Liz: Variety is a Luxury

Standing there in the aisles of Walmart, I gave each meal a lot of thought.  So much more thought than I normally did.  Typically, my week's meal planning was more Taco Tuesday, Chicken Wednesday and Take-out Thai Thursday than how am I going to make 4 days of delicious meals out of beans, rice, very little meat, have enough for leftovers for lunch AND stay on budget.  I kept picking things up and putting them down after doing the math.  I probably should have sat at home with a calculator and a cookbook and spent a few hours planning 4 days of meals.  But with two kids constantly moving between soccer, band, piano, dance, clubs, weekend competitions and school... who's got the time?

Today is day four and I can honestly say I've done OK.  My meals weren't inspired but they filled the need.  What I didn't factor in was feeling so hungry between meals.  I was suddenly aware of how many impulse items (granola bars on sale!) I picked up in a typical shopping trip.  And how that fuel kept me going between meals.  Or how much I relied on that Starbucks/granola bar/treat cabinet to get me through 3PM snackies, carpooling and late night pickups.   Bedtime found my stomach growling and I woke up ravenous every day. 

Variety was a luxury that didn't fit the budget.  After 3 days of yogurt and banana for breakfast I dreamt of strawberries and whipped cream on waffles last night.   Living on $4.46 a day was possible, but it wasn't easy, either.  It demanded time and effort.  And there was disappointment involved.  Walmart has wheat bread for only $0.88!  However, there weren't any on the shelves.  I really wanted ground turkey but it was way out of budget so I lucked out with Chorizo at $1.00.  Not a very healthy alternative, but filling and a protein.  It was the first time in a long time that I REALLY looked at what my food cost.

Honestly, I am humbled by the experience.   How busy parents make meals that their families want and provide them with all the nutrients growing kids need is a puzzle that needs solving every week.  Of course at first I got all evangelical and thought "Everyone should go to the store with only a $20 bill in their pocket and have to buy 3 meals a day for 1 person for 4 days!!  Then they'll see how important SNAP is!"   By the end of the week I just felt immensely grateful for all I have and profoundly respectful of those in our communities that must work the SNAP food puzzle everyday.  I am honored to have done the SNAP Challenge with Beyond Hunger and will include my whole family next year.  Until then I'm going to donate to Beyond Hunger so they can buy more fresh fruits and vegetables to help supplement the SNAP program and I'm going to offer anyone/everyone a granola bar at 3 PM, every darn day!

Liz Ziehl, Committee Member