Today is the last day of my vacation from church. Tomorrow morning I plunge back into the routine of worship preparations and meetings and all the other stuff that goes into being a church pastor. In fact I have a meeting tomorrow around 5:00 PM, which cuts into dinner prep.
I prepare most of the food we eat. Usually, my wife and daughters get their own breakfasts. My older daughter typically eats leftovers for breakfast. Cereal for everyone else. Sometimes I’ll make pancakes or waffles (when I have more time). Lunch usually is a get your own affair, typically sandwiches or leftovers. My wife will eat a yogurt and sometimes makes green drink smoothies. Dinner generally falls to me.
Our typical weeknight dinner could be a one-dish stir fry with rice or some sort of throw together pasta meal. I’m pretty adept at taking leftovers, such as a roast, and making it into something else; chicken risotto for example. Fajitas are a quick meal, too. On some mornings I set up meals in a crock pot before I leave the house. Weekend cooking is a little more elaborate. Not too much already prepared food.
Since I’m going back to work tomorrow, I used this afternoon to cook for today and tomorrow. Today’s meal was black bean chili. I also made a tomato sauce with ground beef for tomorrow’s pasta dinner. I also cooked up another half-pound of garbanzo beans for hummus.
I happened to find inexpensive ground beef last Tuesday, which also had a $2.00 off sticker because Tuesday was the sale date. I bought two packages, each with a sticker, and froze them until today. That’s what I used for the chili and the sauce.
The beef was chuck, but its texture was closer to being a paste than anything that looked ground. I think this was a meat product (100% beef, although it was 75% lean and 25% fat in fine print) that was stripped from the bone and mixed with some fat and then processed again. Although it was OK in chili (and I’m guessing the sauce), I won’t use this product again as even in the chili there wasn’t much of a meat texture. I’d probably find hamburgers made with this beef to be generally revolting.
I had time today. Also by not preaching this morning, I was not as tired as I typically am on Sunday afternoons. I was able to cook. I also had foresight this morning to soak the black beans and the garbanzo beans before going to church.
Maintaining a SNAP diet takes time. It took a lot of time food shopping yesterday, especially considering we could spend no more $27.11. Most of the time shopping was comparing prices and doing the math to figure out value. Today, I spent a few hours preparing food. I also spent a lot of time on Tuesday shopping and prepping food over the past several days. I’m not sure how many SNAP recipients have time to shop carefully (and imagine shopping with a couple of small children in tow) and have time to prepare meals.
Thinking about this challenge today, I realized I saw this as a puzzle; one week on a tight budget. I approached it by asking, “How can I make this work for us?” On one level, approaching it as a puzzle made it fun. It was only a week. Realistically, though, people who live on a SNAP budget don’t live on it for a week. It’s daily. It goes on for weeks, months, and maybe years. So let’s be honest, who wants to live every day of their life as puzzle?