Clean Eating on a Food Stamp Budget: the Conclusion
I’ve just completed a week of eating Paleo on a food stamp budget of $38 for the week and man, was it tough! Not impossible, I did it (to some degree) but it was not enjoyable. And let’s be realistic, I lost 5 lbs this week. Right there, that says something. Eating this way long term might not be possible, I really don’t know. But here’s how my week went.
Day one (Monday): On Monday’s and Tuesday’s, I work late so I’ve got the mornings off till noon. My routine includes waking up and hitting the gym first thing. I then come home, shower, and dress for work. My first meal isn’t usually until 11:00am or so. Sometimes, I’ll bring food to work and won’t eat till 12:30 or so. I posted on Instagram what my first meal of the day was; hot dogs, potatoes and eggs, which is a family concoction and a favorite 🙂 I also made coffee. I had made Tikka Masala the night before (with 1/2 pound of chicken tenders, tomato paste, onions, garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt) and ate that for dinner along with some green beans. Day one, complete.
Day two: This day looked very similar to Monday. I had another Applegate hot dog along with a potato that I sliced and pan fried into potato chips of sorts. I had the rest of the Tikka masala for dinner as well. I was starving by the time I got home about 9:00pm and had some sliced cucumbers and 1/2 a green apple with almond butter as a snack. I would come to regret eating that apple because it limited my breakfast options! Seriously, that’s how intensely I had to keep ahold of my menu.
Day three: Wednesdays, I switch back to a normal 9-5 kind of work schedule for the rest of the week. Thus, I need to add breakfast into my menu. All three days, I ate the exact same thing for breakfast. A cup of Green Valley plain lactose free yogurt, 1/2 a green apple diced into it, and a tablespoon of almond butter drizzled on top. That, along with a cup of coffee compromised breakfast. And I did ok. I was definitely hungry by lunch, though! Lunch was spaghetti squash and meatballs. Dinner was another Applegate hot dog and 1/2 a sweet potato.
Day four: Yogurt, again. Coffee is my lifeline, I cannot survive without it. I sometimes add some butter to it to give me some added calories and fat, which I did on this day. This is very keto but I’m needing the extra calories at this point to get me through the mornings. Lunch is leftover spaghetti squash and meatballs. For dinner, I grilled a filleted chicken breast and add another sweet potato along with some creamed cauliflower that I made with the Califia Farms almond milk I had on hand for my coffee. It had a weird taste to it. I’ve never made a cream sauce with almond milk before. I don’t recommend it. This is the first night I’m actually full and satisfied. I hit the gym again and wasn’t ravenous by 9:00.
Day five: Almost there! I’ve made it through the work week! Breakfast again is yogurt but I’ve run out of green apple so I just stir in a couple tablespoons of almond butter and call it a day. For lunch, I finish off my hot dogs, along with the leftover creamed cauliflower I made yesterday. Dinner time, I use the last 1/2 pound of chicken breasts I have which I fillet and bread with almond flour to make a sort of chicken fingers. Yum.
Day six: Saturday, my family had our annual cookie making party at my aunt’s house. I just made coffee for breakfast and she provided lunch, butternut squash soup and sandwiches. Between that and snacking on all our Christmas cookies, I’m full for the rest of that day and don’t eat dinner. I also take a break from the gym so I don’t need those extra calories!
Day seven: I made it! Sunday, I just wasn’t very hungry all day. Maybe it was all the cookies I ate the day before. 😉 All I had was coffee, a sweet potato with butter, and then popcorn for dinner. Oh man, I just realized all I ate were carbs. No wonder I gained 1/2 a pound last night! Even after working out last night and this morning! LOL
There were a couple of things that I bought but didn’t eat including a pound of carrots and a head of iceberg lettuce. I also only ate one of the two cucumbers. I could have made a batch of keto muffins and some tzatziki sauce for snacks. I wish I had.
Conclusions: Was this week enjoyable? No, definitely not. It was stressful and really didn’t provide me with enough calories if I weren’t trying to lose weight anyway. There was also NO room in the budget for any leeway. I know food stamps is supposed to be supplemental, not your entire food budget. With that in mind, clean eating is doable. I think if I had had another $15 to spend, I would have been much more comfortable this week. Is eating completely Paleo achievable on a food stamps budget? No, I don’t think so. I don’t eat organic for the most part. I don’t eat all grass fed beef or cage free eggs. I do eat some grains, mainly rice and popcorn. It’s just not important to me (or possible and keep my sanity!). I stay, as much as possible, away from processed foods and preservatives. I limit dairy because I tend to get stomach issues and break out if I eat too much. I’m completely gluten free. This is how I ate this week and I made it on my limited budget.
But it’s not just about “is it possible?”. Because there are other factors to consider. And I’d love input on this. Many people on food stamps are single moms with kids who work full time. Making home cooked meals every day, every meal, is not realistic. They work 40+ hours a week and then come home to another full time job of raising children. There’s meetings, and soccer, and parent-teacher conferences. The energy to come home and cook every, single, day is just not realistic. I get that. I’m single with no kids yet. And by Thursday, I was tired of having to prepare all my meals! I really just wanted Chipotle.
So, overall, this week has been enlightening. I’ve come to appreciate the challenges of living on food stamps. I know it’s not easy or fun. And we, as an American society, don’t make it easy. Not when McDonald’s is cheap and fast and on every corner. Clean foods aren’t cheap or easy to prepare. There’s a disconnect there that needs to be addressed. And I intend to keep raising awareness on this issue!