A Millennial Food Stamp Adventure

part 1

Watch, then read.

Sometimes we find ourselves in bad times. It’s fine.

Sometimes we never get out of the bad times. It’s fine.

Just be aware that there are always options.

Keep yourself open, and you can find them.

Yes, I’m officially identifying as a millennial–because we are such a heavily defined generation that we understand each other’s trials and experiences with little effort. This adventure, as stated above, will include multiple posts and I intend for it to be helpful as a reference for any of you that may find yourself in the following situation and don’t know how to proceed or what to expect.

I and my non-binary partner Mist live in Kansas City, Missouri (United States). Mist is looking to get on disability, as their chronic illness (hypermobility syndrome/EDS/POTS) prevents them from gainful employment. They quit their previous job in February (was going to be terminated), right as I quit my own job for what is a technically much better, but currently part-time, position.

We don’t have savings. Mist bought our house at the start of 2018. We have a housemate, so that helps. We are used to living paycheck to paycheck due to debt, so the thought of the disability process (takes up to six months for approval, Mist can not work during this time, they enlisted attorney help) is daunting and depressing.

The first step after Mist consulted with the attorney was to apply for food stamps and compile financial information for the household, including my own. Thankfully, we were quickly found eligible for food stamps and unless I start making about $400 more per month, our eligibility continues. Once we received our approval letter (just over two weeks after applying), the card and PIN needed to use it were mailed separately and expedited, with only about three days in between.

Food stamps (SNAP) has a negative connotation. I want to make it absolutely clear that there is NOTHING wrong with needing it. I don’t WANT to need it, but this is something millions of Americans must ask for to survive–we all need help at some point, and asking is the toughest part (if you’d like to get into a discussion about the politics of it, then comment on this post and we’ll get into it). The SNAP program not only allows a household to spend more of their money towards bills to worry less about food, but in many cases will allow MORE money to go towards food than the household would’ve spent. In our household, we typically don’t even spend $40 a week on groceries, but will now have around twice that with food stamps.

To start this adventure, I knew I wanted to change the perception of food stamps as well as make healthy choices (I work for a local gym and an upcoming plant-based food service). Though there are a ton of restrictions (that’s for another post) on what can be bought with food stamps, most stores do take the EBT card that has the money loaded onto it. The shopping process simply takes more careful planning than it normally would. I am an experienced shopper, so I weighed our store options between distance, overall prices, and nutrition. We live consistently 20 minutes from each of our best options, but my list came down to this:

  1. Whole Foods–Most healthy and A+ vegan options, with freshest produce and meat
  2. Hyvee–Closest large store with 2nd healthiest options, huge “soft drink” selection
  3. Cosentino’s Market–Adequate location, quality fresh meat selections
  4. Aldi–Closest of all, decent prices, some healthy options, horrible shopping experience
  5. Walmart–Cheapest overall option, made for the food stamp experience, but farther
  6. Target–Good produce but lesser quality meats, pricier and farther away
  7. Price Chopper–Close, decent produce, poor quality meats, poor shopping experience

I’ve been called a foodie far more than I’d like, but I am highly food-curious and love to cook–so Whole Foods intrigued me with a large plant-based selection, plentiful locally produced items, and the highest quality produce in the area. A few items that I picked up were experimental (like the Foodstirs Chewy Oat Bar Mix, Beyond Burger Crumbles, and dragonfruit), while others were staples for meal planning (fruit for morning yogurt cups, sandwich supplies, pancake mix). I aimed for fresh/raw options, stayed away from canned items, barely getting a couple frozen items (impossible to resist mochi ice cream). As the video above states, I walked out with $200 worth of food, having paid a little less due to a discount and the EBT card being tax-free. More than 60% of our balance remains on the card for the month of April.

  • Most expensive item: 6 pack mochi ice cream $10.00
  • Least expensive item: Liberte Yogurt $1.79
  • Best local item: Farm to Market Wheat bread
  • Highest quantity item: 12 pk ginger ale
  • Most bought brand: 365 Everyday Value
  • MVP: Ambrosia raw honey (will use every chance I get)
  • Biggest regret: getting two packs of Jica sticks (one was plenty)

Next week looks to be when most of the supplies will need replenished, so the next post in this series will go over some specific meals made with the products from this trip, with an analysis of what has worked for us and what we can change in our future shopping trips. This is only the beginning, so please make sure to *follow* the blog, share to your friends, and let us know what you think! Expect the next blog by 4/12!

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