April 29, 2015

FIAO 5.9 - Feeding The Twins - How Are We Going to Feed A Family of Four on Next To Nothing?

The girls are eating more and more these days! We get at least one meal every day where they actually consume rather than just play with their food. Their new favorites are yogurt, peas and butternut squash. They finally ate avocado and liked it after literally being offered 22 times and refusing! They are still obsessed with cheerios, don't love their greens and I think Viv has an egg sensitivity but every day they eat more and more. Which puts us in a tough spot as our food budget is already stretched to the max! What's a family to do?

Well, time for the truth. I haven't admitted it before but we are one of the 23 million families in America that are recipients of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aka Food Stamps). As a family of four on one (not-so-great) income we are incredibly grateful for this program and I don't feel ashamed that we are on it but I will explain why and make sure you understand that we are doing all that we can to better ourselves and our economic status. I am constantly looking for alternate forms of income, CJ is taking a licensing exam to become an insurance adjustor while working 6 days a week and we have cut all unnecessary expenses out of our budget.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place as the cost of daycare would effectively cancel out any income I were to bring in from a full-time, out of the house job.  We might qualify for the child care subsidy if we ever make it to the top of the mile long list in our county. It doesn't make sense but unfortunately we are technically "poor" no matter what we do, short of someone all of a sudden acquiring a master's degree or winning the lottery. We are doing what we can to get ahead but this week I realized I really need to refocus and be more mindful of how we spend the money we receive and giving my girls the best I can in terms of nutrition.

We receive $275 a month from SNAP and I'll be honest that we would not be able to contribute even this much to groceries on our own without help.  It's a scary place to be in and we are so grateful that the help is there when we need it.

However, I went shopping just last Tuesday, spent all of that, and we are almost out of food already! How can that be possible?! Sure, we have stuff in the freezer but our pantry is running low and the produce is nearly gone. We will be fine but the big issue is that I don't really have much to offer the girls but purees, meat and grains. They will only eat it sometimes but I was loving offering avocado, asparagus, peas and green beans fresh. This is not how I want them to learn how to eat and it's not going to be ok for much longer.

While I have always done a bit of meal planning, I need to be more diligent and make smarter choices. I need to buy produce more than once a month. Yes, I hate food shopping so much that I have limited my time doing it to one three hour long trip every month. In the past when we ran out of fresh food we lived off our freezer or pantry. This is no longer practical with two growing children who need fresh fruits and vegetables every day (not gonna lie, I could live without 'em but make myself eat them when we have them).

Usually right before shopping I'll make a list of dinner ideas for the next few weeks and be sure to pick up the necessary ingredients. Although we cook decent, quick meals that often have leftovers we are all definitely eating pretty crappy by the end of the month. As the girls start to eat more and more of what we eat I am also realizing that what was once enough for two adults will not suffice for much longer.

We can contribute around $60 at this time by cutting out take-out once a week. We usually have pizza or sushi on Thursday nights because CJ works until 8:15 and it's easiest when I'm alone all night but I will start making something easy like a crock-pot meal or pre-freeze something. So we're working with a budget of about $340 for food and household items. The aim here is to stay as budget friendly as possible while still providing healthy, wholesome choices for our entire family.

I'm thinking these are noble first goals:
  1. make a meal plan that includes all three meals and snacks for us as well as finger foods and recipes specifically for the girls
  2. get to the market and wal-mart or target so I can get household goods while getting food too. twice next month, only use half of EBT allowance each time
  3. shop around, price compare and use coupons where it matters (paper products, personal care, etc.)
I guess you could say I'm doing my own Food Stamp Challenge but unlike Gwyneth Paltrow this is my real life. I am going to spend a lot of time on this in the coming weeks so hopefully the girls will be kind to me and let me do it.

Wish us luck! And please no negative comments about SNAP, I will just delete them. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat shit. If you have an issue with me needing help to feed my family while we are making a huge life change (remember, we had spontaneous identical twins 9 months ago) please e-mail me and I'll educate you properly.

I'll update next month around this time and let you know how it's going.