Budget & Finance

Food Insecurity: What it Looks Like for My Family

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on Tumblr

myplate_blue_large

When I see commercials (it’s rare, but it happens) about food insecurity I’m always a little confused.

Even though our snap benefits were $495 for a family of five for a month I have felt very little stress using my spreadsheet and price lists. I buy the frozen stuff all at once and anything fresh throughout the month with the rest of the SNAP benefits. I don’t feel food insecure. I spend a lot more time feeling awful for kids who don’t get breakfast. I have fantasies where I invite them over and give them scrambled eggs and toast like my kids had for breakfast this morning.

All this to try and kind of be clear that we have been doing okay on $495 a month. On the rare occasions I make enough for there to be leftovers, you better believe we eat those leftovers. Food does not go to waste in this house. 

So when we received a letter in the mail from the State of Illinois Department of Human Services my heart dropped a little and I opened the letter while holding my breath. (That’s just normal. Most government benefit agencies are more “no news is good news” kind of places.)

The letter was announcing the Notice of SNAP Availability Date Change

The Illinois House Task Force on Hunger and the Efficient Distribution of SNAP Benefits charged IDHS to spread SNAP issuances more evenly throughout the month rather than limiting availability of benefits to the first ten days of the month. To accommodate the task force decision, IDHS agreed to move availability dates for active 94/96 cases in Group 22 from the 4th, 7th, and 10th to the 13th, 17th, and 20th.

TL;DR They’re moving the dates they refill the Link/EBT card. Okay, I can handle that. 

It’s a staggered thing. They push the date by three days for the next two months and then four days the last month so in May we will receive our SNAP on the 17th instead of the 7th as we do now.

Plus, our (because government) benefit reduction went through. New benefit amount = $439.

I would like to introduce you to how those facts translate into what food insecurity feels like. I mean beyond the cold panic that blooms at the base of your neck and moves up slowly to cling to the sides of your skull while your brain furiously tries to figure out what has just happened and how you are going to cope with the changes. It’s when you find out you aren’t going to be able to go shopping on the 7th like you had planned. It’s about knowing that you have to make $439 last for not just a month, but from March 10th through April 13th. That’s 34 days on the new, reduced benefit amount. 

Let’s break it down to a per serving price tag y’all:

Kids Adults Times Occurring in Benefit Month Number of Servings in Benefit Month
Weekday Breakfast 3 0 25 75
Weekday Lunch 1 2 25 75
Weekday Dinner 2 3 25 125
Weekend Breakfast 3 0 9 27
Weekend Lunch 3 2 9 45
Weekend Dinner 3 2 9 45
Total Number Of Servings 392
Benefit Amount $439.00
Price per Serving $1.12

One of the ways we make the money stretch is Mr. Brickie and I never eat breakfast. We put half&half in our coffee and consider it dairy and protein and balanced. That is why there is a zero by adults next to weekend/weekday breakfast. Trust me, we spend a fraction of money on half & half that we would on food. I will admit that sometimes we wake up sick hungry in the morning and when that happens we have toast and peanut butter. It’s pretty rare, though, so I don’t want to factor that in.

In addition to meals we generally buy coffee (instant), half & half, and snacks for the girls at school. We usually send them with homemade popcorn (we don’t have a microwave so we make it in advance on the stovetop). We could cut the half & half out if we had to, but if we get rid of coffee, we will end up having to eat.

I might not have a good idea of how we are going to make the meal plan, but I do know that the number one priority as of this moment is vegetables. Luckily the kids were amenable to the idea of having the veggies first (like a first course) and then having the meal. When I serve it this way the veg gets scarfed down because the kids are hungriest. That means they’ll get more good stuff in them before they get the pasta/rice bulked follow-up. 

Also, my feeling of food insecurity is just that…a feeling. With $439 in SNAP benefits we are in NO danger of going hungry. The very worst thing that happens is we have to not buy coffee and Mr. Brickie and I will skip a few meals before he goest back to work. But, honestly, this is America, land of cheap and plentiful food and if we buy everything on sale or right past the sell-by date we are going to be fine.

I am much better off than many because I know how to cook and I have a drawer full of spices to make things taste better. I have a crock pot to make tough meat tender and I know how to braise and marinade meats to make them flavorful. I have Internet access for recipes and people who care about me. I am much better off than people who do not qualify for SNAP and wish they had the benefits my family gets to buy food with. Again, this is just the story of my family and I do not want ANYONE to think I’m trying to show off how bad I’m doing. I’m not. We’re fine.

The purpose of my blog is to feel like I’m not experiencing this journey alone. My wish is that my posts make other people feel less alone. That is what this whole thing is about. I’m just giving and receiving virtual hugs of understanding and maybe even hope once in a while.

So, feed the children first. Give them vegetables. Everything else is secondary. Or, technically, thirdly since there are two things there and not just one, but you know what I mean. Priorities are in place and my faith in the things I have faith in is doing okay.

Lucky for me there are a lot of blogs out there with super-cheap meal recipes. I’ll let you know if I find some good ones!

16 thoughts on “Food Insecurity: What it Looks Like for My Family

  1. My fake cassoulet, that I posted on facebook today is both cheap and delicious. You could also easily use 1/2 as much meat (1/2 a pack of kielbasa) and not even notice it.

  2. This makes me ashamed at what we spend per week on groceries. And I feel as though we don’t go overboard a lot, but we do waste more than we should.

    I know you say you are fine, but I don’t want you to count coffee as a meal. I don’t want you to have to worry about making sure of things.

    It sucks.

    BUT, I’m also proud you manage this so well and can inspire others to do the same. And can show them how to eat well and make it work.

    And you’ve humbled me into working harder on my planning my own family’s meals – and leftovers. Thank you.

    1. The fact that you’re posting this while you’re in a hospital waiting to be discharged (or hopefully by now out of the slammer!) makes me a little sad.

      We all have hurdles. We all have problems. DO NOT feel ashamed. You can’t be perfect, none of us can.

      I don’t want to humble you, I want you to feel healthy and strong and if you waste some food along the way well damn, girl, it’s okay.

      My message is for all of us to do the best we can but also to be KIND to ourselves. That is free for everyone.

      I love you Erin. Always have and always will. Thank you.

  3. I was very interested to come across your blog. My family dynamic and benefits are almost identical to yours. It is always interesting to read someone’s experience that are in a similar situation. However, I am pressed to understand why you and your husband have to skip meals. Do your children attend public school and receive free breakfasts and lunches? I think prices may vary alot in different parts of the country. I can buy 25 pounds of flour and 20 pounds of rice for less than $8 each (and those items would last more than a month so I can buy one of those one month and the other the next). I can then make many varied items and meals. Oatmeal and large amounts of dried beans are other great inexpensive items! I shop for deals and stock up as much as I can. We don’t always have everything we WANT but we always have plenty to eat. Thank you for being so open and honest about your struggle!

    1. We always have lots of oats and beans and flour and rice, too! We skip meals for the same reason I yelled at my husband for buying stuff for tacos. It’s because even though we have oats (and, like I said in that post, we do have oatmeal sometimes) the fear of not being entirely sure of what next week/month will bring means we want it to last as long as possible. Also, the less often we buy those staples the more benefits/money we have to buy veggies. I am kind of fanatical about the kids getting veggies and some fruit so they can do their best through the school day. It’s also something we’ve done long enough that it’s as much habit as necessity. Every little bit we don’t have to spend helps overall. Our kids do get free lunch but the district we are in does not have free breakfast available. I see how that’s kind of a sticking point and it is weird, I totally admit it. I wasn’t trying to share it in a “we can’t eat” sense but more of a “these are the choices we make” sense. (The short version: Because we are a little paranoid. LOL) Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment, I truly appreciate it!

    2. We always have lots of oats and beans and flour and rice, too! We skip meals for the same reason I yelled at my husband for buying stuff for tacos. It’s because even though we have oats (and, like I said in that post, we do have oatmeal sometimes) the fear of not being entirely sure of what next week/month will bring means we want it to last as long as possible. Also, the less often we buy those staples the more benefits/money we have to buy veggies. I am kind of fanatical about the kids getting veggies and some fruit so they can do their best through the school day. It’s also something we’ve done long enough that it’s as much habit as necessity. Every little bit we don’t have to spend helps overall. Our kids do get free lunch but the district we are in does not have free breakfast available. I see how that’s kind of a sticking point and it is weird, I totally admit it. I wasn’t trying to share it in a “we can’t eat” sense but more of a “these are the choices we make” sense. (The short version: Because we are a little paranoid. LOL) Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment, I truly appreciate it!

  4. I have a similar paranoia. I grew up poor, but never missed a meal or had to go hungry – EVER, so I don’t know where this panic is rooted from, but I totally relate to this post in so many ways. Thank you for sharing – it’s always nice to find someone that can relate.

  5. […] Food Insecurity: What it Looks Like for My Family -I feel a lot like Beyond Mom does….that my family is doing really well compared to many, especially those who are struggling with food insecurity and don’t get SNAP. Or those who get a piddly amount for SNAP because their on paper income includes something they aren’t actually getting or some flaw in the process. #SNAPworks […]

Comments are closed.