Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#SNAPchallenge Day 5, Day 6 - We Blew It

Sunday:  SNAP Challenge Day 5 

Sylvan and I made Oatmeal Muffins.

It is a recipe from another of my standby cookbooks. It is a cookbook that I grew up with. My mom had a copy of an earlier edition, and my Oma gave me the one I have. It is the More With Less Cookbook.

To total cost for 12 muffins (we ate 8) was $1.78.
The cost of the coffee share $1.52.
Total cost of $3.27.

Breakfast was late again.

Very Late.

Adam resumed working on the bus and I finished moving around plants, cleaned the kitchen, and started the weekly task of baking bread.

My new favorite bread recipe is the Basic Bread from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jenifer Reese. It involves scooping a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, giving it a stir and dumping it into a loaf pan for a few hours to rise. To cost per loaf, is $0.60.

I also started the process of making Pork Liver Paté. I first experimented with paté, when I purchased a few whole chickens, cut it into pieces, and froze all but the livers. It was delicious. This spring, a friend and I split the cost of a whole hog, and we also requested to get the organs.

Why not try Pork Liver Paté?
Pork Liver ($2.85)
Onion (CSA)
Garlic (CSA)
Sage (from the garden)
Half and Half ($0.09)
Brandy (from an old stash I keep for Christmas Cookies)
Cost $2.94

To be honest, I'm not sure that I like the pork liver paté. Some cuts of pork have this smell that I can not stand, pork chops and some times even roast, and the paté has that same underlying aroma. I put it in the fridge to chill and hope the sage and brandy will dominate that porky, pig smell.

The kids snack on carrots, pears and apples (CSA).

We take an afternoon trip to the library and then head to a coffee shop. The kids split a GIANT macaroon ($2.00) while we read our new books.

I head off to yoga class and leave Adam in charge of kids and dinner.

The kids eat slices of fresh bread.
Adam approves of the paté.

To expedite the remainder of the meal, Adam pulls Costco Pot Stickers out of the freezer and cooks up the remainder of a partial bag.  By the time I return, he is back to working on the bus and the kids have built a giant fort in the front yard.  I think the cost of the Pot Stickers was about $10.00 and this was the third meal from that purchase.  Let's estimate the cost of the meal was $4.00 with the the dipping sauce.

The total food cost for the day, including the daily cost of the CSA, was $14.85

Monday:  SNAP Challenge Day 6

Today, we blew it. 

There was no school.   

I enrolled the kids in a comedy day camp at the Missoula Community Theater.  It cost me $50 per kid. I earned just over that working, today, and I am lucky enough to have a job that pays more than a living hourly wage.  I know the SNAP challenge is about access to food, but we can't ignore the lack of access to affordable quality childcare options in our community.  While we are talking about child care, lets also mention health care and affordable housing.  Not one of these can be considered alone.

These are basic life needs.

For years I wondered what was I doing wrong, or what was wrong with me, that these were things that I couldn't attain and couldn't provide?  I have no student debt, but maybe I just majored in the wrong things? (Yes, things.  I have multiple undergraduate degrees.)  Got the wrong advanced degree? Moved to the wrong town?  Married the wrong person?  Had children at the wrong time? Where was the choice that resulted not being able to afford basic things?  I was sucked into this myth of personal responsibility that keeps us isolated, ashamed, voiceless and un-empowered. 

Last night, the kids packed their own lunches:  left over Mac and Cheese, fresh fruits and veggies, and for an additional snack, the left over muffins from Sunday Breakfast.  Their meals, and our lunches, invisible in our daily food budget.   

Adam and I both run from work to their comedy skit performance at the end of the day and once we are all piled in the car, there is less than an hour until I needed to be at the Monday night city council meeting. 

The kids asked for Taco Sano. 

We relent.  

It was the second time we have eaten there in almost 9? years of living in Missoula.  Our fridge is full of beets and chard and eggplant and there is half a loaf of fresh bread, but sometimes I just don't have the brain space to manage it all - or the time.

For the past two years, I have pretty much keep our family on the same budget we were on while receiving SNAP.  When I initially started working, and I subtracted the SNAP benefit we lost, we netted a $120 a month.  Because, I could fit my work hours into the time my kids were at Head Start and public school, it was a choice that made sense.  

Kind of. 

We paid $25 for a quick dinner.  Add to that the daily cost of the CSA (with Double SNAP Dollars $2.04) and the cost for breakfast $2.86, which brings the total spent on food today to $29.90.

I wish I could say, that being able to spend $30 on food in a day, and having transitioned off of SNAP benefits makes me feel secure, more certain of a future.  For the past few years I have been struggling to put words to this guttural reaction that I have every time I hear a person, from politician to friend, talk about people in poverty.
There is something wrong.
We are having the wrong conversation.
This isn't about getting a job to get off of food stamps.
This isn't about being smarter with personal finances.
This isn't about gaining access to health care by opting in to your employers health insurance plan.
This isn't really about making better food choices.
These are all small parts of an incomplete and broken whole.

I don't know where to start, except to say: "You are talking about me."