Saturday, June 11, 2011

Reflection on 5 days of Food Stamps

I began this assignment with a plan of how I was going to be able to make it through the week while at my rotation and in my fourth week of marathon training. I knew that I needed to have a plan in order to make everything work together. Typically I write out a week’s worth of dinners and use that as the bases of my grocery list. I estimate possible leftovers then add additional items to the list to fill out both lunch and breakfast. I did the same for my week of food stamp meals however I was much more conscientious of what I was going to add for breakfast and lunch due to the cost associated with my typical choices.

One of the major changes to my normal routine was one shopping trip for the week at HEB. I normally shop at Whole Foods and get most staples, fruit and vegetables on one day I typically will go to the store at least one other time to pick up something else like fresh seafood or other item that does not keep well. This past week I only shopped Sunday for the remainder of the week.

Lunches normally consist of leftovers or big fresh salads (mostly bought from the Whole Foods salad bar when I am working at the office). I knew that this was not an option for this week as I would be at Cedar Springs. I decided to make a bulgur based salad with chickpeas and veggies dressed with a red wine dressing for my lunch for the week. I also added a few slices of bakes tofu to the dish to add some more protein. Both recipes I found on the Snap website.  I portioned out the tofu and salad for the week in five to go containers and was all set for lunches.

Breakfast was also changed during this week. I normally have a smoothie with oats and spinach added after I workout and a mid morning snack at about ten. This week I went for something I knew was affordable and hopefully sustain me through to lunch—oatmeal. I added peanut butter and banana to it in order to make the meal more balanced.

I found most of the recipes that I used for dinners this week on the snap website with some slight variations. The arroz con pollo turned out to be a big hit with the addition of some oregano and a jalapeno. Typically I don’t use recipes when cooking dinner. This week I felt that it would be best to follow some from the snap site due to cost savings.

While the plan got me through the menu planning, shopping and some preparation it was defiantly not a fool proof option. Most of the time I am fine having the same things a few times during the week, but not being able to have a choice for my meals this week made me reject both my breakfast and lunch by Wednesday. On my run Wednesday morning all I could think about was how much I didn’t want oatmeal and what did I have that would fit my budget so I could have something different. I ended up with a one egg breakfast taco that made me much happier. Lunch Wednesday turned out to be peanut butter and jelly since I couldn’t do another day of the bulgur salad. It seemed so strange to me that this rejection of my own food occurred. Most days out of the week I have the same smoothie over and over again while I have plenty of options around me. When I was restricted with my choice (ie only oats) I wanted nothing to do with it.

It was interesting to me to be working in an eating disorder facility during this experiment. I felt that I could begin to understand the prison that restriction is. It was also difficult to pass up a cupcake that was offered due to a birthday in the office. When my five days were over I was seriously craving many of the foods that I had to say no to during the week.

It was also rather difficult to maintain proper nutrition for my marathon training. I was not able to have my normal pre run snack, recovery drink, typical amount of food and my electrolyte replacement tablets. I run about six days most weeks and meet with my group one of those days for a quality workout. This Tuesday’s quality workout was really lacking in quality. I came to the run knowing that it was going to be tough. I didn’t have enough time to get in a snack between my lunch and my run. While normally I would have popped a  gel I did not have that option this week. Also, I had been drinking water all day as I do normally however my food stamps meal plan lacked the electrolyte replacement tablets that I put in every other liter of water. I was a little nervous of the consequences of that move. We had a six mile run Tuesday evening and it was the hardest six miles I have run in an extended period of time. By the end of the run I was experiencing symptoms of heat stroke and dehydration. I was glad that I was familiar with the signs and symptoms and knew what to do to get through my workout. I really hope I don’t have to try that again.

I don’t think that the diet that I followed was nutritionally adequate for the week. It was lacking in vitamins and minerals while I even made an effort to add vegetables and fruits where I could. I know that I am not the typical food stamp user and was thankful for my knowledge of cooking during this process. I know that my culinary background was helpful in stretching the budget and using the carbohydrate base of most of the week’s dishes like a blank canvas and squeezing in nutritionally dense foods where I could.

This project was just as difficult as I had imagined and even more difficult than I thought it would be in some respects. I knew that it would be difficult to work on a budget, but I was able to overcome that and get some variety in for the evening meal. Aspects that were more difficult than expected were the repetition of foods and the lack of adequate quality as well as quantity for my training. I am glad to have done the experiment and had fun coming up with creative dishes based on the snap recipes I found. I’m sure that the three others that I ran with on Tuesday are glad that I can get back to being the one who doesn’t mess up her nutrition and has solutions for their nutrition issues. Now I’m headed to Whole Foods to restock the pantry. 
Day 4
Breakfast: two egg breakfast taco with spinach= $0.74
Lunch: left overs + apple = $1.53
Dinner: Turkey Burger and baked sweet potato fries= $2.08

Day 5
Breakfast: oatmeal with pb chopped apple and cinnamon= $0.42
Lunch: left overs + apple= $1.82
Dinner: homemade mac-n-cheese (nondairy) with broccoli and not dogs=$2.36

Total for the week= $20.09 
total i had to spend =$21.90 
lets go celebrate with the $1.81 i have left :)

1 comment:

erin said...

$1.81 - enough for a cupcake! ;)