The Challenge Hits Our Office
One of Bread's Regional Organizers, Elise Young, has convinced her fiancé, Mark, to take the Food Stamp Challenge with her and live on a $3 a day, the average food stamp benefit, for four days.
I had been preparing for the Food Stamp Challenge for over a week, gathering coupons, researching good food deals and laying out my grocery store action plan, like the obsessed Organizer that I am. I found a great deal at Safeway where if you buy 10 or more of certain qualifying products, you get back a $10 credit coupon for your next grocery trip. Perfect! This would be my little food safety net for the week.
However, I made a crucial error. Mark and I spent the weekend camping, and didn’t go grocery shopping for the week until 9:30pm on Memorial Day night. Most of the 10-for-10 products were gone by then, so I spent an hour and a half pouring through the store to find my 10 products.
At 5 minutes before closing, I was finally ready to check out. I explained to the incredibly sweet check-out woman that I had 11 of the 10-for-10 products and was hoping to get a $10 coupon back (which I was planning to use the next day to buy pudding, cheese, extra bread and maybe some diet soda!) However, we finished check out and NO coupon came out of the machine. The woman took one look at my painfully disappointed face and went to double check with her supervisor. Long and short, I had to wait for another 10 min. to find out that in small black print on the 10-for-10 coupon that I had printed out, it actually read, “Must purchase at least $30 worth of products to be eligible for the $10 coupon.”
“OH, NO!,” I cried out. The sweet check-out woman smiled at me, though, and handed me a coupon all the same. “I thought that you might really need this, so I found an extra one,” she said as she winked at me. Relief! My hour and a half obsessed grocery journey had meaning again. I thanked the kind woman and then lugged my groceries home to my house. After having put away my meager supply of food, I pulled the coveted $10 coupon out of my pocket and studied it a little closer. I noticed that in very small ink at the bottom of the couple, it read, “Must be used by 5/29/07 with a $50 or more purchase.” Good grief. I couldn’t even use the coupon after all, since I would have to spend $50 more the very next day to receive the credit. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself, at all of my research and time spent in the store. I realized how Food Stamp Families would probably not have had the same luxury of time and research capabilities that I had had. I also realized how losing the ability to use that $10 coupon was an annoyance for me, but would have been devastating for a hungry family who had been counting on it for extra food.
I think Elise and I have also been realizing the difficult choices that need to be made when living on a strict budget. When a friend calls and asks if you want to grab lunch or dinner you have to turn it down because spending this amount of money would ruin your whole budget for the week.
It has also helped us to focus on all the little items we get for free with our professional jobs. This includes perks like free coffee, free soda, and chips from coworkers. If everyone around us were on this budget, they would not have these little things available for consumption. Since, we are on this budget, we must restrict ourselves from partaking of these things.
You must also focus on planning your day around eating so that you don't run into hunger pains at the wrong time. You can't just grab a snack from the store.
This process has really made me appreciate how lucky I am and recognize some of the areas in which I over-consume.
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