Tag Archives: SNAP

Dietetic Intern Jessica’s SNAP Challenge- Wrap Up

Wrapping Up

After adding how much I ate through the whole week, my costs ended up to around $29.50. I ended up having leftover food, including: about ¼ cup beans, ¼ cup broth, ¼ cup diced tomatoes, ¼ box rice, couple slices of bread, ½ cup of spaghetti squash, a couple eggs, a packet of oatmeal, a bunch of Stevia packets, instant coffee, and some cake mix. These items total to about $3.50.

If I were to continue the SNAP challenge into another week, I would use these food products to make the Southwestern Beans and Rice dish again as well as a spaghetti squash dish.

MyPlate

MyPlate

My meals left me pretty satisfied and full, and I did decent on meeting the MyPlate food groups goal. The hardest food groups to meet were dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Because I don’t tolerate regular cow’s milk, I have to get most of my calcium sources through soymilk and yogurt. Being low in calcium is serious business! Calcium is essential for adequate growth and a handful of other functions. Those who are not lactose intolerant should aim to consume the recommended 2-3 cups of dairy per day (recommendations vary slightly for different people). Even for those who are lactose intolerant, you can purchase lactose free milk or milk alternatives, like soy or almond milk. The key point is to get calcium-rich foods in some form or another.

Next, I think that if I would have added a serving of veggies to my lunch every day then I would have come closer to meeting the recommendations. I ran out of fruit by the end and was not able to eat multiple servings per day. I bought bananas because they were really cheap- but, I did not realize how fast they would go bad. The apples lasted a long time in the fridge, but they were more expensive.

Looking back, there are several things I should have done differently.

  • I should have bought a big container of yogurt instead of small individual containers
  • I should have used a big container of oats instead of buying the individual flavored packs.
  • I should have cooked more rice and beans dishes.
  • The bananas and apples were not the best options. Depending on the season, certain fruits are cheaper and last longer.
  • I need to find out when meats and poultry go on sale at my local grocery store. The chicken I bought was the most expensive thing, but I bet I could have found a cheaper protein source if I knew when food went on sale at the store. I am going to start looking into this more.
  • The soymilk cost a LOT. If I were able to tolerate milk, I would have used dried milk instead.
  • Depending on availability and each individual location, farmer’s markets need to be used way more often by those looking to save money. This is especially true for those farmer’s markets that allow for SNAP/EBT benefits.

Well, the SNAP challenge has definitely been an interesting experience that makes you appreciate your food dollar so much more than before. The main things I learned from this experience:

  • Use whatever resources you can to make living healthy on a budget easier to do
    • Take advantage of farmer’s markets
    • If able, look online for low cost recipes
    • Check out government resources such as http://www.choosemyplate.gov/
  • Be a savvy shopper.
    • Look for sales
    • Look for seasonal produce
    • Compare prices of fresh vs. canned vs. frozen
  • Make a plan and stick to it!
    • Plan several meal ideas at the beginning of your week
    • Make some meal and snack food ahead of time
    • Plan on making meals that can be doubled or tripled. Save the extras for lunch or dinner.

Eating healthy takes time and effort. Eating on a budget takes time and effort. When you try to successfully combine the two, you have an even greater challenge to tackle. But, the good news is, it can be done! Most people don’t do things perfectly the first time. Planning meals and finding what items are the cheapest and most nutritious takes lots of time. You might plan a week’s worth of meals and find that what you thought would work doesn’t work. Don’t get discouraged! Keep on working at it and you will eventually become a wiser and savvier food shopper and healthy eater.

Dietetic Intern Jessica’s SNAP Challenge- Day 7

Today is Jessica’s last day of the SNAP Challenge. Bonus, she shares a tasty recipe for jazzed up Southwestern Beans and Rice.

Breakfast:

  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal with ½ cup soymilk
  • $.60

Lunch:

  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Apple
  • $.90

Dinner:

Southwestern Beans and Rice

Southwestern Beans and Rice

  • Southwestern Beans and Rice Recipe (1/2 cup beans, 1 cup rice, diced tomatoes, ¼ cup corn)
  • Kale cooked with 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • $1

Total cost for the day: $2.50

Nutrition profile: Today I was low on veggies and dairy. This seems to be the trend each day.

Southwestern Beans and Rice Recipe

Southwestern Beans and Rice Recipe

Reflections:

Breakfast and lunch are getting old right now. If I would have thought through it more, I would have fixed the Southwestern Beans and Rice dish last night for dinner and had leftovers today for lunch instead of a peanut butter sandwich again. This recipe is a great vegetarian dish that provides protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is also very colorful and fun! Because it’s main ingredients are rice and canned products, this dish is super cheap. I should have made this dish more often and I would have saved more money.

Dietetic Intern Jessica’s SNAP Challenge- Day 6

As Jessica gets closer to the end of her SNAP Challenge, will she run into the same issues many SNAP recipients do- running out of food before the end of the month?

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Soymilk (1/2 cup)
  • $.80

Lunch:

Leftovers for lunch

Leftovers for lunch

  • Leftover chicken, spaghetti squash, and kale
  • Leftover sweet potato
  • Soymilk (1/2 cup)
  • $2.80

Dinner:

  • Eggs and toast
  • Mini pumpkin cake
  • $.80

Total cost for the day: $4.40

Nutrition profile: Today I almost hit the recommendations for veggies and dairy. I was pretty darn close to meeting both. On the other hand, I was very low in fruit.

Reflections:

I didn’t eat any fruit today because I am running low on fruit. I have one apple left and that is all. I should have thought through my sources of fruit before I started and budgeted for some canned fruit. Eggs and toast is such a simple meals. It would have been a more nutritious meal if I would have thrown in some form of vegetable! I was pretty rushed for time last night and did not even get home to cook dinner until 9:30, so eggs and toast were my go-to food for something quick.

Eggs and Toast for dinner

Eggs and Toast for dinner

One thing I eat a lot of is eggs. Eggs are high in cholesterol, and eating two a day will put you above the daily cholesterol recommendations. Because of their high cholesterol content, eggs do get a bad reputation. The Dietary Guidelines suggest that consuming one yolk a day will not raise cholesterol, and furthermore, egg whites do not have to be limited.

Dietetic Intern Jessica’s SNAP Challenge- Day 5

Can you tell Jessica has a sweet tooth? Another post about healthy desserts! (See the first one here) She also shares how she uses the spaghetti squash she prepped ahead today. It turned out pretty tasty for her first time making it.

Breakfast:

  • Yogurt
  • Apple
  • Peanut butter (1 tbsp)
  • $1.10

Lunch:

  • 2 boiled eggs
  • Toast
  • Soymilk (1 cup)
  • $.90

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Chicken Stirfry Dinner

Spaghetti Squash, Kale and Chicken Stir-fry Dinner

Dinner:

  • Chicken and spaghetti squash stir-fry (baked chicken, spaghetti squash, kale)
  • Olive oil
  • Sweet potato with butter (kind of made like a dessert- see note below!)
  • $2.60

Total cost for the day: $4.60

Nutrition profile: Today I was slightly under on fruit, veggies, dairy, and whole grains. I could have added more nutritious foods to my lunch, but I was in a hurry and did not have too much time to think of other stuff off the top of my head.

 Reflections:

I needed to use the spaghetti squash that I had in my fridge. This is my first time cooking with spaghetti squash, and I was kind of stumped on how to use it. I know that a lot of people substitute it for spaghetti noodles or make it as a casserole. Unfortunately, I did not budget for that this week. So, I needed to find a way to cook the squash with what I had. I decided to bake some chicken breast and make a spaghetti squash and kale stir-fry. I used olive oil to cook it all in, and I threw in a tablespoon or two of the reduced sodium chicken broth I had left over from the chili. I think the dish turned out lovely! The flavors blended really well as well as the colors. This is a dish I will definitely be doing again.

Let’s talk a little more about this spaghetti squash. I have a confession to make- I have actually tried to make this veggie before (let’s say like three times) and failed. Failed miserably. In the past, I bought the spaghetti squash and tried to cut through it and couldn’t. Then, I stuck it in the oven for like thirty minutes and after getting it out, realized that it was still tough. So, I was determined to persevere and conquer this veggie. Well, I am proud to say that I figured it out. Let me share my insight with you. First, you need a sharp, sturdy knife to cut through a spaghetti squash. It might take a while but don’t give up! Second, it takes a while to cook. It took mine about 1- 1.5 hours to cook. It’s probably not best to come home and start cooking the squash while you’re starving unless you are okay with waiting that long! Third, once it has been cooked, scoop out the seeds and pulp to get to the strands. Take a fork and scrape out the strands. My squash held SO much inside of it so I had a lot of “spaghetti” to work with.

Mashed Sweet Potato for Dessert

Mashed Sweet Potato for Dessert

Now, let’s talk about sweet potatoes.  I LOVE sweet potatoes. Packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, these orange veggies can be cooked savory or sweet. Tonight, I made it sweet! To get the best flavor (in my opinion), cook the sweet potato in the oven for like an hour. But since I was feeling lazy, I zapped it in the microwave for about 4 minutes. This works pretty well and takes less time. To make the sweet potato more dessert-like, I add a tablespoon of butter, packet of Stevia sweetener, and some cinnamon. Yum!  I also made double portions of the chicken dish so I could have an easy lunch for tomorrow.

Dietetic Intern SNAP Challenge- Introduction

For the next week, we will be sharing the experiences of one of FNP’s Dietetic Intern’s SNAP Challenge. We asked our interns to take the SNAP Challenge in order to better understand what our audience has to deal with living on a limited food budget. So, for one week, our interns limited their food purchases to just $32, the average SNAP benefit for an adult in Virginia and wrote about their experiences.

Introduction

Hi, I am Jessica. Right now I am a dietetic intern at Virginia Tech. I love food and I love health and nutrition.

Dietetic Intern Jessica

Dietetic Intern Jessica

I also love saving money and learning how to cook on a budget. I am about to undertake the SNAP challenge. For the SNAP challenge, I will live off of $32 per week for food. Sound difficult? I am about to find out just how difficult it can be.

But before I go too far, let me explain a little bit about myself.  Each week, I usually purchase food with three things in mind: health, taste, and expense– in that order. Sometimes taste comes first though. A usual week day for me would be something like this:

  • Breakfast- oatmeal, soymilk, and Greek yogurt
  • Lunch- Peanut butter sandwich, fruit, crackers or granola bar
  • Dinner- Chicken or veggie burger sandwich or wrap, sweet potatoes, green veggies, and of course, some form of dessert.

My weaknesses- Starbuck’s and Panera’s coffees, frozen yogurt, and sweets. Yeah, I am a dietitian-to-be and those are some of my favorite foods. I believe in balance and moderation. I believe that ALL foods can be part of a healthy diet.

See, dietitians and dietetic interns eat fast food too sometimes!

See, dietitians and dietetic interns eat fast food too sometimes!

Weekends usually are anything goes. With family and friends and things to do and see, it’s hard not to eat out or grab food and goodies from those around you. That’s my typical weekend- going with the flow and eating whatever seems to work best.

Although I am working towards becoming a dietitian, I have my likes and dislikes of different foods just like everyone else. I LOVE all things yogurt (especially Greek), fruits, whole wheat breads, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, soups, kale, protein and cereal bars, cereal, oatmeal, veggie burgers, and lots and lots of sweets. NOT a big fan of carrots, meats, or green peppers. Also, I am somewhat lactose intolerant. I don’t do milk or cheese, but I can do yogurt and ice cream.

Have you been to ChooseMyPlate.gov yet? If not- what are you waiting for!  You can type in your personal stats to start a profile and it will give personal recommendations.

MyPlate

MyPlate

This graphic is a helpful way to compare your meal to MyPlate and see how well you are doing. MyPlate also provides some other recommendations. Mine are:

  • Grains- 7 ounces per day (3 ½ need to be whole grain)
  • Veggies- 3 cups
  • Fruit- 2 cups
  • Dairy- 3 cups
  • Protein- 6 ounces or less
  • Oils- 6 teaspoons or less

So, let’s get down to the gritty stuff- how in the world do you plan a week’s worth of food on $32 and make it simple, fast, and nutritious? Is it possible? Well, we’re about to find out!

My Prep Work:

  • Look for low cost, healthy recipes that can be fixed in bulk and eaten again for several meals with simple variations each night.
  • Compare veggies and fruit to see which ones are the cheapest AND if it would be more cost-effective to get frozen, fresh, or canned.
  • Compare prices from local stores that carry grocery items.
  • Cook most food on one day of the week to save time the rest of the week.
  • Pre-portion out some meals and snacks to have on-the-go.

One last thing I should discuss before going further- I live in a rural area. Where I am from, we do not have fancy grocery stores, farmer’s markets, organic options, etc. Grocery shopping is limited, and to get the most food for your buck, it’s easiest to get most of your food from the local big box supercenter.