When I originally decided to do the SNAP Challenge in October, I really had no idea what I was thinking. I’m in the middle of an election for Board of Education. I am filling a vacancy on the Board and we are in the middle of a superintendent search (which requires a lot of meetings). We’ve had debates, birthdays, campaign events, meetings, volunteering, a visit from the in-laws, and the birth of a niece so far this month.
Did I mention we are supposed to get up to a foot of snow tomorrow? Oh yeah, that too.
Did I mention I quit smoking five days ago? Oops! Almost forgot that one too.
We have not been the most frugal people when it’s come to eating this month. We tried to do the best we could but 16 hour days are not conducive to home-cooked dinners every night. I have received a lot of free food this month via various events and meetings I have attended. I have not done very much grocery shopping since the first two weeks of the month. I’m also pleased to report that I’ve been using up stuff around the house when I am cooking so we haven’t had food waste. Jeff has been a real trooper, eating at home when I have other obligations. While his meal plan is a bit thin (hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly), he has saved us a lot of money making those things at home rather than eating out or ordering food.
The SNAP challenge did help me with a few things. I have gotten very good at bringing my lunch to school. Since I have very little time for lunch, I need to eat something quickly. Bringing my lunch allows me to get a decent lunch in a short amount of time. It also saves us a lot of time. Even with the crazy schedule, I’ve made sure to make something, like a pasta dish or casserole, that will give us leftovers for the week. I only need two lunches a week for school so a good sized casserole will get us through the week.
The other thing I learned was how to plan better. We have had much less food waste since we started (and failed) the SNAP challenge. Because I was trying to feed us on as little as possible while creating balanced meals, I really planned out exactly how much I would have leftover for lunches. I was much more conscious of how many lunches I had and made smaller meals when I knew I didn’t need more leftovers.
Looking at our food budget, we actually did pretty well. When we did eat out, we tried to spend less than $25 total. If I didn’t grocery shop and we ate out twice a week, we pretty much broke even. We finished up a lot of things we had in the house and have been trying to eat out of the freezer. It’s been a bit packed lately so I’m trying to clean out as much as I can this winter.
As we prepare for the storm (we really are supposed to get 6-12 inches of snow in the next 36 hours), I’m starting to plan for November. It doesn’t look much better than October. At least the election will be over. I already have very few nights at home planned so I might be making large pots of stew and other hearty meals that reheat well to get us through.
I do have to say that even with all the craziness, I love my life. It’s insanely busy, but I like it that way. I’d much rather have my life filled with volunteer and civic obligations and my teaching gig than when I worked 40-50 hours a week as a pencil pusher. I am probably busier now than I was then, but I feel like I’m making a difference and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.