SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge — Day Four

by Katy on September 19, 2012 · 37 comments

It’s Day Four of the  SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge and I decided that I should replace some of the staples that I’ve been using yet not pricing out. Specifically, olive oil and frozen chicken breasts. (I haven’t actually cooked up any chicken breasts yet, but I work tomorrow, and know that my husband will prepare teriyaki chicken, as it’s the only dinner he ever cooks!)

So to Costco I did go. And then I did stop.

Because after filling the gas tank of my 1997 Subaru Outback, my car refused to start.


This is the very same car that was giving me trouble last week, the same car that spent two luxurious spa days at the mechanic’s. Where they were not able to identify the issue.


Luckily, I have roadside assistance as part of my car insurance, so I put in a phone call and then walked into Costco where I quickly located the olive oil and frozen chicken breasts. However, I was unable to locate the organic concentrated chicken broth that we use, so I decided that I would use up the vegetarian concentrate we already own before buying a new jar.

The cost of the trip was not cheap:

Olive oil –$19.99

Ten pounds of frozen chicken breasts –$21.49

Total $41.48

My budget limit for the week is $112, based on $4 per person per day for myself, my husband and our two ravenous teenage sons.

  1. Day One — $0
  2. Day Two — $15.66
  3. Day Three — $6.77
  4. Day Four — $41.48
Total for week — $64.01

And it may seem a bit suspect to repeatedly be given garden surplus. But my mother’s neighbor brought me two boxes of extra fruit and vegetables from her garden. The apples were all drops and bruised and far from attractive. However, I peeled and cut away the nasty bits and was able to assemble a rather delicious apple crisp. The zucchini got sautéed and included in our pesto dinner and the plums will likely get transformed into jam. And the tomatoes? They’ll get eaten in salads and over the sink. Like apples.

I don’t think of myself as someone who benefits from other people’s garden surplus, but I guess this is simply the week that Oregon gardens are finally producing! But should I be declining this free food? I have no answer for this. But I sure as heck know that I’m not going to decline wonderful locally grown organic produce just because I didn’t pay for it.

It was given freely and with kindness.

Now, about the car issues . . .

Click HERE to read Day One.

Click HERE to read Day Two.

Click HERE to read Day Three.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen September 20, 2012 at 2:40 am

Am I remembering correctly that when your vehicle was in the shop you were mentally preparing to become a one-vehicle family? Maybe the car is trying to tell you something.


KatE September 20, 2012 at 4:46 am

Katy – my 1999 Subaru had an anti-theft “thingy” under the dashboard near the knees. When I stopped in the car pool line to pick up my kids one time, I apparently nudged it. My car would not start! All it needed was to be pushed back in (of course, I didn’t know that at the time & blocked the carpool line & was stuck for hours.) Here’s hoping yours is the same, simple (and cheap to fix) problem.


Poor to Rich a Day at a Time September 20, 2012 at 5:38 am

I never pass up free food 🙂 and I give out food from our garden to our elderly neighbor who is 78 and her son who is single and comes to mow our yard as we rent from him nephew. Not only that but our elderly neighbor also knows that when she gives us bags of apples or pears she gets for free, we always bake up sweet treats for the family and always take her some!

Unfortuantly this year an early frost killed all the fruit in our area so there will be none this year 🙁

I don’t think there is anything wrong though from taking free food that is anothers surplus , I think it goes two ways!

Hope your car gets fixed as a simple and cheap problem!


Reese September 20, 2012 at 6:20 am

I wonder, do some people feel uncomfortable accepting free food/homegrown items from others? I would gladly accept it, but a few friends I’ve come across said that it’s “weird”. I’m not sure where they think the stuff sold in grocery stores comes from!

But I’ve personally had this issue when giving/gifting homemade bread and jams. I eat my own bread, so I don’t think it tastes bad! It’s just like what you would get from a bakery. Do people believe that the processed store white bread is different? (well, to me it is, but not in the way I’m referencing).

Perhaps it’s all based on tastes and desires… but I’d never turn down something that was homemade/homegrown!


michelle d September 20, 2012 at 8:34 am

I have wondered the same thing about giving bread and jam to my neighbors. I wondered if they thought it was weird. I didn’t plant a vegetable garden this year – just didn’t get to it my fail. My neighbors did. Not only did they give me their surplus, but they planted two tomato plants next to the chain link fence that separates our properties and let me know they were for me.


Elaine in Ark September 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

You have sweet neighbors!

It’s nice to know that others are thinking about you.


Robin September 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Very sweet neighbors!

I always share our garden surplus as well as jellies/jams I make. My holiday gift to friends is usually quiche.

I can’t imagine not wanting free fruit and veg!

Linda in Indiana September 20, 2012 at 7:11 am

I think accepting and offering excess food from our gardens and orchards is something that has been done since the beginning of time. We seem to be getting too “sophisticated” to think that we should do this any longer. We do the sharing and the accepting…and are grateful to be able to do so. It is a taking care of one another concept….something I feel would make the world a better place if practiced by all…including myself….more often.

Katy….sorry you are having car issues. What a hassle!

I am following along your food stamp challenge…but we grow so much of our own food that I am just not up for all the math. But, it makes me mindful of others and I think it is a great challenge.


Carole September 20, 2012 at 7:25 am

I knew an older lady, now gone to her reward, who considered it a challenge to make something delicious from the most shriveled, wormy apples that could be found.


Megyn @MinimalistMommi September 20, 2012 at 7:30 am

I think this last question is why I’m not participating. We spend so much time over at my in-laws or with my family, that I would not know how to calculate in all the “free food” we get. This is really the one thing that helps us keep our budget low–the generosity of family!


Judy September 20, 2012 at 7:35 am

Free produce is wonderful! It may skew the results of a SNAP challenge somewhat, but the most important part seems to be raising awareness. Car problems are a pain, but part of life and help complicate issues for someone on a tight budget also.
Kudos to you for even going to Costco during this week! It’s pretty hard for me to get out of there for less than $100.
Good luck with the car, work, etc. Have a good day.


Paula in the UP September 20, 2012 at 7:56 am

Oh no car troubles, that is never fun!!

I love getting produce or any food really free from neighbors/ friends. We also give freely from our garden. I wish I knew someplace I can get more fruit, like a pick your own place. I only know of a strawberry farm near by that you can pick from, would love some apples!!


Trisha September 20, 2012 at 7:57 am

The free fruit and veggie boxes are not suspect at all. I live in Hood River, and it’s bounty time here too. You can’t go anywhere without someone offering you a box of something. Which is awesome. If someone offers, I will gladly accept.

Plus, it would be wasteful–and not realistic–for you to refuse this free food. The SNAP challenge is about highlighting food insecurity, not refusing a neighbor’s generosity. Feel good about taking it. And thank you for posting–it’s always interesting, the blog, but I’m really enjoying the posts this week.


Linda from Mass September 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

I get free fruit and veggies from my in-laws. I have 9 bags of frozen tomato sauce in my freezer from the tomatoes they gave us. I also made several loaves of zucchini bread from those given to me. I also gave my in-laws a few loaves of the bread. I also get special Asian pears from a co-worker of my husband’s. We love those!

My father-in-law goes fishing with my kids and gives me some of the fish (even when the kids are not with them) and when he gets clams, he usually gives me some of those also. With the price of seafood, these are always appreciated. My family loves seafood.

I don’t usually turn down free food. When I shop with coupons and get a deal that I know my in-laws or my mother would like, I always pick up extra for them. When I shop at my local Fruit and Veggie market and get a great deal on huge bags of produce for $1, I will split it up between my family, my in-laws and my mother. That way, it does not go bad because sometimes, I cannot use up a huge bag of produce.


Bellen September 20, 2012 at 8:26 am

The SNAP challenge is a good way for people to understand more clearly how difficult it is to have that as the major ‘money’ source for food.

How do you, or are you, figuring in the cost of Costco membership? I think the food is better and are the prices, if one pays attention, but for someone on SNAP the yearly membership cost would probably be prohibitive.

New report out in our area of SW FL – the food banks are all but empty and a major one just got a shipment of Kettle style popcorn! Hard to make a good meal out of that.


Rosa September 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I split a yearly membership with my mom, so it’s $25/each, or $0.48/week. That doesn’t seem excessive.

The news about your food banks is so sad.


EcoCatLady September 20, 2012 at 9:33 am

I totally feel your pain with the car. I had a very mysterious problem where my 1990 Honda periodically wouldn’t start, and mechanic after mechanic failed to identify the problem. Finally, in desperation, I turned to the interwebs and found numerous people with Hondas of the same vintage as mine with the same problem. They all said it was a part called the “main relay.” So I proceeded to call several more mechanics asking about this part – which was totally hilarious since I know absolutely nothing about cars. But from the conversations we had it seemed that none of them had a clue what I was talking about – even the Honda dealership!

FINALLY I found a mechanic who specializes in Hondas. I called them up and before I could even finish my little spiel, the girl on the phone says “sounds like the main relay.” Cue Etta James… At Last…..

Anyhow, I brought my little car in, and they all oooed and aaahed over my 22 year old Honda with only 85K miles on it, and several asked if I wouldn’t be willing to sell it. To which I responded “absolutely not – at least as long as you’re around to service it, and BTW you’re NEVER allowed to retire!”

So that’s my very long-winded way of suggesting that you try to find a mechanic who specializes in Subarus. A good mechanic is worth his weight in gold!


Kristen | The Frugal Girl September 20, 2012 at 11:40 am

Oh, man…I hope you can get your care fixed. How many miles do you have on it? And how long are you hoping to be able to drive it?


Kristen | The Frugal Girl September 20, 2012 at 11:41 am

Uh, that should be CAR. Heh.


Barb September 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I will keep my fingers crossed for your Subaru to be repaired simply. I have a 2003 Subaru Forester with 112,000 miles on it and I love it to death. I am hoping to drive it for another 100,000 miles. 🙂


Lilypad September 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Those look like Italian prunes, which I just love. My cousin in Germany makes a cake called “Zwetschgen Kuchen” which is those prunes sliced up on a sweet crust, baked in a tart pan. Top that with whipped cream and you’re good to go. We used to eat the leftovers for breakfast! I’ve tried to make it on my own but have never quite duplicated the deliciousness of a slice of that in late summer in the old country!


Monique September 21, 2012 at 6:50 am

My German grandmother used to make pflaumenkuchen with
those prunes, which is very similar to what you describe. I think
it was made with a yeast dough for the crust, though. We always
ate it with lots of whipped cream! I wish I had the recipe, it disappeared years ago.


sheri lin September 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I don’t understand the stigma of free food. It’s nature’s offerings. Why would anyone refuse?

I curious why you didn’t add the cost of the olive oil to your expenditures. If the experient is living on food stamps, wouldn’t you factor in “stocking up” expenses?


Katy September 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I did include the cost of the olive oil.



Happy Mum September 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I think the $19.99 for olive oil is listed, but then not included in the total (“$21.29”) for Day Four, nor the running total for the week…?


Happy Mum September 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Oops — yes it is included in the weekly total — just not in the “Day Four” amount…(?) — flying typo fingers…


Katy September 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

That’s what I get for doing late night math. I’ll total everything up properly in the morning.



Shelly September 20, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I am so sorry you are having car problems. I hope you get your car troubles figured out soon.

Today we were out and about most of the day. I brought snacks and lunch for the kids and when we weren’t home by 1 in the afternoon I was getting hungry and wished I would have remembered to pack me something.

I love getting free food too. We recently received some plums from my aunt and a box of pears from my friend. I never turn down free food.

Today our totals for our meals for the 4 of us two adults, one teen and one child was just under $9 total. I almost always cook from my pantry so I am figuring the cost of each of our meals we eat this week. Here is what we ate for day 4 meals,


Pat September 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I don’t think anyone who can use the food should turn down free food. infact today I was given a jar of apple/crabapple jam that didn’t set, but still isn’t quite runny. My neighbour made a batch up yesterday, from her crabapples and some apples that were starting to wrinkle. She had 2 jars that she wasn’t sure that sealed right so she gave me one. We tried the syrjam on our corn pancakes for supper tonight. Dh is not feeling well and he requested that, we had our leftover pizza and macaroni salad for lunch today. I also made our cucumber, tomatoe and onion salad with the italian dressing to finnish up my gifted cucmber from the other day and 1 of my tomatoes and 1/2 a large onion. To me that syrjam is a gift of love, and saved something that otherwise would have been wasted.( also it tasted wonderful! and picked up the pancakes so much).


emmer September 21, 2012 at 6:59 am

i certainly accept any free food i am offered. if i can’t use it, i pass it on.
once i had a neighbor whose husband left her with 3 kids and no job. she gave me her flock of hens as she felt she could not keep them. i regularly brought her some eggs. one evening i came to her door with eggs, a loaf of bread from that day’s baking and a jar of strawberry jam made from my garden. a woman met me at the door and when she realized why i had come, ushered me in to my tearful neighbor saying “i told you something would turn up. this is what friends are for.” it seems my neighbor had been telling her friend that finances were so bad that she had nothing to feed her children for supper. i was humbled. i had no idea things had gotten so bad next door without me even noticing. i hadn’t really been much of a friend. hopefully i’ve improved with age.


AD September 21, 2012 at 7:20 am

Just wanted to say:
1 – doesn’t Costco require a membership fee? Who on food stamps can afford that?
2 – has anyone figured in paper products? Good thing the TP hasn’t run out this week!


Katy September 21, 2012 at 7:34 am

Our Costco membership pays for itself because we have an American Express card from them that pays us cash back when we buy gasoline and other things. When we make large purchases, (for example large numbers of Timbers tickets that my husband buys in bulk as part of his soccer involvement) we get an annual refund of hundreds of dollars. However, there have been times when we did not have a Costco membership because of the annual fee. (Currently $55) For anyone who lives close to a Costco gas station, the fee would likely pay for itself as their gasoline tends to consistently be 20¢ per gallon less than all other stations.

And the only paper products we buy are toilet paper. Food stamps would not cover the cost of this, so it is not included. However, being a house of three males and one female, we don’t actually go through that much toilet paper. (I notice the difference when my sister and her daughter visit though!)



EcoCatLady September 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I’m chuckling over the gas comment. As a person who only fills the tank 2-3 times per year I don’t think that would work in my case!

But… one thing that many people don’t know about Costco memberships is that you can put another person on your membership – and that person can live anywhere in the country, and doesn’t have to be related to you. Most people just choose someone from within their household especially if they share shopping responsibilities, but you can choose anyone.

I don’t actually have my own membership because my parents put me on theirs. But I think you could go in on a membership with a friend or another family… and split the cost (although only one person can be the “official” member.) Or if you know of someone who is struggling, perhaps you could offer to put them on your membership as a gesture of support.

Also… I’m a bit fuzzy on this, but don’t Costco members get some sort of dividend check at the end of the year? Like some percentage of everything you spent over the course of the year or something like that?


Katy September 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm

No dividend check unless you use that Amex card. Are you thinking of REI Co-op?



sheri lin September 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Costco changed the rules regarding shared membership years ago (at least in CA). In order to qualify, the person must reside at the same residence. I used to share a membership with a co-worker. Years passed and the membership lapsed so I applied with another co-worker and was informed of the new requirements.


Scribe September 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

If you have a corporate membership ($100) you get 3% rebate at the end of the year. We have it this year because we bought hearing aids for my husband and glasses for the two of us. We try to buy at Costco (especially gas) and a little stocking up just because of the rebate. We also live closer to Costco than major grocery stores. Next year we won’t buy membership because we don’t anticipate any large purchases. With the hearing aids and glasses, the rebate will more than cover the cost of membership.


Rosa September 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I haven’t done any of the math yet, we’re still eating from the groceries I bought last Saturday before I knew about the challenge.

But it’s free food season here, too – the last of everyone’s basil and cilantro had to be harvested as it started going to seed. I just put up 30 pints of applesauce and an uncountable number of jars of dried apples, from a friend of a friend’s backyard tree. And the free collards and kale have not slowed down at all. No free tomatoes with the drought this year, but there’s going to be frost this weekend so they’ll be CHEAP at the farmer’s market.

Just noticing what we eat (I’ve been writing it down to cost out later), I realize I keep a really wide stock of things we use up very slowly – miso paste and mirin, lemongrass and thai basil (another freebie, frozen when our neighbors had too much earlier in summer), etc. Actually costing it out would be a nightmare.


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