Eat healthfully on food-stamp budget? It can be done

That second trip totaled $55.82. Our grand total increased to $161.96, still $5.04 under the food-stamp budget.

It was a week's worth of hypothetical meals and snacks, all for less than the food-stamp allotment.

The idea that healthful food is always unaffordable is bunk. It is possible to buy wholesome, nutrient-packed ingredients without spending a lot of money.

And keep in mind, food stamps are intended as a supplement, not a family's entire food budget. That's why it's called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Two important caveats:

•I shopped at a large grocery store and took advantage of sales and lower-priced generic options when I could. Some people live in places the government calls "food deserts" because they don't have easy access to big grocers. So for some people, especially those without transportation, a shopping trip like mine would be much harder.

•The amount I used was the maximum allowed for a family of four. Most people on food stamps do not receive the maximum, but some lesser amount based on income and the number of people in the household.

I'm not arguing that living on food stamps is easy.

It takes a lot of planning to stretch the budget for a week's worth of meals. And then it takes even more time to cook those meals.

Maybe the challenge for people on food stamps isn't necessarily the dollar amount, but learning how to use those dollars, and allocating time to prepare food.

Just as some people never learn how to balance a checkbook or avoid the perils of credit cards, some people never learn to roast a chicken or sauté vegetables.

That's a more plausible explanation for $1 cheeseburgers than the inadequacy of food stamps.

bkassab@tribune.com or 407-420-5448

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