yes to the large economy size of the store brand. That type of thing. And as long as we're programming that big ole computer, how about having it generate some recipes of things to make with the less expensive, cook from scratch, non-processed ingredients?

                            1. re: c oliver
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                              4Snisl RE: c oliver Mar 23, 2010 05:06 PM

                              Well, not quite the same thing, but virtually every state's Cooperative Extension system offers some form of free nutrition education for recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program....relatively new name for Food Stamp program). This education piece is ideally is supposed to bolster the purchasing, budgeting and meal preparation skills for recipients of SNAP benefits. Admittedly, the offerings and access to these free classes can vary state to state.

                              Full disclosure- my work is tied to the program in New York State, where there are 58 Cooperative Extension sites that offer these classes. They are taught by extensively-trained community nutrition educators. The class series are meant to empower folks who may not have grown up being comfortable in the kitchen... maybe transitioned to a living situation where they don't have a fully-outfitted kitchen....or perhaps in a lifestyle where access to grocery stores or preparation time is limited.

                              Anyway, learners often come out of the classes feeling more comfortable with cooking from scratch using non-processed ingredients. Assuming these weren't skills they previous put into practice on a regular basis....

                              But in reality, if a person switches from buying a mega burger meal to making "processed crap" boxed mac and cheese, guess what? It's considered a success, because that's a stepping stone towards making wholesome meals at home.

                              1. re: 4Snisl
                                c oliver RE: 4Snisl Mar 23, 2010 06:02 PM

                                Thanks for posting all this. And esp. thanks for that last paragraph. You bet your ass that's a stepping stone! And I sincerely mean that.

                            2. re: nvcook
                              jfood RE: nvcook Mar 23, 2010 05:39 PM

                              Well in 1978-80 Hyde Park Chicago they did with those brown stamps. glad the e-stamp stops the alcohol and tobacco loophole.

                              1. re: jfood
                                Melanie Wong RE: jfood Mar 23, 2010 10:52 PM

                                Let's be clear, that's not a loophole but fraud on the part of the store owners who did those transactions.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  jfood RE: Melanie Wong Mar 24, 2010 04:03 AM

                                  Tough to get excited by this from 30+ years ago but the person buying the tobacco and alcohol was more at fault than the 16 year old check out person.

                                  1. re: jfood
                                    alliedawn_98 RE: jfood Apr 5, 2010 05:46 AM

                                    When I was a cashier at a grocery store in high school, some people would buy candy bars or something else that was .25-50 cents with FS. They would do this several times to get enough change to buy a pack of cigarettes. That really bothered me but because they weren't spending the actual FS on them, we couldn't do anything about it. I am glad they now have the EBT because it prevents that type of purchasing.

                                    1. re: alliedawn_98
                                      jfood RE: alliedawn_98 Apr 12, 2010 07:41 AM

                                      yeah, and some posters think it is you committing fraud, sheesh.

                                      1. re: jfood
                                        Melanie Wong RE: jfood Apr 12, 2010 05:27 PM

                                        What you described in your Mar 23, 2010 05:39PM post, use of food stamps for direct purchase of alcohol and tobacco, would be fraud. But yes, you're right, it there were two parties in the fraudulent use. However, what alliedawn 98 described was a cash transaction.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                          jfood RE: Melanie Wong Apr 12, 2010 06:12 PM

                                          MW

                                          Here are the events:

                                          1 - show up with a $10 FS and buy a candy bar
                                          2 - receive $9.50 in change
                                          3 - Leave
                                          4 - Return
                                          5 - Buy cigarettes with cash

                                          you may call it a cash trasaction, jfood calls the purchaser a crook, not the store. Now if the store were to accept this as a single transaction, then jfood would agree with you that there are two parties at fault. Your post above seemed to place full blame on the cashier.

                                          1. re: jfood
                                            p
                                            pickychicky1979 RE: jfood Apr 12, 2010 06:19 PM

                                            When I worked in a grocery in the late 90's parents would often send their children in to buy a candy bar with FS, The children would leave with their change. Several minutes later the parents would return to purchase "forbidden" items. Did we know what they were doing? Sure! Could we stop them? No, not usually. But for every abuser out there making the wrong choice there was someone being responisble and just trying to get back on their feet. I was happy when they went to the debit card system.

                                            1. re: jfood
                                              Melanie Wong RE: jfood Apr 12, 2010 06:25 PM

                                              We're talking about two different posts and series of events. Here's what you said on Mar 23, "Well in 1978-80 Hyde Park Chicago they did with those brown stamps. glad the e-stamp stops the alcohol and tobacco loophole."

                                              I said that is fraud on both parties part.

                                              About the new series of events you've described, all I said was " However, what alliedawn 98 described was a cash transaction."

                                              So, I have no idea how you can make that inference from what I've said, as there's nothing the cashier can do about it.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                jfood RE: Melanie Wong Apr 12, 2010 06:36 PM

                                                Here is your exact post "Let's be clear, that's not a loophole but fraud on the part of the store owners who did those transactions." now it's "I said that is fraud on both parties part."...see the diff. jfood agrees with the latter, not the former. glad that's cleared up.

                                                Jfood also agrees that the allie events is a cash event, but it is the fault of the purchaser as well. And the owner could say no thanks. It is no different than money laudering, each event is OK but together it lauders money.

                                                1. re: jfood
                                                  Melanie Wong RE: jfood Apr 12, 2010 06:47 PM

                                                  Since we're using quote backs, here's the one you didn't quote: "What you described in your Mar 23, 2010 05:39PM post, use of food stamps for direct purchase of alcohol and tobacco, would be fraud. But yes, you're right, it there were two parties in the fraudulent use. However, what alliedawn 98 described was a cash transaction."

                                                  Whew, never been given such a hard time when I've said "yes, you're right"!!! Yet, I don't see my two statements as being in conflict. In my first statement I said that the store was committing fraud. In the second, I said that both parties were committing fraud. The store owner is still at fault in both. Takes two to tango.

                                                  Thank you for understanding that I was not accusing folks in alliedawn 98's case of fraud. I misunderstood this as a personal attack, "yeah, and some posters think it is you committing fraud, sheesh." and appreciate your further clarification.

                                                  I'm glad those days are behind us with the introduction of the electronic card system.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                    jfood RE: Melanie Wong Apr 12, 2010 07:26 PM

                                                    agreed, now let's get people back to work and off the cards all together.

                                                    peace.

                                        2. re: alliedawn_98
                                          m
                                          merrymc RE: alliedawn_98 Apr 13, 2010 01:33 PM

                                          Growing up (on FS) in a not-so-great part of a Northeast City, the "offer" to let someone pay for my groceries in FS and repay that person cash (slightly less than the bill, as an incentive) in the parking lot was made to me many, many times I went to the supermarket. Each time a loophole closes, someone finds a way around it, though recent crackdowns have shifted the transactions from the bread aisle to the fringes of the parking lot.

                              2. t
                                TheJerkyJerk RE: YAYME Mar 23, 2010 04:50 PM

                                Well said.

                                1. b
                                  Beckyleach RE: YAYME Mar 23, 2010 06:05 PM

                                  I've been on food stamps several times, I'm deeply concerned about social justice and consider myself a Bleeding Heart liberal supporter of most forms of public assistance. That said (so you know where I'm coming from ;-) let me say this:

                                  The original poster (although I do not know their intent) was actually not really far off the mark, THROUGH NO FAULT OF THOSE ON FOOD STAMPS. Many on public assistance do NOT know how to shop wisely--assuming they even can find a grocery store within walking distance or accessible via public transportation that even offers "wise" choices--and do not know how to cook healthful foods from scratch. Our society has done a terrible job of encouraging and teaching its members how to shop, prepare, and eat healthfully, the past few decades....Home Ec classes don't exist. Skills normally transmitted via one's family or culture or community have been lost...Thanks to advertising propaganda, people have been encouraged to eschew wholesome, plain foodstuffs in favor of "exciting" brightly packaged, prepared food "products." Agricultural subsidies for only CERTAIN crops and foodstuffs have created the bizarre result that Junk Food is cheaper than good, real food almost across the board. People have been brainwashed by Madison Avenue into thinking that they cannot/should not/do not want to "cook" from scratch, because it's too difficult, boring, takes too long, etc., etc.

                                  Fast food, overuse of salt, fats, and sugar, and additives have ruined our taste buds, to the point where *natural* food tastes do not appeal.

                                  It's no wonder that those on the low end of the socio-economic scale tend to be easily seduced by sugar and fat and salt and "convenience."

                                  It's not because the majority of food stamp recipients are "dumb" or "lazy" or "undisciplined" that they do tend to have trouble shopping wisely and healthfully. But, statistically, many DO have these problems and it's way past time our government offered better instruction to those seeking help, and reconsidered its own standards of what constitutes "good food" for the poor.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: Beckyleach
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                                    Beckyleach RE: Beckyleach Mar 23, 2010 06:08 PM

                                    I wanted to include this link to a new study out that shows conclusively what we've pretty much all probably suspected: While the cost of junk food has declined over the years, the cost of GOOD food has gone up, up, up. :-(

                                    http://consumerist.com/2010/03/how-or...

                                    1. re: Beckyleach
                                      c oliver RE: Beckyleach Mar 23, 2010 06:18 PM

                                      Thanks Becky for your story and the info. And, yes, GOOD food IMO does cost more - frequently ALOT more. People talk about farmers' markets. Where I live those are even more expensive than the grocery stores. Fresh fruit and vegetable prices just shock me and I'm comfortable financially. This problem needs to be addressed but I fear that other issues will push it from a back burner to completely off the stove.

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        flourgirl RE: c oliver Apr 5, 2010 09:45 AM

                                        This is true in my area as well. I live in a somewhat rural county and I love to shop the local farmer's markets in the summer - but holy cow!!! You'd think those vegetable were gold-plated for some of the prices that are charged. I have to shop VERY carefully to avoid spending ridiculous amounts of money.

                                      2. re: Beckyleach
                                        p
                                        POAndrea RE: Beckyleach Mar 26, 2010 07:37 AM

                                        I can't afford to shop at the farmer's market in my town, and it doesn't really address the problem of finding affordable, healthy produce. The market is only open for a few months of the year due to climate, and those are the months I have vegetables from my OWN garden. While the seasonal fruits and vegetables are much tastier there, the cost is so much higher than at the grocery store I can't justify spending sometimes more than twice the sale price. Kinda funny--the only real "deals" at my farmer's market are the cookies and pies sold by the church-ladies as fundraisers!

                                        1. re: POAndrea
                                          alliedawn_98 RE: POAndrea Apr 5, 2010 05:49 AM

                                          That is how it is around here, too. The Farmer's Markets only run from May to August or September. It's mostly Amish families selling baked goods and a little fresh produce. We also have a garden so grow the same items they are selling. I can buy a good bit of local, in-season produce at a couple of grocery stores in the area at a much better price than getting up early on Saturday morning to visit the farmer's markets.

                                      3. re: Beckyleach
                                        jfood RE: Beckyleach Mar 23, 2010 06:12 PM

                                        Fortunately or unfortunately people not on FS have the same issue.

                                        Jfood watched a show the other night with Jamie Oliver called the Food Revolution...outstanding.

                                        Here's a petition to help

                                        http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/...

                                        1. re: jfood
                                          j
                                          J.e.m. RE: jfood Mar 26, 2010 09:41 AM

                                          Yes, someone told me that program is on tonight in Ohio. I have a few related thoughts to all these posts. First, I'm surprised and glad to see this topic. I receive food stamps and I'd like to share my experiences.
                                          There was a woman ahead of me in line who had a baby, and was expecting another child, and was receiving WIC coupons for milk and other baby foods, and food stamps. She was buying many large packages and it's clear she was re-packaging, cooking from scratch, etc. People on food stamps do choose wisely and shop economically. I was glad I was behind her in line so no one would be mad for taking so long. I have been in lines and the person with 2 items behind me (who could and should go to express) scrutinizes my groceries and glares at me. Not very fun!
                                          First of all let me say about the first of the month that people receive their food stamps (loaded onto their cards) on the first, second, or third day of the month depending on their case number. Mine are on there the second day of each month.
                                          The reason people might misunderstand me or others on food stamps is they don't understand that you run out of almost everything no matter how carefully you shop because a few hundred dollars a month for groceries for a mother and growing child is not a huge amount of money.
                                          You will see a huge bag of organic BBQ potato chips in my cart every once in a while, because my daughter will come home with Doritos from school friends if she has no good quality treats at home. Plus, just because I am on food stamps does not mean I eat no luxury or occasional foods.
                                          I'm pretty sure carbonated beverages are not covered by food stamps, but the pop I buy is fruit-juice sweetened and organic so I don't feel guilty to buy it when it's on sale.
                                          I sometimes wish cough drops or other important things for health were covered on Food Stamps. I remember choosing one week between a head of cauliflower and saving the money for a box of band-aids I knew I needed.
                                          I have encountered what I think was judgement of me, when I'm going through the line. There are women behind me who maybe don't work or go to school like I always have, and even though I am buying beautiful, organic, healthy foods and my child and I are healthy and lovely, they seem displeased. I discovered the prepared foods from the deli were covered by my stamps, so one week I splurged a little for a celebration we were having and bought roasted potatoes my daughter loves, and a piece of spicy salmon for us to share. There are many, many occasions when I buy only what's inexpensive or what's on sale, and many times I buy a small piece of tilapia and fresh vegetables or whatever, but it's nice to sometimes not have to cook, or buy some convenience foods to make cooking a little easier or faster.
                                          It is upsetting to me that women who don't know my story may look down on me. If I have a huge cart full of food, it's because I have a daughter I have fed very well since conception and it's important to me. I have tried spending only $50 a week, but it's tough because sometimes a large or high-priced item you will use for a month or three; olive oil, for example, may cost $8. or $12 for a huge bottle. It's more economical than buying a $5. bottle of it that's very small. But I've done that, too.
                                          Anyway, it may seem to onlookers that the carts of food stamp recipients are full of junk food, but I think that is an unfair judgement. I think it's more likely faulty reporting from the people who for some reason think people on food stamps don't have a right to snack foods or pleasure foods. I buy fruit, vegetables, good quality bread and grains, fish, and meat, but I also buy peanut butter cups, once we bought chocolate eclairs, and I have the right to buy whatever I want if it works out with my budget. Eating is necessary and it's also a pleasure. I feel comfortable buying the best quality foods I possibly can, whether I use food stamps, child support money, or anything else.
                                          I have shopped at Aldi's, with the police officer thinking I was a shoplifter because I had a back-pack to carry my things home. That was unpleasant, and the food was very poor quality. I have also gone to the bread lines at a church downtown, and gotten 2 loaves of organic sourdough bread (two days old). What a lucky find that was! You wouldn't believe the number of loaves of bread and cakes they had there. I don't see why grocery stores can't use the day old bread to make croutons or bread crumbs like the Mustard Seed Market does. Anyway, I'm glad unwanted food goes into the mouths of hungry people.
                                          I have also shopped farmer's markets. We run our card through and get wooden nickels which are $1. tokens. It was nice to be able to buy homemade waffles from a local businesswoman, fresh vegetables, and more, but carrying 50 tokens would not be very practical. They might get tokens with bigger denominations if they want FS users to spend all their stamps at farmer's markets. The farmers were pretty nice to me, but they did seem like they were a little surprised I knew the difference between dinosaur kale and regular kale.
                                          Once I was in the Giant Eagle, and a woman behind me was telling her little boy, now you don't need that big box of cereal, we'll get it next week when we have more food stamps. I was thinking about that last night for some reason. Sometimes it's hard if you don't have any money to spend and it's the end of the month. People don't understand how difficult it is and that you do have to make tough choices, budget, do without, and it might look like we have this huge cart of great food, but the next week we probably will just buy bread and vegetables. Usually for me, I try to plan and keep a running list of things I run out of like tea, ketchup, certain vegetables and fruits, or pasta. I don't understand why people would see a woman with her child and not be happy for me that at least I try to feed my daughter healthy foods. She gets straight As, is in theatre, and we are intelligent, compassionate people who are concerned about the environment and our health. I also buy ecologically friendly body and home care products. Maybe people think those are extravagant. If anything, they should look at me and think to themselves, if a person on food stamps can find a way to afford organic food and free-range meats, what excuse do I have for not buying the best quality food I possibly can for myself and my family?
                                          I don't know if people judge me for my choices, or are just curious. I think because I have so much stuff, they just look around because it is taking a while to get through the register! I have let people go ahead of me several times, but then I remind myself I have just as much right to shop and buy as anyone else.
                                          My brother says a person commented that he had a lot of vegetables and vegetarian choices in his cart. My brother told me it kind of made him mad because he felt like he didn't care what that guy was buying, and wasn't commenting on his groceries.
                                          Food and diet is definitely a personal, emotional, evocative subject. But since we're all in this together, it becomes a public matter every time we shop, doesn't it?
                                          I believe that each dollar we spend is like a vote. We vote for companies who use recycled materials, have good business practices, and make their product in the U.S.A.- like paper notebooks. I have tried to buy recycled paper and other similar products for a long time, because I knew the price would go down eventually. Organic and environmentally friendly items are becoming very mainstream now because customers demanded it, and because the corporations had to respond to consumer wants and needs. It doesn't matter that General Mills and other huge food companies went organic or some organic because it was trendy or good for business. The good thing is, people are starting to re-think their food choices to eat some vegetarian foods and meals, to eat more fruits and vegetables, and eat for their health and for the good of the economy and the world.
                                          It is true that fruits and vegetables are somewhat costly. I buy dried blueberries to put in pancakes and granola because blueberries are out of season and come from Chile or other places far away. Dried fruits is one way to add nutrition to oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, and snacks.
                                          This is one instance where farmer's markets do help tremendously, because when fruit is in season, I'll be able to buy peaches, blueberries, and concord grapes, which we love.
                                          If you think about our grandmother's and people with rural lifestyles, this time of year they were eating some dried and canned foods. In the summer it's much easier to eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits because they're more available and less expensive. I buy locally grown organic lettuce and other vegetables from the organic health food supermarket.
                                          This year I am going to try to grow some vegetables again. One year I planted cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, chives, dill, and some other things from seed, but didn't get much because there was a scorching week of sun and a bad drought which killed everything! I have grown flowers with success: calendula, zinnias, a couple more I can't think of right now.
                                          Lettuce is a very easy, cool-weather crop. I think if everyone had backyard gardens again, it would be much easier to feed ourselves.
                                          When I was growing up, everybody had a little garden. And we were in the suburbs. Nowadays you can grow things on a deck in containers. I did that last year, too. Even if you buy seedlings, which might cost $2., it's nice to have a yellow pear tomato plant, even if you don't get a huge yield. I have bought seeds, but no I don't think they're covered by food stamps. But if you have any cash at all, seed packets are usually no more than $3. so if you think about it, you're getting a whole season of kale for the price of one bunch of it. Nature is very kind to us.
                                          For me, the soil in my backyard might need testing, and I might need to add some amendments, because my vegetables did not seem to thrive. It's also a matter of discovering what grows best in which patch. I have several types of soil in my backyard.
                                          Growing lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes is good for summer salads, and ensures you'll always have fresh product. When I was a kid, we traded amongst the neighbors, depending on who had a surplus to share. We had cucumbers, tomatoes, and daisies. Some Italian neighbors across the backyard had zuchini, zuchini blossoms, and basil. The next-door neighbors had beautiful roses. We all shared with eachother.
                                          There is a fence in my backyard which runs between the backyard, and the neighbor's back yard. I think I'll try to grow green beans again.
                                          I am tempted to try to get some topsoil, and just do some raised-bed gardening so if this soil isn't that great, it won't really matter! And I'm definitely buying some cherry tomato or tomato plants this year. I can always put hanging pots off the back fence- that's where all the sun is.
                                          Anyway, this was a great topic. I'm so glad I saw it and could respond to everyone.
                                          Springtime is coming!! We just got snow last night, but after Easter, it's going to start warming up again.

                                          1. re: J.e.m.
                                            c
                                            cheesecake17 RE: J.e.m. Mar 26, 2010 10:28 AM

                                            jem- I really commend you. What you're doing for yourself and your daughter on a strict budget is seriously something to be proud of.

                                            1. re: cheesecake17
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                                              nvcook RE: cheesecake17 Mar 26, 2010 02:54 PM

                                              I agree with cc17. I retired almost 4 years ago and the case workers were required to tell people applying for FS that they couldn't buy alcohol, tobacco, paper products OR prepared deli foods. We did however advise them that they could buy seeds (makes sense when you think about it. The Dept of Agriculture administers the FS program.) Could be the "times, they are a changing..." Anyway, keep up the good work!

                                              1. re: cheesecake17
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                                                J.e.m. RE: cheesecake17 Apr 11, 2010 06:25 PM

                                                Thank you very much for saying that.

                                                1. re: J.e.m.
                                                  tatamagouche RE: J.e.m. Apr 11, 2010 07:03 PM

                                                  Not sure if this is kosher, but J.e.m., could you e-mail me at denveater@earthlink.net? I'd really like your permission to repost your response here on my blog. It's very smart and moving.

                                                  1. re: J.e.m.
                                                    c
                                                    cheesecake17 RE: J.e.m. Apr 12, 2010 06:33 AM

                                                    I say it b/c I mean it.. :)

                                          2. corneygirl RE: YAYME Mar 26, 2010 08:43 AM

                                            I think this shows what a good portion of the problem is:

                                            http://maps.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/

                                            Check out the map under "Access and Proximity to Grocery Stores" % Low income and > 1 mile to a grocery store. Many people don't have much choice other than fast food and convenience store stuff.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: corneygirl
                                              YAYME RE: corneygirl Mar 27, 2010 06:05 AM

                                              There are buses and handy carts to haul groceries in.

                                              1. re: YAYME
                                                corneygirl RE: YAYME Mar 27, 2010 11:27 AM

                                                I hope my post didn't seem other than I intended it to be. I think that what people buy with their food stamps is their own business. However, it is very difficult for SOME people to have much choice about where they shop and therefore what they buy.

                                                http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/22/small...
                                                Detroit can't hardly keep a grocery store open within city limits.

                                                1. re: YAYME
                                                  JerryMe RE: YAYME Apr 4, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                  There are not public transportation options everywhere. And if you don't have $$ for fare or cab fare (if there even IS cab service) you'll end up walking. I've been in that situation more than once (rural areas) where the nearest store was indeed a quickie mart and the closest to fresh produce and meat was a brown banana and bologna.

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