new food stamp amount: $221/month for a family of 5

We reapplied for food stamps at the end of May and finally got a decision this week. We were denied but then also approved in the same decision. Because I’m self-employed, they said the amount I made in May put us over the qualifying limit by $87 but then averaged the past 3 months of my income as a guideline of what I might typically make and that put us under the limit.

The other thing that changed is they do not include our twins on our SNAP case because they are full time college students who are not employed at least 20 hours a week yet. So, we’re on paper a family of five but I’m still buying groceries for a family of seven.

I’m confused about some of the rules for when someone is going to college. I was told by one person that if the twins are working at least 20 hrs/week this summer ,then they can be included on our SNAP case but then someone else told me that yes, BUT their income will also count as household income and that would probably put us over the qualifying limit. I’m guessing the latter is how that actually works.

Anyway, as it stands now we were approved finally and our amount will be $221 a month. That’s just short of 2 weeks of groceries for us. The USDA “Thrifty Family Meal Plan” guidelines say we should be spending about $970 for our family size per month but my food budget has been about half that for the past 6 months, sometimes even lower. It’s totally impossible without going to the food pantry every other week.

On the gardening front, things are slow but happening. We’re in a drought-like spell. I have no hose hookup at this house and I’m watering the garden by hauling jugs from inside the house. It takes forever and it’s not the same as a good soaking rain. Fortunately we know people who know how to do things and a friend is going to put a hose hookup in for us soon. This sounds like a much easier solution than my daughter’s suggestion of building an aqueduct or elaborate irrigation system.

So, adding to my $88 worth of rhubarb, I now have chives and chive infused vinegar.
15 oz dried chives-$28 (I arrived at this price by looking at the bulk spice prices at 2 local markets plus what’s available online)
16 oz of chive infused vinegar – $10
several bundles of fresh chives -$8

My husbeast has been fishing a lot lately,too. Having terrible luck catching anything worth keeping but this week another fisherman gave him a nice bass he didn’t feel like cleaning. That was a nice free dinner. I have no idea what a whole bass costs. A 12 oz package of sea bass is $23 where we usually shop but this isn’t exactly sea bass.
I need to remember to add the cost of his fishing and hunting license into my food production expenses tally. So far without that figured in, I’ve spent $120 on seeds,tools,and other gardening things.
I need to keep better track of time spent in the garden. Once I have a good idea of this,I’ll start putting a monetary value to that time,too. Two separate rates – migrant farm worker wage and living wage.

 

 

 

 

 

how i’m measuring garden successes

While weighing my rhubarb haul the other day, I started to think earnestly about what the best way is to measure success in the garden. I was weighing the rhubarb mainly out of curiosity. At the grocery stores here,  fresh rhubarb is currently around  $4/lb. I was just wondering what the dollar value of my rhubarb would be.( $80 so far, in case you were wondering,too)

Weighing what comes out of the garden seems to be the most used method for measuring food production success. We see it all the time on homesteading blogs and articles. “This family grew 2,000 lbs of food in their backyard!”. Totally an actual headline. But here’s what I’m thinking…is that really as impressive as it sounds? I mean, does that weight have pumpkins and tomatoes happening in it or is it a lot of  romaine lettuce and snap peas?

My rhubarb is valuable dollar wise and rhubarb is awesome to have. I have lots of plans for it but my family isn’t going to subsist on rhubarb alone. Spinach,though…. that’s something we eat a lot of. Spinach leaves are light. 8 oz costs around $3 here. It’s more expensive than rhubarb and more practically valuable for us but it’s never going to add a whole lot to any weight total. If I manage to grow even 5 lbs of spinach, that’s worth a confetti and streamers celebration to me.

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Potatoes. We eat a lot of them,too. I decided not to grow a large amount of potatoes this year though because I can buy them pretty inexpensively from my favorite local produce vendor. Less than $10 for a 20 lb bag. If I was measuring my success by pounds, I could use the weight of potatoes on my side.

Weighing the garden harvest for just the sheer weight total feels disingenuous to me. The entire reason I am personally growing food is to alleviate the financial costs of feeding my family. It makes more sense for me to put dollar amounts on this. That’s weird for me because I hate equating dollars with value & success but here it will make sense.

I think stating the weight of garden wealth is also somewhat of a slap in the face to those who are growing with obstacles. Like very limited land or just balcony or patio space. Growing 12 oz of herbs might be a huge success, even if it’s not hefty. For that matter, everything we manage to grow can be a very huge deal.

 

 

rhubarb bonanza

I probably mentioned this already but the town historian tells us that years ago before the property we’re living at became neglected, this house had the best vegetable garden around for miles. She pointed out to this overgrown field near the pond as the former site. It’s so hard to believe looking at it now. When we moved in it was nothing but goldenrod and stupid scrubby bushes & prickers. Now that it’s spring and the field is renewing I’m finding few signs of what it formerly was.I’ll find a clump of daffodils or lillies coming up among dried stalks left behind by the goldenrod.

Monday I stumbled upon a beautiful row of rhubarb. A perfect row, a long ago gardener as it’s architect.

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I started harvesting what was ready. I filled a clothes basket full.

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Now I’m at the full on chopping stage, freezing and preserving most of it but looking forward to strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert tonight and apple-rhubarb muffins for the boys’ school snacks. My grandmother used to make rhubarb syrup that I loved. I’ll can some of that.
There’s plenty to share,too.

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My multi-tasking media today:
::watching:: The Family. I started watching a few days ago, then found out yesterday it’s been cancelled but I’m in too deep now. Damn, Andrew McCarthy is great-creepy in this.
::podcast:: Season 2 of Serial. The general reaction from most people has been “meh. It’s not as good as season 1” but I’m into it so far.
::music:: Painted Shut, Hop Along

 

 

pantry anarchy: yellow squash & white bean not-meat-balls

Because recipes were made to be broken when you’re broke.

 

meatballs

 

My main inspiration for this recipe: Zucchini “Meatballs”

I had on hand:
-2  yellow squash (getting on the verge of being soft)
– 2 cups leftover white beans
– eggs
– salt,pepper,Italian seasoning,garlic
– oat flakes
-tri color rotini from the food pantry
– a jar of spaghetti sauce (pretty sure also from food pantry)
– canola oil

I shredded the squash and let it drain some of the moisture off. I started to mash the beans but it was too chunky so I kinda pureed it with water in the blender. I combined the bean paste with the squash and seasoned HEAVILY (like, really… I put so much garlic and Italian herbs in it). I added an egg to bind it, then added the oat flakes to make it less mushy. I have no idea how much I added. I think it’s just one of those things you have to gauge depending on how moist your mixture is. My goal was to get it solid enough to form balls but not too dry that they crumble.

I coated a baking pan with oil , then formed the bean-squash mix into balls and placed them on the pan. I drizzled oil on top then baked at 375 for about 20 minutes, turning them over about half way.

My super carnivore husband liked them and I think it was thanks to the heavy seasoning. He did describe it as tasting like “falafel in ball form” but he made it sound like a good thing. Maybe I’m onto a new fusion here.


If you like the work I do here at Poor as Folk, please consider being a supporter at Patreon! Your support will keep content on the blog free and available to all on the internet as well as help me develop printed publications.  Donate here:  Poor as Folk on Patreon or one time donation via Paypal to luckyfishhomestead@gmail.com

 

 

food we ate, april 4 til now

Well,honestly – this isn’t ALL the food we ate. I forget to take pictures or I’m too tired or my house is chaosville. Most meals were  made w/ things we got at the food pantry 2 weeks ago . We did do minor grocery shopping for basics. I had two crying meltdowns that were food related – one because the ground beef from the food pantry was spoiled and the other because bread dough (honey wheat oat…the one I make the most) didn’t rise.

About the crying – I never cry. Maybe once or twice a year. The advantage to this is that people who know me know that when I’m crying, it’s super important. Lately? I cry over every damn thing. Dearest says, “It must be hormones.” And I said, “No, I think this is who I am now.” To his credit, he didn’t even flinch. I notice this has been a gradual thing as I’m getting older. I cry if something is impossibly cute or beautiful or horribly sad and tragic. Bread dough not rising and spoiled meat  are probably not the most tragic things but it was in my world on the days it happened.

Anyway…on to the food.

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This was something I’m calling Loaded Potato Casserole. I diced potatoes, rinsed them, then coated them in a packet of “chili seasoning” that I found in the pantry. I added a can of pinto beans and baked the whole thing for 25 minutes or so. I threw cheese on at the end. The chives on top are super fresh. I harvested them from the garden…. the day after we got 6 inches of snow.

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Poor chives. They were looking pretty sad after the snow but have bounced back since.

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Basic spaghetti loaded with chunky onion tomato sauce. This was where I cried. I wanted to make meatballs but the ground beef wasn’t good. I DON’T EVEN LIKE MEAT. What the hell?

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I’m calling this one Eggroll Bowl. I guess it’s “Deconstructed Eggroll” but ugh, hipsters and their deconstructed ethnic foods. What happened here was I thought I had 2 packages of eggroll wrappers so I went ahead and made eggroll filling before realizing there were no eggroll wrappers. No crying over this for whatever reason. I just cooked it and put it in bowls over rice.Hubby had made a pork roast for a fantasy baseball thing he went to and I put some of the leftover pork in the mix.

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“Baja Fish Tacos”. This was a taco meal kit from the food pantry. Well, the seasoning and tortillas was. The fish was from the food pantry,too. The fish we get there is frozen pollock and it’s not terrible. I’ve found it’s ideal for things like tacos or sandwiches.

The tomatoes and lettuce are from this tiny produce shop near us. It’s literally in an addition on this man’s house on one of the more traveled back roads here. His prices are great and most things are pretty local. He also has eggs, both local small farm and more factory farmed. The latter were reduced this week because he had too many so we picked up several cartons for 75 cents each. We’ve been eating a lot of breakfast-for-dinner meals.

And we still have a ton of these frozen pancakes left. When I first served them, my littlest thought I was handing him a plate of small cookies. Yeah, they do look like that.

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One of the most memorable things I made recently that I didn’t take pics of was Jim Lahey’s Potato Pizza .Because potatoes, which we have a lot of right now.
I loved it but I got mixed reactions from the rest of the family.

“It’s …..interesting.”- Husband

“I just don’t know how I feel about this.”- 15 yr old

“Don’t call it pizza. It has no sauce.” -11 yr old

“Nope.”- 5 yr old

I wish my other kids had been home. I think they would have appreciated it.

My 11 year old is an incredibly picky eater (sensory issues. No, “if he’s hungry enough,he’ll eat” doesn’t quite work here) . We accidentally discovered that he loves those stupid chunky campbell’s soups – Loaded Baked Potato,specifically. I HATE buying soap in a can because I can make it so cheaply at home. I have tried feeding him various homemade potato soups and he’s rejected most. FINALLY, I made one this past week that he loved. Bye, campbell’s chunky soup.

Used homemade broth for it,of course.
I don’t remember what I did with that chicken. Garlicked and baked,maybe?
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I still have a bazillion carrots to use. I’ll get on that this week.
I’m sure it’ll also still be pretty potato intensive.


If you like the work I do here at Poor as Folk, please consider being a supporter at Patreon! Your support will keep content on the blog free and available to all on the internet as well as help me develop printed publications.  Donate here:  Poor as Folk on Patreon or one time donation via Paypal to luckyfishhomestead@gmail.com

 

 

This week at the food pantry

We missed going to the food pantry in March entirely. The one here is only twice a month and I think we were sick the one day and something else was happening on the other. Even though we restocked quite a bit of staples and did some good grocery shopping with Taxmas money, we still really needed to go yesterday.

This week there was quite a lot of produce that had been donated that needed to go (disadvantage of a bi monthy pantry…anything fresh has to be gone that day or it’s going to waste) so volunteers kept trying to get me to take more. Lots of  white and sweet potatoes,carrots,apples. A few oranges. I had just bought a 50 lb bag of potatoes a couple of weeks ago and 5 lbs of carrots (reminder: my weird food quirk is that the only veg I HATE is carrots). I see many potato dishes in my future.

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They also had several large shipping boxes of frozen microwave pancakes and frozen cookie dough. They gave us a whole box of the pancakes because there was no room in their freezers. Glad we have the upright freezer. We also took the cookie dough…hearts for Valentine’s Day. Exp March 22, which I’m sure is still ok but we’ll see. I will live if we have to toss the cookie dough but it would be a nice treat for the kiddos.

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We also got frozen fish & ground beef, some canned beans and fruit, spaghetti sauce,rice,pasta,cornmeal,juice, 3 blocks of mozzarella, and Ghiradelli chocolate -dark chocolate and sea salt with caramel. Oh,and a taco meal kit. Some of the canned food was expired in 2014. They might be iffy but some food still is fine after that date. I’ll see what happens when I open it.

I think that’s it. The day after we go to the food pantry I usually start putting together the week’s meal plan around what we got. Looks like fish tacos, spaghetti & meatballs, something rice and beans oriented for sure. Not immediately clear on the rest.

 


If you like the work I do here at Poor as Folk, please consider being a supporter at Patreon! Your support will keep content on the blog free and available to all on the internet as well as help me develop printed publications.  Donate here:  Poor as Folk on Patreon or one time donation via Paypal to luckyfishhomestead@gmail.com

 

 

 

Checking food privilege

Read worthy this morning, this piece ,Check Your Food Privilege , authored by Carrie at Our Stable Table– it’s  a point close to my heart and one people are probably sick of me making so I’m glad someone else said it.

We lost our ability to be picky because we were so completely broke”.  

When I started doing my Pantry Anarchy recipes I know there were people who seemed quite dismayed that they weren’t “low cost real food” recipes. There are enough food bloggers out there giving advice on how low income people can eat healthy and what I personally hear is that the information isn’t helpful. It’s more helpful to have ideas on what to do with stale bread, canned peas, dehydrated potato flakes, and a tube of USDA issued ground beef. Because that’s what low income people are more likely to have access to. Ideally, I try to use the low quality ingredients I have to create food that’s creative, delicious, and nutritious but at the end of the day, #1 priority is that it’s edible and fills a space in our stomachs.

The way many of us low income people eat is not the way we would love to eat and on the flip side of that, many people who do not struggle with food insecurity are not conscientious about eating “healthy” and no one chastises them for purposefully choosing fast food and junk.  People with food privilege should check their own while also looking at who they are choosing to  aim their “concern” (shaming often) toward. Are you focused on the people who choose to eat poorly even though they have the means to eat well or the people who don’t have the means to eat any other way but poorly and have little choice in the matter?

 

 

 

 

via Natural Cures Not Medicine

Sure. Great fridge for a vegan with money and ability to do food preservation for anything that needs to be preserved before it becomes waste because dang, that’s a lot of fresh produce to use up. I guess what bothers me about images like this is that they declare that people should eat like this but are they saying, “EVEN POOR PEOPLE!” or ….are they just expecting everyone to make it happen for themselves? I never know .