Grocery Shopping on Food Stamps

food-stampsIf you lavish your food on the hungry
    and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness,
    and your gloom shall become like midday;

Isaiah 58:10 NABRE (Catholic Bible)

How do you shop for groceries when you are on Food Stamps (A US poverty program that provides benefits for food only)?

It’s not easy. Especially when you realize that while food prices are skyrocketing, Food Stamp benefit amounts are decreasing.

At this point I’ll admit, I’m on Food Stamps myself. I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), and I’m on SSI disability though I should qualify for Social Security disability as the adult child of a worker, but I foolishly spend many years trying to become an employed citizen instead of a disability case (in the govt’s opinion.)

When I first got on Food Stamps a few years back, I got $200 a month and had a hard time making that stretch to the whole month. Now after some benefit cuts I think my last Food Stamp amount was $160 (it varies for no real reason) and there is a new cut in Michigan yet to come.

For people on disability, this is supposed to be your whole food budget for the month. The monetary benefits are just for things like rent or property tax, home heating, electricity and such. (You are supposed to somehow get soap, detergents, new second-hand clothes and replacement appliances out of the air.)

So how do you cope with the Food Stamp life?

Get Over the Shame

It’s horrible and oppressing to be on Food Stamps or any poverty program. The first time I went shopping to my local grocery store with my Food Stamp card, I couldn’t bear the thought of the grocery clerk knowing I was a bum on welfare. But I had no choice but to go through it.

And then, there was the first time I bought frozen shrimp or a cheap cut of steak— important because I’m doing low-carb. There are all these rumors about welfare recipients buying steak every night. (But then we’d have to go without food for 3 weeks in the month.)

Then there are the faux conservatives and faux Christians who love to post pictures of fat women holding little kids and claiming they are Food Stamp/welfare recipients, and suggesting that such women be shot or at least starved for daring to be fat while on welfare.

Face it folks, lots of poor people are fat BECAUSE they are poor and eat a lot of high-carb cheap food like ramen noodles, rice-a-roni and Hamburger Helper (perhaps without the hamburger). Eating like this makes you fat, and it damages your ability to handle carbs. It causes you to crave MORE carbs. And since the government’s solution to overweight is to eat MORE complex carbs, most fat people (rich or poor) can’t fix their weight problem even if they had unlimited access to ‘diet’ food.

Have a Plan

You can’t shop like you always have while on Food Stamps or a tight budget. You can’t buy what you like. Here are some rules that have helped me:

  1. Go on a low-carb way-of-life. Go to a thrift shop and buy an old Atkins diet book, or look up the basics online. This way of eating kills your appetite after a few days.
  2. No beverages. No soda, juices, coffee drinks, milk, milk substitutes (soy ‘milk’). Tea from tea bags is OK if you reuse the teabags (I get 3-4 servings out of mine most days, sometimes 5).
  3. No candy, chips, cookies or other snack foods.
  4. Read labels. Sometimes store brands have the same ingredients, sometimes not. A generic stevia sweetener at Family Dollar contains maltodextrin (a sugar) while the Truvia national brand and the Walmart store brand lack this. Go for the Walmart brand!
  5. Get it a good rut. I have a low-carb tuna casserole recipe (well, 2) that I could eat nearly every day. So I stock up on the ingredients I need for it when they are on sale or when I can get to a Walmart.
  6. Drink lots of water. If your tap water is nasty, get a filter pitcher like Brita or Zerowater. Sometimes when you think you are hungry, you really are just thirsty.
  7. If you are not a small child, go with 2 meals a day. (If you are on low-carb, this won’t make you hungry.) Or have one or even two minimalist meals and then a good larger meal.
  8. Consider other resources: a family member with money who invite you to dinner sometimes, food from a garden, picking dandelion and clover from your (unsprayed) yard for cooked greens, and food banks.
  9. At the end of the month, if you have been frugal enough with your Food Stamps and have some money left over, you can buy a small something that you’ve been craving, such as a bottle of diet soda or low-carb snack food.

Food Banks

What fresh hell is this? It’s what you have to consider when you are poor and/or disabled. I was lucky enough that my therapist, who is also a pastor, works with the local mid-county food bank and he was able to encourage me to go.

This is what the food banks in my area are like: they are restricted to residents of the local area only, so there is only one food bank I’m allowed to go to.

They have mostly unhealthy food I can’t eat like cereals, often sugary cereals, Hamburger Helper, rice-a-roni, even ramen noodles (Please, never give ramen noodles to a food bank! They are cheap enough most poor people can buy them on their own if they really want to abuse their bodies with them.)

Canned tuna, when they have it, they limit to one to a ‘customer’. One day I got a frozen ham, another time some frozen venison. They get venison from deer hunted on crop damage permits. My therapist arranged for me to get a whole deer through the food bank once, which is a big help except I’m only beginning to learn to cook venison.

Conclusion:

So, this is my way of shopping on Food Stamps. I hope it helps people in need, and awakens compassion in people who are financially more blessed.

And if you are the sort of person who is angry at evil ‘welfare’ recipients including the disabled, please spare the effort of telling me I am lazy, that my autism spectrum disorder means I’m a spoiled child and my parents didn’t spank me enough, and that I ought to get a job EVEN IF I’d lose my Medicaid and I’d have to do without medical care and prescriptions for my kidney failure and diabetes, and die.

(I think God has a purpose for my life and don’t want to commit suicide at this time. Or ever. Even if it would save the govt money for me to be dead— the savings would only go to more vacations for Obama anyway.)

So if you are that angry guy, don’t bother post hate-y comments that will just get deleted, and read your Bible. I’d suggest starting with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.).

Low-Carb Recipe: Cloud Bread/Diet Revolution Roll

cloud bread 3

Cloud bread baked in muffin top pan.

Haven’t done any low-carb lifestyle posts in a while. Very neglectful of me. So here’s what I’ve been making recently.

In the original Atkins diet book published in 1972, there is a recipe called ‘Diet Revolution Rolls’ consisting of separated eggs, cottage cheese and  a pince of cream of tartar, total carbs 3.1 for the whole batch of six rolls.I tried a couple of times but it never turned out well until I bought a muffin top pan. Since I don’t have a working full-size oven, I use a convection oven and so had to buy a four muffin-top size pan to fit.

This improved the rolls quite a bit, but since I put the full batter in the four slots I guess it came out a little thick.

So I Googled. And I found a recipe for ‘Carb Free Cloud Bread’ http://www.food.com/recipe/carb-free-cloud-bread-411501.  It has the SAME ingredients but there are some differences in how you make it. First, that you make 10 ‘rolls’/bread pieces instead of the 6 of the Diet Revolution Bread recipe.  Second, that you cool the bread pieces, put them in a large baggie or some Tupperware, and refrigerate overnight to make it more ‘bready’

So I tried it myself and am working to refine my own version of the recipe. Here’s the preliminary version:

Basic Cloud Bread

 

Cloud bread in my muffin top pan

Cloud bread in my muffin top pan

3 eggs, separated

3 Tablespoons cottage cheese or cream cheese, made from WHOLE milk, not low-fat or fat-free.

1/4 cream of tartar

1 packet (2 teaspoon equivalent) stevia sweetner, WITHOUT maltodextrin (read labels— Truvia and Walmart store brand are OK so far, Family Dollar store brand has the maltodextrin.)

Oven: 300 degrees.

Separate the eggs into 2 bowls. Not one speck of yolk can get into the white. If you are new to separating eggs, have a third bowl to separate the egg whites in to. That way you only ruin one egg white if you get yolk in. Set the egg white bowl with the 3 whites aside.

Add the cottage cheese or cream cheese to the yolks, and the stevia packet. Use a mixer or a hand blender to mix well. (You will either have to wash the blades well, or else use a hand blender for this step and a mixer for the next.

Now, set the yolk mixture aside and get out the egg whites. Add the cream of tartar. Then, beat the eggs with a mixer for a LONG time. Set your timer to 5 minutes. You want the egg whites to form fluffy white peaks.

Mix the yolk mixture very carefully into the whites. Stir just enough to mix well.

Now, prepare your muffin top pans. You must have enough pans for your ten bread pieces. If you don’t have enough muffin top pans, use a plain cookie sheet for the rest of the slices. Spray the pans with non-stick cooking spray (I prefer olive-oil based sprays).

Use a soup spoon or other larger spoon to spoon out the mixture into the pans. Do it one spoonful into each slot and then start over to add the second spoonful. Try to distribute it evenly. Using your spoon, smooth the mixture so that each one is an even round the diameter of a hamburger bun (this is where the muffin top pan makes it easy.)

Bake in a preheated 300 degree Fahrenheit over for about 30 minutes. The time can vary— check near the end of the 30 minutes. Breads should be the color of a store bought hamburger’s bun.

Put the bread pans somewhere safe to cool. You can take them off the pan if you like. When the breads are wholly cool, put them in an airtight plastic bag or plastic container.

Use 2 of the breads to make sandwiches of all sorts, use them as buns for hamburgers or hot dogs. You can even buy take-out burgers and switch the nasty, sweet buns that they come with for these breads.

Carb count (cottage cheese version)

Whole batch: 3.1

Each bread piece: .31

Variations:

Add things like a bit of minced onion, sauted, or some caraway seeds or poppy seeds.

cloud bread 2

Cloud bread on an ordinary cookie sheet. (Excuse the foil lining, it’s a bad idea unless your cookie sheet is old and nasty, like mine.)

Cloud bread is good for low carb lifestyles and is also gluten-free. It’s not quite kosher on Paleo, unless you decide to do a ‘modified Paleo’ which allows dairy and sets severe limits on the fruits (because of the carbs).

It is a good daily bread. If you have children, don’t buy ordinary bread for them even if you are compelled to feed them too many carbs in other parts of their daily diet. Get them used to low-carb daily bread and other staple foods of the low-carb lifestyle.

For Ketogenic diets: this is low-carb enough, but only 4% fat. If you are on the ‘fat-fast’ diet for the moment, you’ll probably end up with only one of the breads to make room for the higher fat items that you’ll want to eat with it. The fat-fast diet is a temporary, very restricted diet for people on a strict low-carb lifestyle (such as Atkins Induction or Bernstein’s Diabetes Diet) who have not been losing weight on it. For more info, read Dana Carpender’s Fat Fast Cookbook. http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Fast-Cookbook-Recipes-Weight/dp/0970493126