For my Food and Family class I decided to cook three dishes that were healthy and within a SNAP budget. What I discovered is it is a lot of work and is not always consistent with principles of sharing healthy family meals.
First, it took a lot of planning. Rather than selecting what was fresh, local, or what I was in the mood for I had to search for recipes that would be within a budget. This took more time than I had hoped.
Second, shopping at the grocery store took way too much time. I had to go back and forth across different aisles to make sure I was getting the best deals, was frustrated that I couldn't buy a can of diced tomatoes on sale (which would go great with the quesadillas) because it was out of my budget, and purchased brands I had never heard of to save a few cents.
Third, I couldn't share any of the food when I got home. Instead, telling my husband to keep his hands off the food I had put in a separate bag. Needless to say I was somewhat cranky by the time I got home.
We learned in class that families who participate in SNAP spend more time shopping and preparing food than low income families not on SNAP and higher income families. Families on SNAP also spend less time eating together than low income families not on SNAP or higher income families.
At the Family Resiliency Center, we promote sharing family meals as a means to increase health and wellbeing for children, adolescents, and all family members. My recent experience in trying to also cook healthy meals on a limited budget reinforces how limited resources also means increased stress and strain. Although the students enjoyed the food, I was worn out, not really interested in eating, and looking forward to the day I could cook anything and share with my family.
Although the SNAP challenge brings home the message about how hard it is to eat on $4.50 a day-- it is also a challenge to maintain the positive benefits of sharing meals like showing genuine concern about everyone's day, being flexible, and providing healthy variety in foods.
I look forward to hearing from others as they meet the challenge.