I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

SNAP Challenge: Can it be done with a real food lifestyle?

I’ve often heard that most Americans are one paycheck away from debt and destitution and, while I subconsciously know that I would be one of “those Americans” if I suddenly lost my job, I’ve never really given the situation much thought until recently.  I’ve been fortunate to have provided a moderate lifestyle for myself. I have a nice house and car, my bills are paid, and I am squirreling away a (very) little (not enough) money for retirement. I’m also very lucky that if I did need short-term financial support, my parents would help in any way they could but I know not everyone has someone to fall back on.
My neighbors lost their house of 12+ years to foreclosure earlier this year. A friend was released from her job in January, is still unable to find a job and has moved to another state to live with relatives. In April, I made the conscious decision to leave a well-paying job for one that had many desirable qualities, but a fat paycheck was not one of them. My bills are still being paid but my discretionary income has been drastically reduced. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not starving to death or walking around in tattered clothes, but I have to watch every. single. penny. coming out of my pocket now.

I decided to take Feeding America’s SNAP Challenge for two reasons: one because debt and destitution are happening very close to home lately and I, myself, would like to be more aware and make others aware of food insecurities that people face on a daily basis. The second reason I decided on the challenge is purely selfish – I want to get myself into the habit of budgeting and planning because I no longer have the luxury of ordering take-out or shopping on a whim for whatever I’m in the mood for. I also want to test whether the challenge, which allocates a budget of $31.50 per week, can be done with a real food lifestyle, which is what I strive to achieve.

Going into the challenge I feel confident. I’m a good planner and preparer – I just need to dust those unused-in-awhile habits off and bring them to the forefront. I also know that my challenge will not be perfect for several reasons – it requires that you do not use food that you had on hand prior to taking the challenge and requires that you do not accept “free” food from friends or family. If I lost my job today, I would have pantry staples on hand so I plan to use them and count the cost against my weekly allowance. Items that I purchase each week will likely spill over into other weeks, so it evens out in a sense. Also, there is at least one day a week that I am not solely in charge of what I eat because of time I spend with the Boy Toy and children. Again, if I lost my job today, it would not change the fact that I get “free” food from him on occasion.

Can I effectively maintain a real food lifestyle on a food budget of $4.50 per day ($1.50/meal x 3 meals/day x 7days/week)?  Can I maintain my confidence level for the entire challenge?

Can you?

Read up on the rules and take the @FeedingAmerica #SNAPChallenge with me!

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