I have eaten more cereal and peanut butter sandwiches in the last week than I did my entire first semester of college.
Because they are cheap. And they are oh so quickly prepared. And they're cheap. Also, they're sort of a comfort food.
I am a little disappointed in myself that I've gotten to a point where I do not care to cook. But I'll be honest, while the nutritional value may suck (especially if I'm eating generic Froot Loops) it's so cheap and easy it's hard to say no. It's the food stamp alternative to take out. Long day at work? Starving when you get home? Just don't want to think about getting the food to the table? Slap some peanut butter on a slice of bread and call it dinner.
I finally worked up the motivation to cook a real meal tonight. It's a breakfast casserole that I'll throw in the oven in the morning and eat through the rest of the week. That's the first time I've cooked since Saturday. I go several days without cooking occasionally, but in the meantime I'm usually eating off of home cooked leftovers rather than convenient store-bought items.
Here's another thing to consider. How much does it cost to eat a bowl of cereal or peanut butter sandwich?
Right now I buy my cereal for 99 cents for a 7 or 12 cup box (depending on if I want the sugary or non-sugary cereal) and my milk for around 2.75 a gallon. Let's say I use 2 cups of more expensive (sugary) cereal with a cup and a half of milk. The cereal would cost about 28 cents and the milk 25, bringing the total for the meal to 53 cents a serving.
A peanut butter sandwich is costing me around a dime for the two slices of bread and 23 cents for 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, bringing the grand total to less than 35 cents a sandwich. You could have three peanut butter sandwiches for less than one dollar.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the daily breakdown of my budget. Yes, I get 4.46 a day or 31.22 cents per week. But what does that really mean? Specifically, once I figure out how much a recipe cost per serving, how do I know if that was "cheap"? I know I was able to buy all the ingredients I needed on a budget, but how do I know I didn't waste my money by spending too much on the recipe?
I'm still working on breaking this down, but there are a couple different ways you could look at it. Assuming you eat three times a day, you can break it down by meal size or do an even split into thirds. Separating by meal size would give me about 75 cents on breakfast, 1.50 on lunch and just under 2.25 for dinner. If I split them all evenly, I'd have about 1.50 per meal.
This may help explain some of my hesitance to cook all of my meals. If I make a dinner that's $2.25 a serving, that means I have to eat a smaller portion for lunch if I'm to keep the rest of the day's cost balanced. Most of my meals have been, but I'm not sure they've been down to the $1.50 range. Furthermore, what about snacks? I know I don't fare well if I go without a mid-morning or late afternoon snack. With those accounted for, your daily average pre meal ends up closer to $1.25 per day.
Instead of thinking of the food stamp challenge as X dollars per week, try to think of it as $1.50 per meal. Changing how I crunch the numbers has given me a much better starting point for creating recipes that are cheap enough to be made with food stamps. I'm excited to share them with you in the coming weeks!