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?