Forty Days of SNAP

Our family's Lenten food stamp challenge

“Dad, we’re almost out of food right here.”

My three-year-old son pulled up his step-stool and opened the pantry door looking for an afternoon snack.  “Dad, we’re almost out of food right here,” he said.  It was as though he were discovering the barren shelves for the first time.  Though the tone of his voice didn’t really show it, my own imagination heard the question embedded within: “Will we have enough?”

Cupboard Step Stool

The Bare Cupboard Step Stool
photo by Ivan Herman

The sad fact is we are $5 over our SNAP budget allowance already, and we still have four days left until the end of the month.  There is probably enough in the refrigerator and in the pantry to make it, but it’s going to be close.  I’m grateful February only has 28 days instead of 31.  Like many who receive SNAP benefits, we will begin with a new month’s allowance on the first of the month.

We still have plenty of bread flour, brown rice, oatmeal, and grits.  We have a half box of breakfast cereal, a gallon of milk, six ounces of cheddar cheese, some chicken stock, a large can of chili beans, six eggs, 1/2 head of green cabbage, two bunches of kale, four carrots, an onion, some garlic, five oranges (from a neighbor’s backyard), two apples, and two bananas.

What creative ideas would you use to make this stretch over four days for four people?


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14 thoughts on ““Dad, we’re almost out of food right here.”

  1. Soup! Fills you up and can last a few days!

  2. The first thing I thought of was french toast.. who needs syrup, anyway?

    I know how it is, we used to have food benefits but we don’t now and there are plenty of times when I think wow I could so use some extra food money right now. I almost bought cookies last week but felt too guilty because we totally do NOT need cookies especially when I only had $40 to spend and actually spent $55.
    With our days of struggling I’ve realized one great thing, always have a 5lb bag of rice, a few boxes of whole grain pasta, a few extra bags of frozen veggies (they won’t go bad fast and have a lot less sodium) a little butter and seasons, that will get you through those “stretch it” days.
    We actually took a lot of meat out of our diet and from my point of view it saves us money. We eat lots of beans, shrimp or fish, and lots delicious veggies.
    I used to keep an extra boxed food item around but we nixed those since a box of pasta and some frozen veggies and seasons almost added up to the same price with a lot more health benefits.

    It can suck… but in the long run people who have to push it to make life work are those who truly appreciate what they have in life.

    • Thanks for commenting, Kylie!
      Check, check, check on the rice, beans, and frozen veggies.
      How do you get fish and shrimp inexpensively? Do you fish for it yourself :-)? I find that’s one of the more expensive animal protein items…we are doing basically one animal protein a week, such as one whole chicken (cook and eat the meat for 2 days, then the stock in rice or soup for a few meals after that). Sausage is also good as a flavor and goes good with lot of veggies, such as greens and sweet potato.

      • It can be. We are actually mostly vegetarian so we don’t spend much $$ on the other kinds protein meats we get it mostly from soy, which is costly sadly.. but if you have a Kroger close they do have it on sale often. The little guy and I eat fish and shrimp, sometimes chicken when we are out.
        I agree, a lot can be done with sausage, have you made potato soup with it? (Now we use veggie sausage but I love to use “sausage”!)
        Potatoes were I think $2.45 for a 5 lb bag this week.. maybe it was more than 5lb but I think it was 5lb, anyway it was a decent price, with your chicken broth and butter mainly. (I nix the sour cream and extra dairy in mine we are allergic.)
        For fish and shrimp I check prices at target, Kroger and any other grocery place I can and get it when on sale. I can normally get the bigger bag for $7 which in one way is costly but I make about 3 meals from it.
        Tomorrow we are having shrimp, beans and avocado {which aldi’s had for .49 a piece)

  3. Wow, this is tough! Are those literally all the ingredients you have to work with? I’m not sure if the following will work, as some would need oil or salt, etc.

    How about making some flat bread

    Do you have any mayo and/or vinegar? I often make a winter salad/light slaw using finely shredded cabbage and 1-2 carrots depending on size. For dressing I either use 2 T Mayo, about 1T vinegar and sugar to taste, or vinegar with equal parts salt/sugar to taste. A little of this salad with each evening meal might be enough to add a little freshness.

    You could use your eggs to make a spanish style omelette with kale, onions and a few of the chilli beans.

    Mashed up beans with some grated carrot (lightly steamed to cook more evenly?), garlic and a little flour might make a veggie-burger, or just make a dip to use with the flat breads and cabbage above.

    Serve with rice or perhaps some cheesy grits to fill it out.

    Good luck!!!

  4. Laura King on said:

    I slept on your pantry list and woke up thinking about pancakes! They aren’t just for breakfast btw. If you have maple flavoring you can make your own syrup. 2 cups any sugar (white, brown, karo) 1 cup water, boil, add 1/4 tsp mapleline. If you don’t have flavoring, sprinkle with powdered sugar, spread with peanut butter and or jelly, or slices of those bananas which won’t last long anyway. Homemade pancake recipes abound. They will take one of your eggs.
    You do have a wonderful soup there with the kale, carrots, cabbage, beans, etc. Take some more of that flour and mix up a batch of biscuits to go with it. That takes minutes, not the hours of bread.
    Oh and cheese grits!!! Umm umm good.
    I am not worried. You all will eat well.

  5. Interesting challenge, Hermans. I wondered if the vegetable choices were your own? I’m a decent cook, but cabbage & kale are two veggies I don’t eat much, so that would be a stretch for me. But project certainly drives home the difficulties those without means face.

    • Thanks for reading, Jane. And, yeah, we love cabbage and kale. We being Ivan and me–the kids, meh. They eat a few bites each time. This week I’m doing a kale pie (like a quiche but absolutely loaded with kale) and they will probably eat that because you can cut it into wedges like fruit pie and it has cheese. Another tip for greens (mainly for adults though some kids might like): hot sauce. Tapatio, Sriracha, Tabasco, Cholula, Texas Pete…take your pick, they make greens delish.

  6. Yes to hot sauce! I’m also a big fan of hummus. Easy (and inexpensive) to prepare and it makes eating raw veggies, like broccoli and snap peas, a treat.

  7. Rachel on said:

    This is too late but I have been pondering: I don’t know what condiments/cooking fat/sweeteners you have on hand so I will keep them to a minimum.Breakfast is grits or oatmeal and half piece of fruit each(can make fruit salad to make it look less paltry.) Dinners are fried rice(4 eggs, some cabbage, 2 carrots) Mexican chili bean thing either rolled in tortillas or as a pot of chili with tortillas on the side, a savory bread and cheese pudding(last 2 eggs and cheddar), and creamy green soup with the kale.The rest of the cabbage is made into slaw or sauteed as a side veg. Each supper should make enough for lunch the next day. The cereal and extra carrots are snacks, as are bread, sweet bread, or other baked good.
    I am curious what you actually did to make it through February. Enquiring minds want to know!

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