By Jackie Heymann, NFTY-MV Social Action Vice President
For the past 5 days, my family and I embarked on a challenge. A challenge to see if we could live off of the money allotted ($4.50 a day/person) by the SNAP program.
We started off the week by buying all of our groceries we thought we needed at Aldi. My dad came back having spent a little over $31 dollars of our $67.50 we had to spend and he bought some very good food to sustain us for the five days, none of which included chocolate. Going into this week, I decided that I was not going to eat chocolate because I did not want to waste our money on something that I did not need. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that chocolate and fruit are my life. With my lack of chocolate, I spent the first couple days of the challenge eating a lot of our limited supply of fruit. As the supply of apples started to dwindle, I remembered that we only had so many for the entire week so I then had to be careful about how many yummy, green apples I ate. On Tuesday (Day 3) I had a little surprise. I took a much needed nap after school and when I woke up, I found my dad making cookies in the kitchen… chocolate chip cookies. Since we had only spent less than half of our allotted amount, he decided that he would make cookies from Aldi’s which were about $2 and add it to our list. He also bought those little Cutie clementines and added those to our list. Needless to say, I was very happy with my Dad’s cheap Aldi finds!
For breakfast every morning I typically have Carnation breakfast mix with banana and peanut butter added in (it sounds disgusting but I promise it’s not!). I was not sure if our budget would allow for me to have all of the ingredients needed so instead I had oatmeal every morning. A couple days in, I realized that the oatmeal was not filling me up as much as my usual breakfast so I sought to find something else in our budget to add. One morning, I pulled out eggs to make myself a scrambled egg, discovered that we had less than a half a dozen eggs left, got scared we would need them later in the week and ended up not eating one. I did, however, realize that we had enough money for peanut butter which I could put into my oatmeal and also have on a sandwich for lunch as well.
One of my biggest challenges for my family was adding to the list. If there was something we forgot at Aldi but we had in our kitchen already we would have to figure out the price and add it to the list. As accurate as we tried to be, I’m sure that we were skewed a little bit in our calculations.
This morning, I woke up and had the ability to eat anything in my pantry. I had my usual carnation breakfast mix, had some fruit and went on with my day. There was no calculating, thinking about the rest of the week, or pondering how I can fill myself up required. It was a very weird, relieving feeling. I have become accustomed to taking food for granted but there are millions of millions of people who have to live with those questions circulating through their head every time they eat. I believe that the only reason my family was able to complete this challenge without much struggle was because my dad knew to shop at Aldi but there is not an Aldi or a store like it in every city for people to have access to. Only having a $1.5 per meal is a scary number. It does not leave wiggle room say something was to happen and it is a constant stress on those in the SNAP program. If there is anything I have learned this week, it is that I need to be more grateful for what I have. I, along with everyone else who’s in a fortunate situation, should feel the obligation to help out those who are not. There are several things that we can do. We can petition our members of congress to allow more money to go to SNAP recipients. Also, we can remember to donate good, healthy food to food banks all throughout the year. Everyone has the ability to do something.