Tag Archives: cooking

Matthew’s SNAP Challenge Introduction

Today’s post is the first in a series written by a dietetic intern working with us over the past month. As part of their internship experiences, I like to have them do a SNAP Challenge to better understand the experiences of people trying to eat smart on a tight budget. ~Austin

My name is Matthew D’Aria. I am a dietetic intern from Meredith College. I did my undergraduate and graduate work at Virginia Tech within the Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise department. My interest in the field of dietetics is to work with overweight/obese children and their caretakers. I want to help them reach a happy and healthy lifestyle together.

Playing with pasta

My love for food stems from my Italian heritage.

I am about to attempt to eat on an average SNAP budget for one week. I will try to only spend $43.10 on groceries, the maximum allotment for a college-aged male. I will also be taking advantage of the doubling program at the farmers market for a total of $20 of extra matching funds.  

I look forward to this challenge because I can only imagine how difficult it can be to plan meals on such a tight budget. This experience will help influence my practice as a registered dietitian, allowing me to have first-hand experience of the challenges of living on SNAP benefits, which will help me connect with potential future clients. One strategy I plan to use is to eat mindfully. Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your body and the sight, smell, taste, and pleasure of food when eating. This will help me feel satisfied and not focus on the fact that I am eating less than I usually do.

I have never been on SNAP benefits before and I have never had to pay much attention to sticking to a budget or plan my meals. I do not expect this to be easy for me because I am not use to having restrictions on the amount of food I can buy and eat. With my busy schedule as a dietetic intern, I plan to prep ahead as much as possible. With that said, tonight I will be making overnight oatmeal so I can have breakfast ready to go in the morning. Unfortunately, it’s getting late now, so I may have to wait until tomorrow to get started on the rest.

Meal Planning Help for the Busy Family

Do you struggle with meal planning? Do you prepare meals for your family or just yourself? Whether you are cooking for one or more, meal planning is a skill that takes practice be learned. Even if you know how to plan and shop in advance, it still requires something precious and costly – your time.

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Day 6 of Julie’s SNAP Challenge

I woke up absolutely starving! Oatmeal, boiled eggs, and milk again. I had a sudden thought this morning in the shower. I recall doing another SNAP meal plan design for a family of 4, and noticed that the menu had WAY more variety and achieved all the recommendations. This makes me realize that it is actually much easier to eat on a SNAP budget, when you are buying for more people. That way, you can combine the money and buy more at once, so you can eat more variety over time. Do you all shop and cook for one person or for a family?

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Day 1 of Julie’s SNAP Challenge

For breakfast I usually have oatmeal, eggs, and fruit. But since I couldn’t afford fruit I ate just oatmeal and eggs. I also like yogurt, but noticed that milk was significantly cheaper, so I decided to substitute milk for yogurt. I know it’s not the same, but it still provides calcium and protein. Continue reading

A Tasty Way to Eat Your Veggies

Written by Jordan Zelenky
Part of National Nutrition Month 2014

How many times have you been told to eat two or three servings of vegetables every day? If you’re anything like me, you probably hear that message all the time. Unfortunately, most people just don’t like the taste of those green, leafy veggies.

sliced fruit and spinach

Image by Jordan Zelenky

What’s so special about greens? Take spinach, for example, which is an excellent source of Vitamins K and A, and is very low in fat (Palmer, 2009). All of those benefits are great, but because spinach has such a bland taste, it is often excluded from my meals. I knew I had to start eating spinach because relying on broccoli and carrots to get enough veggies doesn’t provide enough variety, so I thought about adding spinach to smoothies.

blended fruits and veggies drink

Image by Jordan Zelenky

Smoothies are so versatile, which makes them an easy way to add new foods to your diet if you’re unsure about a new food’s texture. The thought of an overwhelming spinach taste in my smoothie made me nervous at first, but after my first try combining the ingredients the flavors were nothing but strawberries, bananas, and soy milk! The spinach blended into the flavors of the fruits perfectly, and I was left with my normal smoothie, just a little more green in color.

To make my smoothie, use 2 large strawberries, ½ ripe banana, a couple of ice cubes, ½ cup of soy milk, and a ¼ cup of spinach. Next, cut up the strawberries and banana, then combine all of the ingredients into the blender. Pulse the blender for 30 seconds, but you can adjust that time depending on the thickness you prefer. Try to come up with your own combination of flavors and veggies! I’d love to hear new ideas to mix up my routine ingredients.


Palmer, S. (2009). Spinach Flexes Its Mighty Nutrition Muscle. Environmental Nutrition, 32(3), 8-8.