Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Check your cart!

I had to run into Save-A-Lot during my lunch break yesterday. I was making a hash brown casserole and the recipe called for a can of cream of mushroom soup. Joey had used the one emergency can I keep in the pantry when making gravy for our dinner Friday night.

I quickly remembered why I don't shop at Save-A-Lot usually.

First off let me say this - I think public assistance is a wonderful thing if used correctly. My parents used it when we first moved to America and I wish we qualified for WIC so I could have some extra cash for buying the healthy foods that seem to cost twice as much as the junk out there. WIC covers everything from whole wheat bread, eggs, milk and cheese to fresh fruit, beans and peanut butter. What a blessing that would be! Food stamps on the other hand have much fewer restrictions and allow the users to purchase much more junk.

“Junk Food” & Luxury Items
The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households. The Act precludes the following items from being purchased with SNAP benefits:  alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption. Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.
Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items
Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are also food items and are therefore eligible items
Since the current definition of food is a specific part of the Act, any change to this definition would require action by a member of Congress. Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome. Further detailed information about the challenges of restricting the use of SNAP benefits can be found here:

Report --
Implications of Restricting the use of
              Food Stamp Benefits  

Now I'm not one to say that you shouldn't purchase junk at all. We do it too. Our pantry always has chips and things to snack on. Our freezer is seldom missing ice cream and we keep convenience foods on hand like canned soup and microwaveable meals for the times when we don't get to pack a lunch or are just craving something a little bad.

The majority of our purchases though? It's all fresh. My produce drawer is usually overflowing. In fact the hubby just put up a hanging basket so we could have room for the fruit that’s always taking over the dining room table. I also have a ton of frozen veggies ready to pop in the microwave in those steamer bags. Jellybean loves to snack on the steamed mixed veggies. He's also a big fan of frozen cut up grapes. My plan for this week is to make some baked kale chips for all of us to munch on. Its not very often that we resort to Stouffer's Lasagna or ready made baby food.

That's despite the fact that we both work full time and most evenings I am on my own with Jellybean since Joey gets off work late.

That is why I was super disappointed to see the lady in front of me buying white bread, mini ravioli-o's, macaroni and cheese and Koolaid. In her defense - yes she did have a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas in there too. But the majority of her cart - it was just junk, junk, junk. And she paid for it with her SNAP card. Sigh. I couldn't say anything even though I know its possible to shop healthy even in a Save-A-Lot.

So I implore to all of you instead - Check Your Cart!

It's not that hard to make healthy food even on a budget. Homemade mac and cheese doesn't take much longer than the boxed kind. Frozen or refrigerated ravioli is super quick and you can throw some heart smart or veggie packed spaghetti sauce on top. I keep cubes of shredded spinach in the freezer to throw in. I also blend some cauliflower into my mac and cheese when I can. The only time we have koolaid is if it came in the taco kit box. Otherwise - it does not pass through my doors!

If you're stuck in a rut and don't know what to make - google is your friend. I'm also a huge fan of Weelicious. I made the Chicken nuggets on the page a few weeks ago and they were a huge hit in our house with kids and adults alike. But please oh please - don't just resort to opening a can every night because its easier!

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