Monday, April 30, 2007

links of interest, today's food

Look at this article I found! I would call it awesome, but it's not really - more just extremely locally and topically relevant:

Also, yet another person doing the food stamp experiment - nice to see that so many others have given this a whirl:

Today's food:
Breakfast: whole wheat bagel, cream cheese = estimated 75 cents, orange juice = estimated 35 cents, Earl Grey tea with soy milk and sugar = estimated 40 cents
Late lunch/early dinner: small veggie pho at Pho Than Brothers (damn, will I miss eating there for a while) = $4.20
Late dinner: homemade burrito with cheese, beans, sprouts, sour cream, salsa = estimated $1, small glass of Naked juice Green Machine = free to me (probably 25 cents value)
Total spent: $4.20
Total cost: $6.70
Total value: $6.95

OMG - only one hour left!

and i'm totally unprepared.


i don't even know where i can buy groceries. does anyone know if TJs is allowed? i'm pretty sure my tops grocery had a sign...

but no more quick jaunts to my neighborhood bodega. nix.

today was a 5 dollar sandwhich and

free: sweet sweet coffee from the office. and tea. and dinner with matt.

so a 5 dollar day. kinda.

i'll be more official. starting TOMORROW!
Monday (last day of normal food buying habits).


Cheerios and milk and a banana. About 50 cents.

Snack at eleven: Half of a chocolate muffin, lots of water, all left overs from last Fridays meeting at work. Free. (Also pretty gross).

Lunch- Half of a ham sandwich, grape juice from the corner store. 4.95. A mocha from cupcake royale. 4 dollars. (Four dollars?!?)

Snack at work to deal with being stressed out- sunflower seeds. Mike bought them last week for our trip to portland. No idea what he paid for them. I'll say I ate probably 15 cents worth.

So far, having not eaten dinner, it's been about ten dollars.


So, also, I was thinking- if we were really on food stamps, we'd get one lump sum of money at the beginning of the month, and would have to budget from there. I'm thinking about doing a large grocery shopping thing on my way home from work. 37 dollars times 4 weeks worth of groceries. But- so risky. What do you think?
starting to get nervous about all this. I tend to use food/drinks as a reward for myself. now that I realize that for at least a week there can be no spur-of-the-moment convenient purchases of treats (none of my current frequent haunts/work locations are within a quarter-mile, or maybe even a half-mile, of a grocery store, never mind the fact that hot coffee is not a food-stamp item), I am starting to care.

I will have to tote around plenty of tea bags and Emer-gen-C so I don't become obsessed with the idea of buying a cup of coffee, because even though I can easily go a week without coffee, it will be forbidden fruit, and then I won't be able to stop thinking about having some.

Even thinking about this experiment is revealing a hell of a lot of weird behaviors and thought patterns I have about food, health, taking care of myself, and being satisfied. I'm sure there's lots more to come.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Friday, finished:

Met with Mary and Natalie to catch up at a Mexican Food Restaraunt. Mary paid for me, but if i had paid, it would have been 6.50. I had an enchilada from the a la carte menu. And lots of water.

After that, Mary and Natalie and I went to Dilletentes- I had a steamed milk with almond in it, and we split a slice of cake three ways. The cake was 8.00, the milk was two dollars. Mary and Natalie both had mochas that were about four dollars a piece. Mary and I treated Natalie to this and split the total bill two ways.

Total expenditure for Friday was, in terms of amount eaten, fifteen dollars, amount expended, 12 dollars and fifty cents.

Saturday I spent the night at Sophias, and babysat for fourteen hours. All the food I ate that day was food I ate sort of on the job that was paid for me by Irene, Sophia's mom, and food that I would have access to were I on food stamps.

Breakfast- we made pancakes from scratch. No idea. I had coffee from across the street, which cost 2 dollars, but Irene had left money specifically for me to get coffee.

Lunch- We ate at the pad se ew place (?) where Irene takes Sophia on Saturdays. Irene gave me the exact amount of money to buy the exact thing that she buys Sophia every Saturday. It came to 15.75 with tip, and there was enough food for the two of us to split easily, and to take home for Irene.

Dinner was Pizza- again, Irene left the exact amount for us to get a large cheese Pizza from Zeeks. 17 dollars.

Total food spent for my food consumption: 17 dollars. Total food I spent on myself: 0 dollars.

(I had forgotten how low my food costs were as a nanny!)

Sunday (Today)

Skipped breakfast totally, had some finger snacks at church (swedish meatballs, crackers with goat cheese (that I assure you was a total accident/mistake), sliced apples, coffee. Free to me and I have no idea how I can figure out how much that food actually cost. Maybe let's say three dollars worth of food I ate?

Mike and I went for one last fling of eating out for a late late lunch/early early dinner at Cedars. We split Nan, Chicken Tandori, Coconut Curry. I had a chai tea. It came to 26 dollars, we split it between us.

Total food spent on myself today: 13 dollars.

I've really really really used eating out as a mood of social interacting a lot recently. That will be a big challenge for me to deal with, the sudden change in that. Also, I'm really beginning to appreciate that one of the ways that I am personally quite priveleged is that people are generous to me, and that I have a lot of social relatonships in which food is purchased for me. (I noticed, also, that i purchase a lot of food for other people- I haven't been tracking money that I spend on food for other people as a food bill that would be covered for food stamps. Should I?)

Overall, I'm averaging spending about 13 dollars on myself per day. With a food stamp budget, it will be about half than that. Also, I do frequent coffee shops so much- my gosh, I am personal friends with the coffee shop owners in my immediate vicinity! So that will also be a challenge, too.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

anticipated challenges

1. For the first week-ish of this experiment, I'll be staying at Slant (I have a temp job in town and this is so much easier than commuting from Lake Stevens/east Everett every day, plus I get to hang out with rad people). So I should be able to do pretty well for the first week.

2. I have just discovered that my favorite lunchtime at-work frozen meal (TJ's spinach lasagna, $1.89) is not big enough for lunch on its own, AND that it tends to give me heartburn. Bummer.

3. Not consuming dumpstered juice, bread, or produce will be pretty difficult for me. I understand the value of not taking this way out for the experiment - nevertheless, I love avoiding waste and dumpstering is one of the ways I do that.

In short, my biggest challenge is not the amount of money I have to spend - I have successfully eaten off a food-stamp sized allotment for much of my five years of adult life. It will be avoiding spending the money on things that are not food-stamp approved (like coffee from a coffee shop - I'm working quite a bit next week, and I'm going to require caffeine), and forcing myself to buy things that I would normally dumpster. Also, I am trying to gain a few pounds, and eating much more than I normally do may be difficult on this budget.

Today's food breakdown:
Breakfast: Frosted mini-wheats knockoff, soy milk = estimated 50 cents, coffee from coffee shop = $1.48
Lunch: TJ's spinach lasagna = $1.89, mango Naked Juice = free (valued at $3.29 or so)
Snack: 2 Emer-gen-C packets = estimated 50 cents, rye Triscuits = estimated 50 cents
Dinner at my parents' house: homemade pizza on pre-made crust = my share, estimated $3
Total paid by me: $4.37
Total cost: $7.87
Total value: $11.16

Wow. That was a lot more than I expected. My cocky comments above should be disregarded.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Breakfast- cinnamon toast crunch plus milk. The cinnamon toast crunch was 2 dollars a box, with about ten servings per box, so I'll estimate, what- 20 cents per serving? With hormone free milk delivered to our house- I think that is, maybe, another ten cents? So that would be about 30 cents a serving? Cereal, clearly, will constitute a huge part of next months meals.

Lunch- an apple (75 cents apiece, according to our little organic food slip), a v8 juice for 1.50, a mocha for 2 dollars, and lots of water (free, from work). So that was- 4.25

Dinner was really late: I went out with Mike, Justin, Susan and Patrick. We ordered alltogether a lot of food- a pizza and a half, an order of meatballs, a salad, an order of garlic bread, an order of cannolli and an order of spumoni. I think our total came to 67.oo- that includes drinks (which I don't know who had what- I had water) and doesn't include dessert, which was free. I paid 12.oo dollars. That means my total for yesterday was 16.55. (Mike and I were sort of in feast before famine mood, even though I ate probably half a slice of pizza, a meatball, and a bite of spumoni. It was really strange how much I wanted the option of eating a lot of food, even though I wasn't even remotely hungry.)

I don't remember doing it, but this morning my mouth tasted strongly of grapefruit juice, so I think in my sleep I went upstairs and had grapefruit juice. Who knows how much. So that's an additional- what- maybe thirty cents? so 16.85 total for yesterday.

Friday (so far)

Breakfast was a work meeting, where food was provided. I had a croissant, some little baby quiche, several cups of coffee, some strawberries and some grapes.

Lunch has been oatmeal. Approximately 50 cents.

Dinner I think I'm eating at home, then going to meet friends, so there might be dessert or drinks afterwards.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday: Breakfast: Bowl of cinnamon toast crunch w/delivery milk+coffee - <$1.50?
Lunch - some horrible cafeteria pasta & broccoli slop + coffee -$6.25
+ lentils, rice&yogurt from home; orange (from the box) - probably no more than $2.00
Dinner - DICK'S DELUXE yeah dog & fries - $3.50
Late night snack: cinammon toast crunch! - <$1.00
Total: ~$14

Breakfast: bowl of joe's o's ($2 a box) with milk (local, hormone free, delivery) and strawberries (organic, from the box)
coffee from uganda.
I estimate this breakfast was ~$1.50
Snack: apple (organic, from the box) ?? $0.50?
Lunch: Croissant sandwich at school + crackers + coffee = $7.10
Snack: a friend gave me a cookie in exchange for carrying his tubs of brains (really). This is the sort of thing that I would definitely still accept during the experimental month.
Dinner: Haven't eaten yet, but probably pasta ($0.80/bag) & sauce (<$2.00 jar) from TJ's, with a little cheese - $1.00/meal
Probably a bowl of cereal later on: <$1.00

TOTAL: $11.00

I usually only buy lunch at school ~once/week. Clearly that will have to change. Pasta and sauce, lentils and rice, and cereal on sale or from TJs are going to be staples, I think.
Also, I get free dinners through my grad program about once a month, and through other school-based routes a few more times, and I usually bring tupperware so that it lasts for a few more meals. I'll probably keep that up; exploiting free food seems different than being taken out by friends.

As for this house, we should talk with Jay and Susan about suspending or decreasing the box and the milk deliveries for the month. I don't want the food to go to waste, and don't think it would be fair to use them. Oh also, I already paid for food for the weekend I'm going camping, which was like $15 or $20 for the weekend. I'm not going to deduct that whole amount, since I paid for it before the draconian measures, but I'll just deduct $10 from that week's total budget, so I'm not funneling saved money towards later in the week, if that makes sense. So, $27 for week 1 for me, $37 thereafter.

Not sure yet what my rules will be about restaurants & friend's houses. Definitely limited but not sure to what extent yet - total or with a few exceptions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rest of the day:

At a meeting with some fellow volunteers, the host of the meeting provided cheese (cheddar and swiss), nuts (pecans, walnuts and almonds), apple slices, dried apricots, crackers (vegetable flavored triscots), and olives. Basically two small platefuls (saucer size?) of the above were my dinner. I came home afterwards and am nursing a class of hot cocoa.

I wonder if I am actually addicted to hot cocoa?
Man, all our guilty food secrets are coming out:

Yesterday, lunch-

Ham sandwich, orange juice, hot cocoa. David paid for all but the hot cocoa. I think he paid about 6 dollars all together? I paid a dollar fifty for the hot cocoa.

Dinner- was really late. A vegetable lasagna that cost 3.57, and a bowl of cereal, which I will estimate cost maybe fifty cents all together. I also ate three bites of the lentils in the refrigerator. I think they were made by Cait, probably bought by Bill monk- I have no earthly idea how much I would have paid for them.

Today, so far:

Breakfast, more cereal (cinnamon toast crunch, on sale for 4 for ten dollars. I'll go home and figure out how many servings per box) with 2 per cent milk.

Lunch: A V8 juice (1 dollar 15 cents on sale at the convienence store near work), a piece of chocolate a coworker gave me, lots of water, apple from our fruit bowl.

I'll figure out how much the apple cost too.

How do I live?

You're probably better off not reading this.


Bacon cheese burger and onion rings and a 12 ounce coke : $6.72
Cottage Cheese, sprite, two burritoes and a power aid: $5.00

day's total is $11.72

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Also, though it's rare for me, on the days when there is food in my office, I'll eat it.

And finally- I think probably for myself, what I intend on doing, is Monday night buying 25 dollars worth of groceries, and posting what I bought, and also posting what I will eat each day.

Then anything I buy above and beyond that, I'll post that daily too.

I'll also post how I feel about things. Right now, i eat more or less a diet that makes me feel pretty good in my body. So i am curious what will happen, you know, when my diet is pretty suddenly restricted.
Hey guys!

Excellent questions. I think that basically, my inclination is to not do anything that would involve waste. So, for example, if you have a lot of produce in your kitchen, or fresh milk, come Tuesday, then I say use that. I think that we can also continue to use spices and condiments because, as Erika pointed out, those generally exist well past people's other food options.

As far as our friends taking us out or whatnot- those were just my suggestions, and basically that came from a desire to not allow us to game the system. I think most of us have friends who are affluent and generous, and would probably let us get away with eating out on them for a few weeks with no problem. I don't think this is the accurate experience of most people who go on food stamps, though, you know? So my suggestion of that was, basically, coming from a place of wanting to get a better understanding of what it means to be in a place where this is my income, this is my scope of resources.

Really, though, I recognize that we all have different motivations for doing this. So a lot of the things I suggest- those are basically guidelines that I think would help *me* with this project, given my motivations.

I think it will be really different for different people, perhaps?

So these are the guidelines that I'm going to suggest, and probably use for myself. And I don't think everyone needs to follow the same guidelines- I think it's important to make this work for everyone, so you all will know what is realistic and what is not for you. But I would suggest maybe that people post their guidelines, so that anyone who reads this has a good idea? (Maybe in our profiles?)


After talking to some of the social workers in my agency, I'm basing mine off a food stamp budget of 150 dollars per month. This balances out to 37.50 cents per week. This is our best estimate of what I would get in Seattle as a single healthy woman in my 20s. It's based on the web site that I had sent out, as well as the case workers estimation of the system here. They estimate that this would be slightly higher for men our age, and slightly lower for elderly people.

I am going to go through with my housemates to take some of the food that already exists in our house in canned/dried food form to create a "food bank". I think the food bank experience would be a good one, but I personally would find it awkward to go to a foodbank. I've talked this over with a few of my colleagues in the food bank, and while they support this in theory, and think it's an awesome thing, we agreed it would be awkward to serve each other for lots of reasons. And taking things from my own food bank feels like stealing. So, the food bank experience is out for me.

So to create a kind of artificial food bank for myself (and those of my housemates who are participating), I want to go through and create a cabinet that is a kind of food bank.

If you have food stamps, you cannot use them for alcohol, cigarrettes, prepared food (no restaraunts, coffees at coffeeshops, etc). So I am going to abstain from restaraunts or coffee shops for the next month. Which will be really hard for me.

As far as the produce box we get (for anyone who doesn't know, I live in a house where one of our housemates, Caitlin- her parents have purchased as a present for us a weekly box of organic vegetables)- well, a lot of this depends on how many of our housemates actually end up doing this. If all but Jay and Cat do this, I am afraid that the produce would go to waste. On the other hand, there is no way that I would be buying organic produce for myself if I were on foodstamps. So- to be honest, I'm stumped. Cait, Mike, Susan- any ideas?

(I feel the same way about the milk that we get- very stumped. but also not wanting it to go to waste. but also aware that organic milk would be well beyond my lifestyle were I on foodstamps).

Finally- as far as meals go that our friends make for us- this one is difficult, because so much of our socialization lies in eating together. My feeling is that if I am too draconian with myself, I'll fail. So I am giving myself two passes to eat dinner at a friends house.

Other additonal boundaries- only purchasing food from places that would accept food stamps, and that are within walking distance for me.

So those are the limits I'm proposing for myself. What do you guys think? What are your limits?

my thoughts

I am not sure, but I don't *think* that most people starting on food stamps begin with only spices and condiments. I think using what I already have after the date we begin is fair, especially if I count its cost toward the allotment. I would like to be able to participate but given that I live in about three different places right now, it's not reasonable for me to not use food that is already available to me (otherwise I'd be toting a cupboard with me everywhere).

By the way, what figures are we using? I saw the $26.90 (women) and $29-something (men) weekly figures that Sarah mentioned, is that what we are using?

Lately it's been very hard for me to gauge how much I am spending on food. I share a lot of food. I'm not sure how I will be able to keep track of expenditures, but I'll need to figure it out in short order.


Starting in May:

1. Are we going to post every day our expenditures? (I hope so. It'll help keep me honest.);
2. Sarah mentioned that we can't have people take us out for dinner. Is that still the rule? If so, then can we accept free food from friends? Or with wabi the free box from Cait's parents. Off course, you can pretend that you buy it and just incorporate your share of the box into the cost of food for May.

It may make sense to post our grocery bills/wk and the over the counter items/day. As the cost of items bought in bulk might be difficult to gauge, e.g. a glass of milk.

If we are going to start at zero and not use previously bought groceries, it might be a good idea to start using up your perishables.

My apologies if Sarah has already gone over this. I'm kind of new to the world of blog.

Office food.

Perhaps I have an advantage because I work in an office where there is often left over food from meetings and community food donated by good natured souls. I am also very good at stockpiling free food without getting noticed.

Two donuts, $0.00

What am I getting myself into?

What kind of idea is this? Word to the wise kids, when you enter a relationship make sure there is some sort of paper work involved so you do not end up intentionally starving yourself for a month.

I've gotta talk to my lawyer.

So, let's begin.

Ok, so I think we are starting officially living off food stamp allocations next Tuesday?

I'll report what I had yesterday, just for good measure.

1) Morning, steamed milk with almond in it, 2 dollars.

2) Lunch- prepackaged oatmeal, tea, apples. All purchased communally by the house, so I have no idea how much I personally paid for this lunch. But I will estimate that this was a five dollar meal.

3) Dinner- hot chocolate, three bites of left over thai food, a bowl of spaghetti with corn, tomato sauce and cheddar cheese, a handful of snap peas. The hot chocolate, spaghettie, corn, tomato sauce and cheddar cheese were billmonk purchases. The snap peas are gifts from Caitlin's mom. The thai food was leftover from a dinner Mike bought me. I'm going to estimate this to be a 7 dollar meal? Maybe?

4) Dessert- my friend Kim took me out for dessert at B&O. I had more hot chocolate and a slice of lemon cream pie. This came to 11.50, which Kim paid for.

Ok. Today, Tuesday the 24th.

Breakfast: Grapefruit juice, (purchased by Anna and David on Sunday). Cheerios, which I bought awhile ago and bill monked to the house. Milk, which was also purchased by Susan and bill monked to the house.

Afternoon snack when I got a headache: Trail mix that Mike bought for our train ride to Portland, and 1/2 of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, all of which also was from what Mike bought for our train ride to Portland.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wednesday April 18

coffee at Katie's -- 1.60
cafeteria pizza - 4.30
lentils from noah - free as a bird