30-day SNAP Challenge: Here's the truth

By Valencia

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - Finally, 30 days have come and gone. I ended the challenge about $17 dollars short of my $131.81 budget for the month.

Before I start rambling about the pros and cons, let me give a few disclaimers.

First, I only fed myself. Contrary to popular belief, $131 is the average amount of benefits per person in South Carolina, provided they receive no other federal benefits and have no other source of income.

Second, people with children or other sources of income -- such as a job or social security -- will have a much different experience. Their allotment can be greater or less than the average depending on circumstance.{}

Third, I did not take advantage of free food resources. Food banks are a great resource for large families on a food budget. Because I was only feeding myself, I skipped this opportunity.

Fourth, I am a health-conscious person by nature. Generally speaking, I ate healthy before I began this challenge. (Although, I did not necessarily shop on a budget.)

And finally, I don't eat beef or pork and am not a big fan of chicken, so that excluded a lot of options.

With that being said, here's the truth:{}

Eating healthy on a food stamp budget can be done. In fact, if done right, a person can eat well and have lots of food. But, here's the clincher: it takes a lot of time and discipline.

For example, on Sundays I did the bulk of my cooking and packaging for the week.

On average, it took me about four hours to write a meal plan, cook meals and pack snacks. By the second week, that process only provided enough food for about four days because I got tired of planning and gave up. So, the other days I handled meals day-to-day.

Also, leftovers are your best friend. I never liked leftovers, but they saved me on the days I didn't have time to cook something new.

However, food stamps are not a plan to get start eating better; it's a way for people to supplement their food budget. Most people think they will automatically lose weight on this challenge, but that depends on your daily food intake. I ate more carbs in this 30-day span than I did in the six months prior because they were cheaper and easier to prepare.

That is compounded by the fact that fresh green vegetables and fruit are very difficult to incorporate unless you divide your money into weekly budgets. Fresh fruit goes bad too quickly, but frozen veggies and beans are much easier to hold on to for a longer period of time.

I can imagine, for families with lots of kids, little time{}and a much wider range of needs, convenience will take precedence.

What's most important to remember is: food stamps are supplemental. In the end, healthy living is an{}personal choice that will have its greatest impact when a person chooses it for themselves. {}

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