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Rice and beans

DCblogger's picture

Cannonfire has an excellent post on eating on food stamps. I agree with him, it was nice that Gwennyth Paltrow at least tried to imagine what it would be like to live on food stamps. It is nice to see rich people with an agenda that goes beyond more tax breaks for me, so kudos to Paltrow for at least trying. However, I disagree with his solution.

Having spent time on Dr. Michael Greger's Nutritionfacts site, I have become a vegetarian, well, his site plus those pictures of chickens in cages and pigs in crates. I do not think that meat raised in factory farms is safe to eat.

Unlike Cannonfire, there is no Latino grocery store within 10 miles of where I live, nor are there any Latino grocery stores near any subway stop. There are no farmer's markets close to me nor road side stands, the other sources of good cheap food.

Let me say up front that my solution will not work unless you have access to a decent food bank, and, in a pinch, a decent soup kitchen. For breakfast I have oatmeal. During the Clinton administration I made oatmeal with milk and put raspberries on top. Now I make it with water and put nothing on top. Oatmeal it cheap, filling, and incredibly good for you.

Most of my meals consist of brown rice and beans. I also have sandwiches for lunch, this is a luxury because I buy whole grain bread at $4 a loaf. This is not sustainable unless you have access to a good food bank which provides 3 or 4 days worth of food. Obviously plan your shopping around you food bank food. If you get rice and beans you have money for whole grain bread, fresh spinach, nuts and other luxuries. If you get peanut butter you can buy blueberry preserves and so on.

If you are poor you probably are not using spices in your food. But I strongly advocate using cloves, ginger, rosemary, and tumeric. This is admittedly expensive. For example tumeric and black pepper (black pepper greately enhances the health benefits of tumeric) will cost you two days allotment of food stamps. Unless you can replace that somehow, it just is not possible to buy spices. But the benefits of turmeric are so varied and so great, that it is really worth it if at all possible. One bottle will last for months, so it is not as if you have to buy it every month. I also recommend garlic. Garlic will cost your one meal's allotment, so you have to be able to replace that meal. However, the benefits are so great it is worth going to the soup kitchen for one meal so that you can afford garlic.

Recently I have started to use ginger in my cooking. I find that it has removed my food cravings for sweets and salty snacks. As I did not expect this, I don't think it is a placebo effect. However, I know of no actual research to support this.

Finally I recommend flax seeds. I found they really helped with my susceptibility to fatique. One bag of ground flax seeds will cost you 5 meals allotment, and it will only last one month, so you will have to be able to replace those meals. I spinkle ground flax seeds on applesauce and oatmeal. I also use it to thicken sauces.

It is possible to eat nutritious meals on food stamps, but it is extremely difficult.

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chezmadame's picture
Submitted by chezmadame on

Thanks so much for this. I am lucky enough to be able to afford a variety of nutritious food that I enjoy eating. However, I never thought to donate spices to food banks, and I will begin to do so, along with the nonperishable staples that I usually bring.

As an AmeriCorps volunteer, my daughter worked with the Chicken Soup Brigade in Seattle. I had never heard the term "food justice" until she used it and explained the concept to me. Part of her contract included a promise to live in solidarity with the poor by restricting herself to the $100 a month food allowance that was the stipend for her service. She was also provided housing and public transportation and was lucky enough to be allowed (on work days) to eat lunch at the warehouse where she sorted and stocked food donations while others prepared hot meals for the homebound poor who were suffering from HIV and AIDS.

She learned a lot that year and then taught me. But those of us who are privileged enough to eat without worry still have much to learn.

BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

At this level of spending, there is no one size fits all solutions, but sometimes with care there are tailormade solutions that are workable.

One that deserves mention is supplementing store bought food with food you've grown, if you have access to a garden plot in some way (land you rent or own, community garden, etc.). Even if the food you grow is seasonal and you are not in a position to store off-season, savings during the producing periods can be put into non-perishable purchases that can stretch your budget later.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

You need access to land and garden tools, nothing fancy, but some basic tools. Even without access to land there are kits you can buy for not much money which allow you to grow food on your balcony, assuming you have one. Better food at a much lower cost assuming you can afford the up front cost.